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Volume 3, Issue 271: Wednesday, October 31, 2001
- "Techies Answer USA's Call to Arms"
USA Today (10/30/01) P. 1B; Iwata, Edward
Unlike past wars, when the U.S. military relied on leading defense-contractors such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and General Dynamics to keep it equipped with powerful weapons and modern aircraft, the current war on terrorism will heavily rely on advanced computer technology and new methods to identify and fight bioterrorist threats. Many new tech firms are competing for billions of dollars in government contracts since the Sept. 11 attacks--not an easy task in an industry long dominated by about 15 large companies and their subcontractors. Whereas previous wars meant huge expenditures for hardware, a growing portion of the Defense Department's and other security agencies' budgets are expected to go toward high-tech research and solutions. Salient Stills, which has donated its image resolution technology to the FBI, is one such firm hoping to benefit, trying to work its way into a sector already occupied by such tech-related companies as Compaq Computer, Oracle, and KPMG Consulting, which have long been profiting from the government's and military's interest in high-tech systems used to detect and deter terrorist and criminal threats. Other smaller tech companies that have not done business with the government are investing in Washington consultants and bringing former Defense Department staffers on their boards in order to breach the "good ol' boys" network of major defense contractors.
- "Analysts Don't See High-Tech Improvement Until Late Next Year"
NewsFactor Network (10/29/01); Norr, Henry
Tech industry observers say recovery is not likely before the second half of next year, as the effect of the terrorist attacks on corporate and consumer spending outweighs the draw of new products, holiday spending, and back-to-school sales. Many companies predict only modest growth in the fourth quarter, usually a strong period for tech giants such as Intel, which grew revenue by 12 percent in fourth quarter 1999 and 13 percent in 1998. Intel said it had a surprising increase in sales for the third quarter but expected shipments to remain at current levels for the rest of the year. Sun Microsystems also lowered its outlook and finally made its first layoffs since the onset of the downturn early this month, having admitted it does not expect a near-term recovery. Integral Capital Partners managing partner Roger McNamee says the terrorist attacks came just before many tech company boards set spending budgets for the next year. The psychological effect of terrorism, plus growing unemployment and a lack of broadband access, will depress both consumer and corporate tech spending.
- "Attacks From the Heart of the Net"
BBC News Online (10/30/01)
The Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) reports that hacker attacks are growing in frequency. Furthermore, hackers are known for shifting their strategy and focusing on new Internet vulnerabilities if older ones are closed off. A case in point is the method of smurfing, or the generation of Web traffic used to carry out denial of service (DoS) attacks; hackers once relied on predominantly manual techniques to infect machines to launch bogus data packets, but now they can do so automatically with available tools. CERT warns that there is less and less time for security experts to implement countermeasures following the discovery of a threat. The authors of the report also note the increasing use of routers to conduct DoS attacks. Routers are usually less secure than computer systems, and can be used to detect unprotected machines, launch data packets, and hide links to chat channels.
- "Veiled Messages of Terror May Lurk in Cyberspace"
New York Times (10/30/01) P. D1; Kolata, Gina
Digital photos and music files can be altered to contain messages, a process known as steganography. A new emphasis has been placed on steganography in the wake of the terrorist attacks, particularly a recent revelation that terrorists used this method to plan a foiled attempt to destroy the U.S. embassy in Paris. "In the past two years, the number of steganography tools available over the Internet has doubled--it's 140 and growing," George Mason University's Dr. Neil F. Johnson reports. In fact, the potential for steganography's use as a terrorist tool has become so great that Dr. Johnson has stopped publishing research on detection techniques, fearing that criminals may use this knowledge to better hide their messages. It is particularly hard to detect steganography in one of the most frequent image formats, JPEG, because although detection tools look for statistical evidence of distortion, JPEG files are by their very nature distorted, according to Dr. Jessica Fridrich at State University of New York's Center for Intelligent Systems.
