Saturday, June 4, 2011

Spotlight falls on Sony’s troubled cyber security

LONDON – Another massive data breach at Sony has left hackers exulting, customers steaming and security experts questioning why basic fixes haven’t been made to the company’s stricken cyber security program.

Hackers say they managed to steal a massive trove of personal information from Sony Pictures’ website using a basic technique which they claim shows how poorly the company guards its users’ secrets. Security experts agreed Friday, saying the company’s security was bypassed by a well-known attack method by which rogue commands are used to extract sensitive data from poorly constructed websites.

“Any website worth its salt these days should be built to withstand such attacks,” said Graham Cluley, of Web security firm Sophos. Coming on the heels of a massive security breach that compromised more than 100 million user accounts associated with Sony’s PlayStation and online entertainment networks, Cluley said the latest attack suggested that hackers were lining up to give the company a kicking.

“They are becoming the whipping boy of the computer underground,” he said.

In a joint statement from Michael Lynton, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, and Amy Pascal, Co-Chairman, Sony Pictures Entertainment on Friday night acknowledged the breach and said the company had taken action “to protect against further intrusion.”

“We have also retained a respected team of experts to conduct the forensic analysis of the attack,” the statement said. It did not go into details about specific actions that will be taken to prevent future security breaches.

It wasn’t clear how many people were affected. The hackers, who call themselves Lulz Security – a reference to the Internetspeak for “laugh out loud” – boasted of compromising more than 1 million users’ personal information – although it said that a lack of resources meant it could only leak a selection on the Web. Their claim could not be independently verified, but several people whose details were posted online confirmed their identities to The Associated Press.

Lulz Security ridiculed California-based Sony for the ease with which it stole the data, saying that the company stored peoples’ passwords in a simple text file – something it called “disgraceful and insecure.”

Several emails sent to accounts associated with the hackers as well as messages posted to the microblogging site Twitter were not returned, but in one of its tweets Lulz Security expressed no remorse.

“Hey innocent people whose data we leaked: blame Sony,” it said.

Sony’s customers – many of whom had given the company their information for sweepstakes draws – appeared to agree.

Tim Rillahan, a 39-year-old computer instructor in Ohio, said he was extremely upset to find his email address and password posted online for “the whole world to see.”

“I have since been changing my passwords on every site that uses a login,” he said in an email Friday. “Sony stored our passwords in plain text instead of encrypting the information. It shows little respect to us, their customers.”

He and others complained that they had yet to hear from the company about the breach, news of which is nearly a day old.

John Bumgarner, the chief technology officer for the US Cyber Consequences Unit – a research group devoted to monitoring Internet threats – was emphatic when asked whether users’ passwords could be left unencrypted.

“Never, never, never,” he said. “Passwords should always be hashed. Some kind of encryption should be used.”

Bumgarner, who’s been critical of Sony’s security in the past, said the company needed to take a hard look at how it safeguards its data.

“It’s time for Sony to press the reset button on their cybersecurity program before another incident occurs,” he said.

-with reports from Inquirer.net and The Associated Press

PHL to China: 'serious violations' in Spratlys

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has accused China of “serious violations” in the Spratly Islands following at least six aggressive acts in the disputed territory in the South China sea, raising worries that Beijing may be fortifying its claims in the potentially oil-rich region.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it had filed a protest before the Chinese Embassy “over the increasing presence and activities of Chinese vessels including naval assets in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).”

“This protest follows a series of protests already filed by the DFA since the Reed Bank incident in March,” the DFA said in a statement.

The Philippine military has reported that a Chinese surveillance vessel and navy ships were seen unloading building materials and erecting posts in the vicinity of Iroquois Reef and Amy Douglas Bank – an uninhabited undersea hill claimed by the Philippines about 230 kilometers from southwestern Palawan province.

It is part of the Spratlys but well within the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone, the DFA said.

