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Timely Topics for IT Professionals

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


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Volume 6, Issue 661: Friday, June 25, 2004

  • "Bill to Curb Online Piracy Is Challenged As Too Broad"
    New York Times (06/24/04) P. C4; Richtel, Matt; Zeller Jr., Tom

    The "induce bill" introduced in the Senate this week is chiefly targeted at providers of file-trading software, but critics such as Verizon Communications associate general counsel Sarah Deutsch are alleging that the legislation is too broad, and "can be used to threaten and intimidate industries that copyright owners disagree with." Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the Judiciary Committee and co-sponsor of the bill, insisted that the law would effectively prevent companies that knowingly distribute software used to commit digital piracy from making money off of such activities. "These corporations know better than to break the law themselves, so they profit from infringement by inducing users of their software to do the dirty work of actually breaking the law," the senator declared. He added that the legislation was drafted to protect children who may not realize that they are committing crimes by file trading. Opponents argue that the bill will hurt technological innovation because the measure essentially overturns the Supreme Court's 1984 Betamax decision, which established that copyright law does not criminalize consumers' copying of programs for personal use, or the sale of products that facilitate copying. Deutsch also expressed concern about a lack of hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee concerning the bill, considering it is such a radical retooling of copyright law. However, Recording Industry Association of America CEO Mitch Bainwol refused to believe that the induce bill will permit lawsuits against the makers of "neutral" technologies such as computers.

  • "Army Sets Up Video-Game Studio"
    Wired News (06/21/04); Gaudiosi, John

    Encouraged by the success of its "America's Army" video game, the U.S. Army has established a video-game studio whose purpose is to produce software for armed forces and government training simulations. The North Carolina-based America's Army Government Applications office opened its doors in January, and its 15-staffer development team includes veterans of local video-game firms. The studio's director is West Point graduate and former Apache pilot Jerry Heneghan, who worked as a producer at Red Storm Entertainment, a game developer that specializes in military simulations. The 3D virtual environments of "America's Army" were developed at a cost of $12 million, and they boast a level of realism that is being adapted for other training applications, including a simulated White House that Secret Service agents can train on. The studio collaborated with the Future Applications Team to virtually test the Talon Robot System before it was constructed, and also developed a simulation that soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq could use to practice controlling the robot before the Talon units were deployed. Heneghan reports that the Research Triangle's universities are a source of young and eager prospective recruits, while Epic Games, supplier of the game engine for "America's Army," is near the studio. In addition to the Future Applications Team, the studio has a close working relationship with West Point and Washington agencies.
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  • "First Online Privacy Law Looms"
    Computerworld (06/24/04); Vijayan, Jaikumar

    July 1 marks the enactment of the Online Privacy Act of 2003 in California, which is the first online privacy law in the United States. The law requires any online business that collects personally identifiable information from Californians to prominently post its privacy policies on its Web site and label the effective date; notify consumers about the numerous kinds of data that are being collected about them, including the way the information will be exchanged and used; explain how individuals can request and effect revisions to their personal data; and stipulate how any amendments to a company's privacy policies will be relayed to consumers. The law is organized to allow any person to bring an "individual course of action" against companies that break or ignore the rules. "If you are going to collect personal information from people, you need to tell them what your privacy policies are and then honor that commitment," says California State Assemblyman Joseph Simitian, who authored the bill. He explains that some of the law's initial provisions were strongly objected to by the industry, most notably the stipulation that companies must maintain a history of their privacy policies. Another source of concern was that the adoption of similar legislation by other states could force online companies to comply with a crazy quilt of policies. A majority of commercial Web sites have already implemented most of the privacy requirements specified in the California legislation, and Nationwide Insurance chief privacy officer Kirk Herath says all these online companies have to do is ensure that their privacy statements are up-to-date.
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  • "House Committee Approves Spyware Bill"
    IDG News Service (06/24/04); Gross, Grant