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- "IT Spending Down, Productivity Up"
CyberAtlas (10/30/01); Pastore, Michael
META Group research shows IT spending will be down dramatically in 2002 as companies stick to IT projects supporting core functions or promising substantial cost-savings. Spending will be down anywhere from 2 percent to 5 percent in 2002, compared to an 8 percent increase in 2001. Productivity among U.S. IT workers has increased as well because of smaller staffs. However, META Group research fellow Howard Rubin warns that IT divisions need to avoid keeping their staff overburdened as the average number of lines of code per employee increased from 42,000 last year to 50,000 this year. Overall compensation for IT workers is up 9 percent in 2001, Meta Group says, after rising 6.6 percent in 2000. Although IT turnover is down, competition remains for workers with highly desired skills, such as systems analysis and design. Meanwhile, the need for metrics specialists has increased as metrics has become a leading IT priority overseas, Meta Group says.
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- "Germany Looks Abroad to Fill IT Skills Gap"
Computer Weekly Online (10/29/01)
Germany is seeking foreigners to fill in for a critical shortage of IT professionals, and is planning a new round of 10,000 visas. Some 9,934 visas, dubbed Green Cards, have already been issued since the program started in August of last year. However, the United States is more attractive for many job seekers, since it allows them to become permanent residents. Germany's Green Cards only allow workers to stay in the country for five years and imposes severe limitations on the rights of family members to work. Germany is especially in need of programmers, software developers, and security specialists, according to a spokeswoman for Bundesverband Informationswirtschaft, Telekommunikation und neue Medien (BITKOM). To bring in more workers, the Labor Ministry's Elisabeth van der Linde says the government may relax Green Card restrictions in the future.
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- "Of Mixed Messages, Linux and XP"
Wired News (10/31/01); Manjoo, Farhad
Members of the Linux community are mostly apathetic toward the Microsoft XP launch, including leading development companies Red Hat and Ximian. However, Red Hat CTO Michael Tiemann is ardently opposed to the newest incursion on users' rights, privacy, spending dollars, and even civil liberties. He suggested a general boycott of XP in order to force Microsoft to change its monopolistic business strategy. Red Hat's Mark de Visser says Tiemann does not represent the official stance of Red Hat, which generally can afford to ignore XP since it does not affect the enterprise computing level, where Red Hat is focusing. Even Miguel de Icaza, the co-founder of Ximian, which is selling one of the leading Linux desktops, says XP is not much of a threat. He says the operating system has some admirable features but that the constant Passport pitch is annoying.
- "Forget Batteries: Here Comes a Power Plant on a Chip"
NewsFactor Network (10/30/01); McDonald, Tim
Lehigh University scientists are developing the prototype of a silicon chip powered by a miniature chemical reactor. These chip-based power plants could be linked to hydrogen-based fuel cells that could in turn power mobile devices such as cell phones and laptops, says assistant professor of chemical engineering Mayuresh Kothare. "The advantage is that size is minimized and the power device is integrated with the electronic device," he explains. A single chip would not be sufficient to power, say, a laptop, but scientists suggest that a bundle of such chips would. Furthermore, the devices could remain on while the battery recharges.
- "Venture Funding Down in Bay Area"
SiliconValley.com (10/30/01); Marshall, Matt
Bay Area venture funding fell 27 percent in the third quarter compared to the previous quarter, indicating funding for new technology companies is on the wane and may continue to fall. Venture firms invested $2.4 billion in Bay Area startups, according to a survey by Venture Economics. VC investments in the third quarter are 74 percent lower than last year's second-quarter high of $9.3 billion. The drop corresponds to a nationwide decline in VC investments. Although venture capitalists say that now is the ideal time to invest, many are not actually doing so, says Jesse Reyes, VP at Venture Economics. Desperate companies are letting VCs acquire large stakes in return for their funding. However, many VCs are focusing on existing companies, which will not change until the market starts going back up, Reyes explains. Venture Economics notes that although VC firms had $45 billion in reserve at the end of September, venture firms' fundraising efforts are slowing. Santa Clara's Metro-Optix, an optical networking company, received the valley's biggest biggesVC investment in the third quarter, followed by Web-server company Archway Digital in Mountain View, and Fremont network-storage company Rhapsody Networks.
- "Hacker 'Bombs' Missing Targets"
NewsFactor Network (10/25/01); Lyman, Jay
Ryan Russell, an incident analyst at Security Focus, says that pro-Chinese hacker groups successfully targeted upward of 1,000 Web sites in May. However, many of the Web sites were not located in the United States. Similarly, the retaliatory hacking activity on the U.S. side targeted sites based on domain names rather than purpose or content. For instance, many Web sites ending in ".cn" were defaced, although the sites were neither for nor against the United States in any way, Russell says. U.S. hackers are now indiscriminately targeting Web sites that have connections to Afghanistan in the mistaken belief that these sites support the Taliban, says Russell.
