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ACM TechNews is published every week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
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Volume 2, Issue 80: Friday, July 14, 2000
- "Panel Urges Bigger Pool for Tech Jobs"
Washington Post (07/14/00) P. E1; Chea, Terence
Boosting the presence of women, minorities, and people with disabilities in the science and engineering fields could help relieve the labor shortage in the U.S. high-tech industry, according to a report released yesterday by the Commission for the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering and Technology Development. The commission predicts that the nation's high-tech industry will create 5.3 million jobs between 1998 and 2008. However, even as the number of high-tech jobs rises, about 400,000 IT jobs are now unfilled, recent studies indicate. The labor shortage will continue, posing a threat to U.S. high-tech dominance, unless schools, corporations, and governments work to recruit and train groups that are underrepresented in the high-tech field, the report says. Women represent one such group, accounting for 9 percent of engineers and 27 percent of computer scientists and programmers, while representing roughly half of the U.S. workforce. Meanwhile, minorities claim 3 percent of IT jobs, while accounting for a third of the nation's workforce. People with disabilities represent less than 6 percent of IT workers, and almost 14 percent of the total workforce. The report suggests a number of initiatives aimed at bringing more women, minorities, and people with disabilities into the high-tech field. The recommendations include improving math and science education for younger students, making higher education more accessible, changing students' perception of scientists and engineers, and increasing school districts' accountability for student performance.
To learn more about ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women
- "Congress Moves to Relax IT Worker Requirements"
Washington Post (07/13/00) P. E8; Johnson, Carrie
The Senate could pass a bill as early as today that would loosen the education requirements for IT professionals working on government contracts. The National Defense Authorization Act would eliminate the minimum education and experience requirements on IT jobs for defense contractors. Also under the bill, government officials that required certain levels of education or experience would have to explain their reasons for doing so. In today's tight high-tech labor market, companies say requiring a four-year degree and two to three years of experience makes it too difficult to find workers. Furthermore, lobbyists cite high-tech leaders, such as Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and Dell founder Michael Dell, who lack college degrees as evidence that IT workers do not need degrees to succeed. The House passed a similar bill in May.
- "Senate Loosens Computer-Export Curbs"
Washington Times (07/13/00) P. B9; Dougherty, Carter
The Senate yesterday approved an amendment that would drastically cut the time for Congress to review the president's changes to export controls, in a move expected to boost the high-tech industry's push for looser computer export restrictions. The provision, approved in an 86-11 vote, would give Congress 60 days instead of 180 days to review export control changes. Although President Clinton favored a 30-day limit, he says he will accept the 60-day provision. High-tech companies also sought a 30-day review period, but believe the 60-day provision is progress toward more relaxed laws. As export laws increasingly affect the export of products such as PCs, workstations, and servers, companies such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, and Sun Microsystems have urged lawmakers to relax export controls. The Clinton administration supports modifying export laws as technology becomes more powerful, believing that exports are a key part of the U.S. maintaining its leading role in technology. However, some lawmakers view relaxed export controls as a threat to national security, citing concerns that countries such as China use powerful computers to build nuclear weapons.
- "NASA Blocks Excite at Home Customers From Its Web Site in Anti-Hacker Effort"
Wall Street Journal (07/14/00) P. B5; Bridis, Ted
NASA blocked subscribers of ExciteAtHome from accessing its Web site for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, among others, for over three days earlier this week. The space agency says that it took the drastic step because ExciteAtHome had been "unresponsive" to its request that the Internet service provider cut off access to two of its subscribers who NASA had detected trying to hack into its Web site. The laboratory Web site is a favorite target for hackers. ExciteAtHome identified the would-be hackers by Wednesday, and NASA stopped its blockade. ExciteAtHome said the incident had prompted it to implement an automated email system that would speed up its responses to complaints about hackers. There are no set government regulations about when federal agencies can take steps to cut off access to Web sites, but experts said that NASA's move was unusual because of the length of time that access was blocked.
- "Report: Year's Hack Attacks to Cost $1.6 Trillion"
E-Commerce Times (07/11/00); McDonald, Tim
The global economy will lose $1.6 trillion to hacker attacks in 2000, warns PricewaterhouseCoopers in a recent study that surveyed 30 countries and roughly 5,000 IT professionals. The most expensive form of attack is the virus, with the Love Bug alone causing $2.6 billion in damages. The FBI says the majority of hacking cases relate to viruses, stolen laptops, and employees violating company Internet policy while on the clock. However, the FBI warns that other crimes are beginning to proliferate via computer, including outside penetration, fraud, sabotage, and denial-of-service attacks.