    The House Committee on Energy and Commerce passed a revised version of the Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass Act (SPY ACT) on June 24 with only four dissenting votes from representatives who were concerned that legitimate software could suffer if the bill is ratified. "I feel that we have fashioned a bill that is strong enough to protect consumers from spyware-related privacy invasions without impeding the growth of technology," stated the proposal's original sponsor, Rep. Mary Bono (R-Calif.). The original SPY ACT was almost completely reworded in an amended version approved by the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection on June 17, while the version approved on June 24 contained an additional revision proposed by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) to address software industry concerns. Under SPY ACT, software providers are required to inform computer users that their programs collect and transmit personal data, and obtain users' permission before installation; vendors that fail to comply with these rules could be slapped with fines as high as $3 million. Rep. Anna Enshoo (D-Calif.) believed the revised bill was excessively broad, and she and her fellow objectors claimed there was not enough time for them to properly review Stearns' amendments before the committee approved them. Revisions included a requirement that software vendors must tell consumers about the nature of an installed program only once; an exemption for ISPs looking for fraudulent activities or analyzing network problems; the preempting of a Utah anti-spyware law; and allowances for three types of notices when software is installed, instead of just one. Business Software Alliance CEO Robert Holleyman reported that his organization is worried that "without further changes, elements of the bill on the standard for culpability and notice and consent could create substantial consumer confusion and impose considerable burdens on technology companies."
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  • "Text Mining Tools Take on Unstructured Data"
    Computerworld (06/21/04); Robb, Drew

    Companies are increasing their use of unstructured data mining tools, despite the specialized skills required to integrate the systems and interpret the results. Organizations' knowledge stores usually contain 85 percent unstructured data, most of that in form of text files. Dow Chemical business intelligence expert Mani Shabrang, whose job it is to help researchers use these systems, says the glut of information is useless without ways to locate and synthesize knowledge. Data mining tools remain more accurate, but the ability of software to understand context is rapidly improving. In the meantime, companies are using unstructured text mining tools to complement their more traditional data mining systems. Enterprise Storage Group analyst Brian Babineau says companies frequently deploy text mining to help meet regulatory requirements, but expand the practice to other areas such as data warehousing and customer relationship management. Electronic Data Systems began using a text analysis program three years ago to better glean information from its employee surveys; though open-ended questions usually yielded the most beneficial survey insights, they had to be read and interpreted by line managers first. The new software uses the WordNet semantic dictionary developed at Princeton University to better categorize answers to open-ended questions. Air Products and Chemicals knowledge management IT director Heidi Collins uses unstructured data management software to prepare the company's 9 TB of data for more traditional data mining: She calls the unstructured data mining software the system's central nervous system for its ability to control data, such as by applying rules to entire categories of data.
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  • "Marburger Says Nano Regulators Ensure Health, Safety"
    Small Times (06/18/04); Gruenwald, Juliana

    During a June 16 roundtable discussion with journalists on nanotechnology policy, Office of Science and Technology Policy director John Marburger expressed confidence that federal regulators can keep up with nanotech advances so that public health and safety are assured. In response to a question on whether regulators were sufficiently addressing nanotech products introduced into the marketplace without first ensuring their safety, Marburger stated, "We have to be a little careful about just assuming that it's just all bad and therefore we have to do something extraordinary at this point." The past several years have seen growing concerns over nanotech regulation as critics have demanded more investigation into the technology's potential health and environmental risks. Arun Majumdar with the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology's Nanotechnology Technical Advisory Group noted that he would like more research into the possible health impacts of new nanomaterials carried out before regulating agencies impose any new restrictions. When asked if the government was taking steps to prevent scientists from going too far in their nanotech research to the point that society could be at risk, Marburger argued that "one crazy scientist" was not enough to produce a threat of such magnitude. Still, he stressed the importance of encouraging scientists to work towards socially beneficial breakthroughs. Marburger said there are protocols agencies are required to follow to handle products containing nanomaterials, even though there is still no conclusive data about how safe the materials are. He added that his office and National Nanotechnology Initiative officials were collaborating with regulators that might have authority over such products.
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  • "Tech Heavies Support Challenge to Copyright Law"
    CNet (06/21/04); McCullagh, Declan; Borland, John

