ACM TechNews is intended as an objective news digest for busy IT Professionals. Views expressed are not necessarily those of ACM.
To send comments, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volume 3, Issue 284: Wednesday, December 5, 2001
- "Goner Worm Spreads, Tries to Delete Firewalls"
IDG News Service (12/04/01); Costello, Sam
Goner is a new computer worm spreading throughout the Internet, masquerading as an email attachment that needs to be double-clicked for it to activate. The email message claims that the attachment is a screen saver. When launched, Goner is transmitted to everyone in the infected user's Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express address book, according to several antivirus companies. It can also propagate itself through the ICQ chat application, installing a backdoor program that can be used in denial-of-service attacks whenever the IRC chat application is run, notes Trend Micro. The worm attempts to delete a number of programs; McAfee virus research manager April Goostree reports that Zone Labs' ZoneAlarm firewall application is one targeted application. McAfee and Trend Micro add that Goner also tries to erase antivirus programs from Symantec and Command Central and security programs from Lockdown and SafeWeb. Goostree expects corporations will be forced to shut down their mail servers in order to deal with Goner.
- "Bills Would Boost Electronic Security Research Funding"
Newsbytes (12/03/01); McGuire, David
Legislators are expected to introduce a pair of bills on Tuesday that would dramatically increase federal funding for cyber-security and IT projects. The Network and Information Technology Research Advancement Act would offer a 50 percent boost in IT spending to the National Science Foundation (NSF), NASA, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Energy Department, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Approximately $7 billion in additional IT research funding would be earmarked for those agencies, to be distributed over five years, according to House Science Committee Communications Director Heidi Tringe. The second bill would allocate about $900 million for cyber-security projects, to be split between the NSF and NIST. NSF would receive grants for cyber-security research while universities would receive cash incentives to develop private research centers, says Tringe. She adds that a segment of the NIST funding would be poured into long-term "high-risk" cyber-security initiatives.
- "Cyber-Security Chief Petitions Execs"
Associated Press (12/04/01); Hopper, D. Ian
Federal cybersecurity chief Richard Clarke urged technology companies to provide users with free security software and called on them to be more stringent in applying their products' security features. He also asked software companies to be more proactive in preventing virus infections and predicted a 90 percent drop in virus outbreaks if software firms would offer more than downloadable patches. Automated antivirus updates and system patches sometimes create problems with custom software and worry privacy advocates, who say automatic "phone home" features present a danger to users. Besides addressing software concerns, Clarke said DSL providers should include firewalls with their modems and other computer companies should pre-set their devices to the highest security settings before shipment.
- "Internet Linked to Growth"
Miami Herald (12/04/01) P. 3C; Moritsugu, Ken
A study sponsored by Cisco Systems indicates that the Internet had an impact on worker productivity in the late 1990s, and is poised to boost productivity even further in the next 10 years. The report is based on a survey of 2,065 companies, many of which say that the Internet has helped them reduce labor costs, improve customer support, and vend products. The average annual rate of productivity growth in the late 1990s was 2.5 percent, a 1.3 percent increase over the rate of the previous 20 years. The Cisco report estimates that the Internet accounted for 0.2 percentage points annually from 1998 to 2000. The study forecasts that the Internet will contribute 0.36 percentage points annually over the next decade. The report also concludes that the success of dot-com companies has had little to do with the rise in productivity. Still, it is too early to make conclusive suppositions about the Internet's overall effect on productivity gains.
- "Looking Ahead to 'The Year of the New Network'"
Financial Times (12/05/01) P. 2; Cane, Alan
Despite some analysis that the year 2002 is a consolidation year for IT with no new breakthroughs, the number of new wireless standards and developments promise to bring that sector to the fore next year. PricewaterhouseCooper's Bo Parker predicts that the next big innovation in IT will be the advent of multipresence computing, enabled by products such as the Blackberry email device. As carriers in Europe, Japan, and the United States adopt General Packet Radio Service, 3G, and CDMA 2000 standards, respectively, Parker's vision will become a little more tangible. Always-on access provided by these advanced network standards is a prerequisite for multipresence computing. Artificial intelligence, Web security, and digital television and radio will all become important areas next year as well. George Cox, director-general of the Institute of Directors in the UK, says that although technological advances are usually predictable, it is the effects those changes have on society as a whole that is hard to predict and often surprising.
