Timely Topics for IT Professionals
About ACM TechNews
ACM TechNews is published every week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
ACM TechNews is intended as an objective news digest for busy IT Professionals. Views expressed are not necessarily those of either Gateway Inc. or ACM.
To send comments, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volume 2, Issue 52: Friday, May 5, 2000
- "Virus Gives 'Love' a Bad Name"
Wall Street Journal (05/05/00) P. B1; Bridis, Ted
An email carrying a virus in an attachment entitled "LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU" hit companies in Asia, Europe, and the U.S. yesterday, taking up hours of workers' time as the virus was removed from their systems. The virus, classified as a VBScript worm, deleted any artwork files ending with "jpg" or "jpeg," tampered with music files ending with "mp3," and sent information from the hard drive to locations in the Philippines. Companies and government organizations hit by the virus include Ford Motor, Microsoft, Estee Lauder, and the U.S. Army and Navy. The U.S. Justice Department and the FBI, both of which were hit by the virus, have begun an investigation. The culprit is being tracked by locating who opened the Internet accounts in the Philippines where the virus sent information off the hard drive, although only a name and billing address are necessary to open an account online. The virus targeted Microsoft Outlook, so companies using other email programs, such as Lotus Notes, did not receive the same amount of damage.
(Access for paying subsribers only.)
- "17 Are Indicted in Software Piracy Case"
New York Times (05/05/00) P. C5; Marquis, Christopher
U.S. authorities recently announced that an international software piracy ring that had a private library of over 5,000 illegal programs has been dismantled. Seventeen people, including six current and former employees of Intel and Microsoft, were indicted yesterday for copyright infringement, making the case the biggest to date in terms of copyright violations on the Internet. Prosecutors say that only four members of the group had ever actually met each other, and that members communicated through private Internet relay chat channels. The group kept a library of more than 5,000 pirated programs on an Internet site that was not accessible to the general public. The files in that site are estimated to be worth around $1.2 million, according to prosecutors, although they say that this figure does not take into account the possibility that certain programs could have been downloaded more than once.
- "House Bill Aids Area Technology Workers"
Washington Post (05/04/00) P. E1; Joyce, Amy
The House passed a measure on Tuesday that would discourage federal agencies from requiring IT workers on government contracts to have four-year college degrees, noting that the requirement is outdated and worsens the labor shortage. The bill calls for any federal agency that requires a degree for IT contract workers to explain the requirement in writing. Rep. Thomas Davis III (R-Va.) sponsored the bill to help contractors in Northern Virginia who complain that they cannot hire qualified IT workers without degrees. The educational requirement is the second-largest factor contributing to Virginia's high-tech labor shortage, according to Virginia Technology Secretary Donald Upson. Meanwhile, education can often be replaced by experience in today's high-tech jobs. Northern Virginia Community College President Belle Wheelen welcomes the bill, saying students at her school have the skills to fill high-tech vacancies, but often are not hired because they lack degrees.
- "Bermuda Launches E-Commerce Code of Conduct"
Newsbytes (05/04/00); Stone, Martin
Bermuda's Minister of Telecommunications and E-Commerce Renee Webb announced Wednesday that as of July 3 the country will implement a new "Code of Conduct for Internet Commerce" that will apply to all ISPs in Bermuda. The code, known as the Standard for Electronic Transactions, covers ground left untouched by the country's 1999 Electronic Transactions Act (ETA). Companies that fail to adhere to the terms of the code and the ETA could be investigated by the government, penalized, or forced to comply, according to a government statement. The code covers issues of consumer privacy, spam, security, online advertising, and dispute resolution.
(Access for paying subsribers only.)
- "Telecommuters on Security Alert"
InternetWeek Online (05/03/00); Yasin, Rutrell
The number of telecommuters is rising, with many remote PCs that lack the protection of a corporate firewall accessing the network with always-on DSL and cable modem connections. Therefore, the need for personal firewalls and intrusion detection systems is growing, and many vendors are releasing products to protect telecommuters from hackers. InfoExpress this week will announce its CyberArmor personal firewall that allows IT managers to include remote users in corporate security policies. CyberArmor alerts users and administrators of attacks and automatically modifies client settings to suit current activity. In addition, CyberArmor offers Policy Manager for editing user profiles and policies, and CyberServer for recording user events and threats into a database. Meanwhile, Network Associates' PGP Security last week announced PGP Desktop Security 7.0, offering a personal firewall, intrusion detection, VPN, and encryption. PGP Desktop Security protects PCs with its CyberCop intrusion detection system as well as packet filtering.
- "China Moving Up List of Net-Population Leaders"
Newsbytes (05/01/00); Bonisteel, Steven
By 2005, China will have the second-largest population of Internet users, trailing only the U.S. in that regard, reflecting an overall growth boom in the Asian Internet market, according to a new report from eTForecasts. The report predicts that China will have 15.8 million Internet users by the end of this year, good for fifth place, while the U.S. will lead all countries with 135.7 million Internet users. However, the U.S. share of the world's Internet users will only be 36.2 percent, down from 55 percent in 1996 and 46 percent in 1998. By the end of this year, Japan will have roughly 27 million Internet users, good for second place, followed by Germany with 19 million, and the United Kingdom with 18 million, the report says. Italy will hold eighth place with 11.6 million, and France tenth with 9 million, according to the report.
- "Palm Is Cited by Both Sides of Microsoft Case"
Wall Street Journal (05/04/00) P. B6; Clark, Don; Bridis, Ted
Government officials and expert witnesses believe that only dividing Microsoft's applications business from the rest of the company can end its ability to use monopoly power against companies that produce small, handheld Palm computers such as 3Com, Palm, and Handspring. Microsoft claims that its developers do not have more information or an unfair lead over competitors, and that it does not conceal information necessary to make software that renders data readable on Palm devices. Microsoft does not dispute that its operating systems and applications divisions share ideas to improve products. Despite any possible advantages, many reviewers say Palm devices work better than handhelds that use Microsoft's software. The government and rivals of Microsoft seem more concerned with the company's ability to use monopoly power in the future than with their actions in the past. The government thinks it has evidence of a possible move by Microsoft in the form of an email from Chairman Bill Gates to senior executives. The email contains a request to redesign software in a way that would harm the ability of others to compete. Microsoft says the government is altering the message of the email that provided an account of a meeting between Gates and one of Microsoft's clients. Members of the companies that provide utility programs to leaders of the handheld market have seen no evidence that Microsoft has used monopoly power to harm Palm users, and say the real problem with Microsoft is the frustration of dealing with its technicians.
- "French, Germans Prefer Domestic Portals"
TheStandard.com (05/03/00); Uimonen, Terho
The Germans and French appear to like using domestic portals rather than international ones. According to data from online usage tracker MMXI Europe, Deutsche Telekom's T-Online and France Telecom's Wanadoo portals are attracting far more visitors in their home countries than are international portals such as Microsoft MSN and Yahoo!. T-Online accounted for 5.94 million of 8.55 million unique users in Germany, while Wanadoo contributed 1.67 million of 3.44 million unique users in France, according to MMXI Europe. Overall, four of the top 10 Web domains in Germany were local rather than international, while in France the ratio was five of the top 10. By contrast, in the United Kingdom, where Yahoo attracts the most users, seven of the top 10 Web domains are controlled by U.S.-based, international Web companies.
- "Online Businesses Asked to Self-Regulate on Privacy"
Fairfax IT (05/03/00)
Businesses must be careful not to alienate consumers with impersonal technologies and substandard privacy policies, advised David Thodey, managing director of IBM Australia and New Zealand. Speaking at an Australian Institute of Company Directors luncheon, Thodey said business leaders need to do a better job of fostering industry self-regulation in order to convince governments not to impose regulations. Thodey's remarks served as a response to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's findings that companies need to address consumer protection issues more strenuously. "We are self-regulating in this area," Thodey said of IBM. "I'd encourage [other businesses] to do that [that] too."
- "Seeking an Easy End to ASP Customer Service Disputes"
IDG News Service (05/03/00); Rohde, Laura
The ASP Industry Consortium (ASPIC), launched in May 1999 and comprising 500 members, and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) announced Wednesday they intend to jointly establish industry guidelines and create an entity to mediate disputes between ASPs and their clients. Many of the details of the proposed ASP dispute resolution consortium have yet to be discussed and no specific date has been set as to when the consortium will begin hearing cases. However, representatives of ASPIC and WIPO say the consortium will be based on the uniform system used to resolve Internet domain name disputes, and that participation in the consortium will be entirely voluntary and not legally binding. "We will be providing a service for the private sector using models developed by business for business in order to avoid the traditional court systems," says WIPO assistant director general Francis Gurry. ASPIC chairman Traver Gruen-Kennedy adds: "We are really, genuinely trying to look out for the end user" and seek to reshape the legal system to cost-effectively meet the "needs of a global delivery system." Current service agreements between small and mid-sized organizations and the ASPs from which they rent products and services are essentially "toothless" because these organizations typically cannot afford to pursue legal recourse in the event an ASP breaches the agreement.
- "UCITA Advances in Mid-Atlantic States"
Computerworld (05/01/00) Vol. 34, No. 18, P. 4; Thibodeau, Patrick
Maryland recently became the second state to approve the Uniform Computer Information Transaction Act (UCITA), and the measure is also being considered in Delaware, among other states. Virginia was the first state to approve UCITA, but has delayed its implementation until July 2001 and formed a committee to review the bill. Maryland may be the first to legally enact UCITA and has scheduled it to take effect on Oct. 1, 2000. UCITA was drafted last year by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws and sent to all the states. However, 4Cite, an organization formed by end-user companies, special-interest groups, and libraries, is fighting state-by-state adoption, although anti-UCITA leader Randy Roth says opponents of the legislation are getting outlobbied and outspent by the software industry. Corporate software customers also dislike UCITA because it would invalidate online license and shrink-wrap agreements and would permit "self help," which licensors could use to threaten to disrupt licensees' systems. The software industry claims that UCITA will bring predictability to licensing--giving parties the freedom to contract, says Software & Information Industry Association counsel Keith Kupferschmid. However, Johns Hopkins University dean of libraries James G. Neal says UCITA will create a new digital gap, leaving institutions without negotiating influence stuck with licensors' terms. Software companies may soon try to apply Maryland's UCITA law in their contracts, though no one seems sure whether they will need a physical presence in that state.
- "Bills for the 21st Century"
InformationWeek (05/01/00) No. 784, P. 22; Bacheldor, Beth
Most electronic marketplaces fall short of their promises by not providing financial services, but new online payment tools are emerging that could help change this situation. Reducing the amount of time required to complete a transaction is a major selling point for e-marketplaces, but this benefit is curtailed when customers are forced to handle billing offline. E-marketplace users often spend days completing payments with credit applications, faxes, and checks. To fulfill their potential, e-marketplaces need secure, automated financial services and payment systems capable of handling large purchases rapidly. Several vendors are releasing products and services aimed at helping online marketplaces handle payments. ECredit.com offers a service that provides real-time processing of credit authorizations online. Last week eCredit.com agreed to integrate VeriSign's authentication, validation, and payment services into its Global Financing Network, which connects companies to lenders over the Internet. The VeriSign technology will allow buyers who do not have enough money for a purchase to immediately obtain a line of credit, and will increase the security of real-time credit authorizations by verifying the identities of buyers and sellers. Meanwhile, iPlanet E-Commerce Solutions has unveiled new versions of its BillerXpert 4.0 and TradingXpert software to help e-marketplaces automate payments.
- "Protecting Privacy"
InfoWorld (05/01/00) Vol. 22, No. 18, P. 40; Jones, Jennifer
An increasing number of companies that do business online are following the lead of DoubleClick in taking a proactive approach to addressing the privacy concerns of consumers. When the Federal Trade Commission and privacy advocates started to press DoubleClick over its plans to put names to the Web-surfing the company monitored, CEO Kevin O'Connor immediately took the blame for such an idea. Then DoubleClick created a Privacy Advisory Board and hired a chief privacy officer and a former state-level attorney general to head the board. The company went on to start a campaign to educate consumers on privacy and the technology. Among the many companies that have now hired privacy officials or have handed over privacy responsibilities to a top executive is E.piphany, provider of new-breed marketing and customer relationship management. Similarly, a number of companies are crafting policies that would mandate "permission marketing." One company that advocates obtaining the consent of the consumer before a company manipulates personal information is profiling software maker Engage. However, many companies do not favor opt-in options for consumers. Another strategy that the industry has picked up from DoubleClick is creating programs to raise consumer awareness about privacy online. The Association for Competitive Technology (ACT) in Washington has a Web site that is a resource just for privacy issues. Even with all the moves companies have made to protect privacy, some experts still question the industry. "There is unfortunately the general belief that businesses are more concerned with the bottom line than these kinds of niceties," adds Brian Smith, an attorney who specializes in Internet consumer privacy.
- "The Shape of PCs to Come"
PC World Online (05/03/00); Mainelli, Tom; Spring, Tom
The future of PCs was discussed at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) last week. Overall, the conference predicted that PCs will continue to get faster, smaller, and easier to use. In addition, computers will be able to hear commands, communicate by way of voice and visual input, and network more efficiently. Although the outside appearance of PCs will become more attractive, their insides will no longer use ISA slots and parallel and serial ports. Instead they will use USB ports, which are capable of linking low bandwidth products and faster devices to PCs. Further internal modifications to PCs that could change their look and cost include chips that have more functions, such as Intel's Timna CPU, which will combine the processor, graphics, and memory controllers. Although current voice recognition programs require extensive training and are not very effective, voice recognition in the future will help PCs and other devices interpret voice commands, identify the meaning of those commands, and then respond, according to Bill Destefanis of Lernout & Hauspie. Microsoft and 3Com say digital cameras will be available with most PCs in the future. These video cameras can be used for security and will include built-in software and a processor to allow editing. Despite the ongoing federal trial of Microsoft, the company's Windows software will continue to hold a large percentage of the market. According to IDC, essentially the same percentage of the market will use Windows in 2004, Linux will retain only a small portion of the PC market, and Macintosh and other operating systems such as Be will have difficulty competing. Microsoft intends to combine Windows 2000 with Windows 95/98 into a new operating system called Whistler, which will have custom start screens, support digital home entertainment and networks, and have digital imaging, video editing, and communications. Future PCs will provide built-in home networking with a shift from using phone lines to using wireless technology.
- "Five Steps to a Dot-Com Strategy: How to Find Your Footing on the Web"
Sloan Management Review (04/00) Vol. 41, No. 3, P. 15; Venkatraman, N.
Developing an Internet strategy is difficult because the Internet is so vast and still evolving, but companies should consider five major issues in forming a dot-com plan. First, companies should address their strategic vision for Internet business, remembering that the strategy will be shaped over time by adding to current business models and developing new models through experimentation. The second major issue for companies to consider is how to govern dot-com operations. Governing dot-com business can be viewed as striking the right balance between operational decisions and financial decisions. Some companies, such as Nordstrom, find it most useful to separate the operations and finances of the online business from the traditional firm by forming a subsidiary, such as Nordstrom.com. Others, like Cisco, integrate the dot-com's operational and financial issues into traditional business. A third major issue is how to allocate human, technological, and financial resources for the online business. Companies can place strategic bets with internal resources or leverage alliances to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. A fourth issue is designing an appropriate operating infrastructure, focusing on the aspects of infrastructure that bring the most value to customers. To best serve customers, the infrastructure should provide superior functionality, privacy, efficiency, and personalization. Finally, companies should address how management should be aligned to best facilitate online plans. Senior management should work together to motivate the entire organization to help move online efforts forward.