Apple Boosts Mac Pro Desktop CPU, Graphics Chip Specifications

Today’s topics include Apple upgrades its MacPro desktop computer’s CPU, graphics and memory specifications; Google launches a fact check label on news stories and search results; Microsoft adds Japanese to its Skype Translator for video and voice calls; and IBM discovers the Mirai botnet has been deploying a Bitcoin mining payload.

Apple has upgraded its Mac Pro desktop computer lineup with faster CPUs, beefier GPUs and more memory, while holding starting prices to its existing $2,999 and $3,999 totals.

The move essentially brings some of the company's higher-end Mac Pro options down to the base models, giving buyers more features and value at the existing prices.

Apple is also at work on a new Mac Pro model and an accompanying new display but they won't ship in 2017, while a new iMac is targeted for release sometime later this year.

Google for some time has been using a variety of labels, such as "In-Depth," "Opinion," "Blog" and "Local Source," to identify different types of articles in Google News.

To do its part to curb the publication of fake news, the company has now added a new label, "Fact Check," to identify news stories with content that has been fact checked by news publishers or by fact checking organizations such as Snopes and PolitiFact.

Google has introduced the Fact Check label at a time of heightened concern that the internet has become a channel for "fake news."

Microsoft wants Skype to be the world's interpreter. The company announced last week that Skype Translator, the real-time speech translation service included with the popular communications software, hit a significant milestone—the addition of Japanese, bringing the total number of supported languages to 10.

This enables automatic translation services for Japanese speakers who conduct video and voice calls with other Skype users speaking in any of the nine other languages—English, Arabic, Mandarin, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

The Mirai internet of things botnet, whose first attacks were largely just distributed denial-of-service ones, has also been active installing Bitcoin mining code on some victims, according to new research from IBM Security.

Mirai became publicly known in late 2016 thanks to a series of attacks that included one on DynDNS that slowed traffic for much of the East Coast of the United States.

It is made up of vulnerable IoT devices that have been co-opted into the botnet that are then directed to attack whatever site the Mirai command and control nodes target.

IBM Security has been tracking a variant of Mirai, first discovered in August 2016 and known as the ELF Linux/Mirai variant. IBM found that the ELF Linux/Mirai botnet, rather than just attacking sites with DDoS attacks, was briefly active installing Bitcoin mining code onto botnet hosts.

New Bitcoins are created by way of a compute-intensive process known as mining. The idea behind deploying Bitcoin mining code across the ELF Linux/Mirai botnet was to create a distributed Bitcoin mining operation.