Last month, Chinese jet fighters had reportedly intruded into Philippine airspace in the vicinity of Reed Bank, part of the Kalayaan group of islands in the Spratlys that the Philippines claims. In March, two Chinese vessels harassed a Philippine exploration ship at Reed Bank, prompting the Philippine military to send war planes and Coast Guard ships to the area.

“The actions of the Chinese vessels in Philippine waters are serious violations of Philippine sovereignty and maritime jurisdiction and also violate the Asean-China Declaration of Conduct on the South China Sea,” the DFA said.

At the same time, the DFA said China’s actions “hamper the normal and legitimate fishing activities of the Filipino fishermen in the area and undermines the peace and stability of the region.”

President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday said that the Philippines was planning to file a protest at the UN for the series of incursions.

“There are six or seven [incursions] happening after February 25. We are completing all the necessary data and then we will present it to them [China] and then file it with the appropriate body, which is the UN,” he said.

Those acts included the reported firing last February by a suspected Chinese naval vessel to scare away Filipino fishermen from Quirino, or the Jackson Atoll, in a Spratlys area claimed by Manila, said the officials, who spoke anonymously because of the sensitivity of the subject.

The Chinese Embassy in Manila said the “the reported ‘incursion of Chinese ships’ is not true.” But, it acknowledged the presence there of a Chinese marine research ship “conducting normal maritime research activities in the South China Sea.”

The DFA said both Manila and Beijing agreed to “keep the channels of communication open and continue dialogue on the South China Sea issue.”

-with reports from The Associated Press and Inquirer.net

PEPSI Pinas: Sa Akin ang Pinas! Full Trailer

How creative is this new advertisement by Pepsi! The setting's ridiculous. 
The new PEPSI PINAS will surely be a hit!

Click mo 'to kung gusto mo pang sikatan ng araw!

Patola Forces SPOG1 (Alvarez) goes head to head with Berdugo ng Barangay Sanggano (Boy Balbon) in an explosive battle for Pinas.
2 men, 1 bottle and an unquenchable thirst for glory. Who will prevail?

Main Cast: Boy Balbon, SPOG1 Alvarez, Pepsi Pinas
Supporting Cast: Ampalaya Goons, Upo Goons, Upo Sniper, Patola Forces
Director: Dhenzel Weta
Writer: Annkor Tis
Film Producer: In The Name of Love Productions
Music Director: Tirso Cruz Diether
Genre: Pinoy Action
Release Year: 2011

For a limited time only, Pepsi Pinas now showing at convenience stores, groceries and Manang's Tindahan.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Peso appreciates alongside Greece debt fix

MANILA, Philippines—The peso rises together with other Asian currencies on Wednesday as continued efforts to resolve the fiscal problem of Greece further appeased market concerns over the debt situation in the Euro zone.

The local currency closed at 43.135 against the US dollar, up by 11.5 centavos from Tuesday’s finish of 43.25:$1.

Intraday high reached 43.115:$1, while intraday low settled at 43.26:$1. Volume of trade rose to $995.94 million from $800.43 million previously.

Traders said progress of discussions to resolve the debt situation of Greece prompted investors to buy some emerging market assets, including those from the Philippines, thereby lifting Asian currencies.

The European Union has expressed intention to help Greece meet its obligations, thus appeasing creditors and the international financial community.

Traders also said some investors bet on continued rise in interest rates in Asia, and so they buy assets denominated in Asian currencies to take advantage of the projected rise in yields.

-with reports from Michelle V. Remo of Inquirer.net

PH stocks rebound, end higher

MANILA, Philippines—Local stocks swung back to positive territory on Wednesday as investors took heart from news about Germany leading a second bail-out package for debt-strapped Greece.

The main-share Philippine Stock Exchange index added 41.82 points, or 0.98 percent, to finish at 4,286.46.

Investors across the globe cheered recent developments in Greece. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Index was up by 128.21 points, or 1 percent, to 12,569.79.

