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rjmarvin writes "Two developers were able to successfully reverse-engineer Dropbox to intercept SSL traffic, bypass two-factor authentication and create open-source clients. They presented their paper, 'Looking inside the (Drop) box' (PDF) at USENIX 2013, explaining step-by-step how they were able to succeed where others failed in reverse-engineering a heavily obfuscated application written in Python. They also claimed the generic techniques they used could be applied to reverse-engineer other Frozen python applications: OpenStack, NASA, and a host of Google apps, just to name a few..."

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Original author: 
Cyrus Farivar

The Washington Post

It’s worse than we thought.

Just one day after disclosing a secret court order between the National Security Agency (NSA) and Verizon, The Guardian and The Washington Post both published secret presentation slides revealing a previously undisclosed massive surveillance program called PRISM. The program has the capability to collect data “directly from the servers” of major American tech companies, including Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook, and Yahoo. (Dropbox is said to be “coming soon.”)

The newspapers describe the system as giving the National Security Agency and the FBI direct access to a huge number of online commercial services, capable of “extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.”

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Original author: 
Florence Ion

Losing your phone or having your tablet fall to its death can be hard on anyone, especially in this day and age where mobile devices have become an essential part of our lives. Just like with any computer, backing up your mobile apps and data can prove worthy when disaster strikes—or just after you’ve purchased a new phone and simply need to migrate data.

Thankfully, there are a plethora of applications in the Google Play store that provide backup services for devices of all types, but only a few we thought were worth considering. We tried to pick out the ones that stood out to us the most and offered what we’d want from a backup suite for our non-rooted devices. If you have any suggestions of applications you’ve used to back up your Android device that aren't listed here, feel free to tell us about it in the comments. We’ll do a follow-up in next week’s Android app roundup with your suggestions.

G Cloud Backup, Free

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Original author: 
Megan Rose Dickey

summly marketing video

Two very young startups called Mailbox and Summly recently sold for millions of dollars.

Storage company Dropbox acquired Orchestra, the company behind Mailbox, earlier this month for a rumored $100 million in cash and stock — merely a few weeks after the email app launched

Just yesterday, Yahoo acquired two-year-old mobile news startup Summly for a little under $30 million, according to AllThingsD's Kara Swisher, even though the app had generated no revenue.  

But what did these early stage startups have in common that made them so attractive to the big players in the industry?

Neither had very many users. Mailbox had maybe 1.5 million. Summly had fewer than a million.

Neither made any money.

What both had was an awesome video with high-production values to show off their products.

If you're a startup and you don't make a video like these, you are dumb. Check that box!

Here are the videos:

Meet Mailbox from Mailbox on Vimeo.

Summly Launch from Summly on Vimeo.

SEE ALSO: This Is How It Feels When Your Startup Fails

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sugarsync 640 wide

Cloud storage and file-syncing service SugarSync today announced the launch of SugarSync 2.0 in public beta, a big step forward in its battle against Dropbox, SkyDrive, and Google Drive. SugarSync has always been a feature-rich app, but 2.0 is a leap forward in a key area where it’s always been lacking: accessible design. "We got feedback that SugarSync was the most powerful [syncing solution], but not that it was the easiest to use," CEO Laura Yecies told The Verge, so the company focused largely on designing a simple desktop app for the last year and a half. SugarSync 2.0 also adds a powerful search feature on the desktop and web, as well as an expanded set of sharing options — two of its most request features.

With version 2.0,...

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girl pointing at screen

A pervasive myth exists among tech founders: If they build a product that consumers will love, it will magically trickle into Fortune 500 companies.

The logic works something like this: Devote the bulk of your funding to designing the product. CIO’s will fork over a piece of their sizable budget if enough employees get hooked and use it at work. Founders often tell me that just like cloud storage company Dropbox or enterprise social network Yammer, their product will be a hit with large organizations if it’s well-designed and easy to deploy.

