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Weekend Roundup: Twitter users exposed by malware, RIM shows signs of recovery, knives out on Apple

Users exposed by malware campaign on Twitter

Most of the news-grabbing security headlines recently have involved state-sponsored attacks targeting infrastructure crucial to another nation or government. The destructive cyber espionage kits of Flame, Gauss and Shamoon have demonstrated the increasing vulnerability of the security landscape, but have perhaps had many feeling the key threats are not being aimed at us humble users, but that attackers have bigger fish to fry.

Yet the proliferation of these attacks doesn’t mean low-level malware is becoming any less prevalent, and malicious links detected on Twitter this week provided a timely reminder of the common threats we must all be wary of. Direct messages from other users claimed you were in a Facebook video before leaving a legitimate looking URL with ‘facebook’ in the code. Indeed, the malware campaign reached my Twitter inbox, with a message from a follower reading, “what are you doing in this vid? https://facebook.com6580087...”, but knowing full well I don’t do anything outlandish, interesting or funny enough to be subject of someone’s Facebook video, I knew better than to click the link.

Given the size of Twitter’s user base, the malware is sure to have spread fairly significantly, and the use of social media as a platform for cyber attacks is increasingly significantly say the experts. The trend was highlighted by Cisco’s Senior VP of Security, Chris Young at a roundtable discussion I attended this week; attackers are now able to spread malware that looks far more innocuous thanks to the nature of social networks, Young said. He also described the ways in which cyber criminals are using the sites to study organisations and identify key targets, such as the network manager, in order to make attacks more focused and effective. Expect more from the revealing event with Cisco on ITProPortal in the near future.

RIM resurgent?

It’s hard to find an article on RIM these days that doesn’t instantly use the term ‘beleaguered’ when talking about the firm. The word has practically become a prefix to its name since the BlackBerry manufacturer’s financial problems became publicised, but there were signs this week a revival may still materialise for Thorsten Heins and company.

So much will depend on the success of its forthcoming BlackBerry 10 platform, due in the New Year, and a hands on preview of the OS provided cause for optimism. Some nifty and eye-catching control functions may help it gain the iOS- and Android-esque consumer appeal, while the BlackBerry Balance feature - allowing the user to create two walled off profiles on the same device – bodes well for helping regain BlackBerry’s traditional corporate hegemony. In the age of BYOD in the work place, this capability could prove very significant.

The hands on came at the BlackBerry Jam conference in California, where CEO Heins delivered a rallying speech, admitting, “We recognise the need for change. There is a new culture at RIM. There's a fighting spirit." The company was then boosted by the news on Friday that its quarterly financial report showed figures that exceeded the expectations of sceptical analysts. An impressive 7.4 million BlackBerrys had been sold during the second quarter, helping its shares surge by 21 per cent in after-hours trading. The report’s underlining figure of a £145 million debt demonstrates the long journey to recovery that lies ahead of RIM, but there are small signs the Canadian firm could yet mount a comeback in 2013.

iPhone 5 woe for Apple

These past seven days marked the first full week of trading for Apple’s hype toy, the iPhone 5, and though we’re all getting pretty sick of hearing about it, the latest news surrounding the product is worthy of mention for sure.

It was always going to be difficult for the phone to live up to the incredible expectations Apple has instilled in its customer base over years of momentous innovation, but the amount of faults exposed in the device has been surprisingly high. After iOS 6 was roundly mocked last week for its error-ridden maps service, we’ve since had cases of easy scuffing and scratching to the phone’s shell, location confusions with weather forecasts, and hazy flare-ups from its camera.

The Cupertino firm’s PR could have been a little better with the former issue in particular, as marketing chief Phil Schiller tersely dismissed the casing damage as “normal”. That may be so, but this doesn’t necessarily make it acceptable when people have paid over £500 for a product and are seeing superficial damage before they have even got it out of the box. Apple’s lengthy boasts over the phone’s aluminium exterior on the launch night certainly look a little less impressive now.