    The political battle between content providers demanding all-encompassing copyright protection and hardware and telecommunications firms opposed to anti-copying legislation perceived as a threat to fair use has reached an impasse. Tech heavyweights such as Sun Microsystems, Intel, and Verizon have banded together into the Personal Technology Freedom Coalition in the hopes of breaking the stalemate by supporting Rep. Rick Boucher's (D-Va.) proposal to amend a contentious section of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The coalition argues that not only does the current version of the DMCA endanger fair use rights, but also computer research that is critical to upholding national security. Boucher's Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act would modify the DMCA to allow the distribution of descrambling utilities and the bypassing of anti-copying schemes as long as no copyright infringement is committed, and also give the FTC the authority to regulate music sales by certifying that copy-protected compact discs are properly labeled to avoid misleading consumers. This provision has invited criticism from the free-market Cato Institute, which otherwise is a firm supporter of the Boucher bill: "Bringing in the government to impose certain types of mandatory labeling schemes or new technological mandates is a little bit troubling to us," notes Cato telecommunications studies director Adam Thierer. "We've had groups say that [digital rights management] is the devil, that by locking up content, private interests have gained too much control over copyright." Thierer contends that a better strategy is to permit copyright owners to secure their content, but remove their DMCA-apportioned advantages. Other members of the Personal Technology Freedom Coalition include the Consumer Electronics Association, the American Library Association, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Computer and Communications Industry Association.
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  • "Mission Linguistic: Interactive Technologies to Teach GIs Arabic Language and Culture"
    University of Southern California (06/21/04); Mankin, Eric

    University of Southern California (USC) computer science students have developed a virtual language-training program that uses video game techniques to teach Arabic language and culture. Funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Office of Naval Research, the program has completed about seven hours of the 80-hour project, which will be used to rapidly teach U.S. Army Special Forces troops to be deployed in the Middle East. Soldier students are drilled and practice Arabic phrases as with more traditional programs, but the Rapid Tactical Language Training System uses software learning capabilities to hone in on a student's strong and weak points. The speech recognition system identifies common pronunciation errors and gives tailored feedback; students also learn cultural aspects of communication that could potentially escalate tense situations, such as the way Arab people roll their eyes sometimes to express "no" or how the American thumbs-up is interpreted. The goal is to prepare soldiers to be effective socially in an Arabic environment, says USC Information Sciences Institute nonverbal communications expert Hannes Hogni Vilhjalmsson. Once students are ready, they can test their knowledge in a video game-like setting, where they wear earphones and microphones and interact with villagers in a non-scripted format. The goal is to pass to the next stage, but soldiers must first successfully communicate with virtual Arabic speakers in free-form conversation. The system, which has already been tested with West Point cadets, will perhaps include 500 words in the Levantine form of Arabic used in Lebanon and is scheduled for deployment next year.
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  • "Digital Preservation Program Launches Research Grants Initiative"
    Managing Information News (06/21/04)

    The Library of Congress and National Science Foundation (NSF) have joined forces to preserve the nation's digital materials for future generations, and are preparing to award roughly $2 million in initial research grants. The NSF will manage the research program, but work closely with the Library of Congress' national digital preservation strategy. Together, the agencies will encourage participation of other federal agencies. The new research initiative focuses on three areas: Creating digital repository models; developing necessary tools, techniques, and processes for long-term information management; and addressing organizational, economic, and policy aspects. The research will help establish guidelines and technologies useful in the creation of digital libraries and digital archives. The Library of Congress received a $99.8 million congressional appropriation for its National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program in December 2000; finished and approved in December 2002, the text describing that program is available online at www.digitalpreservation.gov. The program involves creating requisite technological infrastructure, as well as working with the Copyright Office to implement strategies, protocols, and rules for storing digital material. The NSF has funded research into the intersection of federal government operation and computer science, having established the Digital Government Research Program in 1999; in addition, the NSF led development of digital library technologies under the 1994-2004 Digital Libraries Initiative, which brought together a number of federal partners, including the Library of Congress, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, NASA, the National Archives, and the Smithsonian Institution.
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  • "Remote-Controlled Throwable Robot Developed by Carnegie Mellon with Marines Sent to Iraq for Testing"
    EurekAlert (06/23/04)

    Remote-controlled prototype robots developed by Carnegie Mellon University researchers for the purpose of urban surveillance are being sent to Iraq to undergo testing. The Dragon Runner robot has been under development for over two years as part of a project funded and coordinated by the Marine Corps Combat Development Command's Warfighting Laboratory. Dragon Runner chief architect Hagen Schempf with CMU's Robotics Institute explains that the robot "is the lightest, smallest, most rugged, readily portable robot system for remote scouting operations in existence today." It can be used as an intelligence-gathering tool that keeps soldiers out of dangerous situations in urban desert settings; Dragon Runner Project Officer Capt. Dave Moreau explains that the machine is well-suited for such environments because it travels most effectively on flat surfaces such as sidewalks and streets. The four-wheeled, tossable Dragon Runner has a maximum speed of over 20 mph, and can see around corners and transmit real-time tactical imagery that is out of a Marine's line-of-sight. The robot also can act as a sentry and keep watch in specific areas using onboard motion and audio sensors. Dragon Runner's operational mode is similar to contemporary video games; Marines can carry the robot in a backpack and deploy it in less than three seconds, directing its movements with a one-handed control interface. The robot's ruggedized chassis and distributed vehicle electronics were developed by Automatika, a company founded by Schempf that has licensed the Dragon Runner technology from CMU to look into potential civilian applications, which could include law enforcement, civil defense, and border security.
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  • "IT and End Users Differ on Spam Severity"
    IT Management (06/18/04); Gaudin, Sharon

