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Volume 3, Issue 272: Friday, November 2, 2001
- "Cyber-Security Bill Planned by House Committee"
Newsbytes (10/31/01); MacMillan, Robert
Claiming that the critical infrastructure of the United States "has a woefully inadequate investment in computer security," House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) announced that his agency is planning a bill to rectify that. Using the results of a study carried out by a commission led by Gov. James Gilmore (R-Va.), Boehlert has determined that the computer security field lacks "top researchers," dedicated organizations, and private sector investments. One recommendation that Gilmore's report put forward was the formation of an interagency organization that would manage cyber-security initiatives; President Bush carried out this suggestion by executive order in October. Other recommendations Gilmore's report called for include the creation of a nonprofit agency to represent the security sector's public and private stakeholders, the transformation of the Y2K offices into cyber-security offices for specific agencies, a proposed independent "advisory body" to assess cyber-security efforts, and a cyber-court to handle hacker cases. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) had his own proposal: The National Emergency Technology (NET) Guard, a defense force charged to "quickly recreate and repair compromised communications and technology infrastructures." Boehlert sees an assault on the nation's computer system as a logical progression from the Sept. 11 terror attack and the recent anthrax scare.
- "Ruling a Blow for DVD Industry"
SiliconValley.com (11/02/01); Mintz, Howard
The 6th District Court of Appeal in San Jose, Calif., has ruled in favor of First Amendment rights by allowing Web sites to post DeCSS, software that decrypts the copy-protection safeguards of DVDs. The court gave free speech precedence over what the DVD industry considers a trade secret. The decision represents a long-awaited victory for proponents of free speech, which have until now lost their legal battles against the industry. The industry is planning to appeal the ruling to the California Supreme Court. "The decision would be a devastating blow to the U.S. economy, and it makes absolutely no sense," declares Jeffrey Kessler, an attorney representing the DVD Copy Control Association. "Beyond our case, if this decision becomes the law of the United States, all trade secrets are unconstitutional." However, since a New York federal judge's injunction against Web sites operators remains in effect, DeCSS software will continue to be unavailable unless the appeal's court ruling is upheld. The ruling was hailed as a landmark decision in support of First Amendment rights by various groups and Web site operators, many of whom claimed that DeCSS was created to make it possible to play DVDs on Linux systems.
- "Berners Lee: WWW Royalties Considered Harmful"
Register Online (10/31/01); Orlowski, Andrew
Tim Berners Lee, creator of the World Wide Web, advised the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Patent Policy Working Group (PPWG) not to adopt Web standards with royalties attached, known as the RAND license. Doing so would threaten to fragment the Web, he said. His comments were recently made public with the release of the minutes of the PPWG meeting earlier this month. The open source community has vehemently opposed the adoption of royalty-bearing Web standards and some have even said it could threaten the W3C's legitimacy. More subtle issues of fees, warranties, and other legally binding restrictions are also being discussed for Web standards, mostly at the prompting of legal staff of prominent W3C members, such as IBM.
- "High-Tech Security May Get $1 Billion Boost"
CNet (11/01/01); Lemos, Robert
Democratic senators are developing a $20 billion economic stimulus proposal that may allocate $1 billion for an IT fund. The Office of Management and Budget would earmark the money for projects that serve to boost the security of critical infrastructures, federal computer systems, and disaster protection. Although the $89 billion Republican stimulus package is substantially larger, the Democrats' plan would fund terrorism and bioterrorism countermeasures, federal law enforcement, more secure borders and transportation, and infrastructure protection. "[Sen. Joseph] Lieberman [D-Conn.] wants to see the...stimulus put to good use, and there is no better use than bolstering our homeland defense through an IT Fund," says Leslie Phillips, communications director for the Senate Government Affairs Committee. Sources close to the matter say that IT companies may receive a large share of the overall spending package as well.