- "New Priorities at Work"
Washington Post (12/05/01) P. E5; McCarthy, Ellen
Recruiters report that more and more tech workers are interested in nonprofit jobs. Pathfinders director Anthony A. Spadafore says the economic slump is partly responsible for this trend. The reliability of the nonprofit sector is another attractive quality for tech workers, according to Audrey Alvarado of the National Council of Nonprofit Associations. She adds that the Sept. 11 attacks have also had a noticeable effect, causing people to reevaluate their career choices and giving nonprofits a higher profile. And some workers are attracted to nonprofits because they have altruistic leanings. Jonathan Wilder left Motley Fool and eventually joined CreateHope, a nonprofit that seeks to simplify the process of online corporate donating, out of a desire to help people. "The thing about being here is that it is a humanitarian experience, but I still get to do the technology work I love," he boasts.
- "Biotech and IT Link Up as Technologies Converge"
As the gap closes between biotechnology and computing, separate industries such as pharmaceutical labs and high-tech firms could come together into hybrid mergers. Some 140 alliances between biotech and IT companies currently exist, with particular emphasis on the field of proteomics; this field, covering interactions between genes, proteins, and disease, requires a vast amount of computing power. Other promising areas for IT companies to invest in include bioinformatics and gene chips or microarrays. IBM anticipates that annual revenues from the IT market for life sciences will total $30 billion by 2004. "As biology and medicine migrate to increasingly information-based disciplines, we will have new players entering the arena, including computing and telecommunications companies," predicts Health Technology Networks director George Poste.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Experience Wanted"
Boston Globe (12/03/01) P. C1; Kirsner, Scott
Today's business environment is seeing more new tech startups seeking the wisdom of tested tech entrepreneurs who join the team as investors, directors, or advisors. Ethernet inventor and 3Com founder Bob Metcalfe, for example, works with Avaki, Nanosys, Narad Networks, and Ember. He says some startups need help with basic sales and organizational strategies. Desh Deshpande, founder of Sycamore Networks, says there are many more seasoned veterans available to startup tech companies now than when he was starting his first firm, Coral Network. Deshpande now serves as a director for three high-technology startups, including A123, which is developing a new battery type and was founded by two MIT researchers. While startups benefit from the knowledge and experience of industry veterans, "codgers" gain access to the latest ideas and the opportunity to affect technological change. Alex D'Arbeloff, Teradyne founder and chairman of the board at MIT, says, "If a thing succeeds, somehow you've helped mentor the next generation."
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Energy Saving Marvel"
San Francisco Chronicle Online (12/03/01); Norr, Henry
Intel and other PC-centric companies are advocating a new power-saving standard for home computers that could save $2.5 billion annually by 2010 if implemented in every desktop system in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The Instantly Available PC (IAPC) stores information about the computer's core parts--including the chipset, processor, and BIOS--so it can power up from standby within five seconds. In addition, the standard can be used at businesses because remote data backup and software updates awaken the system, something often required by IT administrators. The IAPC is most commonly recognized through the Energy Star logo, since Intel claims it is the only power-saving method that can meet the 15-watt Energy Star compliance limit. The EPA also estimates that the IAPC could lower carbon dioxide emissions by 230 billion pounds between 2002 and 2010. Although IAPC does not reduce power consumption when the computer is on, typically 70 to 100 watts and rising, is provides a much more effective power-reduction method than existing power-management systems. Apple's computer systems have their own power-management systems, but a sleeping iMac still consumes 32.5 watts.
Click Here to View Full Article
- "Microsoft Is Resisting Licensing Of Its Code"
New York Times (12/04/01) P. W1; Meller, Paul
Microsoft is arguing that the European Union would be violating international law if it demanded the company to license its Windows source code, according to a source privy to a confidential court document. The European Union is investigating whether or not Microsoft violated antitrust laws after competitors Sun Microsystems and IBM called for Microsoft to license its Windows code so that they could design seamlessly interoperable software. However, sources at Sun say full-disclosure is not necessary to curb Microsoft's anti-competitive behavior; an adequate description of the code would be enough. The remedy assigned to Microsoft could involve a fine of 10 percent of the company's total sales and changes to its business practices. Microsoft's European senior counsel, John Frank, was angry about the leaked information and said Microsoft's stance was unchanged since waiving its right to a hearing last week.
(Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors must register.)