- "ICANN Stifling Public's Voice?"
InternetNews.com (10/26/01); Wagner, Jim
The ICANN At-Large Study Committee (ALSC) says that an ICANN board decision on reconfiguring public representation on ICANN's board will not be made until sometime in 2002, though an ALSC report that finalizes the August proposal is imminent. ICANN critics continue to disagree with reducing ICANN's elected public-representation board seats from nine under current bylaws to six. Many also disagree with defining the voting public for these seats as domain name holders rather than as simply Internet users. Of the nine current public-representation board seats, only five have been elected, while the other four have been kept by the same people since ICANN's inception; critics refer to these members as "the board squatters" and feel they should be replaced. Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility board Chair Hans Klein argues that the definition of Internet users as domain name owners will benefit a small, insider community only. Klein believes publicly elected board seats should remain at nine and that reducing this number "violates the principal of balance in the Newco privatization agreement of 1998 that led to ICANN." "Whether we like that structure or not, it is the basic condition for Internet privatization," Klein says. While the ALSC says its proposal is based on public consultation and consensus, some are claiming they were ignored, and have submitted to the U.S. Commerce Department an ALSC forum straw-poll that unanimously favored keeping nine public-representation board seats.
For information regarding ACM's Internet governance work related to ICANN, visit http://www.acm.org/serving/IG.html.
- "Terrorism Spurs Web Collaboration Effort"
Network World Fusion (10/29/01); Marsan, Carolyn Duffy
The State Department is moving forward with a new collaborative knowledge management system that would scale across 40 federal agencies and help coordinate government efforts to combat terrorism, work on trade relations, and manage crisis situations. The Overseas Presence Interagency Collaboration System was conceived in the wake of the 1998 embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya, and officials are currently choosing from among three contracting teams to launch the January 2002 prototype system. In the final version, users will be able to form interest groups from across agencies, work collaboratively over the Web, and have access to classified information protected by public-key infrastructure. Although the project's estimated cost of $30 million to $100 million does not have initial funding until late 2003, recent events could motivate Congress to allocate money sooner.
- "High-Tech Arsenal Deployed in Terrorist Hunt"
Associated Press (10/30/01)
Law enforcement officials, given more rein by the anti-terrorism bill President Bush signed on Friday, will use sophisticated technology to track down terrorists. One of the tools in the arsenal is a key-logger, a device that authorities can secretly plant inside computers to record everything a suspect types; it can capture passwords that decrypt tightly protected data files. Off-the-shelf software called Encase is being used by the FBI to retrieve deleted files and search for suspicious documents on computers seized after Sept. 11. Meanwhile, the FBI and authorities in Miami and Boston are tracing terrorist-related financial transactions through image enhancement software called dTective. The CIA is developing a program called "Fluent," its goal to teach computers to translate Arabic into English; another CIA initiative, "Oasis," uses technology to transcribe TV and radio broadcasts.
- "Patent Holder Could Derail Tech Titans"
ZDNet (10/29/01); Junnarkar, Sandeep
Tech giants who are planning ubiquitous Web services schemes may have to deal with a small patent holder in New Jersey or face infringement claims in the future. Programmer Charlie Northrup, CEO of software firm Global Technologies, holds the 1998 patent on "Access Method Independent Exchange," which Novell, IBM, and Microsoft have all cited in their own patent applications. These citations may give Northrup the leverage he needs to file claims against those other companies in the future, although he says he intends to use the patent only to protect his own company's development efforts--and possibly to secure more funding. Similar cases often result in the buyout of the smaller patent holder, as with Oracle's purchase of Strategic Processing last summer, which was done in order to secure a patent for online exchange database technology.
