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ACM TechNews is published every week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.


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Volume 2, Issue 88:  Wednesday, August 2, 2000

  • "Microsoft Steps Up Software-Piracy War"
    Wall Street Journal (08/02/00) P. B6; Buckman, Rebecca

    Microsoft has launched a campaign to fight piracy of its software worldwide, in response to an increase in illegal online activity, the company says. In the past few months the software giant has announced antipiracy actions against 7,500 online listings in 33 nations. New technology such as file-sharing programs and Web auctions allow pirates to distribute and sell counterfeit software more easily than ever, Microsoft says. In its effort to stop piracy, Microsoft is using a new "smart" search engine that searches the Web for particular phrases such as "cheap software" or "warez," which is often a code term for counterfeit software. Microsoft investigators examine sites flagged by the search engine and sometimes purchase items to determine whether the products are actually counterfeits. As part of its antipiracy push, the company has filed 17 criminal lawsuits in recent months, including six suits in the U.S. About 90 percent of Microsoft software sold on auction sites in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa is pirated, says a Microsoft attorney. Microsoft is working closely with Yahoo! and eBay auction sites to crack down on piracy.
    http://www.msnbc.com/news/440645.asp

  • "Businesses Battle Over Intellectual Property"
    USA Today (08/02/00) P. 1B; Jones, Del

    The tech boom has also led to a boom in the number of patents issued. The number of patents issued by the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office increased 36 percent between 1997 and 1999. Last year 169,904 patents were issued. At the current rate as many as 6 million patents could be handed out between now and 2015. The first 6 million patents were issued over a period of 210 years. The rise in patents has also brought a rise in patent conflicts, especially since 1998, when courts decided business methods could be patented. In the most celebrated case, Amazon.com sued Barnesandnoble.com for copying its "one-click" shopping method, while Priceline.com recently sued Microsoft for infringing on its reverse-auction process. Critics blame patent disputes for clogging courtrooms in Silicon Valley and other high-tech areas. However, these legal disputes often end in partnerships or licensing agreements. A company can generate enormous revenue by charging licensing fees for the use of its patents. In fact several companies now exist for the sole purpose of filing and then licensing patents.
    http://www.usatoday.com/usatonline/20000802/2511390s.htm
    For more information regarding ACM's work in the area of intellectual property, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/copyright.

  • "ICANN Signs Up 158,000 'At-Large' Members"
    Newsbytes (07/31/00); Creed, Adam

    ICANN announced Monday that it has received more than 158,000 at-large registrations for the October vote to nominate five members to the ICANN Board of Directors. ICANN was expecting only about 10,000 at-large Internet users to register for the vote, and ICANN Chairman Esther Dyson said she was delighted at the larger-than-expected turnout. However, Dyson noted her dismay "at the competitive atmosphere that sometimes emerged and the over-hyped expectations of ICANN's role." ICANN President and CEO Mike Roberts expanded upon Dyson's comments by noting that some groups of registrants "were prompted to do so by outreach efforts that significantly overstated the scope and significance of ICANN's technical functions related to the domain name system." For instance, reports out of China suggest that student bodies have been registering large groups of Internet users. Statistics show that the Asia/Australia/Pacific region--notably Japan and China--produced the most registrations, with 93,782 Internet users signing up for the vote. Europe produced 35,942 registrations, followed by North America, with 21,596, Latin America/Caribbean, with 6,486, and Africa, with 787.
    http://www.newsbytes.com/pubNews/00/152992.html
    For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.

  • "NSI Launches Dotcom.com"
    Internet.com (08/01/00); Mark, Roy

    Network Solutions is launching a new Web site called dotcom.com that contains statistics and analysis on the world of domain names. The site is intended as a source to help online businesses with the construction of successful and lasting Web sites and to help them do business online. Via polls aimed at determining what makes a successful Web site, NSI gathered information from thousands of its customers and combined that data with its own data when developing dotcom.com. The site will contain constantly updated information, including information about what to expect when opening a Web site; case-studies of Internet companies; and stock quotes, cartoons, and news alerts on a daily basis. The site will also feature NSI's dot com directory, statistical information and facts pertaining to the domain name universe, news and features about the business, a guide to online conferences and events for all industries, and trends and profiles. "With insight from dotcom.com, businesses and others, whether new to the Web or old hand, will benefit from knowing what is actually happening on the Net," says Doug Wolford, senior vice president and general manager of NSI's Registrar. NSI is a subsidiary of VeriSign, and the two companies together offer businesses and individuals a domain name and way to be located, ensure trust, and provide methods for being paid and proving that payment was made online. VeriSign and NSI's 12 million paid registrations constitute one of the biggest online subscriber bases.
    http://dc.internet.com/news/article/0,1934,2101_427231,00.html

