ACM TechNews is intended as an objective news digest for busy IT Professionals. Views expressed are not necessarily those of either Gateway Inc. or ACM.
To send comments, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volume 2, Issue 50: Monday, May 1, 2000
- "Enforcers Requested Microsoft Breakup as Best Solution to Thwart Monopoly"
Wall Street Journal (05/01/00) P. A3; Wilke, John R.; Bridis, Ted
Government officials on Friday proposed splitting Microsoft into two competing firms and imposing conduct restrictions on the software giant immediately so competition can grow during the anticipated appeals. The proposed remedy would divide Microsoft into one company with control of Windows and a second firm to manage applications such as Office and the company's Internet businesses. The decision to pursue a breakup was motivated partly by indications that Microsoft is still trying to use its Windows monopoly to overpower new markets, government officials say. Microsoft is creating Windows desktop software that functions properly only with the company's server software, officials say. In addition, officials believe Microsoft will place proprietary technologies in Internet Explorer. The handheld market is another concern, as government officials cited a July 11, 1999 email message from Chairman Bill Gates to Microsoft executives indicating that he was prepared to alter Office applications to favor Windows-based devices, even if doing so would inconvenience Palm Pilot users. The government also submitted a brief on the broad effects of Microsoft's monopoly abuse, noting that by hampering the innovation of its rivals, Microsoft threatened a major driver of economic growth. In response to the government's proposal, Gates says the breakup plan is "out of touch with what's going on in our industry." Microsoft will submit its objections to the government's proposal on May 10, and a remedy hearing is scheduled for May 24.
- "Washington State Gets Tough on Cybercrime"
E-Commerce Times (05/01/00); Enos, Lori
Washington state has three new cybercrime initiatives in the works. The first is a partnership of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies called the Computer Law Enforcement of Washington initiative (CLEW). Those in charge of CLEW say that it will expand the jurisdiction of various law enforcement agencies and make it easier to prosecute cybercrimes. Washington's Attorney General's Office also recently announced the creation of a group of attorneys and investigators whose sole mission is to combat cybercrime, with a special emphasis on consumer protection. And the Washington Attorney General's Office is joining with the University of Washington to create a Web site that informs people on how to avoid becoming a victim of online fraud and crime, and which also educates citizens on consumer and criminal justice issues.
- "Internet Group Starting Work on New Cyberspace Domains"
New York Times (05/01/00) P. C6; Clausing, Jeri
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is forging ahead with a plan to make four new types of domain name suffixes available for registration. An ICANN advisory panel recently recommended the creation of the proposed suffixes, some of which would be available to anyone and others only for businesses or non-commercial groups. However, the panel provided little guidance on what the domains should be called, how many should be available, when they should be available, or how the domains would be protected from cybersquatters. ICANN President Michael M. Roberts said the group plans to provide answers to these questions in a report it will release in the next month. Network Solutions has proposed that only two domains--dot-shop and dot-banc--be made for initial availability.
- "Dan Gillmor: Digital Divide Isn't the Real Issue"
SiliconValley.com (04/29/00); Gillmor, Dan
Although providing economically deprived public schools with access to a few computers is a positive act, the new technology does not single-handedly close the gap between the poor and the rich, writes Dan Gillmor. The progress of technology will continue, with computers becoming cheaper and availability and speed of network connections increasing. People who know how to use a computer have a better chance of getting jobs above minimum wage, are better able to communicate and organize, and can even use the technology to save money. However, Gillmor points out that people who are unable to read and write will not be able to utilize the new technology. Societal issues such as racism will not be solved by simply providing computers. Instead, to end the divide between those with power and those without, the community will have to ask more difficult questions of itself. After all, computer technology does have the potential to make the rich richer. Gillmor believes that if society solves the more pressing social and economic issues, the digital divide issue will resolve all on its own.
- "U.S. Confused About Privacy"
Wired News (04/28/00); Frishberg, Manny
Efforts to create global standards for the Internet are being jeopardized by differences between U.S. and European privacy laws, according to Shalini Venturelli, professor of International Communications at American University. Venturelli, speaking last week at a University of Washington-sponsored conference on European and American attitudes toward Internet regulation, noted that various European governments have already come up with some 35 reasons for regulating Web content. U.S. law places great value on free speech, while European law heavily favors privacy, Venturelli said. Tim Gleason, professor of journalism and communications at the University of Oregon, says the U.S. view on privacy is stringent when it comes to data being collected by the government, but more lax when this information is collected by the private sector. Venturelli favors a dispute-resolution process that would keep the Internet free of a tangle of differing national laws. "Instead of fighting with each other to see whose laws are going to win out, we have to rethink the whole definition of the regulatory code," she said. However, Venturelli cautioned that such a dispute resolution system would have to be balanced and unbiased.
