Malware-infected PCs have for long betrayed their users’ most precious financial secrets to internet robbers. But researchers at IBM have developed a USB device to ensure that online banking transactions remain unaffected by malware infections. The device, which is called Zone Trusted Information Channel, can also repel man-in-the-middle attacks.
It secures online transactions by establishing a direct channel to a bank’s online transaction server through a computer’s USB port. As the transaction at the user’s end is made on ZTIC’s own hardware - no reliance on any PC-based software, it is not vulnerable to malware or man-in-the-middle attacks. The prototype is now ready to undergo trials.
Although the idea of a stand-alone security/authentication solution isn’t entirely new – Paypal already offers a stand-alone security device to its users, IBM’s endeavor is slightly different as it looks to be keen on offering a universal solution.
If nothing else, give PNY points for creativity. In an attempt to differentiate its USB keys from other companies, the memory maker will attempt to sell a 2GB USB flash drive with the movie Ghostbusters pre-installed.
"As a market leader in the USB market, PNY's focus is to offer consumers added value by providing enjoyable blockbuster content on their USB," said Stefanie Summerfield, UK and Nordic sales and marketing director for PNY Technologies.
It remains to be seen exactly how many people will be interested in receiving a free 20-year-old movie with their USB key, but if it proves popular enough, it's conceivable that the partnership between PNY and Sony could lead to more flicks on more flash drives. That's assuming consumers won't be put off by the DRM scheme. According to a PNY spokesperson, customers will be able to download Ghostbusters to their laptop or PC, but they'll have to have the USB key plugged in if they want to watch the movie.
Is PNY on to something here, or are pre-loaded movies ultimately just a marketing gimmick? Hit the jump and post your toughts.
IOGEAR, makers of connectivity products that link up USB, video, and networking devices, has just announced their latest KVM Switch. KVM (short for Keyboard, Video, and Mouse) is a hardware and software technology solution that allows you to control multiple computers from one set of peripherals. This new USB Laptop KVM switch connects to any two computers via USB (laptop-to-laptop, PC-to-PC, or laptop-to-PC), so you can control one system from the other as a console. The software embedded in the Switch's firmware adjusts for desktop resolution scaling and also facilitates drag-and-drop file transfers via a shared temporary window. An extra USB 2.0 port on the switch allows for extra device sharing, such as with an external hard drive. No extra power supply is required, and the entire cable stretches a total of nine feet (three feet on one end, six on the other). The USB Laptop KVM Switch goes on sale today for $129.95.
Click through for the full release and more photos
With the emergence of eSATA combined with Firewire still sticking around, competition remains stiff for USB to stay on top of its game. Helping it do that, NEC this week expanded its wireless USB devices lineup with the introduction of the uPD720171 wireless USB host controller. The new controller ups the ante over NEC's previous model with higher throughput and higher performance.
"As the consumer appetite for wireless connectivity increases, the industry is requiring reliable, standardized interface solutions that can transmit data at speeds equivalent to wired USB connections," said Yoshiyuki Tomoda, Group Manager, SoC Systems Division, NEC. "By providing these performance levels, our new uPD720171 host controller is helping bring the industry closer to mainstream adoption of advanced wireless technologies."
NEC claims the new host controller supports data transfer rates of up to 480 Mbps within a maximum range of three meters, along with up to 32 connections to physical wireless USB compliant devices. Pricing and availability are yet to be determined.
No doubt you’re familiar with the Universal Serial Bus – we ranked it as our top PC innovation of all time. But what do you know about the next version of this ubiquitous interface? USB 2.0 (otherwise known as USB Hi-Speed) boosted the original 12Mbps data rate to 480Mmb/s over eight years ago, and now USB 3.0 (dubbed USB Superspeed) is set to multiply that bandwidth tenfold. The USB Implementers Forum (led by Intel) released the USB 3.0 spec to hardware partners last week after some reported disputes with AMD and Nvidia (who, afraid Intel would have a jump start in incorporating the tech in chipsets, threatened to develop their own USB standard). But how does this affect you? We dug up some new information about USB 3.0, got our hands on the new connectors, and even took a look inside the new cables.