- "IT: The Industry Without Women"
Wired News (12/01/01); Mayfield, Kendra
The number of female network professionals in Western Europe is expected to double by 2004, although they will still comprise only a small portion of the employee population, concludes an IDC report for Cisco Systems. The increase will certainly not be enough to compensate for a major networking skills shortage in that region. Increasing the number of women with technical careers requires changing young women's attitudes toward technical fields during their education, says Cisco's Mike Couzens. In Great Britain, British Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt has announced a project to bolster the female IT workforce by rehabilitating IT's image. Out of 13 countries surveyed by IDC, France is expected to have more women in the networking industry than any other country; the participation rate is forecast to reach over 12 percent by 2004. Meanwhile, there is an 11 percent participation rate of female students taking the Cisco Networking Academy Program in Western Europe.
To learn more about ACM's Committee on Women and Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women.
- "What Sticks: Robo Sapiens"
InformationWeek Online (11/26/01); Wolfson, Wendy
Forthcoming computing technologies will become more and more sensitive to human emotions and will be designed to evoke emotional responses in people. Such machines are likely to be used as artificial pets and playmates. Affective machines such as Kismet, a "sociable robot," and Cog are being developed at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab Humanoid project. The robots are a study in contrasts: Kismet is cute and expressive, while Cog is somewhat sinister and utilitarian. The design differences are gender-based, as Kismet was built by a woman and Cog was built by a man. Kismet's expressive range is the key to its appeal, and it is programmed to respond to human voice inflections. Roboticists note that interactive machines should not look too human in order to gain acceptance; design should therefore incorporate either non-human or cute features. InformationWeek columnist Wendy Wolfson sees several drawbacks to such machines: They could become too interactive with their human users, and become a distraction, while the human impulse to tinker and hack into technology could lead to the creation of unauthorized machines.
- "Entertainment Wins Rounds; Digital Copyright Fight Goes On"
AtNewYork.com (12/03/01); Joyce, Erin
Hollywood studios and music labels have won two major cases questioning the scope of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, but consumer rights and free speech activists say the law will eventually be narrowed. Eric Corley, owner of the hacker Web site 2600, lost his case last month in federal appeals court, brought by eight Hollywood studios. The judges dismissed his claims to First Amendment rights for linking his Web site to hacker code, and they also refused his interpretation of consumers' right to fair use. Instead, they said that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act specifically prohibited the dissemination of tools used to decrypt copyrighted digital content. Daid Atlas, an attorney with the law firmed that represented 2600 Enterprises, says, "There are going to be many more cases...In five years, when you can't get access to materials you want for research, there's going to be a real public outcry." Another case, brought by Edward Felten of Princeton University, was tossed out by the judge. Felten had sued the Recording Industry Association of America for its threat of legal action should he publish his research into decryption technology, which could hurt their digital music distribution efforts. The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Robin Gross says DMCA has inhibited scientists and programmers from exploring new technology. She says DMCA needs to be limited so that it does not prevent the fair use of technology.
ACM submitted a declaration in support of Felten. To read it in its entirety, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm/copyright/felten_declaration.html.
- "Sizing Up Supercomputers"
ABCNews.com (11/28/01); Hirschfield, Bob
New supercomputer applications shown at ACM's SC2001 conference were presented using super-powered connections to the fastest networks in existence. The show was built using four 2.5-gigabit lines accessing Internet2, NASA's network, the National Science Foundation network, and the Defense Research and Engineering network. NASA demonstrated its gas turbine engine analysis tool that researchers also tweaked for use in developing better artificial heart pumps, since the two mechanisms are similar. Oak Ridge National Laboratory research scientist Stephen Scott said supercomputing was possible for home users as well, as long as they had two networked computers and message passing software that is freely available on the Internet. Scott said applications developed on these miniature models could be scaled in power using Web sites that lend supercomputing power.
- "Taking Curl for a Whirl"
Wired News (12/05/01); Grey, Kennedy
A new programming language promises to boost Web site browsing speed and significantly cut site development time and simplify maintenance. Curl 1.0 aims to replace HTML and Java, allowing Web sites to operate with a single language rather than relying on multiple software tools and plug-ins. Only one plug-in, offered free from the Curl site, is required: Surge, which processes Curl-built pages using the CPU. Microsoft's .NET software will be a heavy competitor. Curl Corporation is also facing rival startups such as Fineground, Altio, and Into Networks, all of whom are working on their own software tools designed to boost Internet speed. Curl has an excellent pedigree: Its development team consists of Net pioneers Tim Berners-Lee, Stephen Ward, and Michael Dertourzos, all from MIT. Their support of Curl has been instrumental in securing funds from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), among others. One key to Curl's success is having a major provider such as AOL adopt the software, says Forrester Research CEO George Colony.
- "2001 InfoWorld 100"
InfoWorld (11/26/01) Vol. 23, No. 48, P. 40; Kujubu, Laura
The 2001 InfoWorld 100 are managing to cut costs, boost productivity, and be profitable in the face of an economic recession and political instability as a result of the terrorist attacks. Furthermore, they are able to do so while fostering technological innovation. The current economic situation and global climate represent a prime opportunity for industries to rekindle the creative spirit after downplaying it during the dot-com boom, says Creative Strategies President Tim Bajarin. Staying close to one's clients and maintaining security and support for them is one way for a company to remain innovative, contends Current Analysis CEO Jeffrey Swartz. Companies' primary focus toward achieving cost reductions and profitability is IT, which is becoming a major driver of the U.S. economy, according to a Forrester Research report. "Successful companies are ones that use the Internet to their advantage to cut costs, to reach customers and partners in new ways, and to use IP internally to integrate and homogenize by bringing systems in harmony with a common network approach," explains Aberdeen Group's Dana Gardner. Top-ranking companies in the InfoWorld 100, such as Covisint, Cox Communications, and Daimler-Chrysler, are simplifying business processes with the Internet.
- "Are We There Yet?"
Network Computing (11/26/01) Vol. 12, No. 24, P. 38; Novak, Kevin; Mueller, Patrick
Although the Linux open-source operating system has made significant strides as an enterprise-application server, compared to 17 months ago, challenges still remain. A lack of support and qualified personnel are still major roadblocks in adopting Linux within corporate IT, according to respondents of a Network World survey; but support is improving and an emergent generation of administrators and programmers is growing. Scalability, reliability, and administrative toolsets have also improved, although respondents still cite them as concerns. The fragmented nature of the Linux market is another factor, as well as the low percentage of enterprise-class distributions. However, the security Linux promises is likely to boost corporate demand, especially in light of the viruses, worms, and software flaws that have been wreaking havoc recently. Kernels such as 2.4 that offer enhanced performance and hardware support will also make Linux more attractive. Upper management still approaches Linux with caution, but the OS is likely to look more and more promising over the next several years, as its exposure grows. Linux is expected to continue gaining momentum in the enterprise server market.
- "H-1B Refugees"
Computerworld (12/03/01) Vol. 35, No. 49, P. 28; Solomon, Melissa
The economic downturn, coupled with over 1 million unemployed American workers clamoring for jobs, has eroded the security of many foreign workers living in the United States on H-1B visas. Many are out of work, and the prospect of finding new jobs in the current climate is often so dim that some are being forced to return to their native countries. Laid-off foreign workers, especially IT professionals, are at a bigger disadvantage than their American counterparts, according to Y-Axis CEO Xavier Augustin. Having been scooped up by consulting companies, they are unfamiliar with phone interviews, resume writing, networking, and other marketing methods essential for securing jobs in America, he says. Augustin adds that the longer they stay out of work, the greater the chances that they will suffer a knowledge gap that will make them obsolete. The Sept. 11 attacks have also inspired a sense of national pride, stacking the odds against foreign workers even more, says Kamen Spassov, a former H-1B worker forced to relocate to his native Bulgaria. But there is still a strong case for H-1B visas; skilled foreign workers are highly desirable when there simply are not enough skilled U.S. workers. Furthermore, H-1B advocates argue that curtailing the number of visas is an act of discrimination.
- "Sneaky Calculations"
Science News (11/17/01) Vol. 160, No. 20, P. 318; Peterson, Ivars
Researchers at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana say parasitic computing offers a way in which the Internet can be used as a computer. In their tests, physicists Albert-Laszlo Barabasi and Hawoong Jeong and computer scientists Jay B. Brockman and Vincent W. Freeh exploited Web site hosts in North America, Europe, and Asia as they used one computer to co-opt other Internet computers in order to solve a complex computational problem. The researchers tapped into the protocols that govern packets of information as they travel across the Internet. The researchers essentially embedded potential solutions to a mathematical question in Web request messages, and computers linked to the Internet used the so-called transmission control protocol to return information about the validity of the embedded answers. According to the researchers, "the target computers are unaware that they have performed computation for the benefit of a commanding node," which makes the parasitic computing scheme different from other efforts to use the processing power of thousands of computers to solve complex computations, such as the SETI@home project. Although parasitic computing does not compromise the security of targeted computers, it could slow down their services. The researchers have also discovered that parasitic computing could become a weapon in a cyberwar campaign. For parasitic computing to be seen more as a viable option for performing complex computations, researchers will have to improve the efficiency of the process.
© Copyright 2001 Information, Inc. This service may be reproduced for internal distribution.