    Spam in the workplace is a greater source of concern among IT managers than end users, according to a study performed by Insight Express for the information security firm Symantec. Around 50 percent of polled end users say junk email is not a problem in the office, while 79.1 percent of IT managers report that spam is a weighty problem. Ten percent of IT administrators say spam is out of control, 33 percent claim it is barely under control, and 56 percent are convinced spam is fully under control. In comparison, about 8 percent of end users believe spam is out of control, 23.3 percent think spam is barely under control, and 68 percent are confident that it is firmly under control. IT managers listed spam as their worst problem after malware, according to the Insight survey. Symantec product management director Chris Miller explains that spam is a bigger problem for IT administrators because they must deal with the spam that all the staff receives, not just one employee. "They're dealing with bandwidth usage, storage usage, viruses it may be bringing in, staffing, and the hours they have to put in," he notes. "The end user sees it as garbage they have to deal with. The IT manager has a lot of other issues." One thing IT managers and end users agree on is spam's staying power: Almost 71 percent of IT managers expect to be struggling with spam three years from now, while 72 percent of end users wager that the spam problem will increase in severity.
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  • "Elizabethtown College to Sponsor Information Technology in Education Conference"
    AScribe Newswire (06/16/04)

    Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania has invited several distinguished speakers to the Information Technology in Education conference scheduled for Sept. 18. The event is a multidisciplinary forum encompassing the latest theory, research, development, and practice on IT in education and training, where faculty and professionals can interact and where students can discuss the results of their research. University of Connecticut Leonhardt Professor of Computer Science and Engineering and 2005 IEEE Computer Society President Gerald L. Engel will talk about his organization's IT research and what kind of support the Society can furnish to educators. Dennis Christopher with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center will host a session titled "Navigating NASA: How to Find Information in a Labyrinth of 2.5+ Million Web sites." Paul Tymann, program co-chair of the 2005 ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education Annual Symposium, will present a discussion on bioinformatics. And curator of the University of Pennsylvania's ENIAC Museum Paul Shaffer will give a lecture on the creation and legacy of the ENIAC computer, as well as its place in computing history.

  • "Selling Girl Scouts on Science"
    CIO (06/15/04); Wailgum, Thomas

    A partnership between the Girl Scouts and corporate and government agencies aims to get girls more interested and skilled in technology to reverse the shortage of female researchers and engineers in the U.S. workforce. "There has always been an interest at the Girl Scouts in making sure that girls have good skills and abilities, and technology is what girls need to understand," explains Girls Scouts of the USA CIO Marcia Balestrino, a former Girl Scout herself. She observes that girls tend to dismiss science and technology as a career choice by the time they are 11 or 12, and view tech professionals as geeky and socially maladroit. "Part of the initiative is to let girls know that there are all kinds of things they can do with a technology career," Balestrino says. Among the awards the organization now offers to encourage technology skills is the Point, Click, Go badge given to Girl Scouts who learn to use the Internet, while more advanced badges can be earned for performing online searches related to projects. A book studied by the Girl Scouts, "Girl Games and Technological Desire," makes a convincing case that males and females use technology in different ways: Boys, for example, use the Internet to find entertainment, whereas girls use it as a socialization tool. Local Girl Scout groups receive educational materials and career information on archaeology, engineering, meteorology, design, and other areas from organizations such as NASA, Lockheed Martin, Intel, and Lucent Technologies. The Girl Scouts conducted a poll two years ago which found that parents usually set down rules for navigating the Internet safely, and stressed the need for positive encouragement among girls.
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  • "VTT Introduces Unique, Human Voice-Based Guidance System for Mobile Phones"
    Innovations Report (06/08/04); Virtanen, Ari

