Asus is one of the leading companies when it comes to computing technology. The Taiwan-based multinational produces a wide range of products from your typical everyday laptops, high-performance gaming laptops, and one of the best graphics cards available in the market, to name a few.
On January, during the CES 2019 in Nevada, Asus announced a line of new ultrabooks and gaming laptops that led to a prior conclusion that the tech company wouldn’t have anything interesting for Computex Taipei.
In line with the company celebrating its 30th Anniversary, Asus announced the release of the limited edition Asus ZenBook Edition 30 laptop, coated with crisp white leather and embellished with 18-karat rose gold pieces. Moreover, Asus teased the coming of new updates for its ZenBook and VivoBook laptops — which will sport an improved ScreenPad 2.0 and two new USB-C monitors.
The Taiwan-based announcement of the ZenBook Pro Duo received outstanding reviews for its innovative features — following the idea of a dual-screen laptop.
The ZenBook Pro Duo includes two 4K screens. The primary screen is a 15-inch 16:9 OLED panel located at where you would typically see on a laptop. The second screen, however, which is a 14-inch 32:9 IPS screen is situated precisely above the keyboard, called the “ScreenPad Plus.” It takes the entire half of the laptop’s keyboard space. Aesthetically, it’s like the MacBook Pro Touch Bar — but extended a few inches lower.
Similar to the ROG Zephyrus laptop Asus introduced during CES 2019, the keyboard and the secondary screen of the ZenBook Pro Duo practically tales up all the space — leaving no room for the typical trackpad. As a workaround, Asus situated the trackpad to the right side of the keyboard and added a feature where it can double as a numpad by merely pressing a button.
At first glance, it has a weird display that comes off as an unnecessary abundance of screens — but can potentially pose as an advantage for users who wishes to perform multiple tasks at the same time.
At any point, the two screens can either function as an extension of the other. The main screen works either way: (1) page can extend to the second IPS screen, or (2) the main screen can have one app running while the other screen opens a maximum of three apps at the same time — allowing the maximization of multi-tasking capabilities.
Both the trackpad location and dual-screen features need some “getting used to,” but users would quickly notice the same efficiency compared to other laptops says Engadget.
An eight-core Intel Core i9 processor will power the ZenBook Duo Pro with an Nvidia RTX 2060 GPU.
Design-wise, similar to other Zephyrus gaming laptops, the ZneBook Pro Duo will have the same lift effect when the screen is raised — allowing typing experience to be more comfortable given the keyboard location and to support the two bass speakers located at the bottom. It also follows the trend of having thinner bevels.
Moreover, there are four far-field microphones designed for use with Alexa and Cortana, and there’s an Echo-style blue light at the bottom edge that activates with voice commands. It has a Thunderbolt 3 port, two USB-A ports, a headphone jack, and a full-sized HDMI port.
“Performance seemed fine in my brief time using the ZenBook Pro Duo, without any hiccups or hitches even when running an intensive video editing software demo. It’s a fairly hefty laptop at 2.5kg (about 5.5lbs), but that’s to be expected given the gaming laptop-class internals,” describes Sam Byford from The Verge.
“While both of the screens looked good, I will say they looked different. Part of that is because of the searing intensity of the primary OLED panel, but the ScreenPad Plus is also coated with a matte finish, and usually looks less bright because of how you naturally view it at an off angle,” he adds.
Additionally, Asus says that it is also offering a 14-inch option called the ZenBook Duo with an Intel Core i7 and a GeForce MX 250 GPU instead. There’s full HD resolution on both the main display and its 12.6-inch ScreenPad Plus.
In terms of pricing and release date, Asus has yet to announce details on that and whether or not it will hit US markets any time soon.
These Series Of Ransomware Attacks Is More Than Just For Ransom — And The Government Should Listen And Investigate
The ransomware epidemic is growing stronger, and researchers and tech experts warn that it will get much worse. Many ransomware attacks have been launched against city governments, private businesses, and have effectively shut down the system and social services in different states across the U.S.
According to a report by a cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, the recorded attacks rose from 38 in 2017 to 53 in 2018, and researchers noted that those numbers are expected to rise in the next few years.
Ransomware is not a new phenomenon. While malware remains to be the biggest threat in cybersecurity, ransomware is gaining traction in notoriety. In a typical ransomware attack, the attacker will send a Trojan, a worm, or malware to a system — to demand payment in exchange for the remedy to the ransomware. Sometimes, attackers threaten to publish the victim’s database or other secured information hidden within its system in exchange for a ransom.