For information regarding ACM's activities related to encryption, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/crypto
- "Olympics File Suit Over Web Domains"
Washington Post (07/14/00) P. E4; Grimaldi, James V.
Yesterday, the International, U.S., and Salt Lake City Olympic committees filed suit in an Alexandria, Va., federal court to dispute 1,804 domain names, becoming the most recent lawsuit in the dozens of suits and hundreds of arbitration cases stemming from Congress's laws passed last fall to prevent cybersquatting. The suit, which disputes more Web addresses than any previous individual lawsuits, does not ask for damages, but instead for the domain names to be removed from the Internet addresses database or handed over to the Olympic committee. A large portion of the domain names center around gambling and pornography; however, a few appear to suggest available tickets for Olympic events. "The public needs to be protected from people who create a false association or try to sell tickets to the games and they turn out not to be official ticket sellers," said Franklin Servan-Schreiber, director of communications and new media for the International Olympic Committee. The disputed domain names refer to the 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006 Olympic games, a range of Olympic sports, consist of different variations of "Olympic" in a variety of languages, and even refer to those cities aiming to become hosts of the 2008 Olympic games. Many of the purchased addresses do not have Web sites set up. One reason for the lawsuit is that the alternative sites siphon funding from the official Olympic sites. "The revenue we receive from our corporate partners is an important source of funding and support for our athletes," says Darryl Seibel, spokesman for the U.S. Olympic Committee. Domain name disputes are often filed in Alexandria because Network Solutions, the official registry of Internet domain names, is located in nearby Herndon, Virginia.
- "ICANN Elections Open to Public"
InternetNews.com (07/11/00); Stuart, Karen
Five directors will be chosen for the ICANN board, which manages the administration of domain names for the world, and Australians can join in on the online election as part of ICANN's "bottom up approach" to making policy. Voters must be at least 16 years of age and have an email address to join ICANN's At Large Membership and participate in the elections. Each of the five directors will be chosen from a different region, including Africa, Asia, Latin America/Caribbean, and North America. ICANN works to maintain the Internet's operational stability in order to encourage competition and ensure representation from a wide range of the online community, said Australian Sen. Richard Alston, who urged Australians to participate. "Australians are among the most prolific users of the Internet in the world," said Alston, noting that the vote offers Australia an opportunity to actively participate in developing the Internet.
For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html
- "IBM Labs Peek Into Future, See Blue Planet"
IDG.net (07/12/00); Gruske, Carolyn
In order to understand the pervasiveness of computing in the future and develop suitable technologies, IBM is conducting a four-year, $180 million experiment, dubbed Planet Blue, that has been underway since February at the company's T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York. Major topics for study include knowledge management applications for entire populations and the development of wireless computing infrastructures, devices, and applications. On the knowledge management front, IBM researchers have established a system within their labs that they call the Skills Marketplace, which monitors and analyzes the content and subject matter of researchers' email messages in order to determine who is an authority on certain subjects. As the Internet becomes an increasingly large part of everyday life, IBM researchers contend that applications need to be developed to help people sort through the vast amounts of content to find needed information. Researchers are also experimenting with wireless handheld computers that will allow users to communicate and make transactions more conveniently. "In the very long term, there will be a cyberspace proxy for every object in the real world, including each one of us," says Michael Wirth, of IBM's User Systems Ergonomic Research (USER) group. "It will represent me to that world and it will also assist me." However, currently the technology to support such pervasive wireless applications is insufficient, a problem IBM researchers are also addressing. IBM has submitted its Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) to be accepted as an open standard for wireless communications; such standards are essential for the seamless data transfer such applications require, according to Wirth.
- "FBI E-Mail Surveillance Raises Privacy Concerns"
TechWeb (07/13/00); Mosquera, Mary
Attorney General Janet Reno announced yesterday an investigation into the FBI's Carnivore surveillance system, which has drawn the ire of privacy groups such as the ACLU and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). "I'm taking a look at it now to make sure that we balance the rights of all Americans with the technology of today," Reno said. "If additional regulations are needed, we will pursue those," she added. EPIC's Marc Rotenberg says the system works like "dragnet fishing," searching through all the traffic that flows on an ISP's network.
