IBM has raised the stakes in the graphene arms race, by creating a complete integrated circuit out of the remarkable form of carbon.
On Friday, the company announced its researchers have used wafer-thin graphene to build a broadband frequency mixer circuit. This near-ubiquitous circuit handles many tasks — translating a radio signal into an audible voice on a mobile phone, for example. The researchers demonstrated the circuit at up to 10GHz, and showed this level of performance was stable at up to 127°C.
In April, IBM unveiled a graphene transistor that it recorded running at 155GHz. This was an increase of more than 50 percent on the previous year's 100GHz effort, and outperforms by far anything silicon can do.
"Designed for wireless communications, this graphene-based analogue integrated circuit could improve today's wireless devices and points to the potential for a new set of applications," IBM said in a statement.
"At today's conventional frequencies, cell phone and transceiver signals could be improved, potentially allowing phones to work where they can't today, while, at much higher frequencies, military and medical personnel could see concealed weapons or conduct medical imaging without the same radiation dangers of X-rays," the company added.
Graphene, a two-dimensional form of carbon, was first isolated less than a decade ago. Its characteristics turned the future of electronics on its head: its strength, thermal, optical and electrical properties are unique, and could lead to smaller, faster and less energy-hungry electronic components. The thermal stability alone means circuits can be kept simple, with no need for a complicated design to compensate for problems caused by heating.
However, graphene can be tricky to work with. In a paper published on Thursday in Science (PDF), the researchers explained that the major challenge in integrating graphene in circuits was getting it to adhere to the other metals and oxides — such as gold — involved in building a chip. So they took a new approach and grew the graphene directly onto a silicon-carbide wafer.
The researchers annealed silicon-carbide wafers, forming layers of graphene on the surface. Making the circuits involved "four layers of metal and two layers of oxide to form top-gated graphene transistor, on-chip inductors and interconnects", IBM said.
In an interview with IEEE, Keith Jenkins, one of the scientists involved with the work, said graphene is also easily damaged by the standard etching process used in creating circuits. To deal with this, the researchers coated the graphene with a polymer called PMMA, which protected the graphene they needed for the circuit.
The method will work with existing optical lithography, IBM said, and can be applied to graphene films created by chemical vapour deposition. This means existing fabs would not need massive revamping to start using graphene in earnest.
Jenkins told the IEEE the 10GHz speed recorded for the newly announced circuit is not the limit, saying that the design is merely a proof of concept. "Ultimately, we should be able to go a lot faster," he said.
Last week's revelation that the iOS 5 developer-only beta release contains pointers to new iPhones and iPads was followed this weekend by the next Apple smartphone is currently in "final testing".
That, a "previously accurate Apple source" told website 9to5Mac, indicates a September iPhone release date.
Other sources made the same claim just recently.
Will it be the iPhone 5 or the iPhone 4-something, a tweak to match the upgrade from the 3G to the 3GS? The mole doesn't say beyond referring to the "next-generation iPhone".
That's what Apple would call a souped-up iPhone 4 in any case, but with the simultaneous release of iOS 5 - which Apple has publicly stated will ship this coming autumn - Apple will probably call the handset the iPhone 5 no matter what
It's a long time since Victor last set foot in a school. Memories of sweaty feet, bleach, and long echoing corridors flooded back the instant he crossed the threshold of Crow Lane Primary.
His company recently signed a contract to support the school's servers - quite a coup as it was in competition with the Local Education Authority. Apparently the headmaster didn't taken too kindly to the news that the LEA's IT support function was to be outsourced offshore.
The call came through first thing that morning, from the panicky school secretary. None of the computers could access the internet.
'What's that, mate?'
Victor turns round and looks into the face of a boy, blue eyes big as golf balls in the lenses of his black-framed spectacles. No higher than Victor's waist, the kid's gelled hair sticks out like Dennis the Menace.
'This?' Victor opens his hand, revealing the Blackberry.
'It's a phone.'
The kid's eyes narrow. 'No, it isn't. Phones don't look like that.'
'This one does.'
'Has it got a camera?'
A smirk crosses the kid's face as he takes an iPhone 4 out of his pants pocket. 'Mine does. Five megapixels. Can yours do this?' He turns the phone in his hand and the image on it flips from portrait to landscape.
'No,' says Victor.
'That means it hasn't got a three-axis giro.' He leans closer to Victor. 'What are you doing?'
'Fixing your school's server - that's this big computer. There's a problem with the internet.'
'There's nothing wrong with the internet.'
'It's Mister Fiddler. He changed the IP address of the gateway. I tried pinging it from my laptop but it wouldn't.'
Victor's jaw heads for his chest. 'You know about pinging?'
The kid's eyebrows knot like spaghetti. 'Who doesn't? Except maybe Mister Fiddler.''
The LinkedIn social networking site is being used to find victims to target with malicious phishing emails
Prospective employers and job applicants are not the only ones using LinkedIn for research. Cyber-criminals are increasingly using the social networking site for professionals to identify potential victims, according to security experts.