Do a search for “Dropbox problem” or “Dropbox effect” and you’ll find thousands of articles. I agree that Dropbox has inspired more enterprise founders to experiment with freemium models or to build intuitive products, but it is not proof that a consumer-focused company can simply change focus to the enterprise without having to reengineer its technology from the ground up.

You can’t just ‘pivot’ to the enterprise

“Dropbox’s message is that business users want products that are simple and sexy,” said Ray Wang, the principal analyst and CEO of Constellation Research. That may be true, but according to Wang, to meet the needs of IT, you have to “do a lot more.”

For example, an enterprise startup needs a sales and support infrastructure to handle requests, and the product must be significantly more scalable and secure than a consumer product.

The “consumerization of the enterprise” trend is very real; it means that employees are embracing the latest mobile and social technology and applications, and they are bringing their own devices to work.

But this trend has not replaced traditional enterprise sales cycles. Even new-age startups like Yammer (recently acquired by Microsoft for $1.2 billion), which once spread the notion that big companies will embrace new technologies the same way that people do with consumer products, later hired a full enterprise sales and customer support team.

“It’s a beautiful story that has been spread by investors and founders,” said Mike Driscoll, the CEO of Metamarkets, a “big data startup” in San Francisco. Driscoll said that he is already on the hunt for a new sales executive, preferably with experience working for a legacy vendor like IBM or EMC.

Likewise Box, a Dropbox competitor, had to make sweeping changes before approaching the enterprise. It brought on adult supervision in the form of Whitney Tidmarsh Bouck, a former chief marketing officer at enterprise technology company EMC. To land big-name customers like The Gap and Volkswagen, Bouck said the startup needed “dedicated product marketers and resources.”

“It is our central point of focus,” she added. The product team had to incorporate scalability, integration and security controls, mobile technology, Active Directory support, and so on. Most importantly, she said, “it’s a long-term consultative sales approach that is a world apart from a consumer or SMB [small to medium-sized business] play.”

Ben Horowitz, the cofounder and general partner of Andreessen Horowitz, was one of the first venture capitalists to dispel the myth. As he put it in a blog post:

Encouraged by the new trend, innovative entrepreneurs imagine a world where consumers find great solutions to help their employers in the same way that they find great products to help themselves. In the imaginary enterprise, these individuals will then take the initiative to convince their collegues to buy the solution. Through this method, if the product is truly great, there will be little or no need to actually sell it.

The actual enterprise works a bit differently. Meet the new enterprise customer. He’s a lot like the old enterprise customer.

Indeed, when employees set up accounts for consumer-focused services without permission, the IT department is at risk of losing control over corporate data, whether it’s emails, reports, or instant-messaging chatter. However, this does not mean that the IT executives will strike deals with these tech providers to preserve security and governance.

Sand Hill is part of the problem

Greg Piesco Putnam, cofounder of Aktana, an enterprise sales startup, told me that most venture capital firms accepted the Dropbox myth without question when he was raising funds.

“They were looking for stories of the consumerization of IT, and the entrepreneurs who told those stories raised big rounds,” he recalled. ”The question that was not asked was whether IT departments would actually respond to these user demands.” He explained that in the enterprise, startups need to convince at least three key decision-makers: IT, business, and operations.

Wang told me he often hears about high-performing, early-stage consumer startups that shift gears once their investors demand to see a solid business plan. Entrepreneurs are aware that their investors are angling for a piece of the trillion-dollar market for enterprise software.

“You get folks saying, I’m going to enterprise now to cover my butt, but the product might not have been designed for that,” said Wang, who draws a useful comparison to the adoption of email programs Lotus and Outlook. The latter was widely used in the enterprise despite its design flaws. “In the enterprise, the best sales and marketing wins, not the best product,” he said.

At the Disrupt conference in San Francisco, young enterprise founders from startups like Asana contested this point, clearly demonstrating that the myth is still pervasive.

