Microsoft is challenging a US court order that would require it to hand over data from an overseas server in a test of the reach of American law enforcement. According to court documents released in the case, Microsoft said it was challenging an order…
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Apparently, Microsoft's desire to track down someone who leaked screenshots of Windows 8 is so strong that it's willing to violate its own privacy guidelines and promises to the public -- even if it means undermining Microsoft's main promotional campaign…
[Image via Agence France-Presse]
A former employee of Microsoft Corp is facing criminal charges after he allegedly passed trade secrets to a blogger in France, U.S. court documents showed.
Russian national Alex Kibkalo, a former Microsoft employee in Lebanon and Russia, admitted to Microsoft investigators that he provided confidential company documents and information to the blogger, documents from a Seattle federal court showed.
The blogger, who was not identified, was known to those in the Microsoft blogging community for posting screenshots of pre-release version of the Windows Operating System. The blogger hid his identity stating falsely that he was from Quebec, according to the documents.
An internal investigation by Microsoft revealed unauthorized transmissions of proprietary and confidential trade secrets, according to the court documents. An email from Kibkalo was found within the blogger's Hotmail account, establishing that he shared confidential data.
"We take protection of our intellectual property very seriously, including cooperating with law-enforcement agencies who are investigating potential criminal actions by our employees or others," a Microsoft spokesman said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
A lawyer representing Kibkalo could not be reached for comment immediately outside regular U.S. business hours.
The court documents said during interviews, the blogger admitted to posting information on Twitter and his websites and selling Windows Server activation keys on eBay.
According to Microsoft's investigation, in July and August 2012, Kibkalo uploaded proprietary software including pre-release software updates of Windows 8 RT and ARM devices, as well as the Microsoft Activation Server Software Development Kit (SDK) to a computer in Washington and subsequently to his personal Windows Live SkyDrive account.
Microsoft product teams use the SDK in customizing their product code to ensure proper validation in the product key activation process.
Kibkalo, who worked with Microsoft for seven years, received a poor performance review in 2012 and threatened to resign if the review was not amended, the documents showed.
According to an FBI agent who was part of the investigation, Kibkalo has relocated to Russia and based on a LinkedIn account, he is currently working for another U.S.-based technology company with offices in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]
Nokia, soon to be acquired by Microsoft Corp, is turning to software created by arch-rival Google for a new line of phones it hopes will make it a late contender in the dynamic low-cost smartphone market.
Its first models, Nokia X, X+ and XL, rely upon an open version of the Android mobile software system created by Google that has become the world's most popular software used in smartphones.
The release of the phones just days before Nokia sells its handset business to Microsoft in a $7.2 billion deal, is an attempt to stay relevant in emerging markets, where low-cost Android phones are being snapped up by hundreds of millions of buyers.
Nokia Chief Executive Stephen Elop said the market had "shifted dramatically," and the group needed to address a sub-$100 segment that is set to grow four times faster than more expensive phones.
He told a crowded press conference at the Mobile World Congress trade fair in Barcelona that rather than being an 180-degree turn in its strategy of using Microsoft's Windows Phone for smartphones, it was a move that introduces the "next billion" users to Nokia's hardware and Microsoft's services.
"We see the X family being complementary to (Windows Phone) Lumia at lower price points," he said. "Even as you see Lumia push lower and lower, you will see us push lower with Nokia X below that."
But the strategy shift underlines the many missteps made by the Finnish company since Apple launched its ground-breaking iPhone in 2007.
Nokia was caught between a rock and a hard place -- committed to using Microsoft's Windows Phone software but needing Android software to reach more cost-sensitive customers, CCS Insight's head of research Ben Wood said.
"That a company soon-to-be owned by Microsoft, the creator of the original operating system, is moving to Android is almost an "admission of failure," he said.
Global smartphone shipments grew 41 percent annually to reach nearly 1 billion units in 2013, according to market research firm Strategy Analytics. Android phones from dozens of handset makers accounted for almost four out of every five smartphones sold, or 781.2 million units.
In the past year, Apple shipped 153.4 million smartphones worldwide for a 15 percent share of the market, making it the second largest smartphone platform after Android.
Microsoft was a distant third in market-share terms, shipping 35.7 million units worldwide with its Windows mobile software platform, but still struggling to gain traction in the low-tier and premium-tier smartphone categories, Strategy Analytics said.
Windows shut out
In February 2011, Elop famously compared Nokia's failing smartphone strategy -- based on multiple software platforms of its own making -- to a man on a burning platform.
He chose to jump into the arms of Microsoft, producing high-end Lumia-branded smartphones that have been well received by critics, but less popular with customers and app developers, the people who make the software that turns phones into multi-purpose tools.
Elop said on Monday he had not jumped the wrong way.
"There's quite a lot of vendors ... who made the Android decision but couldn't differentiate," he said. "We wanted to build with Microsoft a third ecosystem, and that's what we are doing while others fall by the wayside."
But the Microsoft technology does not work on the chip sets found in cheaper smartphones, the fast-growing market crowding out Nokia's Asha feature phones, which lack the full Internet capabilities of smartphones.
The company rejected Android three years ago, when it tied its fortunes to Microsoft's Windows Phone. But Monday's announcement shows it has quietly been working on an open Android device for months.
Product Marketing Vice President Jussi Nevanlinna told Reuters the number one requirement from customers was access to Android apps.
"Our fans oftentimes tell us 'We love your hardware, we love your products, but we also love our Android apps,'" he said. "Can you make something happen so the Android apps magically run here?'"