    A voice-based guidance system for mobile phones that can be useful for both visually impaired and clear-visioned consumers has been developed by Finland's VTT Technical Research Center. The system remains in continuous contact with public and real-time databases containing information that is especially helpful to vision-disabled users, such as bus, tram, and train routes and schedules, news and weather services, and roadwork-related data. The device can help users plan excursions, direct them to public transportation stations, tell them when a vehicle is arriving and at what point they should disembark, and trace their route from the point of departure to their destination. The system uses satellite positioning to help a visually handicapped user store previously tested and certified walking routes. The scheme employs mobile phone-based voice synthesis, as well as analysis and identification of speech performed in the server computer. The server carries out data searches using online textual data and multiple databases, transmitting the results to the user's mobile phone. The guidance system, which boasts a Finnish-only voice interface, is currently being tested. Other kinds of users who could benefit from the VTT product in the future include companies, associations, and individual consumers.
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  • "Going, Going, Gone"
    Training (06/04) Vol. 41, No. 6, P. 40; Dolezalek, Holly

    Congress started raising application fees for H-1B visas in 1998 in order to fund initiatives to improve the skills of U.S. workers and reduce American companies' reliance on foreign labor. However, this cash flow has been running dry since fees dropped sharply when the H-1B cap reverted to 65,000 on Sept. 30, 2003, while the Labor Department is no longer accepting new proposals for H-1B technical skills training grants. One of the last such grants to be approved was submitted by Don MacMaster of Alpena Community College, who is using the money to establish several training tracks at the school to cultivate network security, wireless networking, software development, and other IT skills among employees in local businesses; "My intent is to use federal dollars to create coursework that not only fits within the parameters of the H-1B, but to create training that will outlive the funding of the H-1B and create revenue streams and opportunities for us after the grant is gone," explains MacMaster. Northeast Michigan Consortium director Kurt Ries says the program will reduce the need to hire additional H-1B holders and enable the companies involved to compete against domestic and foreign rivals. Despite the $328 million spent on grants since the H-1B training program's inception, Information Technology Association of America President Harris Miller is unconvinced that the initiative has significantly benefited the IT industry, noting that the lion's share of the grants usually emphasizes training for lower-skill jobs than those filled by H-1B holders. He is also disappointed that H-1B training grants are inaccessible to IT people between 25 and 35 who lost their jobs and lack the financial means to update their skills. Advocates of the training program, such as AFL-CIO policy analyst Jane McDonald-Pines, criticize the funding cutoff as part of a wider decline in worker training investment dictated by the Bush administration's budget priorities. Furthermore, the effectiveness and implementation of the H-1B training grant program is hard to quantify because no truly comprehensive audit of the initiative has been made.

  • "Sand Trap"
    IEEE Spectrum (06/04) Vol. 41, No. 6, P. 44; Kumagai, Jean

    The goal of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Grand Challenge is the development of autonomous robot vehicles that can successfully traverse the uneven desert terrain of a 320-kilometer course without human guidance; the various teams that put together such vehicles competed for a $1 million jackpot to be the first to complete the course within 10 hours. DARPA organized the Grand Challenge as a contest to encourage diverse academicians, technologists, and businesses to create systems that could help meet the congressional mandate to automate one-third of the armed forces by 2015, even though they may not necessarily be military contractors or interested in developing military technology. Entrants ran the gamut from existing vehicles equipped with computers, sensors, and navigation technology to custom-built machines, while the course was mapped out as a series of global positioning system coordinates. During the race, vehicles were not allowed to attack other vehicles, and a chase vehicle followed each robot and was authorized to wirelessly shut it down if it strayed from the assigned route or became a safety hazard. Each finalist was required to complete a 2-kilometer Qualification, Inspection, and Demonstration course before its place in the Grand Challenge was assured. None of the 15 vehicles that survived the finals completed the course: The furthest distance traveled by a single vehicle was 12 kilometers. Yet DARPA director Anthony Tether said the contest was not a failure, and yielded important information about robotic ground vehicle technology. "Some vehicles made it seven miles, some made only one mile, but they all made it to the Challenge, and that in itself is a remarkable accomplishment," he boasted.
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  • "The Realities of Dealing with Wireless Mesh Networks"
    Sensors (06/04) Vol. 21, No. 6, P. 14; Fuhr, Peter; Lau, Robert; Covell, Paul