“The distribution model has changed,” Asana‘s CEO Justin Rosenstein said, and he argued that the CIO is the end-user for enterprise software. “You don’t have to be sales-driven or marketing-driven; you have to be product-driven,” Rosenstein said. “It will be the best product that wins,” he added. Asana is a task management software started by former Facebook founder Dustin Moskovitz and Rosenstein, an former Google employee.

“Nothing is relatively different, it’s just evolved,” hit back Cloudera COO Kirk Dunn. Dunn is right to advise caution: a young company will not succeed without a full customer support and sales team. In the enterprise, product simply isn’t enough. “You can have a great product and great sales-focused company,” Todd McKinnon, the CEO of cloud startup Okta, offered as a conciliatory response.

At startup demo days and hackathons, young founders are slowly waking up to the importance of traditional enterprise sales. ”At the enterprise level, a great product doesn’t sell itself; it takes a great sales and marketing organization to engage buyers, procurement organizations, and IT departments to close a large enterprise deal,” said Mark Trang, the cofounder of SocialPandas, a CRM startup that recently debuted at Founders Den.

The roots of the ‘Dropbox myth’

Dropbox is a consumer startup and wasn’t build to store and share terabytes of sensitive data for a Fortune 500 company. As VentureBeat reported earlier, with its third major security breach this year, the fast-growing private company has become a problem child for chief information officers.

“We’re consistently replacing Dropbox in the enterprise,” Vineet Jain, the CEO of enterprise cloud storage startup Egnyte, told VentureBeat. “It’s incessantly used in enterprise until IT shuts it down.”

If you are selling to consumers or small companies that behave like consumers, moving away from the old enterprise sales and channel models may make perfect sense. However, if you plan to strike multimillion-dollar deals with enterprise companies, the chief information officer is still the chief decision-maker.

In short, the Dropbox model didn’t even work for Dropbox.

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For years, some people who wanted to store files on remote servers in the cloud have been emailing the files to their Gmail accounts, or uploading them to Google’s lightly used Google Docs online productivity suite, even if they had no intention of editing them there.

Now, Google is formally jumping into the cloud-based file storage and syncing business, offering a service called Google Drive, which will compete with products like Dropbox and others by offering lower prices and different features. It works on multiple operating systems, browsers and mobile devices, including those of Google’s competitors Apple and Microsoft. There are apps for Windows, Mac and mobile devices that automatically sync files with Google Drive.

[ See post to watch video ]

I’ve been testing Google Drive, which launches today, and I like it. It subsumes the editing and file-creation features of Google Docs, and replaces Google Docs (though any documents you have stored there carry over). In my tests — on a Mac, a Lenovo PC, a new iPad and the latest Samsung Android tablet — Google Drive worked quickly and well, and most of its features operated as promised. At launch, it’s available for Windows PCs, Macs and Android devices. The version for the iPhone and iPad is planned for release soon.

Google Drive, which can be found at drive.google.com, offers users 5 gigabytes of free storage, compared with 2 gigabytes free for the popular Dropbox, and equal to the free offering from another cloud storage and syncing service I like, SugarSync. That’s enough for thousands of typical documents, photos and songs.

Prices for additional storage drastically undercut Dropbox and SugarSync. For instance, 100 GB on Google Drive costs $4.99 a month. By contrast, 100 GB costs $14.99 monthly on SugarSync and $19.99 on Dropbox. Google Drive will offer huge capacities, in tiers, all the way up to 16 terabytes. (A terabyte is roughly 1,000 gigabytes.) And if you buy extra storage for Google Drive, your Gmail quota rises to 25 GB.

But one of Google’s biggest rivals isn’t standing still. Microsoft is expanding both the features and capacity of its little-known SkyDrive cloud storage service as well. That product started out as a free, fixed-capacity (25 gigabytes) online locker mostly for users of the stripped-down, cloud-based version of Microsoft Office, though it also has been available as an app for Windows Phone smartphones and for iPhones. It’s giving away even more free storage than Google — 7 GB, though that is a cut from what it used to offer free. It also is charging less than Google. For instance, you can add 100 gigabytes for $50 a year. And users of the old version get to keep their 25-gigabyte free allotment. I wasn’t able to test this new version of SkyDrive for this column. It also is offering syncing apps for Windows and Mac.