- "Midrange Systems Are Focus of Storage Firms Amid Tech's Slowdown"
Investor's Business Daily (10/30/01) P. A8; Deagon, Brian
Storage system companies are focusing on the midrange market as their high-end product sales languish due to restrictive corporate spending. Compaq, Hitachi Data Systems, IBM, and EMC have all announced new products that improve the efficiency of companies' data storage or appeal to tightened budgets. EMC, which attributed low third-quarter sales numbers to its inability to move to the midrange market fast enough, signed an agreement recently to resell its midrange Clariion line through Dell. IBM this week announced a slew of new TotalStorage products aimed at the midmarket, including more compatible platforms and superfast 2 Gbps fiber-channel connectors. Hitachi Data Systems recently teamed with Sun Microsystems and Veritas software with its HiCommand software that automates storage tasks and allows stressed storage administrators an easy Web-based interface from which they can manage connected systems.
- "The Home Front"
InformationWeek (10/22/01) No. 860, P. 55; McGee, Marianne Kolbasuk
The Sept. 11 attacks have prompted some companies to prioritize telecommuting programs. Terrorist attacks are not the only kind of disruption that calls for telecommuting strategies: Earthquakes and other natural disasters could just as easily maroon employees at home, notes Omni Consulting Group's Frank Bernhard. However, implementing a telecommuting program is anything but easy. Logistical headaches include shipping computers to employees and installing broadband services or second phone lines in workers' homes. Telecommuters must also contend with isolation and loneliness, and the frustration of slower application speeds than they are used to. To combat loneliness, Fred Crandall of the Center for Workplace Effectiveness says that, "Teams should try to meet via phone or in person at least once a week." Meanwhile, companies need IT staff to handle installation, troubleshooting, and training, and invest in adequate safeguards.
- "Send in the Clones"
eCFO (10/01) Vol. 17, No. 12, P. 45; Bannan, Karen J.
Although a survey in Human Resource Executive noted that 69 percent of respondents used pre-employment testing to screen potential IT hires, a large number of employers in the United States tend to place more weight on a person's resume, writes eCFO's Karen Bannan. Joy Hazucha, senior vice president with Personnel Decisions International, a human resources and consulting firm, said: "You've got managers who think, 'This person has three years' experience with Unix and this person has five, so I'll hire the person with five years' experience." Kansas City-based communications company Sprint administers a number of cognitive and motivational tests to prospective tech employees, according to Bill Donkersgoed, manager of selection systems at Sprint's national staffing and technology group. Such assessments provide Sprint's managers with a more rounded view of a candidate, says Donkersgoed. Additional psychological testing has become more common for IT hires as salaries rise along with the importance of IT positions within companies. HR professionals also believe such tests enable them to weed out unmotivated employees, despite their credentials.
- "Is Tech Downturn Changing Education and Employment Trends?"
Computer (10/01) Vol. 34, No. 10, P. 19; Paulson, Linda Dailey
More and more college graduates with degrees in technology are applying to business and law schools this year instead of entering the job market, but whether they are doing so as a result of the dot-com implosion is a matter of debate. "I think whenever there is an economic downturn, people go to grad school, hoping that at the end, there will be more jobs," notes Stephen Schreiber, VP of the Law School Admission Council, which says that the number of people who took the Law School Admission Test rose 18.6 percent between June 2000 and June 2001. Karla Lacey of the Graduate Management Admission Council acknowledges that the tech downturn has spurred a growth of business school applicants, but it may not be completely responsible; some applicants are simply going back to school to attain new skills. Meanwhile, a techies.com survey finds that 47 percent of 3,401 people polled are more willing to relocate for a new job than they were last year, compared to 13 percent who are less willing. This trend seems directly linked to the economic downturn.
- "Training People With Disabilities to Recycle Computers"
In Business (10/01) Vol. 23, No. 4, P. 19; Satkofsky, Amy
Burnley Employment and Rehabilitation Services (BEARS), a not-for-profit organization for people with disabilities, is on the leading edge for computer recycling. Located in Snydersville, Pa., BEARS' marketing assistant Marc Roth introduced a new program last summer for recycling computers. The participants, aged from the teens to retirement age, disassemble computers to sort out glass, plastic, circuit boards, CD-ROM drives, wires, and chips. These parts are then placed into new computers being used at BEARS for training programs or are sent off to Envirocycle, a recycling company. The National Safety Council says nearly 500 million PCs will be considered out of date and thrown away between 1997 and 2007. And, as LCD screens become less expensive, even more monitors will be discarded. At BEARS, about 1,000 computers are recycled every month, and Roth expects that figure to grow substantially has his program gains notoriety. Computers are collected from universities, high schools, and businesses, or are dropped off.