Skip to main content

Today's Tech: Google Babel leaked, London set for 4G interference tests, and the 2013 ransomware nightmare

Towards the end of last year, when the major security firms were compiling their customary run-downs of the biggest threats expected to emerge in 2013, ransomware figured prominently as an ominous 'one to watch'. This breed of malicious software owes its name to the way in which it attacks a computer, quite literally holding it ransom by paralysing the device and demanding payment for it to be unlocked. By February of this year, the experts' prophecies began to be realised as a sophisticated and sprawling ransomware plot came to light, with Europol detaining a multi-national criminal gang in Spain's Costa del Sol. The fraud had successfully extorted money from victims across more than 30 different countries, and authorities estimated that the criminals' cash haul ran into "millions of euros." So as the growing talk of a ransomware revival became substantiated by a cybercrime of such scale and profitability, we wanted to find out more on the trend and spoke to Team Cymru's security researcher Marcel den Berg, who has been tracking this guise of malware closely. Read on for our 2013 ransomware analysis - it's likely to be the biggest grubstaker in cybercrime this year.

New leaked screenshots purporting to reveal Google's Babel messenger in action have surfaced online, potentially indicating that the search giant's latest service could be ready in time for an unveiling at its annual I/O Conference in May. Sources claim to have obtained the grainy grabs from a "Google employee," positing that they "confirm" the existence and impending arrival of a revamped Google communications platform. If legitimate, the screenshots certainly seem to verify the Babel moniker, revealing that the new service will centre on a threaded message interface, with image thumbnails representing users in lieu of text handles. Elsewhere, Babel will offer Google+ and Hangouts integration with the former enabling you to share photos with your friends. Click on to learn more about what could well the world's next big unified communications platform.

Following on from successful small-scale trials in the West Midlands, 4G overlords the at800 Group are set to begin a second bout of testing measuring the extent to which the UK's impending 4G switch-on may disrupt Freeview signals. The second trial run will commence on 15 April and focus on approximately 170,000 at-risk households and business premises in South-east London, taking in the Greenwich, Lewisham, Southwark, and Tower Hamlets areas. 4G testing in London is seen as a crucial indicator of the potential for TV disruption resulting from 4G mast activation, due to the capital's high population density and crowded airwaves. If the group's trials continue to see minimal interference, Britain's 4G switch-on could go ahead as early as this summer.

In yet more security news, the two Koreas are at it again. South Korea has claimed that the North was behind recent cyber attacks that paralysed scores of computers at national banks and broadcasters in March. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks - which infected some 48,000 machines belonging to the Shinhan, NongHyup and Jeju banks, and KBS, MBC and YTN TV stations – South Korean authorities were reluctant to point the finger of blame before a full investigation had taken place. But having scrutinised the malicious software involved, the government has singled out its Northern foe over the incident, in an announcement sure to heighten animosity in the peninsula. Read on for more details about the digital dispute.