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Volume 3, Issue 252:  Friday, September 14, 2001

  • "FBI Issues Cyberthreat Advisory"
    Computerworld Online (09/13/01); Verton, Dan

    The FBI sent an advisory to InfraGard members, who are mandated with keeping the nation's digital infrastructure intact, warning them to upgrade their security precautions in light of recent terrorist activity. InfraGard is comprised of federal agencies and private computer-related firms, and an advisory is the second-highest alert condition they can be given. Although no specific threats were mentioned by the FBI, companies were warned to take down all extraneous systems from the Internet and limit security access to only essential personnel. IntelCenter security analyst Ben Venzke says that one credible threat could come from Arab hackers if hackers in America decide to attack Arab countries on the Web, as was the case during the spy plane incident in China.

  • "Companies Struggle to Cope With Chaos, Breakdowns and Trauma"
    Wall Street Journal (09/13/01) P. B1; Machalaba, Daniel; Mollenkamp, Carrick

    Following this week's terrorist attacks, many companies implemented emergency plans originally designed for the Y2K crisis. As senior executives were left stranded in different parts of the country and some offices were evacuated due to security threats, many businesses relied on quick-thinking and technology investments to disseminate information and keep critical operations running. Comdisco, which operates 23 disaster recovery centers nationwide, said that 13 of them were occupied on Tuesday and that much of the activity was near New York. Companies moved to the back-up offices, which are equipped as emergency command centers, after being evacuated from their buildings. Other firms operating interstate network distributions, such as part supplier Autozone, had to rely upon videoconferencing and email in the absence of FedEx air shipping. Schneider National used its mobile network to keep in touch with truck drivers headed toward crisis centers in New York City and Washington, D.C.

  • "Firms, Agencies Brace For Possible Cyber-Terrorism"
    Investor's Business Daily (09/13/01) P. 6; Howell, Donna

    The devastating terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 have spurred both businesses and government to fortify their computer systems in anticipation of cyber-assaults. Government agencies have been carefully examining their dependence on the information infrastructure ever since a security report prepared by a presidential security commission was issued four years ago, says John Knight of the University of Virginia. "What you see is a lot of disaster planning, planning for backup power and backup communications," he adds. There are three theoretical threats that specialists are pointing to: A terrorist campaign carried out over the Internet; viruses and hacker attacks from copycat terrorists; and a coordinated terrorist cyber-attack fueled by retaliatory action on the part of the United States. This third scenario could affect military information systems, even though they do not rely on the Internet. The civilian infrastructure that the military depends on for many things, such as certain provisions, conducts much of its business on the Web, notes computer scientist Patrick Lincoln.

  • "Privacy Trade-Offs Reassessed"
    Washington Post (09/13/01) P. E1; Cha, Ariana Eunjung; Krim, Jonathan

    The terrorist attacks that sent a jolt throughout the nation on Sept. 11 have forced some people to reevaluate the need for privacy versus the need for security. Some Internet companies that initially refused the FBI's request to install email monitoring programs are eager to help the agency track down the attacks' perpetrators. AOL and EarthLink verified that they are cooperating with the government; this is a marked turnaround to their resistance toward past government inquiries about their clients. Meanwhile, some phone companies have expressed their readiness to wiretap phone lines if so asked by the FBI. Yesterday, members of Congress said they plan to consider if increased federal surveillance will prevent future attacks; at the same time, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) maintained that such considerations should not bypass constitutional freedoms.

  • "Anti-Attack Feds Push Carnivore"
    Wired News (09/12/01); McCullagh, Declan

    It appears that FBI agents are asking some Web-based firms and email and network providers to accept the placement of Carnivore-like Web-surveillance systems for a few days while the FBI sets up main boxes at Tier 1 carriers. The aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack has seen renewed interest and activity involving the FBI's Carnivore spy system, which has been renamed DCS1000. A Microsoft Hotmail engineer says that Hotmail officials have been getting FBI requests for information about a few email accounts, most of which have messages in Arabic or start with the word "Allah." Terrorists are said to use data-scrambling encryption software to communicate, and some civil libertarians fear that in the wake of the attacks the government will move on domestic regulation of encryption products, while others say that the government will not overreact. Some anonymous remailers have ceased operations for fear of passing terrorist communications or being blamed for doing so.