Lepanto “A,” AGI, Megaworld, PLDT, Metrobank, DMCI, Philex, ICTSI, BPI, Meralco, Ayala Corp. and FLI led the index higher. Likewise a big gainer was San Miguel Corp., the day’s most actively traded stock. Atlas Mining and Vista Land were also among the gainers.

The day’s index rise was tempered by the losses incurred by URC, Aboitiz Power, EDC and BDO.

Index heavyweight PLDT promptly bounced after a steep fall on Tuesday that was in turn caused by concerns over opposition to its takeover of Gokongwei-led Digitel. The services index thus led the day’s upswing by sector, rising by 2.66 percent.

There were 78 advancers as against 62 decliners while 33 stocks were unchanged.

-with reports from Michelle V. Remo of Inquirer.net

RP Diplomacy with China to be maintained, despite Spratly dispute-defense chief

MANILA, Philippines—Defense chief Voltaire Gazmin on Wednesday said that despite the recent surge in alleged incursions of Chinese ships and planes into the Philippine-claimed territories in the disputed Spratly islands in South China Sea, diplomacy will continue to be maintained.

“We have to respond diplomatically to this issue. The most we can do is file diplomatic protests—that is the most civilized thing to do at this moment,” Gazmin said during the Communication and News Exchange Forum at the Philippine Information Agency in Quezon City.

The defense chief, quoting Armed Forces chief of staff General Eduardo Oban Jr., said that they had received five to six reported intrusions this year. Most of them were reportedly committed by Chinese vessels, the latest occurring last May 21 and 24 wherein Filipino fishermen reportedly saw Chinese vessels unloading steel posts near the Likas and Patag islands, some 100 nautical miles off Palawan, well within the Philippine territory.

On Monday, seven Vietnamese fishing vessels were also apprehended within Philippine territorial waters, Gazmin added.

Gazmin reiterated that the military, though ready to defend the nation, currently does not have the capability to do so.

“Ang Armed Forces ay handang ipagtanggol ang bansa kahit anong estado natin pero kung numero na lang, 1.2 billion yata sila (Chinese population) against our 90 million. Pagsabay-sabay lumundag yun, baka magka-earthquake. (The Armed Forces is ready to defend our country at whatever level of preparation we have, but with their [Chinese’s] sheer number alone at 1.12 billion, if they all jump at the same time on the Spratlys there might be an earthquake). Kidding aside, we are not in a position to confront them. This is one of the rising powers in Asia,” Gazmin said.

Meanwhile, Oban said that the military’s Western Command has been ordered to increase its existing number of defense men and conduct more routine patrols in the disputed areas.

“The instruction remains the same: continue patrols, maritime patrols within territorial boundaries, be more vigilant in terms of intelligence gathering and frequent reconnaissance patrol via air,” Oban said.

-with reports from Katherine Evangelista of Inquirer.net

DoTC Secretary De Jesus resigns

MANILA, Philippines—(UPDATE) Citing his desire to return to private life, Transportation and Communications Secretary Jose “Ping” De Jesus will step down from his post on June 30, a year after he assumed office, an official of the Department of Transportation and Communication said Wednesday.

De Jesus “will not change his mind,” said Transportation and Communication Undersecretary Dante M. Velasco. “He will still be available to the President for advice, but as a private citizen.”

“It’s not because of his health. He wants to return to the private sector,” Velasco said, referring to his 76-year-old boss. Velasco said De Jesus revealed that he never intended to stay at the DoTC for more than a year.

Velasco said De Jesus submitted his resignation on Monday afternoon and it was accepted by President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday morning. As late as Tuesday evening, De Jesus dismissed as rumors reports that he had resigned.

“I am serving as long as I am needed. If I am no longer needed, then I will leave,” De Jesus told the Philippine Daily Inquirer late Tuesday evening. Velasco said De Jesus denied reports of his resignation so as not to preempt MalacaƱang.

De Jesus could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. He is the first Aquino Cabinet member to resign from his post.

