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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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Jon Brodkin


Can Google's QUIC be faster than Mega Man's nemesis, Quick Man?

Josh Miller

Google, as is its wont, is always trying to make the World Wide Web go faster. To that end, Google in 2009 unveiled SPDY, a networking protocol that reduces latency and is now being built into HTTP 2.0. SPDY is now supported by Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and the upcoming Internet Explorer 11.

But SPDY isn't enough. Yesterday, Google released a boatload of information about its next protocol, one that could reshape how the Web routes traffic. QUIC—standing for Quick UDP Internet Connections—was created to reduce the number of round trips data makes as it traverses the Internet in order to load stuff into your browser.

Although it is still in its early stages, Google is going to start testing the protocol on a "small percentage" of Chrome users who use the development or canary versions of the browser—the experimental versions that often contain features not stable enough for everyone. QUIC has been built into these test versions of Chrome and into Google's servers. The client and server implementations are open source, just as Chromium is.

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Jon Brodkin

Aurich Lawson / Thinkstock

It's time to ask yourself an uncomfortable question: how many of your passwords are so absurdly weak that they might as well provide no security at all? Those of you using "123456," "abc123," or even just "password" might already know it's time to make some changes. And using pets' names, birth dates, your favorite sports teams, or adding a number or capital letter to a weak password isn't going to be enough.

Don’t worry, we're here to help. We’re going to focus on how to use a password manager, software that can help you go from passwords like "111111" to "6WKBTSkQq8Zn4PtAjmz7" without making you want to pull out all your hair. For good measure, we'll talk about how creating fictitious answers to password reset questions (e.g. mother's maiden name) can make you even more resistant to hacking.

Why you can’t just wing it anymore

A password manager helps you create long, complicated passwords for websites and integrates into your browser, automatically filling in your usernames and passwords. Instead of typing a different password into each site you visit, you only have to remember one master password.

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Jon Brodkin

Niall Kennedy

Todd Kuehnl has been a developer for nearly 20 years and says he's tried "pretty much every language under the sun."

But it was only recently that Kuehnl discovered Go, a programming language unveiled by Google almost four years ago. Go is still a new kid on the block, but for Kuehnl, the conversion was quick. Now he says "Go is definitely by far my favorite programming language to work in." Kuehnl admitted he is "kind of a fanboy."

I'm no expert in programming, but I talked to Kuehnl because I was curious what might draw experienced coders to switch from proven languages to a brand new one (albeit one co-invented by the famous Ken Thompson, creator of Unix and the B programming language). Google itself runs some of its back-end systems on Go, no surprise for a company that designs its own servers and much of the software (right down to the operating systems) that its employees use. But why would non-Google engineers go with Go?

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Jon Brodkin


Prototype of a system for preventing ATM theft.

Reuters

A criminal serving a five-year sentence "for supplying gadgets to an organized crime gang used to conceal ATM skimmers" has invented a device that prevents ATMs from being susceptible to such thefts, Reuters reported today.

Valentin Boanta, who is six months into his sentence in a Romanian prison, developed what he calls the SRS (Secure Revolving System) which changes the way ATM machines read bank cards to prevent the operation of skimming devices that criminals hide inside ATMs.

Boanta's arrest in 2009 spurred him to develop the anti-theft device to make amends. "When I got caught I became happy. This liberation opened the way to working for the good side," Boanta told Reuters. "Crime was like a drug for me. After I was caught, I was happy I escaped from this adrenaline addiction. So that the other part, in which I started to develop security solutions, started to emerge."

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Jon Brodkin


The Arduino Due.

Arduino

Raspberry Pi has received the lion's share of attention devoted to cheap, single-board computers in the past year. But long before the Pi was a gleam in its creators' eyes, there was the Arduino.

Unveiled in 2005, Arduino boards don't have the CPU horsepower of a Raspberry Pi. They don't run a full PC operating system either. Arduino isn't obsolete, though—in fact, its plethora of connectivity options makes it the better choice for many electronics projects.

While the Pi has 26 GPIO (general purpose input/output) pins that can be programmed to do various tasks, the Arduino DUE (the latest Arduino released in October 2012) has 54 digital I/O pins, 12 analog input pins, and two analog output pins. Among those 54 digital I/O pins, 12 provide pulse-width modulation (PWM) output.

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Jon Brodkin

About six weeks ago, users of Facebook's Android application noticed that they were being asked to install a new version—without going to the Google Play app store.

Android is far more permissive than iOS regarding the installation of third-party applications, even allowing installation from third-party sources if the user explicitly allows it. However, it's unusual for applications delivered through the official Google store to receive updates outside of the store's updating mechanism.

Google has now changed the Google Play store polices in an apparent attempt to avoid Facebook-like end runs around store-delivered updates. Under the "Dangerous Products" section of the Google Play developer policies, Google now states that "[a]n app downloaded from Google Play may not modify, replace or update its own APK binary code using any method other than Google Play's update mechanism." A Droid-Life article says the language update occurred Thursday. APK (standing for application package file) is the file format used to install applications on Android.

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Jon Brodkin


Ubuntu 13.04.

The stable release of Ubuntu 13.04 became available for download today, with Canonical promising performance and graphical improvements to help prepare the operating system for convergence across PCs, phones, and tablets.

"Performance on lightweight systems was a core focus for this cycle, as a prelude to Ubuntu’s release on a range of mobile form factors," Canonical said in an announcement today. "As a result 13.04 delivers significantly faster response times in casual use, and a reduced memory footprint that benefits all users."

Named "Raring Ringtail,"—the prelude to Saucy Salamander—Ubuntu 13.04 is the midway point in the OS' two-year development cycle. Ubuntu 12.04, the more stable, Long Term Support edition that is supported for five years, was released one year ago. Security updates are only promised for 9 months for interim releases like 13.04. Support windows for interim releases were recently cut from 18 months to 9 months to reduce the number of versions Ubuntu developers must support and let them focus on bigger and better things.

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Jon Brodkin

The Linux Foundation has taken control of the open source Xen virtualization platform and enlisted a dozen industry giants in a quest to be the leading software for building cloud networks.

The 10-year-old Xen hypervisor was formerly a community project sponsored by Citrix, much as the Fedora operating system is a community project sponsored by Red Hat. Citrix was looking to place Xen into a vendor-neutral organization, however, and the Linux Foundation move was announced today. The list of companies that will "contribute to and guide the Xen Project" is impressive, including Amazon Web Services, AMD, Bromium, Calxeda, CA Technologies, Cisco, Citrix, Google, Intel, Oracle, Samsung, and Verizon.

Amazon is perhaps the most significant name on that list in regard to Xen. The Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud is likely the most widely used public infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) cloud, and it is built on Xen virtualization. Rackspace's public cloud also uses Xen. Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin noted in his blog that Xen "is being deployed in public IaaS environments by some of the world's largest companies."

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Aurich Lawson

Some say we're living in a "post-PC" world, but malware on PCs is still a major problem for home computer users and businesses.

The examples are everywhere: In November, we reported that malware was used to steal information about one of Japan's newest rockets and upload it to computers controlled by hackers. Critical systems at two US power plants were recently found infected with malware spread by USB drives. Malware known as "Dexter" stole credit card data from point-of-sale terminals at businesses. And espionage-motivated computer threats are getting more sophisticated and versatile all the time.

In this second installment in the Ars Guide to Online Security, we'll cover the basics for those who may not be familiar with the different types of malware that can affect computers. Malware comes in a variety of types, including viruses, worms, and Trojans.

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