    Though mesh-network wireless sensor systems can ease the implementation of nodes in numerous physical environments, certain subtleties of their operations should be weighed before opting for such a scheme. Most wireless networking schemes appear to employ the star topology, and link quality between the access point and the base node determines the performance of a star network's link. A mesh network can mitigate problems that often crop up in environments with a preponderance of RF signal attenuation through the easy setup of additional network nodes, while structures generate less attenuation if the network operates on a lower frequency. Multipath distortion can be reduced by a mesh network thanks to its ability to relay data signals between neighboring sensor nodes, which in turn lowers the power emitted by each node. Mesh networks can also lower overall power consumption since no individual RF transceiver is needed to bridge the entire gap between node and access point. The transmission of neighboring nodes' data requires the allocation of residual bandwidth, which usually restricts the bandwidth accessible to each end device to between 1 percent and 10 percent of the advertised specification. The less power radiated by each node, the smaller the transmission's footprint, which dictates that network nodes must be closer to one another. Furthermore, an 802.15.4 system could experience interference from a radio from another system operating in the same frequency band, so the recommendation is that, in locations where WiFi-802.11 systems are present, either the 802.15.4 transceivers should operate in channel 25 or 26 or be tuned to an unoccupied, non-overlapping band. Power consumption can be optimized by keeping the RF section in sleep mode most of the time, but deploying this strategy in a mesh network requires nodes to resynchronize with the network upon reactivation, a power- and time-consumptive process that involves considerable over-the-air network traffic.
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  • "Better Decision Making: From Who's Right to What's Right"
    Futurist (06/04) Vol. 38, No. 3, P. 20; Albrecht, Karl

    The heavy reliance on argumentative decision making by debate, a model that spans the executive level across all business and government sectors worldwide, is flawed because it is ruled by the human instinct to first form an opinion about what strategy to follow and then justify it without looking deeply at other, potentially better stratagems. A much better approach is the structured-inquiry method, which organizes experts' information so that the decision maker has a better grip on its underlying meaning; the Internet and wireless computer technology are helping to validate this process. Traditional opinion-research methods come in two varieties, each of which carries potential risks: By having experts directly interact with the decision maker, the latter may either be forced to make an educated guess on the best strategy if there is little agreement, or adopt a course of action based on expert consensus that later turns out to be wrong; the second scenario, in which researchers interview the experts and relate their findings to the decision maker, risks the introduction of bias on the part of the researchers, who basically interpret the experts' opinions through their own perspectives, or may unconsciously select experts with like ideologies. The structured-inquiry method keeps the impact of investigator bias to a minimum by having the experts themselves determine what questions to ask, while the overall question is deconstructed into a set of sub-questions which are answered by experts with explicit opinions, thus lowering bewilderment. Furthermore, the technique prevents the decision maker's own thinking process from being overruled by vague expert opinions with no clear links to the underlying facts. This process can be handled electronically, either in a live meeting or online, through the eDelphi method. The structured inquiry, in addition to having the benefit of a solid track record, is usually faster and cheaper than advocacy and argumentation, and promises to encourage higher confidence in decisions and fewer mistakes.

  • "Task Force Pushes for Early Warning System"
    Security Management (06/04) Vol. 48, No. 6, P. 40; Piazza, Peter

    The Cyber Security Early Warning task force, formed at last year's National Cyber Security Summit, has issued recommendations for the first time, including one for the creation of an Early Warning Alert Network (EWAN) to work with existing public-private information-sharing organizations. The network would be funded by stakeholders and the Homeland Security Department, and would create a network of networks. The task force's aim is to improve the sharing, integration, and dissemination of cybersecurity threat information culled from the DHS' US-CERT, the FBI's InfraGard program, and critical infrastructure information sharing and analysis centers (ISACs). The task force wants to start beta testing EWAN in October and launch it in December, but those dates are not fixed. The task force would also like to create a National Crisis Coordination Center (NCCC) to pull together both private and public constituencies to prevent and respond to crises. Information Technology Association of America vice president Greg Garcia describes the NCCC as "a cross-disciplinary organization in which, working side by side, were representatives from intelligence agencies, law enforcement agencies, the private sector, academia, all working together in a collaborative environment" on both cyber and physical security. However, the center is a ways off from realization. Tekmark Global Solutions managing director Mike Higgins believes that the recommendations will run into the same snags that have hindered similar ventures, such as the private sector's fear of sharing information with the government, and having it thus exposed to the Freedom of Information Act. Nevertheless, the NCCC has strong support from Congress and various government agencies.