- "Women Impeded by Tech Downturn"
SiliconValley.com (10/29/01); Delevett, Peter
The slump in the tech sector has hit male and female professionals hard, but women seem to be losing more, according to a Catalyst study. Many of the top female executives in Silicon Valley have resigned or been laid off. There are differences of opinion on how women can rise in the industry, notes Catalyst President Sheila Wellington. Men consider that their promotion is based on merit, whereas the women polled believe it is more a matter of "who you know." Women have the added disadvantage of losing online communities, such as Girlgeeks and Women.com, as a result of the downturn. However, there is less evidence to suggest that gender issues are responsible for women finding it hard to attract venture capital. "I don't know that women are having a harder time getting funded than men," explains Denise Brosseau, director of the Foundation for Women Entrepreneurs. "There's no money to be had."
- "$15.8 Billion Needed to Restore IT, Telecom After U.S. Terror Attacks"
Web Host Industry Review (10/30/01); King, Rawlson
Rebuilding the IT infrastructure destroyed at the World Trade Center last month will cost $15.8 billion, according to research firm Computer Economics. Because the financial institutions housed there are so technologically dependent, the physical infrastructure losses are extremely high, including $8.1 billion to replace in-house operations and equipment. Additionally, telecommunications hubs and systems housed beneath the Trade Center will have to be replaced over the coming years as rebuilding continues. Computer Economics also predicts that the large companies displaced by the attacks will use this as an opportunity to bolster their IT infrastructure, especially in redundant Web hosting and data storage services. Computer Economics VP of Research Michael Erbschloe says the Nimda virus, released on Sept. 18, and the terrorist attacks highlight the security concerns of a combined physical and information-related assault.
- "Cybernarks--Who's Hunting the Hackers?"
ZDNet Australia (10/26/01)
Computer security experts say cyber-stakeouts are on the verge of dying out because companies would much rather secure their system's entry points and lock out intruders altogether. One reason for the unwillingness of companies to track down hackers and prosecute cyber criminals is because corporations believe admitting a breach has occurred will ultimately have a negative impact on their business. Often times companies have the attitude that hackers are just using their system as a launching pad for an attack. What is more, companies tend to lack the computer forensic skills needed to track down hackers. The honey-pot server approach has emerged as way to trace the movements of system intruders. The approach baits hackers to connect to "easy target" servers and systems so that computer security professionals can follow and study the actions of intruders, and ultimately obtain enough information to substantiate charges. Most of the information that companies use to prosecute cyber criminals comes from private and educational institutions. Computer security experts still realize that the legal framework must be in place if their effort are to be successful; in addition to illegal access, they say cybercrime should include fraud, espionage, child pornography, cyber stalking, and the releasing of viruses.
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- "Input Devices Call On a Little Muscle"
New York Times (11/01/01) P. F9; Austen, Ian
Jun Rekimoto, director of Sony Computer Science Laboratories' Interaction Laboratory, has created a wristwatch device that users can wear to transmit computer commands through the electrical activity of their arm muscles. Rekimoto anticipates that the GestureWrist can be used as a substitute for the mouse as well as more cumbersome remote devices such as the Twiddler and the data glove. An accelerometer chip available in stores can track the device's movement, while capacitance sensing detects and measures electrical charges from the wearer's skin. Squeezing a hand into a fist causes muscular changes that can be translated into electronic commands. Rekimoto is also working on the GesturePad, an electrical grid that can be controlled by finger movements within a half-inch of the device. It could, Rekimoto envisions, be worn in lapels and used to control MP3 player volume or advance slides. However, both devices are currently too big to be commercially acceptable and must be wired directly into computers. The development of wireless connections and gear small enough to installed within a wristwatch could take two to three years, Rekimoto says.