Click through for the five reasons why we’re excited about USB 3.0
Toshiba’s 320GB portable drive is so plain it doesn’t even have a real name. It’s just the Toshiba 320GB USB 2.0 Portable External Hard Drive, which doesn’t quite roll off the tongue as well as Western Digital’s My Passport Elite, the Toshiba 320’s primary competition in terms of size, speed, and software (see our review of the Elite here).
The USB-only Toshiba 320 posted the slowest real-world read speeds of any drive we’ve tested. However, these lapses represent only a four percent difference in real-world performance when compared to the fastest non-proprietary drive we’ve tested, Western Digital’s My Passport Elite. Four percent is four percent, but it’s not enough to make a significant difference.
Toms Hardware reports that Intel’s "Extensible Host Controller Interface (xHCI) draft specification revision 0.9 in support of the USB 3.0 architecture, also known as SuperSpeed USB" is now available. This is a good indicator that we might see the first USB 3.0 demonstrations at next week’s IDF in San Francisco.
xHCI draft specification provides hardware component designers, system builders and device driver developers with a description of the hardware/software interface between system software. It is being made available under RAND-Z (i.e. royalty free) licensing terms to all USB 3.0 Promoter Group and contributor companies that sign an xHCI contributor agreement.
It doesn’t appear that the new spec will be backward compatible past USB 2.0. I find it hard to believe that USB 1.1 devices will be out of luck, so I plan to keep an eye on that aspect. USB 3.0 at 600 MB/s will offer a ten-fold increase in the bandwidth of USB 2.0 at 4.8 Gb/s. That is pretty impressive if it approaches it’s spec yield. USB 2.0 spec rate is 480 Mbit/s but typical USB PC-hosts rarely exceed sustained transfers of 280 Mbit/s.
Will you be wanting USB 3.0 on your future system?
Flash memory could become the dominant form of mass storage, replacing magnetic and optical media for many purposes. Although flash retains data without requiring power, the memory cells don’t retain their charges forever. Eventually, the charges dissipate and the bits fade away. Will our data be a flash in the pan?
Consider the trends. USB thumb drives are commonplace, and solid-state drives (SSDs) are appearing in subnotebook computers like the Asus Eee PC and Macintosh Air. SSDs are still too expensive to replace conventional drives in desktop PCs, but some hard drives use small amounts of flash to store startup data, which shortens boot times.
Forget about sliced bread; USB might be the single greatest invention ever. Just don't tell the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (now just called IEEE), who recently approved a new 1394-2008 specification that supports bumping the bandwidth up to 3.2 Gb/s.
"The new standard includes all of the amendments, enhancements, and more than 100 errata which have been added to the base standard over the last 12 years," said Les Baxter, chair of the working group which developed the standard. "This update provides developers with a single document they can rely upon for al of their application needs."
Firewire has fallen in recent years from the high speed interface of choice, particularly for DV transfers, to one that is now used mainly in professional environments. But that could change with the new spec, which introduces support for S1600 (1.6 Gb/s) and S3200 (3.2 Gb/s) while also being backwards compatible with current S400 and S800 ports. And the IEEE isn't finished, as looking ahead it's expected that Firewire will scale to 6.4 Gb/s.
For its part, USB isn't remaining idle and will receive an upgrade to 4.8 Gb/s in version 3.0, though exactly when still remains unknown.
Kingston has released the DataTraveler 100 at 16Gb with a price tag of around $85 at the high end ($59.99 at the egg, but it’s out of stock). This is their sleek model without the bells and whistles. It offers a small form factor, a retractable USB connector and base black.
If you want to upscale your flash, the DataTraveler 400 should fit the bill. It goes for around $196 at the high end ($131.99 at the egg). For the extra cash you get faster data transfer speeds, MigoSync for synchronization of file, email and internet browser setting, and SecureTraveler for password protection
It seems the Kingston name commands a premium, given the price of similar drives that these are competing with.