Google Drive is meant as an evolution of Google Docs. While you could previously upload a file to Google Docs using your Web browser, for Google Drive, the company is providing free apps for Mac and Windows that, like Dropbox, do this for you. They create special folders that sync with your cloud-based repository and with the Web version of the product. So, you can drag a file into these local folders on your computer and that file will be uploaded to your cloud account and will rapidly appear in the Web version of Google Drive, in the Google Drive folders on your other computers, and in the Google Drive apps on Android, iPhone and iPad devices. These local apps also sync any changes to the files you make.

One big difference between Dropbox and Google Drive is you can edit or create files in the latter, rather than merely storing or viewing them. This is because Google Drive includes the rudimentary word processor, spreadsheet, presentation and other apps that make up Google Docs.

But there is a catch. If your stored document is in a Microsoft Office format, you can only view it. To edit it, you have to click a command to convert the file to Google’s own formats, or choose a setting that converts Microsoft Office files when uploaded. But this latter feature only works when uploading from the website.

Google Drive also is missing some features of SugarSync I like. The latter doesn’t require you to place files in a special folder; it syncs the folders you already use on your PC and Mac. Also, unlike SugarSync, Google Drive doesn’t let you email files directly into your cloud locker.

Google Drive allows you to share files and folders, and collaborate with others. You can also email files as attachments. People with whom you share files can be allowed different rights: To view, comment, or edit them. You can also keep the files private.

Because Google has run into hot water over keeping users’ information private, some people may be reluctant to trust their files to Google Drive. But the company insists that, while it does process and store your files, no human can see them and, at least today, the files aren’t used to target advertising at users. The company notes no file can be placed in Google Drive unless the user wants it there.

The service does a very good job of searching files, even finding words inside PDF or scanned documents. The company claims it can find images when you type in words describing them, like “bridge” or “mountain”—even if those words don’t appear in the image’s file name. But I found this mostly worked with photos of famous places or people Google has collected via its Google Goggles product. Google Drive failed to find images with generic file names on almost all of my own pictures, even when they included things like mountains or other common objects.

Google Drive did a good job in my tests with videos. It converts nearly every common video format into a format it can play, right inside its website. This process can take some time. While Google Drive can store music, it can’t play it directly via its website.

Google’s new service also works with third-party document creation and editing apps that are built to work with it. I used one, called Balsamiq Mockups, to create a quick wire-frame diagram.

I can recommend Google Drive to consumers looking for cloud-based storage, with the added bonus of integrated editing, at lower prices. But the new Microsoft SkyDrive also seems worth a try.

Email Walt at mossberg@wsj.com.

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MrSeb writes "Today is World Backup Day! The premise is that you back up your computers on March 31, so that you're not an April Fool if your hard drive crashes tomorrow. How do Slashdot users back up? RAID? Multiple RAIDs? If you're in LA, on a fault line, do you keep a redundant copy of your data in another geographic region?"


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rain cloudWe recently moved from Amazon on-demand “cloud” hosting to our own dedicated servers.  It took about three months to order and set up the new servers versus a few minutes to get servers on Amazon.  However, the new servers are 2.5X faster and so far, more reliable.

We love Amazon for fostering development and innovation.  Cloud computing systems are great at getting you new servers.  This helps a lot when you are trying to innovate because you can quickly get new servers for your new services. If you are in a phase of trying new things, cloud hosts will help you.

Cloud hosts also help a lot when you are testing.  It’s amazing how many servers it takes to run an Internet service.  You don’t just need production systems.  You need failover systems.  You need development systems.  You need staging/QA systems.  You will need a lot of servers, and you may need to go to a cloud host.