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- "Sony Dogs Aibo Enthusiast's Site"
Los Angeles Times (11/01/01) P. C1; Wilson, Dave; Pham, Alex
Sony has asked the operator of an Aibo fan site to remove software tools he hacked from existing Sony products, which were available for free and infringed on the company's copyrights, according to Sony. Aibo is the hit robotic dog that has sold more than 100,000 units since its launch in 1999. Sony's extension software pack costs $150, and the materials available for download on www.aibohack.com only worked if users had the original software. The site generated 400 to 600 visitors per day. Still, Sony cited the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which in essence threatened the operator with criminal prosecution for illegally distributing hacks to Sony's proprietary code. Other companies have been faced with the same conundrum when enthusiasts build upon their existing tools, such as Lego in 1998, when it released the MindStorms series of computerized Lego sets. Lego decided to endorse benign hacking efforts instead of opposing them because executives figured the efforts would build the customer base and brand, says spokesman Michael McNally. Sony said in a statement that it wants material it considers illegal removed from the site, and otherwise encourages the distribution of material that does not violate DMCA.
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- "'Box' May Propel Communications in Developing Countries"
Associated Press (10/29/01); Srinivasan, S.
A small wireless modem that provides simultaneous voice and data communications may revolutionize telecommunications in developing countries such as India, where less than 2 percent of the population have regular access to a phone. Although the pilot program in Kuppam, a midsize city of 104,000, is focused on telephone applications, the CorDECT modems also provide Internet access speeds of 35 to 70 Kbps, which is much faster than most people in nearby Bangalore have access to. CorDECT devices cost between $250 and $354 to install, depending on how remote the location is, compared to about $950 for a traditional telephone line. Lower costs makes it much easier for the state-run telecom to increase the number of phone and Internet users in that city. CorDECT technology, developed by a U.S.-Indian partnership, is also being investigated in Mexico, Brazil, Egypt, and other countries.
- "Technology Firms Flock Back to Washington With Security Pitches"
Wall Street Journal (11/01/01) P. A22; VandeHei, Jim; Hitt, Greg
A host of technology firms have visited Washington in order to hawk their products that they say will help boost national security. Tech firms have lost considerable influence in Washington since the beginning of the downturn, seeing far less politicians visiting Silicon Valley to enlist support and cutting lobbying budgets. But some lawmakers, such as Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), have sought the advice of tech firms in bolstering security measures. Federal Aviation Administration administrator Jane Garvey says her agency has taken 23,000 suggestions for new airline security measures since last month's terrorist hijackings, for example. Qualcomm is pursuing government contracts with super mobile phones for lawmakers in case of emergency, a national tracking system for hazardous materials trucks, and a real-time surveillance system for airplane cockpits. Smaller companies are offering other technologies with security applications, such as Vocent's voice-identification system.
- "Contractors Told of Opportunities"
Washington Post (11/02/01) P. E5; Balluck, Kyle
With the government set to add billions of dollars to its IT budget, contractors are eager to grab a piece of the pie. Over 700 high-tech companies attended a conference in Virginia where government procurement officials discussed the kinds of technology and services needed in the wake of September's attacks. Federal IT spending totaled $45 billion this year, according to conference host Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.); last week Lockheed calculated that number could swell to $60 billion by 2006. Davis also said that he is working on legislation designed to promote more federal-business partnerships. Speaking at the conference, Angela Styles of the Office of Management and Budget declared that IT spending will go toward creating critical infrastructure and bringing the existing infrastructure up to date. She also said that security, biotech, and pharmaceutical companies are likely to have more contracting opportunities. "If there has ever been a time when the government needs to expand and fortify its base of suppliers for both goods and services, this is that time," Styles asserted. Mark Forman, the OMB's associate information technology and e-government director, said that there will be more federal spending in knowledge management solutions, system security, enterprise architecture analysis, distributed decision-making tools, and e-government projects.