IDC analyst Francisco Jeronimo said Nokia had a made a "rational move" that allowed it to address a much bigger market, but it should have been made three years ago. "It would have given Nokia a complete different position from where it stands today, under Microsoft's control," he said.
CCS Insight's Wood also said Nokia needed to do something dramatic in low-cost smartphones: "Asha has failed to deliver the volumes they needed to be competitive in the low-cost smartphone space, while Android remains completely rampant."
The Nokia X family uses the open source version of Android, which runs most apps without the right to customize Google's basic software.
For Nokia, it was a question of making this humiliating reversal in its strategy or facing irrelevance in this category of phones, Wood said.
The open version of Android software means that the new Nokia phone does not have rely on Google's services and access to the Google Play app store. Instead, Nokia is bundling it with its own music and map offers, and Microsoft's email, cloud, messaging and search services.
Apps will be available in Nokia's own app store, as well as a host of other app stores, Elop said.
The look of the Nokia X devices is starkly different from the usual Android phone, with nods to Lumia and Asha interfaces.
Elop said rather than confusing customers, Nokia X -- where X indicates a cross between Nokia hardware, Android apps and Microsoft services -- will be a stepping stone to Lumia, and will share the same cloud services.
"Lumia continues to be our primary smartphone strategy," Elop said. "Lumia is where we will continue to introduce the greatest innovation.
Wood said Nokia and Microsoft had an advantage over other users of open Android, such as some Chinese manufacturers, in that they had a ready-made set of services that they could slot into the phone.
"It means Nokia is able to participate in that entry-level space, but our view is they will try to push Windows Phone down into that space as quickly as possible," he said.
Nonetheless, devices running an open Android operating system will not sit easily within Microsoft, whose fortune is founded on the core belief that software should be paid for.
The Nokia X, which has a four-inch screen, will be available immediately, Nokia said. The X+, with more memory and storage, and XR, which has a five-inch display, will be on sale early next quarter priced at 99 euros and 109 euros, respectively.
They will be on sale in all markets apart from Japan and Korea, where Nokia is not present, and North America.
The US Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership has released it’s latest rankings showcasing the annual green power use of leading companies across the US. Topping the National Top 100 for the seventh time is Intel, with 100% of…
[Image via Agence France-Presse]
The United States is to give technology firms more leeway to publish broad details of how their customer data has been targeted by US spy agencies, officials said Monday.
Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said communications providers would be allowed to disclose figures on consumer accounts requested.
"The administration is acting to allow more detailed disclosures about the number of national security orders and requests issued to communications providers," they said, in a joint statement.
In a letter to tech giants Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft and Yahoo, the Justice Department freed them release the approximate number of customer accounts targeted.
Previously, the existence of orders made by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for access to private online data was itself classified, to the outrage of the firms.
In addition to the bare numbers of targeted consumers, the companies will also be permitted to disclose the number but not the nature of selection criteria for broader Internet sweeps.
[Image via AGence France-Presse]
The Microsoft Corp. logo (left) is seen on an exterior wall of a new Microsoft store inside the Prudential Center mall, in Boston. Microsoft has worked closely with the NSA, according to leaked documents in the Guardian. (Steven Senne/ AP Photo/ File…
[Image via Agence France-Presse]
Microsoft said Thursday it has opened a new cybercrime center, using its resources to combat malware, intellectual property theft, child exploitation and other ills in cyberspace.
"The Microsoft Cybercrime Center is where our experts come together with customers and partners to focus on one thing: keeping people safe online," said David Finn of the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit.
"By combining sophisticated tools and technology with the right skills and new perspectives, we can make the Internet safer for everyone."
The center on Microsoft's campus in Redmond, Washington, uses technology to visualize and identify online organized crime networks, child pornography, online fraud and other crimes.
It also has a secure location for third-party partners, including from academia and law enforcement.
Caspar Bowden says he was unaware of Prism data-sharing program when he worked at software firm
Microsoft's former chief privacy officer says he does not have faith in the security of the software company's technology, following revelations about the U.S's NSA spy agency published in the Guardian.
"I don't trust Microsoft now," he said, adding that he only uses open source software where he can examine the underlying code. He also said he has not carried a mobile phone for two years.
In June the Guardian revealed that an NSA program called Prism could demand data from a number of technology companies at will using court orders that were never rejected.
Bowden said the extent of the NSA's surveillance efforts – where it shares and gathers intelligence with the UK's GCHQ and intelligence agencies in Canada, New Zealand and Australia – was undermining democracy.
"The public now has to think about the fact that anybody in public life, or person in a position of influence in government, business or bureaucracy, now is thinking about what the NSA knows about them. So how can we trust that the decisions that they make are objective and that they aren't changing the decisions that they make to protect their career? That strikes at any system of representative government."
The wording of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa) under which the NSA gathers intelligence means that "there's no protection if you're not an American", said Bowden.
He added: "We're living through a transformation in surveillance power that's never been seen before on Earth. And we don't know what type of government or leader will come to power next and exploit it. It could be the next president. It could be this one."
Another speaker at the conference, digital activist Jacob Appelbaum, who has worked with WikiLeaks and on the Tor anonymity system, suggested that some employees of the NSA should be arrested if they visit Europe on the basis that by deliberately weakening cryptographic systems they had put people in danger.
Earlier this month the Guardian explained how NSA and GCHQ have worked to insert mathematical weaknesses into cryptography systems used to scramble internet data and other information.
That has put people at risk of their lives, Appelbaum argued. "People who commit mass human-rights violations, they should be prosecuted," he said. "The NSA has a slogan internally — 'we track 'em, you whack 'em' – where they help to target drone strikes." Such strikes were an abuse of natural justice, he said.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]
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