However, there are problems with cloud hosting that emerge if you need high data throughput.  The problems aren’t with the servers but instead, with storage and networking.  To see why, let’s look at how a cloud architecture differs from a local box architecture.  You can’t directly attach each storage location to the box that it servers.  You have to use network attached storage.

DEDICATED ARCHITECTURE:  Server Box -> bus or lan or SAN -> Storage

CLOUD ARCHITECTURE:  Server Box -> Mesh network -> Storage cluster with network replication

1) Underlying problem:  Big data, slow networks

Network attached storage becomes a problem because there is a fundamental mismatch between networking and storage.  Storage capacity almost doubles every year.  Networking speed grows by a factor of ten about every 10 years – 100 times lower.  The net result is that storage gets much bigger than network capacity, and it takes a really long time to copy data over a network.  I first heard this trend analyzed by John Landry, who called it “Landry’s law.”  In my experience, this problem has gotten to the point where even sneakernet (putting on sneakers and carrying data on big storage media) cannot save us because after you lace up your sneakers, you have to copy the data OVER A NETWORK to get it onto the storage media and then copy it again to get it off.  When we replicated the Assembla data to the new datacenter, we realized that it would be slower to do those two copies than to replicate over  the Internet, which is slower than sneakernet for long distance transport but only requires one local network copy.

2) Mesh network inconsistency

The Internet was designed as a hub and spoke network, and that part of it works great.  When you send a packet up from your spoke, it travels a predictable route through various hubs to its destination.  When you plug dedicated servers into the Internet, you plug a spoke into the hub, and it works in the traditional way.  The IP network inside a cloud datacenter is more of a “mesh.”  Packets can take a variety of routes between the servers and the storage.  The mesh component is vulnerable to both packet loss and capacity problems.  I can’t present any technical reason why this is true, but in our observation, it is true.  We have seen two different issues:

* Slowdowns and brownouts:  This is a problem at both Amazon and GoGrid, but it is easier to see at Amazon.  Their network, and consequently their storage, has variable performance, with slow periods that I call “brownouts.”

* Packet loss:  This is related to the capacity problems as routers will throw away packets when they are overloaded.  However, the source of the packet loss seems to be much harder to debug in a mesh network.  We see these problems on the GoGrid network, and their attempts to diagnose it are often ineffectual.

3) Replication stoppages

The second goal of cloud computing is to provide high availability. The first goal is to never lose data.  When there is a failure in the storage cluster, the first goal (don’t lose data) kicks in and stomps on the second goal (high availability).  Systems will stop accepting new data and make sure that old data gets replicated.  Network attached storage will typically start replicating data to a new node.  It may either refuse new data until it can be replicated reliably, or it will absorb all network capacity and block normal operation in the mesh.

Note that in a large complex systems, variations in both network speed and storage capacity will follow a power law distribution.  This happens "chaotically."  When the variation reaches a certain low level of performance, the system fails because of the replication problem. 

I think that we should be able to predict the rate of major failures by observing the smaller variations and extrapolating them with a power law.  Amazon had  a major outage in April 2011. Throughout the previous 18 months, they had performance brownouts, and I think the frequency of one could be predicted from the other.

CONCLUSION

So, if your application is storage intensive and high availability, you must either:

1) Design it so that lots of replication is running all of the time, and you can afford to lose access to any specific storage node.  This places limits on the speed that your application can absorb data because you need to reserve a big percentage of scarce network capacity for replication.  So, you will have only a small percentage of network capacity available to for absorbing external data.  However, it is the required architecture for very large systems.  It  works well if you have a high ratio of output to input, since output just uses the replicated data rather than adding to it.

If you try this replication strategy, you will need to deal with two engineering issues.  First, you will think through replication specifically for your application.  There are many new database architectures that make this tradeoff in various ways.  Each has strengths and weaknesses, so if you design a distributed system, you will probably end up using several of these new architectures.  Second, you will need to distribute across multiple mesh network locations. It's not enough just to have several places to get your data, in the same network neighborhood.  If there is a problem, the entire mesh will jam up.  Ask about this.

2) Use local storage

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