  • "Companies Test System-Backup Plans As They Struggle to Recover Lost Data"
    Wall Street Journal (09/13/01) P. B5; Berman, Dennis K.; Coleman,Calmetta

    Although much of the financial and corporate data that was stored in the World Trade Center is backed up, data-backup firms executives say that the process of retrieval may proceed cautiously, due to the disruption caused by loss of equipment and facilities in Tuesday's terrorist attack. The most difficult effort will be managing the many programmers, system administrators, and executives who are now cut off from their places of work in lower Manhattan, not to mention those whose offices have been completely destroyed. "The real issue is, 'Where do these people go to work?'" inquires Computer Associates CEO Sanjay Kumar. For instance, EMC lists 25 clients that owned equipment at the disaster site, and six more in the vicinity. Right now, most data-storage clients in the area are still evaluating what information is retrievable and what may have been stored at the World Trade Center itself, according to data-backup executives. Kumar says that data stored on employees' personal computers may be irretrievable, because such data is rarely backed up. Since the attack, Comdisco reports that about 35 clients called requesting backup services, and about 30 were already in the process of recovering their data in Comdisco facilities as of yesterday.

  • "Data Recovery Could Spur Tech Boom"
    Investor's Business Daily (09/14/01) P. 9; Prado, Antonio A.; Coleman, Murray; Angell, Mike

    Data recovery and backup services firms will benefit from a heightened sense of vulnerability, say analysts. At the same time, telecommunications equipment providers and other tech companies are desperately needed to rebuild the infrastructure of the companies in and around the destroyed World Trade Center. Computer Economics analyst Michael Erbschloe says, "It's a very merciless conversation, but it's going to impact the tech industry." He estimates that $15 billion will be spent to rebuild and reinforce data security as companies buy mirroring services and spend on contingency plans. Erbschloe compares the coming build out to Y2K preparation, much of which served to help companies in the recent crisis, he says. Gartner Dataquest already expected the recovery services industry to grow rapidly, from $8.4 billion this year to $16.5 billion in 2004.

  • "U.S. Attack: Senate Committee Looks Into IT Vulnerabilities"
    InfoWorld.com (09/13/01); Thibodeau, Patrick

    In a hearing on Wednesday, the U.S. Senate Governmental Affairs Committee detailed how prone critical-systems computer networks are to cyberterrorism. The security measures of government systems is poor. Furthermore, such systems depend on commercial software that is flawed, contended NASA inspector general Roberta Gross. One of the biggest problems is a lack of information sharing between government and the private sector. This is compounded by worries that sensitive corporate data may be exposed to the public domain, even though U.S. officials are attempting to organize information-sharing agreements between federal and industrial concerns. A bill introduced by Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) is designed to protect data that corporations share with the government. A similar bill has been put forward in the House of Representatives. Security data from the industrial end "can give us a sense of where we stand strategically and where our risks are at," explained Joel Willemssen of the General Accounting Office.

  • "Tech Companies Rush to Offer Help to Get Enterprises Working Again"
    Network World Fusion (09/12/01); Fontana, John

    Technology companies are offering free services to assist firms whose offices have been destroyed or evacuated after this week's attacks. United Messaging, for one, said it will let companies use its networks and services to establish their own Web-based email systems for employees to use. Firms taking up the offer will even be able to host their own domains and worker user IDs via United Messaging. AccessLine Communications is similarly providing its phone network services for displaced companies so that they can disseminate information and take voice-mail messages. AccessLine officials hope that this will help alleviate phone network congestion in the New York area. Expertcity will also lend its GoToMyPC services to companies, allowing their employees to access Internet-connected PCs from anywhere in the country. PayPal and C I Host have both set up donation funds for their employees who would like to financially help in relief efforts, with C I Host adding another $50,000 of its own funds and matching employee donations dollar-for-dollar.