For information regarding ACM's activities on behalf of privacy matters, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/privacy.
- "Governments Urged to Leverage IT"
InfoWorld.com (07/12/00); Johnston, Margret
Government agencies at all levels need to focus on offering services online and using technology to interact with citizens, said Cisco Systems executive Susan Bostrom at the E-Gov conference on Wednesday. Some government sites now offer only static information, while others have advanced to online transactions or even integrating "constituent care," Bostrom said. Regardless, all agencies should be looking for more ways to use IT to improve communication with constituents. Before implementing a new technology, agencies should evaluate their readiness and should review the project at least quarterly, Bostrom said. Citizens will increasingly insist on online government services as access to the Internet and broadband rises. As services move online, some government jobs will become obsolete, and agencies should prepare for downsizing and retraining workers. Finally, Bostrom encouraged agencies to implement technology internally, for example, by developing intranet applications such as an employee directory.
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- "EU to Join the Anti-Spam Front"
Newsbytes (07/12/00); MacMillan, Robert
Under the guidance of European Telecommunications Commissioner Erkki Liikanen, the European Union's European Commission today will release a plan to stem the tide of spam being received by EU citizens, according to a Bloomberg report. The European Consumers' Organization favors an opt-in approach for the plan, but a spokesperson for Liikanen declined to say whether the proposal calls for an opt-in or opt-out approach. U.S. lawmakers are also addressing the issue of spam. Rep. Heather Wilson's (R-N.M.) Unsolicited Commercial E-Mail Act is up for review in Congress. As presently worded, Wilson's bill would no longer require the FTC to draft spam labels. Meantime, a spam bill sponsored by Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) is progressing in the Senate.
- "A Cyber-Revolution Dawns in Haiti Despite All the Odds"
Los Angeles Times (07/14/00) P. A2; Fineman, Mark
The Internet is starting to make its way into Haiti and could eventually transform the country, most of which lacks both phone lines and electricity. Several cyber-cafes powered by generators have emerged in Haiti, using spread spectrum technology to establish Internet connections without phone or cable TV lines. Still, the technology is prohibitively expensive for most of the population, as Haiti's annual per capita income is under $400. For example, members at cyber-cafe Click 123 pay $37.50 for 20 hours of Internet access. Nancy Roc, who founded a cyber-cafe in Port-au-Prince, offers discounts to students and low-income users, but concedes that over the next several years only the wealthiest Haitians will be able to afford Internet access.
- "Internet Caucus Co-Chair Bob Goodlatte"
Hill (07/12/00) Vol. 7, No. 28, P. 26
In an interview with The Hill, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said the Internet gambling bill and the Rural Satellite Bill, which would help bring high-speed Internet access to rural areas and small cities, will be priorities for the Internet Caucus for the rest of the year. However, the co-chairman of the caucus said significant progress on the issue of privacy is not likely to be made this year. Goodlatte, who has shopped on eBay and Amazon.com, says members of Congress are currently using the Internet to communicate with constituents, gather information, and receive information from a number of sources. As for changing the Internet, Goodlatte hopes that Congress will only address specific issues, such as hard-core pornography and gambling, without trying to totally regulate it. In his opinion, the Microsoft case was flawed because the software giant has a host of competition that did not exist when the Justice Department began its case several years ago. In fact, he says Intel and AOL have enjoyed the same kind of dominance in their core businesses that Microsoft has in software. High-tech companies are best regulated in the marketplace, rather than by the government or litigation, he says. Congress' role in overseeing technology, he adds, should be preventing the government from holding back the growth of the Internet and keeping the government from using the technology in a manner that would allow it to compete with private enterprise. And although Goodlatte does not believe the dot-com bonanza is over, he does think that the market will demand that startups make money like their brick-and-mortar counterparts.