- "Web Addresses Sprout New Suffixes, Needed or Not"
New York Times (11/01/01) P. F9; Stellin, Susan
With cybersquatters and speculators cornering the best domain names in the .com space, ICANN was spurred to create seven new TLDs to expand consumer choices, but now with the .com frenzy receding into recent history, the demand for new TLDs has become less certain. In dot-com, both speculators that have failed to sell names and bright-eyed startups that have gone belly-up are allowing their dot-com domain names to lapse. Nevertheless, the new TLDs are already rolling out. Prices for new TLDs will match dot-com prices and range from $10 to $35 per year, and despite problems in the pre-registration periods of dot-info and dot-biz, Afilias reports that over 500,000 dot-info domain names have been registered so far. Consumers have utilized the pre-registration period to register 289,000 dot-biz domain names, according to NeuLevel; meanwhile, VeriSign claims 24.3 million dot-com registrations and 4.9 million and 3.2 million registrations in the dot-net and dot-org spaces, respectively. Dot-name, which begins functioning on Dec. 13, may be of significant interest to consumers. Alternative TLD companies, such as .tv and New.net, are also trying to wedge into large-scale use, even though .tv charges "premium prices" above typical registration fees, and New.net's many TLDs can only be seen by obtaining a browser add-on.
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- "Motion Sickness"
Interactive Week Online (10/29/01); Gohring, Nancy
The widespread proliferation of wireless devices has opened up a can of worms for network managers: An epidemic of wireless virus attacks and security breaches is inevitable, according to security experts. "Every time there is a technology advancement, along with it comes new possible threats," says Steve Gottwals, product marketing manager of F-Secure. Incidences in Scandinavia, Japan, and even the United States demonstrate that an assault on wireless systems is feasible. Increasing sophistication in wireless devices will prompt the creation of more malicious code and more attempts at data theft and other forms of mischief. The standardization of wireless technologies will only increase the threat of world-spanning virus outbreaks. However, security vendors are developing products that offer antivirus protection and other safeguards. Such measures include authentication technology; virus protection software that resides on devices; devices whose information can be encrypted or destroyed by the user in the event they are lost or stolen; and tools that can detect viruses when they pass through firewalls.
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- "New Grid on the Block"
Washington Techway (10/29/01) P. 32; Sivitz, Laura
There are several roadblocks to converting the Internet into a grid network that users can turn to for their supercomputing needs, but the potential advantages are enormous: Companies could engage in biotech research and development without paying for their own supercomputers; and pharmaceutical concerns would be able to discover drugs faster since the grid would facilitate data-mining on a vast scale. These are just a few of the possibilities, but security issues must be resolved. Intellectual property and grid power can only be protected by giving users a key to access the grid. Restricted delegation--the dependence on agents to divide jobs up between computers--is a particularly daunting problem, since the complexity of the broker software program could easily lead to errors. Nevertheless, companies such as IBM and Microsoft are forging ahead with distributed computing efforts, in the forms of the Distributed Terascale Facility and the .Net solution, respectively. United Devices CTO David Anderson has learned a lot about global grid viability from SETI@home, a public grid for the SETI research project at the University of California at Berkeley. Increased numbers of users has led to increased size and power capacity for servers, Anderson notes. Furthermore, the telecommunications costs incurred in transmitting tremendous amount of data to the grid could exceed the costs of buying supercomputing power.
- "Mainframes, Cobol Still Popular"
IT Professional (10/01) Vol. 3, No. 5, P. 12; Paulson, Linda Dailey
Older corporations or those whose forebears are older, established firms still depend on mainframes for both critical and major applications, according to a survey from Cutter Consortium. Furthermore, some companies will probably continue to use Cobol for core business applications, notes Andy Laudato of Pier 1 Imports. However, some companies are reporting a shortage of programmers needed to maintain the mainframes, mainly because modern-day technology students consider Cobol to be an outdated language. Ronald J. Kizior of Loyola University and Bryant College's Kenneth T. Fougere recommend that educators establish transitional prerequisite courses to prepare students for Cobol classes. Another way to make up the shortfall is to implement a new outsourcing model, one that Laudato says will use "a hybrid approach where the staff will be outsourced with contract programmers, but the systems and management will remain in-house."