- "Viruses, Not Hackers, Are Enemy Number One"
Computing Canada Online (04/28/00) Vol. 26, No. 9,; Solomon, Howard
A preliminary analysis of a recent IDC Canada survey of IT managers at 200 midsize and large Canadian companies revealed most respondents view viruses to be more of a threat to network systems than hackers. IDC Canada research manager for networks Dan McLean disclosed the findings at a briefing for reporters held during a conference organized by Tivoli Systems Canada. The conference was designed to promote Tivoli's new SecureWay Risk Manager application, which consolidates information from multiple network sources to help administrators better manage security threats. McLean said that approximately 75 percent of managers surveyed believed the security problems they have experienced are accidental, a response McLean interprets to be a sign that Canadian companies are not devoting enough attention to network security. In fact, only slightly more than 50 percent of managers surveyed said security is "very important" to their company, while another 40 percent said security is "somewhat important." Further analysis is required to determine whether network problems are simply not being reported or whether they really are not a problem for most Canadian companies. Regardless, "not many companies look at [network management] in a proactive way--that they're able to identify problems or faults before they cause failure," noted McLean. He believes this corporate attitude can be partly attributed to the fact that the majority of network management tools are difficult to implement and manage.
- "Mexico Approves E-Commerce Bill"
Newsbytes (04/28/00); Stone, Martin
E-commerce in Mexico could receive a big boost from an electronic-signatures bill that has successfully made its way through the Mexican Senate. The legislation, which gives legal standing to Internet purchase orders, received unanimous approval by the Senate yesterday. Business-to-business transactions account for 70 percent of Mexico's e-commerce totals. Paperwork documentation of online transactions must be held for 10 years, according to the terms of the new law.
- "Poking Holes In Linux"
TheStandard.com (04/25/00); Abreu, Elinor
The security of open-source software is in question this week after Internet Security Systems discovered a flaw in Red Hat Linux version 6.2 that allows hackers to easily commandeer the Web server and alter Web pages. The problem lies in the Piranha software that administers the Linux Virtual Server in version 6.2. The product's default password is easy to crack, and if the network administrator fails to change the password, hackers can use it to break into the server and take advantage of weaknesses in other servers connected to the network. ISS rated the flaw a top priority and assisted Red Hat in working on a fix. However, the vulnerability spurred debate over whether open-source software is secure since it lacks standards and support. Open-source software allows hackers to easily discover flaws, but supporters of open source contend that hackers can also reverse-engineer closed software. One expert suggests that Linux itself is not insecure, but its users tend to be less cautious because the OS has not been widely used on sensitive systems.
- "Stopping Cybersnoops With Physics"
Fox MarketWire (04/28/00)
Research continues in the field of quantum physics as it relates to developing a secure computer code. Basing their work on the theory of quantum mechanics, which holds that matter and the information it carries can exist in several, very fragile, states at once, researchers hope to create a method of distributing computer code that is, in theory, absolutely secure. Only the sender and receiver would know which quantum state was being used for a given transmission, and any attempts by an outsider to intercept the message would result in the disruption of the quantum states and the authorized users' notification of an eavesdropping attempt. "In a theoretical sense, quantum cryptography provides absolute security," says Charles Bennett, quantum research fellow at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center in New York.
- "Grim Net Censorship Report"
The world governments of both developed and non-developed countries, regardless of whether they are authoritarian or democratic in nature, are being tempted to impose restrictions on Internet content, according to the 22nd annual survey of press freedom from the Freedom House human rights group. The report, titled Censor Dot Gov: The Internet and Press Freedom 2000, finds that Asian countries are censoring the Internet under the guise of protecting Asian values, while Middle Eastern countries censor the medium to protect morality. The United States is guilty as well, as it produced the ill-fated Communications Decency Act in 1996. A score of countries--including Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, China, Iran, and Iraq--censor Internet content in a large or whole degree.
- "Online Privacy Inside and Out"
E-Commerce Times (04/25/00); Dembeck, Chet
- "Who Wants Privacy?"