  • "Maryland Man Eyes Seat on Net Panel"
    Washington Times (08/02/00) P. B7; Glanz, William

    Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig and University System of Maryland Chancellor Donald Langenberg will be joined by Information Technology Association of America President Harris Miller and BBN Technologies chief scientist Lyman Chapin to represent North America in the upcoming ICANN elections in October. ICANN is holding elections in response to criticism that it is not representative of many Internet users and has no contact with those users. There will be 18 candidates overall, running for five seats on ICANN's board of directors. Each elected director will represent one of five geographic locations: North America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, and Latin America. Voters can only chose one person and must vote on the continent where they reside. There are 159,593 registered voters who are participating in the election, which exceeds the 5,000 Internet voters expected by ICANN. The American Library Association, Common Cause, and the Center For Democracy and Technology assisted in increasing the number of eligible registered voters in North America to more than 21,000 people. The goal of the elections is to make ICANN more open and accountable, says Common Cause President L. Scott Harshbarger. Others, such as North American candidate Miller, believe ICANN is already moving toward an open system after a few early and misguided decisions. "ICANN was seen as top-down and autocratic," says Network Solutions spokesman Brian O'Shaughnessy. "Now, they are opening up," says O'Shaughnessy.
    http://www.washtimes.com/business/default-20008222626.htm
    For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.

  • "Officials Fear An "Electronic Pearl Harbor""
    Investor's Business Daily (07/31/00) P. A8; Howell, Donna

    At a special summit last week, technologists in government and industry met to discuss the prevention of an "electronic Pearl Harbor" that could threaten the security of Internet databases. "There are 20 countries around the world engaged in cyber warfare or research on cyber warfare," said Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa). "That's a real threat to the security of the country." Lawmakers are trying to get $5 million from Congress to fund a computer security institute to research potential threats and appropriate countermeasures. Weld Pond, a research scientist with the AtStake security firm in Massachusetts, noted that online businesses are especially vulnerable to cyberattacks. "If these Web sites are compromised, then all your data can be read or modified by attackers," Pond said. Political statements, industrial espionage, and thievery are all reasons cyber-terrorists would target Web sites, making life difficult for businesses on the Internet. Ralph Pasini, project coordinator of the security summit, said that projected forms of cyber-terrorism could include the disruption of telecommunications systems, urban power supplies, and even Wall Street. The denial-of-service attacks on various Web sites in February are just one form of information warfare.

  • "White House Opposes E-Commerce Promotion Bill"
    Newsbytes (07/31/00); Krebs, Brian

    A Senate bill that calls for the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) to establish the Center of Excellence for Electronic Commerce is running into opposition from the White House. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), envisions the center as a clearinghouse for data on e-commerce technologies and issues. The legislation requires that the NIST center help craft interoperability schemes for national and global e-commerce and promote e-commerce technologies "within federal agencies and small and medium-sized businesses." The Clinton administration faults the bill for language that would allow the center to address other e-commerce policy issues via the White House Office of Management and Budget. "NIST's focus should properly remain on key standards and technology issues, such as computer security and interoperability," the White House stated.
    http://www.newsbytes.com/pubNews/00/152954.html

  • "A Phenomenon Set to Become Big Business"
    Financial Times--Information Technology (08/02/00) P. 8; Harvey, Fiona

    The market for Web hosting services is exploding as companies seek to add stability to their e-business ventures. Sixty percent of businesses in the United Kingdom operate a transactional Web site, and 85 percent of those businesses expect to see an 85 percent increase in site traffic this year, according to International Data (IDC), forming a great demand for Web hosting. Forrester Research estimates the worldwide Web hosting market will reach $23 billion by 2003, up from $3 billion this year. As more companies rely on the Internet to conduct mission-critical operations, demand for fast-loading, secure, always-available, and highly reliable Web sites is increasing. Meanwhile, many companies are unable to manage the growing complexities of running a major Web site independently, a situation exacerbated by the worldwide shortage of IT workers. Web hosting market leaders Exodus Communications and Verio are being joined in the space by computer equipment and services firms such as IBM, Intel, Dell, and Hewlett-Packard, and by scores of small upstarts working locally, which, collectively, control 90 percent of the European market, according to Forrester. Analysts expect the role of Web hosting provider to expand beyond relatively simple infrastructure provision to include more sophisticated systems management and support services, as well as application provision. This expansion of this role will give an edge to large, multinational players such as IBM, Intel, and Exodus, analysts say.
    http://www.ft.com/ftsurveys/ftit0800_host.htm