Starting from around 2012, the use of ransomware scams grown internationally. There were 181.5 million ransomware attacks in the first six months of 2018. This result marks a 229% increase over the same time in 2017.
In June 2014, vendor McAfee released data showing that it had collected more than double the number of samples of ransomware that quarter than it had in the same quarter of the previous year. CryptoLocker was particularly successful, procuring an estimated $3 million before it was taken down by authorities, and CryptoWall was determined by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to have accrued over the $18 million by June 2015.
Atlanta ransomware attack
Probably one of the most significant and most damaging ransomware attacks in recent U.S. history, Atlanta had become one of the latest victims of ransomware attacks back in March 2018. The offense has knocked almost all of the city’s agencies offline, causing most of the social services to freeze including scheduling court cases and paying utility bills online. Furthermore, the ransomware has effectively caused decades worth of official correspondence to disappear in thin air.
Reports reveal that it took the city more than $17 million in costs to recover from the devastating effects of the ransomware.
Several tech experts have said that other cities should take the case of Atlanta to be a “wake-up” call for how vulnerable local and state governments were to these types of cyber crimes – and how underprepared they are to resist them. However, it seems like these calls have fallen to deaf ears.
More and more cities are being attacked
Just over 12 months later, Baltimore is in the throes of its costly ransomware attack. Now in its sixth week, the attack has left officials unable to process payments and even respond to emails. And Baltimore is not alone. In just the last two months, there have been ransomware attacks in Greenville, North Carolina; Imperial County, California; Stuart, Florida; Cleveland, Ohio; Augusta, Maine; Lynn, Massachusetts; and Cartersville, Georgia.
Increasing security defenses in companies shifted the target to government agencies
As corporations improve their security firewalls to prevent attacks like malware and ransomware against their systems from happening, hackers have found new ways to infiltrate vulnerable municipal and city systems whose defenses are much weaker. Add to that the fact that many cities and states are starting to digitize their records and services in recent years, making their juvenile systems vulnerable to all sorts of cyber crimes.
“The government knows it needs to change, but they move slowly compared to how quickly private business can pivot to manage their exposure to a new threat,” Gary Hayslip, a cybersecurity expert who previously acted as a chief information security officer for San Diego, said. “Until it is mandated that cities, counties, and states meet a specific level of security and have to demonstrate it as is done in business for compliance periodically, government entities will continue to be low-hanging fruit and cybercriminals don’t mind eating them for lunch.”
Moreover, because of improvements in technology and the availability of information online, it has become easier for cybercriminals to launch an attack. “On the dark web, there are lots of available tools for relative novices to craft together pretty effective pieces of ransomware technology,” said Chris Kennedy, chief information security officers at cybersecurity company AttackIQ. “It’s the ‘Idiots Guide to Hacking.’”
But with the growing number of cities and state agencies falling victims to ransomware attacks, will the government now listen? Maybe.
A New Strain Of ‘Houdini’ Malware Is On Sale For $50 Per Month In The Black Market
The new Houdini malware targets financial institutions and their customers.
When someone mentions Houdini, it is almost instantly recalled to the world’s greatest magician and escape artist. But, cybercriminals have found a way to transform the man’s legacy into something feared and unwanted. A new strain of the Houdini worm has been detected by security researchers and has launched a new series of campaigns against financial institutions and their customers.
A few days ago, a report from cybersecurity researchers from Cofense confirmed that a new strain of the Houdini malware – also known as Hworm – was released by its creators on June 2, 2019.
The new Houdini malware only took five days to start wreaking havoc and seek out victims via malicious phishing campaigns. According to the report, the main goal of the malware is to steal online banking credentials which the culprits could later use to make fraudulent online purchases. It uses a tool dubbed as WSH Remote Access Tool (RAT).
How does it work?
The cybercriminals masqueraded the phishing campaign as legitimate emails from various financial institutions and banks. One particular bank used by hackers is HSBC. The fraudulent emails contain .MHT web archive files which act the same way as HTML files.
“The email attachment contained an MHT file that is used by threat operators in the same way as HTML files. In this case, the MHT file contained an href link which when opened, directed victims to a .zip archive containing a version of WSH RAT,” they added.
When the MHT file, which contains a web address link, was executed, it directs the victims towards a .zip archive containing the WSH RAT payload. WSH RAT uses the same configuration structure that Hworm uses for this process.
The Trojan first communicates with a command and control server, controlled by the cybercriminal, request three additional .tar.gz files. These files, however, are PE32 executables which provide the Trojan with a Windows keylogger, a mail credential viewer, and a browser credential viewer module.