Scientific American (04/00) Vol. 282, No. 4, P. 44; Wallich, Paul
For years the U.S. government has been rigid in its stance against allowing encryption software exports. However, the White House last year crafted new regulations for making encryption software widely available outside the country, and U.S. programmers have not taken advantage of their new freedoms. Beyond secure Web browsers, U.S. companies have been slow to bring secure products to the market. They have not made readily available the type of products that protect email and other electronic communications, allow hassle-free digital transactions, and provide credentials that cannot be forged. Although such experts as David Sobel of the Electronic Privacy Information Center believe some encryption capabilities will be encoded in programs shortly and that the technology will be much more prevalent in a couple of years, the infrastructure that would allow for more online security is not in place. For example, encryption keys will be needed for everyone who wants to send and receive secure email. Moreover, a system must be set up that allows someone to know the keys of their correspondents. Still, some companies may be slow in producing encryption software because they want further changes made to the new regulations. RSA Security, for example, is not thrilled that the regulations do not make digital signatures as binding as ink-and-paper signatures. Scott Schell of RSA Security believes a secure, private, and verifiable global electronics network will be in demand once consumers realize how vulnerable their personal information is online. He says the privacy controversies surrounding DoubleClick and other Internet companies may convince consumers that they want greater protections for the Web.
- "The New Wired Politics"
National Journal (04/22/00) Vol. 32, No. 17, P. 1260; Munro, Neil
The online success of Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has Republicans and Democrats reworking their strategies to include the Internet. Ventura first used the Web to rally supporters, and then McCain used the technology to attract more than $7 million in contributions. Having taken notice of such strategies, Republicans are investing over $3 million on the technology. The party has 20 people handling Internet and computer issues and 15 people working solely with Internet technology. The Republican National Committee (RNC) even has the political equivalent of AOL in its MyGOP service, which is available at the for-profit subsidiary GOPnet.com. This ISP offers dial-up service with contacts, volunteering opportunities, chat rooms, news, and humor content. For the party's convention in Philadelphia, Republicans plan to unveil coverage over the Internet and make use of new high-definition TV to make an impression on audiences overseas. Republicans appear to have taken the lead on Democrats. Larry Purpuro, the deputy chief of staff of the RNC, says the party has done so because more of its supporters are online and because the technology allows it to communicate its message to voters without having to worry about the mainstream media giving Republicans a fair shake. However, Democrats are making up ground. Like their counterparts, Democrats plan to make use of wireless interfaces, dual-channel video-streaming gear, calendaring tools, and chat rooms during its conventions. In addition to the algore2000.com Web site, Democrats have invested in a Senate Democrat site, a Democratic National Convention site, and a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee site. The Internet is expected to make communication with activists and volunteer recruitment easier for the parties, which expect to generate more campaign contributions and save money using the Web.
- "CSOs Become Indispensable"
Interactive Week (04/17/00) Vol. 7, No. 15, P. 94; Weisul, Kimberly
As more businesses move their operations online, chief security operators (CSOs) are becoming increasingly valuable. In today's business world, CSOs must make sure that information security in every department of a company is secure 24 hours a day, not just during hours of operation. Although the Internet has brought security professionals into the limelight, distributed networks have created more access points to secure, and the CSO must establish different levels of access for different people, such as vendors, suppliers, and customers. Although the job is difficult, most CSOs are highly compensated, with average pay starting at $200,000 to $300,000 per year, plus large bonuses and other options. CSOs are in high demand, but qualified applicants are difficult to find, according to many IT managers. Still, the numbers are growing. The Information Systems Security Association, which is a professional organization for security officers, grew from 1,200 members in 1998 to 1,800 members currently. CSOs need to speak not only technical language, but must also be able to converse with business managers in order to sell them on security upgrades. Fortunately for CSOs, most firms in the Internet Age no longer see information security as a frivolous expense but rather as an absolute necessity. Many companies, such as Microsoft, combine their physical security and intellectual property security endeavors under one roof. In order to make this combination work, many companies are now hiring their CSOs from government and military organizations.
- "Death of the Salesmen"
Economist (04/22/00) Vol. 355, No. 8167, P. 59
The huge sales force serving the technology sector is about to undergo revolutionary changes. Oracle, IBM, SAP, and other large software companies have begun selling big-ticket items over the Web, eliminating many of the salesperson's traditional responsibilities. Selling products over the Web has meant doing away with the complex contracts with various discounts and options that salespeople negotiate. Instead, a la carte menus with uniform prices greatly simplify the sales process and lower costs for both the customer and the company. Sales reps may feel threatened by these changes that take away their ability to negotiate contracts, but George Roberts, head of Oracle's North American sales division envisions salespeople functioning more as consultants, and less burdened with tedious paperwork. The move to a Web-based sales model should lower prices for buyers, but is complex since many sales systems are based on big databases and enterprise-resource planning suites. The Web-sales model should help save companies money by allowing them to standardize contracts and purchase orders and more easily track sales trends. Oracle says its move to the Web has already saved it tens of millions dollars.
© Copyright 2000 Information, Inc. This service may be reproduced for internal distribution.