Before joining the DoTC, De Jesus was the president of Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), the country’s largest power distributor. He also served as president of Manila North Tollways Corp., operator of North Luzon Expressway.

De Jesus’ resignation comes ahead of a rumored Cabinet revamp to remove some “underperforming” officials.

“I don’t think (De Jesus) was going to be affected by the revamp because the President was surprised by the resignation,” Velasco said.

De Jesus “loves the Aquino family very much. He does not want this act to hurt his relationship with his family,” Velasco said. The decision was reached, Velasco said, after consultation with a member of the Aquino family.

De Jesus had served under the administration of late former President Corazon Aquino as secretary of public works and highways. One of his landmark projects at the time was the construction of overpasses on Epifanio de los Santos Avenue or Edsa that decongested Metro Manila’s major thoroughfare.

Velasco said he and other undersecretaries were caught off guard by De Jesus’ resignation.

“We had an all-day meeting last Tuesday. We were drawing up plans for the next five years and he was setting a lot of deadlines,” Velasco said. “There was no indication at all that he was going to leave.”

Since joining the DoTC, De Jesus has ordered the review of several key infrastructure projects that were approved by the previous administration.

These include the controversial Northrail project that aimed to build a cargo and passenger train line linking Metro Manila to key Northern Luzon provinces. The project, funded by a loan from the Chinese government, has been plagued with cost overruns that would result in Chinese contractor Sinomach getting more money from the government for less work.

Another project currently under review is the Greater Maritime Access or GMA Ports Project. A review committee formed by De Jesus earlier found that the project aimed to build 72 ports that the country did not need.

Velasco said the review of these contracts as well as other reforms would go on even without De Jesus.

“The secretary has established the foundation of good governance in the DoTC. He has ordered the review of all contracts and started a culture of honesty and transparency,” Velasco said.

Stradcom Corp., the controversial information technology systems provider for the Land Transportation Office, expressed surprise over De Jesus’ resignation.

“This is a big loss to the administration of President Aquino as Secretary de Jesus is not only a man of competence but also of unquestionable integrity. He is well-respected in both the political and business communities,” the company said in a statement.

Stradcom has been at the center of several controversies regarding its multibillion-peso contract with the LTO. An intra-corporate dispute at Stradcom, involving a certain Bonifacio Sumbilla who claimed to be the company’s new owner, led to a failed takeover of the company’s operations last December.

The takeover resulted in the seven-hour paralysis of Stradcom’s and the LTO’s operations. In a justice department investigation, LTO chief Virginia Torres, handpicked by Mr. Aquino for the post, was found to have sided with the Sumbilla faction to remove Stradcom chairman Cezar Quiambao.

De Jesus recommended that Torres be suspended to allow for a deeper probe into the matter. Mr. Aquino ordered Torres to go on a 60-day leave of absence, which ends on June 19.

Velasco denied that De Jesus was pressured to resign due to disagreements with the President on whether to replace Torres or allow her to return to her post. Torres is a close friend and “shooting buddy” of the President.

Velasco denied that there was any rift between De Jesus and the President.

De Jesus “cannot be pressured by any outside forces. He respects the President but he is in command of everything here at the DoTC. His resignation is purely his decision,” Velasco said.

-with reports from Paolo G. Montecillo of Inquirer.net

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

4 Philippine schools included in Top 200 Asian universities 2011

Four Philippine universities get into the Top 200 Asian Universities for 2011, career and education network QS declared.

The University of the Philippines, RP's best university, docked at number 62 in Asia. It was followed by the Ateneo de Manila University (68th in Asia), University of Santo Tomas (104th in Asia), and De La Salle University (107th in Asia)

Moreover, eleven other universities were also listed at the 201+ ranks in Asia. These include the Mindanao State University, Xavier University, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Silliman University, Father Saturnino Urios College, Mapua Institute of Technology, Adamson University, Saint Louis University, Central Mindanao University, University of San Carlos, and University of Southeastern Philippines.