It is also noteworthy that these modules were developed by other third parties and cannot be attributed to the original creator of the Houdini worm. Furthermore, reports reveal that the malware is being actively sold in underground forums and the black market. The price point for the infection is said to be at $50 per month subscription basis. Sellers are marketing their product by waxing eloquent about WSH Rat’s Windows XP and Windows 10 compatibility, evasion techniques, credentials-stealing capabilities, among others.
New malware variants are sprouting
Only recently, researchers from Google has discovered a Linux-based strain of another prevalent malware, Winnti, which was attributed to the high-value attack against a Vietnamese gaming company a few years back by some Chinese hackers.
Researchers made the discovery from the Chronicle, Alphabet’s cybersecurity department. The researchers revealed that they found a Linux variant of the Winnti malware that works as a backdoor on infected hosts, granting attackers access to compromised systems.
According to the Chronicle, the malware that they have discovered comes in two parts: a rootkit to disguise the malware in the infected host and the actual backdoor Trojan. Further analysis the discovered Linux variant of the Winnti malware bears a lot of similarities to the malware’s Windows version. Other connections with the Windows version also included the similar way in which the Linux variant handled outbound communications with its command-and-control (C&C) server — which was a mixture of multiple protocols (ICMP, HTTP, and custom TCP and UDP protocols).
‘Pavlok’ SmartTech Bracelet Stops Bad Habits With Electric Shocks
Studies suggest that it takes 21 days to make or break habits. The truth is, it’s not the longevity that most people struggle with — it’s the consistency. Enter Pavlok, a wearable tech that uses aversive conditioning — a kind of negative reinforcement — to keep you from your bad habits is now available in Amazon.
How does it work?
Pavlok is made of two parts: a one-size-fits-all wristband and an app that is available in Android and iOS. The band uses electric shocks, ranging from low to high setting, to enforce negative stimuli when you engage in your bad habits. It is the digital form of snapping your wrist with a rubber band when you bite your nails or sneak a quick cigarette break.
According to its Amazon webpage, Pavlok has sold more than 50,000 units since its official launch in 2015. Behavioral Technology Group Inc., the company responsible for the product, has since released two versions of Pavlok. It has also released a new product called Shock Clock, an alarm clock that zaps its user awake.
History of Pavlok
Maneesh Sethi, the CEO, and founder of Behavioral Technology Group, Inc. claims to have the idea for Pavlok when he created an experiment back in 2014. He shared in a blog post that he hired a girl from Craiglist to slap him whenever he went on Facebook. Based on his experiment, he increased his productivity and concluded that aversive conditioning worked for him.
In 2014, Sethi put up Pavlok on crowdfunding website Indiegogo to create their initial prototype. It targeted to get funding of $50,000 and walked away with more than $250,000 with a total of 1,763 backers.
Despite success in crowdfunding, Pavlok’s popularity soared only on May 20, 2016, when it was featured on the last episode of Shark Tank‘s season 7. Sethi refused Kevin O’ Leary’s offer because he doesn’t want to work with him. Even though Sethi’s venture on the popular hit show was amiss, he continued working on his digital aversive conditioning technique.
Users on Amazon and blogs have mixed reviews with this unconventional wearable tech. Testimonials are available on Pavlok’s website, boasting success on breaking bad habits like nail biting, stopping cookie addiction, and eating too many sugary snacks.
While others swear by the results, others felt that Pavlok’s expectations fell short. With Pavlok 1, users have to manually zap themselves when they engage in a bad habit. Users reported that after some time, they learned to ignore the electric shocks or forget to zap themselves.
As an improvement, Pavlok included a feature which would allow your friends to zap you when they caught you red-handed. Aside from that, they integrated an IFTTT feature, which would allow users to input conditions for when they will receive their shocks. For example, if you are trying to remove your nail biting habit, you can simply input Pavlok to zap you when you lift your hand to your mouth. Of course, it only works when you use the hand which has the Pavlok device.
Future of Wearable Tech
Pavlok is just one of the hundreds of wearable tech designed to improve users’ quality of life. Apple is set to release Apple Watch OS 6, which includes a menstrual cycle tracker. It is a much-awaited update after the launching of Apple Watch Series 4 last September 2018.
Starkey, a company focused on producing hearing aids, launched Livio AI last year as well. It is a hearing aid marketed for people who do not need any hearing aids. It features integrated sensors to detect noisy environments and lessen them, thereby reducing the user’s exposure to noise pollution. It also boasts an almost perfect language translation app that lets you understand 27 languages.
With the rise in popularity of these products, wearable tech has a bright future.
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