Security firm Trusteer uncovered spam messages designed to look almost the same as legitimate notification messages from LinkedIn, Trusteer CEO Mickey Boodaei wrote in the company blog on June 2. When users click on the link in the message, usually an invitation to connect with someone, they are redirected to a malicious server in Russia serving up malware.
Through LinkedIn, cyber-criminals can build a profile of targeted enterprises and locate key people within the organisation. The spam messages sent to those people could be used to install malware which could steal login credentials or other confidential information.
The fraudulent LinkedIn messages take users to a salesforceappi.com domain. Despite the name, the domain has nothing to do with Salesforce.com. It was registered May 31 and the server associated with the IP address is based in Russia.
The users are then hit by drive-by-download attacks based on the BlackHole exploit kit to install Zeus 2 Trojan on the computer, according to Trusteer. This Zeus variant transmits the stolen data to a server in Zhejiang, China.
While commonly associated with banking fraud, Trusteer’s Boodaei said Zeus has other capabilities and can allow attackers to access workstations and other data stored on the corporate network.
“We’ve recently seen evidence of Zeus targeting enterprise networks in order to steal proprietary information and to gain unauthorised access to sensitive systems,” Boodaei said.
A recent Trusteer survey found that 68 percent of enterprise users who receive a fake LinkedIn message are likely to click on it. It is not entirely their fault, as LinkedIn and other social networking sites “educate us to click on links “, Boodaei said. The sites regularly send out calls for actions to encourage users into going back to the site.
“This is extremely dangerous as many users almost automatically click on these links without trying to verify their authenticity,” Boodaei said, especially considering that LinkedIn hides the link behind a button, which makes it even harder to check the URL.
It is increasingly becoming harder to identify phishing and malicious email messages as attackers get more creative. Trusteer recommends users to train themselves to never opening emails from social networking sites, let alone clicking on the links in those messages. Users should access the social networking Website by typing the address manually, and handle all the notifications from the site directly, Boodaei said.
Recent attacks against RSA and Oak Ridge National Laboratory tricked employees into opening attachments or clicking on links in malicious messages. “Cyber criminals are putting a great deal of effort in these attacks and are unfortunately successful,” Boodaei said.
There have been several variations of the LinkedIn scam, with researchers at Cisco Systems reporting a similar campaign last autumn.
The BlackHole exploit kit locates vulnerabilities on a computer and prepares a customised payload depending on operating system and installed software, according to Bitdefender. It used to sell for $1,500 (£900) back when it appeared on the black market a year ago, but nowadays can be obtained for free.
The security software market rebounded well in 2010 following a disappointing 2009, Gartner has claimed.
The market grew 12 per cent last year as total revenue hit $16.5 billion - up from 2009 revenue of $14.7 billion.
"Products within the security market are undergoing rapid evolution, in terms of both new delivery models — with security as a service showing increasing popularity — and new technologies being introduced, often by startup companies," said Ruggero Contu, principal research analyst at Gartner.
"Key vendors continued to expand their product portfolios, buying companies where appropriate and expanding their reach into emerging markets."
Symantec remained the dominant force in the industry, although experienced below average growth over the year.
It achieved 18.9 per cent market share in 2010, compared to McAfee on 10.4 per cent in second place.
Out of the top 5 players, Trend Micro in third saw the lowest growth with 5.8 per cent.
IBM was in fourth, followed by EMC, which achieved an impressive 25.6 per cent growth over 2010.
As for a breakdown of the different segments of the market, Gartner noted more mature areas like endpoint security and web access management showed single-digit growth.
In comparison, areas including security information and event management (SIEM) and secure web gateway products experienced double-digit growth.
Microsoft has announced general availability of its major software-as-a-service (SaaS) play Office 365, which will launch on 28 June.
Office 365 brings together online versions of Microsoft's Office applications Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint and Word along with online versions of email platform Exchange and the SharePoint and Lync collaboration technologies.
The news was broken on Twitter by corporate VP of Microsoft's worldwide partner group Jon Roskill.
Although a Microsoft spokeswoman wouldn't confirm the launch date, she told silicon.com there will be a press event held on 28 June "to hear the latest news about Office 365".
Office 365 launched in beta in October 2010.
Microsoft's SaaS offerings have been relatively piecemeal until now. The company made online versions of Office apps available with Office Web Apps in June 2010 and offered email and collaboration tech as Business Productivity Online Suite in April 2009.
Office 365 updates the applications - most notably replacing Office Communications Online and Office Live Meeting with Lync - and brings them under a single banner.
By bringing these SaaS technologies together in Office 365, Microsoft is hoping to take on the likes of Google Apps and Oracle Cloud Office to boost its share of the SaaS applications market.
The Microsoft spokeswoman confirmed Roskill's comment that there are now more than 100,000 customers taking part in the limited beta programme of Office 365, which was first announced in April.