  • "European Union Ministers Vow Cyber Crime Crackdown"
    Reuters (07/29/00); Green, Matthew

    European Union justice and interior ministers held an unofficial meeting over the weekend and announced their intention to reign in hacker attacks, Internet fraud, and online child pornography with the introduction of new laws this year that would seal up cross-border loopholes. French Justice Minister Elisabeth Guigou acknowledged that the EU has been slow to keep up with the pace of the Internet in regulatory matters, necessitating the need for urgent action. Guigou said France would attempt to establish a better working relationship with the United Nations and the Group of 8 countries. European Commissioner Antonio Vitorino, noting that current cooperative efforts on cybercrime are ineffective, cautioned that the new laws may burden the e-commerce industry, and he urged governments to do their part to minimize the industry's sacrifices.

  • "The Changing Face of IT"
    InformationWeek Online (08/01/00); Khirallah, Diane Rezendes

    Despite a recent trend toward decentralized IT staffs, most companies are maintaining a centralized IT department, according to a recent survey. The survey found 68 percent of companies considered their IT operations centralized. Many companies are facing this choice as they work to integrate their IT staffs with their regular business operations. Increasingly, companies are asking their IT professionals to provide e-business solutions as well as technical maintenance and support. The key to all IT departments, regardless of their structure, is flexibility. Even in so-called centralized structures, IT workers may be called upon to work within different departments or to assist IT workers brought in from outsourcing or application service providers. For example, although FedEx recently combined its IT departments into one organization, it still must pursue separate IT initiatives around the world to maintain its global operations.
    http://www.techweb.com/wire/story/TWB20000801S0005

  • "Germany's High-Tech Visa Drive"
    Wired News (08/02/00); Kettman, Steve

    The German government on Monday began issuing green cards to high-tech workers. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder first introduced the program last February to ease the shortfall of an estimated 30,000 workers in Germany's high-tech sector. According to government estimates, the shortfall could soon reach 70,000 workers. Critics question whether the plan will enjoy long-term success. The German language barrier is significant, they say, as is the fact that the program allows only temporary residence. Most foreign tech workers choose to work in the U.S. because they already know the language and the prospects for acquiring permanent-resident status are favorable. Foreign critics believe recent incidents of violence against immigrants may dissuade applicants, but German observers downplay the potential impact of this violence, saying the incidents have been isolated and are no worse than anywhere else in Europe. However, the program is already struggling. Although the government is prepared to issue up to 20,000 green cards, only 5,400 "serious" workers have applied so far.
    http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,37948,00.html

  • "The Net of the Future Will Serve Scientists, Residents of Poor Nations"
    St. Louis Post-Dispatch (07/31/00) P. BP19; Gillmor, Dan

    A meeting of the Internet Society two weeks ago in Yokohama, Japan, revealed both the promise and the problems of the Internet's future. An international group of scientists studying the most basic particles of matter displayed their powerful high-speed network, iGrid, which processes data much more quickly than the public Internet. IGrid has the potential to transform how 5,000 physicists spread over 60 countries communicate their information. Scientists demonstrated how the Internet will relay data concerning black holes and telescopes from monitoring stations around the world. However, not all of the meeting's participants were as excited as the iGrid scientists. A representative from Cameroon, where only one-tenth of one percent of the population has Internet access, decried the current state of the Internet. The Internet is not yet affordable enough to be considered a truly global technology, he said, and it excludes those who do not understand English.

  • "Bill Would Create Federal Govt CIO"
    Newsbytes (07/28/00); McGuire, David

    Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) has introduced the Federal Information Policy Act of 2000, legislation that would boost the federal government's cybersecurity efforts by creating a government CIO who would oversee the federal Information Security and Technical Protection (IN STEP) office. The newly created IN STEP office would serve to tie together the responsibilities of current government cybersecurity initiatives and would also provide the White House Office of Management and Budget with assessments on the state of U.S. cybersecurity preparedness. Davis staffer David Marin says it will be some time before the act reaches the House floor, although he says support should be strong enough the pass the legislation into law.
    http://www.newsbytes.com/pubNews/00/152902.html
    For information regarding ACM's activities related to security, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/crypto.