- "Avoid Getting Burned by Terms of Software Licenses in the Age of UCITA"
InfoWorld (07/10/00) Vol. 22, No. 28, P. 89; Foster, Ed
The Uniform Computer Information Transaction Act (UCITA) includes a number of provisions that should make corporate customers especially wary of the terms of software procurement contracts. However, corporate customers can improve their chances of getting a fair deal by including a few specific points in contracts. For example, customers should select a state that does not appear to embrace UCITA as the state whose law governs the contract. In addition, customers should ask that the laws governing the contract remain constant from the time the contract is signed, in case the chosen state later approves UCITA. The contract should also prohibit the vendor's use of remote disabling and specify that the customer can only be denied use of the software under a court order. Customers should ensure that the contract specifies the functionality required of the product. The contract should also maintain the customer's right to return the product or withhold payment if the specified capabilities are not provided. In addition, consumers should insist that the contract can only be modified with a pen-and-ink signature by both parties. Since UCITA says a software license is valid for a "reasonable time," allowing vendors to essentially end the license at any time, customers should specify the duration of the contract. Likewise, customers must spell out the number of users the license supports. Finally, a contract should define what qualifies as notification because UCITA considers even email messages sent to an outdated address as valid notification.
For information about ACM's UCITA activities, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/copyright
- "It's Time to Clamp Down"
InformationWeek (07/10/00) No. 794, P. 42; Hulme, George V.
Cyberattacks remain an expensive threat to companies worldwide, but businesses are not taking adequate precautions to defend themselves against viruses and other attacks, according to InformationWeek's annual Global Security Survey. In the past 12 months North American companies alone spent 6,822 person-years on security issues, says Reality Research & Consulting. Although 71 percent of respondents to the InformationWeek survey consider information security a high business priority, just 38 percent report that their security policies align with business goals. Meanwhile, fewer than half of respondents use the most advanced forms of security, for example, by defining a security architecture, deploying intrusion-detection technology, or creating a review and assessment program. Companies attribute their slow progress on security partly to the difficulty of hiring and retaining IT workers. Many companies are forced to leave security issues in the hands of employees who are not security experts, observers say. Outsourcing can help solve staffing problems, but some companies believe that handing information over to a third party creates new security concerns. In addition to the worker shortage, the major obstacles to security are the complexity of security tools, lack of time, rapid change, and capital expenses, respondents say. Still, the survey notes a rise in the use of tools designed to protect information, with more than half of respondents using virus-detection software, firewalls, and automated data backup. Companies are also relying more on virtual private networks, intrusion-detection systems, secret key cryptography, message authentication codes, and digital certificates.
- "The Dark Side of the Valley"
Business Week (07/17/00) No. 3690, P. 42; Kerstetter, Jim
The backlash against the win-at-all-cost mentality in Silicon Valley continues to grow, convincing some companies not to move West and encouraging some employees to leave the area. The recent revelation that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison hired detectives to track down supporters of Microsoft and go through their garbage does not surprise Valley executives. By now, they are used to companies raiding the talent of competitors. Some high-profile cases involve German software maker SAP, which sued Siebel Systems last fall after dozens of SAP executives left for its Silicon Valley rival, and Oracle, which hired most of Informix's engineering team that created a competing database three years ago. The Valley is also accustomed to embarrassing court cases, such as the one in which a judge found Broadcom guilty of using job interviews to get trade secrets out of Intel employees. Market observers say the Valley has devolved into a cutthroat mix of ambition, competitiveness, and greed. This environment at tech firms has left many workers feeling as if they are being bought and sold like commodities. Many workers are already fed up with the quality of life in the Valley; homes are almost unaffordable and many workers feel that the demands of their jobs leave them without balanced lives. Still, the competitiveness of the Valley could get worse as a result of the dot-com meltdown, which has cut most dot-com stocks in half during the past two months.
- "E-Sign Bill's a Done Deal but Not Public Acceptance"
Washington Technology (07/03/00) Vol. 15, No. 7, P. 20; Gildea, Kerry
The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, approved last month by Congress, clears the way for major growth in e-commerce, but first the industry needs to improve the technology and convince consumers to embrace e-signatures. The bill gives digital signatures the same weight as traditional ink signatures, while allowing online shoppers to easily switch to paper documents at any time during a transaction. Under the new bill, consumers will have easy access to business transactions from any location and any type of device, causing an unprecedented surge in e-commerce, says Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America. However, experts say companies need to develop new business processes that accommodate digital signatures. In addition, digital signatures will require secure technologies to prevent fraud, creating new opportunities for companies that offer encryption and authentication products. Another hurdle is consumer familiarity with written signatures and reluctance to depend on their digital counterparts. However, supporters say digital signatures will save consumers time and money, and experts predict that use of e-signatures will rise as consumers see that the technology is safe and easy to use.