  • "Restoring Phone, Data Services Will Take Months"
    Wall Street Journal (09/14/01) P. B3; Solomon, Deborah; Young, Shawn

    Verizon Communications says it will take weeks, maybe months, to restore telecommunications service to the area surrounding the World Trade Center towers. After the collapse of the twin towers, a third building in the complex collapsed. Verizon says its central office was adjacent to that building and the telecommunications equipment inside was severely damaged both structurally and by the water used to control the fires. The New York Stock Exchange, which conducts 20 percent of its normal transactions through the affected Wall Street offices, says it will reopen on Monday with the help of some recently laid re-routing fiber. Analysts say that the nation's telecommunications infrastructure held up well under Tuesday's strain, given that it experienced nearly double the data flow in some areas. AT&T's Dave Johnson said his company would consider its options in increasing network capacity to handle such events, but that would mean huge investments and overcapacity in normal circumstances. One cheaper solution, says Frank Dzubeck of Communications Network Architects, is for carriers to increase the capacity of their current pipes by utilizing Dense Wave Division Multiplexing, which involves making use of colored light and different wavelengths inside existing cables.

  • "Tech Sector Braces for Tougher Times After Attack"
    Reuters (09/13/01)

    Tech sector analysts say that the attacks this week could have diverse effects, including slower PC sales because of dropping consumer demand and an increase in demand for corporate security services. Giga Group analyst Rob Enderle said the attacks would likely serve to extend the slump by pushing consumer spending down further. J.P. Morgan analyst Ian Morgan said that the attacks might disrupt key sales agreements usually signed toward the end of the quarter as companies, already in a cautious spending environment, decide to hold off on new spending, especially for software. However, others say that telecommunications firms such as AT&T and firms selling security products could get a boost in sales. AT&T handled a record number of calls on Tuesday, and teleconferencing firms also saw a huge increase in demand. Thomson Financial/First Call research director Charles Hill says the attacks will not make a big impact either way, but that a downward trend for the sector can be expected to continue.

  • "Tech Giants Scramble to Track Down Workers"
    CNet (09/12/01)

    Many technology companies are frantically attempting to locate their employees in the wake of Tuesday's terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. IBM has offices in both New York and Washington, D.C.; a company spokesperson says that IBM is still in the process of accounting for the whereabouts of employees traveling throughout the country. A bomb threat on Wednesday also caused the evacuation of IBM's Malaysian offices. Hewlett-Packard, which also has New York and D.C. offices, has yet to determine whether any company employees are disaster victims, but a HP spokesperson says that no staff were supposed to be aboard any of the hijacked aircraft used in the attacks. Furthermore, the spokesperson adds that HP employees in New York and D.C. will be notified by the company whether to work remotely or report to facilities in those cities as well as its Asian offices. Sun Microsystems has roughly 340 employees who work at the World Trade Center, but many of them are usually in the field, according to spokeswoman Elizabeth McNichols. She says that all of those employees are safe, but this is undercut by the sobering news that Sun software director Phil Rosenzweig died in one of the hijacked planes.

  • "Global Internet Body Faces Conflicting Power Plays"
    Reuters (09/10/01); Sullivan, Andy

    An initiative by ccTLD administrators at ICANN's Uruguay meeting to place ccTLD representation on ICANN's board may derail the current "At Large" proposal to have six ICANN board members elected by domain name holders. ICANN Chairman Vint Cerf says action on both proposals may be pushed off the agenda of the upcoming November ICANN board meeting in order to provide more evaluation time for "two different proposals, each of which may have significant impact on the structure [of ICANN]." A spokesperson for France's ccTLD, .fr, says ccTLDs should have six board members, while "At Large" should gain three, and that ccTLDs would provide the ICANN board with a diverse, international audience. The "At Large" proposal to allow only domain name holders to vote rather than every Internet user continued to receive attacks, with the American Civil Liberties Union's Christopher Chiu likening it to when the United States originally permitted only landowners voting rights.

  • "A Web-Guided Tour of Cooltown"
    Financial Times (09/13/01) P. 12; Cane, Alan

    Researchers continue to make advances in ubiquitous computing, where computers will monitor and provide for human needs without obvious prompting. Hewlett-Packard, for one, features Cooltown technology in two of its research labs that allows people with handheld computers to interact with office fixtures, such as paintings hung on the wall. Bluetooth, technology that enables electronic devices to communicate over short distances, is the precursor to technology that would eventually make this vision of ubiquitous computing possible. Although some see computers as being so small and cheap that they could be deployed throughout human environments, scientists at AT&T laboratories are working to connect monitor computers that would work in tandem with remote supercomputers to meet the needs of people. In their labs, the AT&T scientists wear badges that beam information constantly to sensors on the ceiling, which allows the laboratories' computing network to respond to the workers in different locations. A desktop system, for example, would turn on and display any certain employee's personal desktop preferences and access privileges when that employee walked near enough to it.