  • "Political Wrangling Stalls H-1B Visa Bill"
    Roll Call (07/31/00) Vol. 46, No. 8, P. 34; Crabtree, Susan

    The H-1B visa bill, backed by both parties and expected to pass through Congress easily this Spring, has hit a roadblock in the House as lawmakers argue over whether to attach language that would grant amnesty to thousands of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. With only one month to work on the bill after the August recess, House legislators are at a standstill with Democrats pushing for the amnesty measure and Republicans arguing that amnesty should not be tied to the H-1B bill. The conflict began in mid May, when Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) sent a letter to House Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) asking him to add a number of amnesty measures to the H-1B bill, including the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act (NACARA). Dreier says he supports NACARA and other amnesty initiatives, but believes such legislation should be separated from H-1B. Furthermore, Dreier says he resents Lofgren politicizing the H-1B bill, which seemed certain to pass easily before the amnesty issues were introduced. The high-tech industry echoes Dreier's sentiments, saying Lofgren's efforts stalled the bill as it was close to being completed.

  • "IT Revolution Faces Serious Hurdles in Japan"
    Nikkei Weekly (07/24/00) Vol. 38, No. 1937, P. 1; Suzuki, Yumiko

    The recent meeting of the Group of Eight nations in Okinawa focused on advancing technology to drive the global economy, but leaders noted that Japan will fall behind other industrial heavyweights if it does not address several factors that are inhibiting IT growth. With IT increasingly fueling the global economy, Japan must act quickly to deregulate communications and encourage competition, according to recommendations that business groups and think tanks submitted to Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori before the meeting. G-8 leaders at the summit agreed to a charter for policy cooperation to support the IT-driven economy, calling for members to promote IT competition, improve security for e-commerce, and help developing countries build their own IT industries. The way that governments handle IT issues at this time will determine the extent to which their citizens benefit from technology, leaders said. Japan is advancing in technology, as companies race to decrease distribution costs and establish direct ties to consumers. Meanwhile, a business-to-business exchange for the Japanese automotive industry is expected to launch in October, significantly boosting product distribution as well as information sharing. Despite this progress, experts say Japan will lag other G-8 nations if it does not address taxation, privacy, a legal framework, telecommunications, information security, collaboration with the private sector, and an electronic certification and signature system.

  • "Divide and Conquer"
    Economist (07/29/00) Vol. 356, No. 8181, P. 77

    The 2 million separate computers around the Internet running the SETI@home software represent the next big advance in computing--distributed computing. However, proponents of distributed computing will have to figure out a way to make money off of spare computing capacity. With the SETI@home screensaver, a piece of software downloads data from the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, and when computers are not being used, checks for evidence of signals from alien civilizations and sends the results back to the central clearing house. The SETI@home software has essentially created a distributed device that is equivalent to a computer operating about 10 times faster than a typical supercomputer. Companies such as Parabon Computation, Popular Power, and Distributed Science want to make a commercial gain out of the concept by farming out large computing tasks to thousands of individual PCs to provide vast computing power on demand. Such companies are confident that distributed computing will be economically viable because it would make use of PCs' wasted processing cycles, especially with the always-on connections of digital subscriber lines and cable modem links. The companies also like distributed computing because it could enhance network capacity, for example, by allowing thousands of PCs to act as a search engine. Still, distributed computing firms face several major issues such as securing work over an anonymous collective, running the software on as wide a variety of computers as possible, and the fact that not all large computational problems can be processed by individual machines.
    http://www.economist.com/editorial/freeforall/current/index_st0464.html

  • "Companies Need to Learn About Policy to Recognize Risk"
    Potomac Tech Journal (07/24/00) Vol. 1, No. 26, P. 17; Schwartz, Alan; Feder, Stanley

    High-tech companies should take notice of politics and governmental policies, since some government oversight is required for a market economy to function and every company faces some kind of policy risk. Traditionally, companies react to policy changes rather than anticipating them, and they rely on policy experts such as lobbyists or government relations advisors. Such people offer professional, ongoing assessments. However, computer models of policy processes are now available as well. The user inputs a description of the political environment, such as a list of the influential people, their relative power, the policies they support, and the importance of the policies to each. Computer models provide consistent results and are more accurate than most experts, and they can test the sensitivity of the forecast to data variations. Using a computer model can provide a map of where to deploy political resources, and the data are easily adjustable.
    For information regarding ACM's activities in public policy concerns, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm.