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Friday, November 11, 2005

Virtual property yields $100,000

A Miami resident has bought a virtual space station for $100,000 and wants to turn it into a cross between Jurassic Park and a disco.

Jon Jacobs, a director of independent films, plans to call the space resort, in the science-fiction themed game Project Entropia, "Club Neverdie." Like other land areas in the game that has been visited by 300,000 players, the resort grounds will spawn dinosaur-like monsters, which visitors can kill.

Jacobs will take a cut of the virtual resources that the carcasses yield, like hides.

Jacobs, 39, plans to hire famous disc jockeys to entertain visitors once a week or so at the resort but still reckons on netting $20,000 a month from the hunting tax and other income.

Jacobs bought the property late last month from MindArk PE AB, Project Entropia's Swedish developer. The game, which has no subscription fee, has its own currency but it's convertible at a fixed rate to dollars.

About a quarter of the purchase money came from Jacobs' in-game earnings.

Over three years playing Project Entropia, Jacobs accumulated items that later became worth thousands of dollars, like first-aid kits and powerful weapons.

He sold those items last year to buy an island in Project Entropia, but was outbid -- it sold for $26,500, the previous record sale in that world.

New virus uses Sony BMG software

A computer security firm said Thursday it had discovered the first virus that uses music publisher Sony BMG's controversial CD copy-protection software to hide on PCs and wreak havoc.

Under a subject line containing the words "Photo approval," a hacker has mass-mailed the so-called Stinx-E trojan virus to British email addresses, said British anti-virus firm Sophos.

When recipients click on an attachment, they install malware, which may tear down a computer's firewall and give hackers access to a PC. The malware hides by using Sony BMG software that is also hidden -- the software would have been installed on a computer when consumers played Sony's copy-protected music CDs.

"This leaves Sony in a real tangle. It was already getting bad press about its copy-protection software, and this new hack exploit will make it even worse," said Sophos's Graham Cluley.

Later on Thursday, security software firm Symantec Corp. also discovered the first trojans to abuse the security flaw in Sony BMG's copy-protection software. A trojan is a program that appears desirable but actually contains something harmful.

Sony BMG's spokesman John McKay in New York was not immediately available to comment.

The music publishing venture of Japanese electronics conglomerate Sony Corp.and Germany's Bertelsmann AGis distributing the copy-protection software on a range of recent music compact disks (CDs) from artists such as Celine Dion and Sarah McLachlan.

When the CD is played on a Windows personal computer, the software first installs itself and then limits the usage rights of a consumer. It only allows playback with Sony software.

The software sparked a class action lawsuit against Sony in California last week, claiming that Sony has not informed consumers that it installs software directly into the "roots" of their computer systems with rootkit software, which cloaks all associated files and is dangerous to remove.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

New Windows Trojan causes confusion

the Tokyo-based antivirus company said it had discovered a Trojan horse that used an image-rendering flaw in Windows to attack systems, a day after Microsoft had provided a fix for the vulnerability. But late Thursday, Trend Micro said its initial analysis of the Trojan might be incorrect.

"We asked another team to start the disassembly process again," said Raimund Genes, chief technologist for Trend Micro in Europe. That means researchers will reinvestigate the Trojan code to see what it does.

The Trojan is referred to as "emfsploit.a" by Trend Micro. Initially, the antivirus software maker reported that the malicious code would crash "explorer.exe" on unpatched Windows machines. Explorer runs key parts of the Windows graphical user interface, including the Start menu, taskbar, desktop and file manager.

Trend Micro has found that the Trojan does cause a crash on certain Windows XP systems, but the finding is not consistent with Microsoft's Tuesday bug report. Trend found a crash only on Windows XP computers without Service Pack 1. But according to Microsoft, the vulnerability also affects systems with SP1 and SP2, so these should crash as well if the Trojan indeed exploits the MS05-053 flaw.

Trend Micro describes the new Trojan as a "proof of concept." It received one sample of the code from a customer in Japan, but as of late Thursday the Trojan hasn't actually been detected anywhere else, Genes said. The company hence rates the overall risk "low."

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