  • "Computer Viruses: Can We Ever Outsmart Them?"
    NewsFactor Network (09/11/01); Lyman, Jay

    The threat of nastier, more infectious computer viruses being created has prompted antivirus experts to investigate the possibilities of heuristics, in which antivirus programs are trained to identify viruses based on their behavior. Experts say the next generation of antivirus software will be programmed to seek out suspicious processes, files, or behavior. They expect that the signatures used to spot viruses will be supplanted by algorithms. As a result, administrators will lose less time when it comes to patching security holes, updating antivirus measures, and maintaining a virus-free system. Although a variety of behavioral antivirus products are being deployed and enhanced by software manufacturers, Trend Micro's Bob Hansmann says the research follows the same principle: to study the code so that its behavior can be predicted. He adds that antivirus researchers will incorporate their encounters with such viruses as I Love You and Code Red into their products. One of the challenges that antivirus experts must meet is a way to marry security with convenience.

  • "Just Like Ants, Computers Learn From the Bottom Up"
    New York Times Online (09/07/01); Kakutani, Michiko

    Feed magazine editor Steven Johnson has written a new book, "Emergence," that explains how computer networks and software can learn and develop the same way other systems do. He compares the personalization features at Amazon.com that recommend likely purchases to an ant colony, where many small contributions of data go into making decisions. He also says that fast-growing Internet communities can parallel cities that grow too fast, thus deteriorating social bonds. Eventually, Johnson says that computerized systems will by able to predict human intentions and be made to better serve our purposes. One consequence will be the rise of digital TV recorders that can decide for a person what they would most like to watch, thus eliminating the need for traditional TV programming.
    (Access to this site is free; however, first-time visitors will need to register.)

  • "Laid Off? Work At Selling Yourself"
    InformationWeek (09/10/01) No. 854, P. 63; McGee, Marianne Kolbasuk

    Unemployed IT workers would do well to acquire new skills and experience, demonstrate their assets to prospective employers, be more flexible in terms of what they expect from jobs, and, above all, strengthen their determination to win the position. Christian & Timbers' Russ Gray says that candidates with diversified backgrounds are more likely to get the job. Technical people often overlook the importance of selling their strengths to employers; researching potential employers and companies enables candidates to tailor their resumes and interviews to tie into the firms' specialties or business goals. Flexibility and a willingness to settle for a different kind of job or job structure than one originally was aiming for will make securing work an easier prospect for recent college graduates and project managers, says Fannie Mae VP of enterprise systems management Bill Pugh. IT professionals should also expect the interim between jobs to last longer.

  • "Wetware"
    Computerworld (09/10/01) Vol. 35, No. 37, P. 52; Gralla, Preston

    Scientists continue to make advances in research involving brain/computer interfaces (BCI), systems that empower people to control computers with their thoughts. Case Western Reserve University researcher P. Hunter Peckham made a major breakthrough in the late 1990s when he created a BCI that enabled quadriplegics to send electric signals (electroencephalograms) from their brains to move cursors on computers screens, as well as their limbs. And now researcher Philip Kennedy and neurosurgeon Roy Bakay at Emory University in Atlanta have developed a physical method for directly embedding communications chips in the brain. The researchers have fused electrodes, or tiny glass cones with holes in them, with the brain. As a result of the researchers' success, Theodore Berger, a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles who is studying the way in which the brain processes algorithms, believes a complete computer-based brain implant could become a reality. However, Berger's team still must solve the information processing problem and microchips must shrink in size before they can be implanted in the brain. In addition to benefiting quadriplegics, people with other disabilities, and those with brain disease, BCI could eliminate the need for the keyboard and the mouse, and improve networks. Some observers even say BCI could assist an aging brain to offer silicon-based immortality.
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