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Ars Technica

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Today's look at the emerging trend of games with minimal or nonexistent heads-up displays (HUDs) got us thinking about how games have traditionally laid out critical information about the player's status. We've come practically full circle from the days of the earliest video games, which were unable to display any status information or even keep track of basic statistics. In between, we've seen HUDs ranging from the realistic (Ace Combat 2) to the ridiculous (World of Warcraft) with everything in between. Recall for yourself by clicking through our gallery.

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The National Security Agency wants your kids to know that it's cool to be "cyber smart."

As part of the agency's outreach to promote interest in technology and recruit a future generation of computer security experts, the NSA has links on its homepage to two sites targeted at children and adolescents. The "Kids Page," intended for elementary age children, appears to be down at the moment—either that, or the error code reference (Reference #97.887ffea5.1374616699.dc7bfc5) is an encoded message to grade school operatives that it's time to report in.

But the "Change The World" page, targeted at middle and high school students, is chock full of crypto-clearance fun. There's a word search, a PDF to print to make your own letter substitution code wheel, and a collection of tips on how to be a good cyber-citizen. Ironically, some of these tips might be useful for people concerned about how much data is being collected on them through broad metadata collection and FISA Court warranted PRISM probes.

Among the NSA's tips for kids is this sage wisdom: "Be cyber courteous! It is too easy to hide behind a computer! A cyber smart person never says anything online that they wouldn’t say in person. Remember that what you write in an e-mail can usually be retrieved and shared with others, so be responsible with e-mails, chats, and online communications." Especially since those e-mails, chats, and online communications could be getting captured in real-time by one of the NSA's network taps.

The NSA does offer kids some helpful password advice. "Try this: Take four random words…take the first three letters of each word, make some letters upper case and others lower case, then add any two or three numbers and then some character like @#$%&... the password should be at least 14 characters and memorable (or write it down but protect it). You should have a different password for each account that you have!" The NSA also suggests that kids only share their passwords with their parents. "No one else should have them—not your friends, teachers, or other family members."

The NSA wants kids to look out for software trojan horses and to play fair. "Do you download 'cheat' programs that promise information to how to perform better or beat a game?" the site asks. "Sometimes cheat downloads are used to implant a virus or malware on your computer!"

There's also some helpful information on protecting kids' identities online, including how to behave on social networks and in online games. "Do you use an avatar? You should. While cameras and webcams are popular, they also reveal who you are. When gaming, keep your true identity a mystery. Cyber sleuths never reveal their true identity except to trusted adults, like your parents!"

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Keep an eye on that meter on your wrist... it's pretty important.

The world of Metro: Last Light isn’t pretty. To escape nuclear war, millions of the game’s Russian citizens descended into subway stations the instant the air raid sirens cried out, forced to leave their lives on the surface behind. Below ground, life is bleak. The irradiated world above means no access to fresh air or sunshine. Money means nothing, and ammunition is currency. Fathers nearly break down when sons ask where Mom is and when she’s coming home—and they have to repeat a variation of the same lie they’ve told for countless years. Radioactive mutants attack the subterranean train-station-based encampments.

The setting is easy to buy into because few blinking indicators and status updates slap you in the face, offering constant reminds that you’re playing a video game. This is deliberate, according to Andrey Prokhorov, creative director and co-founder at 4A Games, the studio behind Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light.

“If you look at your monitor (or TV set) as a gate into the world of the game, the heads-up display (HUD) elements become the bars keeping you from entering that world,” he told Ars in a recent interview. And it's part of a trend.

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A man who has won about $1.5 million in poker tournaments has been arrested and charged with running an operation that combined spam, Android malware, and a fake dating website to scam victims out of $3.9 million, according to Symantec.

Symantec worked with investigators from the Chiba Prefectural Police in Japan, who earlier this week "arrested nine individuals for distributing spam that included e-mails with links to download Android.Enesoluty—a malware used to collect contact details stored on the owner’s device," Symantec wrote in its blog.

Android.Enesoluty is a Trojan distributed as an Android application file. It steals information and sends it to computers run by hackers. It was discovered by security researchers in September 2012.

The suspect flagged as the "main player running the operation" is 50-year-old Masaaki Kagawa of Tokyo, president of an IT firm named Koei Planning and a poker player with success in high-stakes tournaments around the world.

Masaaki Kagawa wins a big pot in the Aussie Millions Cash Game Invitational a few years ago.

Kagawa has reportedly won about $1.5 million in tournaments dating back to 2008 (minus entry fees). His most recent score was a third place finish in the 2013 Aussie Millions Poker Championship in February, which netted him $320,000.

Kagawa was already under investigation while playing in that tournament. Symantec explains:

From our observations, the operation began around September 2012 and ended in April 2013 when authorities raided the company office. We confirmed around 150 domains were registered to host the malicious apps during this time span. According to media reports, the group was able to collect approximately 37 million e-mail addresses from around 810,000 Android devices. The company earned over 390 million yen (approximately 3.9 million US dollars) by running a fake online dating service called Sakura in the last five months of the spam operation. Spam used to lure victims to the dating site was sent to the addresses collected by the malware.

The malware allegedly used in this operation appears to share source code with Android.Uracto, a Trojan that steals contacts and sends spam text messages to those contacts. Scammers maintaining Android.Uracto have not yet been identified.

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We live in a silent century. Though no less powerful than their pre-millennial ancestors, our post-millennial innovations are mostly intangible; even when they do occupy physical space, they but wobble neighboring air particles and scarcely make a sound.

Compiling the "Sounds of the 21st Century" is a steep challenge, therefore, but one that legendary beatboxer Beardyman didn't shy from.

"There's an absence of sound rather than a defining sound," he tells Wired.co.uk. Pay attention to the objects around you—the ones that are truly 21st century make next to no noise when we interact with them. The clatter of keyboards? 20th century. The din of car engines? 20th century. The cacophony of the city? Choose whichever century BC you like.

To create a track that begins to "encapsulate the mood of living in the future," as Beardyman puts it, you have to amplify the silent touches we make to interact with modern society. First and foremost, the tapping of fingers on smartphones. "That's all everyone does these days. That's [partly] the point of the video," he says.

In the song, Beardyman meshes beatboxing, phone-tapping, key-bashing, and other sounds in a glitchy track, which will be performed live on September 2 at the O2 Campus Party Europe opening party.

Beardyman presents "the sounds of the 21st century"

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Given that we now know that the National Security Agency (NSA) has the ability to compromise some, if not all of VPN, SSL, and TLS forms of data transmission hardening, it’s worth considering the various vectors of technical and legal data-gathering that high-level adversaries in America and Britain (and likely other countries, at least in the “Five Eyes” group of anglophone allies) are likely using in parallel to go after a given target. So far, the possibilities include:

  • A company volunteers to help (and gets paid for it)
  • Spies copy the traffic directly off the fiber
  • A company complies under legal duress
  • Spies infiltrate a company
  • Spies coerce upstream companies to weaken crypto in their products/install backdoors
  • Spies brute force the crypto
  • Spies compromise a digital certificate
  • Spies hack a target computer directly, stealing keys and/or data, sabotage.

Let’s take these one at a time.

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Flickr user: Andreas Poike

High-frequency trading is the practice where automated systems search for minor differences in price of stocks that can be exploited for small financial gains. Executed often enough and with a high enough investment, they can lead to serious profits for the investment firms that have the wherewithal to run these systems. The systems trade with minimal human supervision, however, and have been blamed for a number of unusually violent swings that have taken place in the stock market.

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