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Volume 3, Issue 258: Friday, September 28, 2001

  • "Sen. Wyden Proposes Technology Defense Force"
    Newsbytes (09/27/01); MacMillan, Robert; Kelsey, Dick

    An information technology defense force was proposed by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in a floor speech on Wednesday. Wyden said that this "National Emergency Technology Guard" of IT volunteers would "quickly recreate and repair compromised communications and technology infrastructures" in times of crisis using computer gear, satellite dishes, wireless, and other techniques. Wyden added that he would try to open up discussion of a NET Guard between IT firms and military, nonprofit, and congressional officials. Next week he plans to meet with tech company representatives, and is hoping to initiate hearings in the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space. Spurring Wyden to propose the NET Guard are reports that satellite telephones remained functional after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks put other mobile communications devices out of commission. House Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Efficiency Chairman Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.) also reported that federal government IT systems are still prey to cyberattacks.

  • "Terrorism Fight Could Prompt New Cyberattacks"
    Computerworld Online (09/26/01); Thibodeau, Patrick

    Testifying to the Subcommittee on Government Efficiency, Financial Management and Intergovernmental Relations, former head of the National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) Michael Vatis declared that the United States' stance against terrorism could prompt cyberattacks that aim to disrupt the Internet's infrastructure. "I believe the threat is even greater today then it was before Sept. 11," said Vatis. Director of Carnegie Mellon University's CERT Coordination Center Richard Pethia stated that fast progress could be made if researchers concentrate on addressing security issues of domain servers and other key points that are not robust enough to withstand attacks. Pethia went on to cite off-the-shelf software as being a major security risk; CERT noted 1,090 security holes in software last year, and Pethia expects 2,000 this year. Furthermore, system administrators are hard-pressed to keep up with the patches and fixes that are released. But Information Technology of America President Harris Miller said that the issue is more a matter of getting end-user companies to accept built-in security features that they often ignore.

  • "In the Next Chapter, Is Technology an Ally?"
    New York Times (09/27/01) P. F1; Hafner, Katie

    A group of six technologists conversed about the role IT will play in protecting the public and facilitating law enforcement. Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford law professor, said lawmakers have not been adept enough to envision a new framework in which technology would both protect individual rights and allow security agencies to catch criminals before they act. To Ray Kurzweil, a famed computer thinker and expert in artificial intelligence, the Internet and other distributed technology is helping society become more decentralized, therefore making it less vulnerable to single, disruptive attacks. However, even though the attack may not be directed at central technologies, technology may still enable other destructive actions. Lessig pointed out that the networked nature of America's media dramatically affected many more people as they watched the second hijacked plane slam into the other World Trade Center tower. Science fiction author Bruce Sterling said technology could be used in other subversive ways as well, such as combing through the private lives of popular politicians to weaken democratic governments. State governments, on the other hand, have little incentive to employ expensive, expansive surveillance technologies to monitor citizen's private lives, said Sterling.
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  • "Chaos: The Coming Technology War"
    NewsFactor Network (09/25/01); McDonald, Tim

    The next war could be waged in outer space as well as cyberspace. With satellites playing an increasingly larger role in the nation's commercial, governmental, and military concerns, a rocket with a nuclear warhead could produce devastating effects. Meanwhile, computer viruses could be tailor-made for specific targets, and the centralization of energy resources, communications, and data makes them even more open to attack. To combat such threats, the United States is undertaking several defensive measures. For instance, the Federal Computer Incident Response Center is working to find a cheaper, simpler method of fighting computer viruses by renovating a system that distributes security patches to civilian agencies. Another initiative is the Hyper-X project from NASA, which features pilotless satellite-hunting "jetscram" aircraft that are launched from F-15 fighters. And this week, the National Science Foundation announced the creation of a program to improve security levels in commercial technology that both government and industry use. The U.S. response to electronic terrorism might also be kept secret for security reasons; maintaining this secrecy would be the job of a digital integrated response team (DIRT).

  • "State of the Union: America the Vulnerable?--Computers"
    Wall Street Journal (09/28/01) P. B1; Bridis, Ted

    Concerns have surfaced in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon as to what may be the next target. Even before the attacks, the Bush administration was worried whether the 13 root servers that regulate global Internet traffic were adequately protected. According to an official of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), there is "obviously a range of security on the root servers." The primary "A" root server in Northern Virginia appears to be secure, but others do not. Year 2000 rollover testing showed that Internet traffic would not be substantially affected even if nine of the 13 servers were out of commission, but SRI International's Peter Neumann warned that the software the servers run on is similar. In other words, "if you can bring one down you can bring down all of them," he said.

  • "Backup Systems Passed Trying Test"
    Washington Post (09/27/01) P. E1; Gillis, Justin

    Disaster recovery plans engineered for Y2K worked as designed to protect the data of major financial firms affected by the World Trade Center attacks. Backup centers in New Jersey and other remote centers nearby quickly set up institutions' systems using data stored on tapes. One firm, Iron Mountain, received orders from nearly 100 customers, who ordered over 1 million data tapes to rebuild their systems. Companies are now looking at worst-case scenarios and considering more expensive options, such as redundant systems hosted far away and reengineering their telecommunications infrastructure. Even though data recovery operations worked exceptionally well, many companies' realized they needed a more robust communications infrastructure, as well as backup offices.

  • "Linux Will Not Save You Money"
    VNUNet (09/27/01); Middleton, James

    Despite the touted cost-savings of the Linux operating system, it may still end up as part of an expensive overall enterprise solution. Ovum research director Gary Barnett says that the huge investments by IBM and Hewlett-Packard ensure Linux's place in the server arena, but emphasizes that buyers should consider the cost of the entire package as paying for the free Linux operating system. He says, "People don't buy an operating system in isolation, they buy it as part of a hardware or solution purchase. If you're spending millions on an SAP deployment, the operating-system cost is trivial." Barnett doubts Linux will be successful on the desktop, but says that it will consolidate the varied Unix market.

  • "Costs of Microsoft Upgrades Increase"
    USA Today (09/27/01) P. 3B; Kessler, Michelle

    Starting Monday, Microsoft will launch a program that will raise software upgrade costs for its corporate customers. Clients could see costs jump 33 percent to 107 percent, according to Gartner. As a result, "There are a lot of (angry) chief information officers out there," says Contra Costa County CIO Steven Steinbrecher. Companies that do not sign up for the program by Feb. 28 will no longer be able to purchase upgrades. Microsoft will no longer allow its customers to buy upgrades at a volume discount whenever they wish, which is why costs are rising. The program is designed to simplify the upgrading process, and Microsoft claims that only 20 percent of customers should have to pay more; 50 percent will continue to pay the same rate, while 30 percent will realize savings. However, Infrastructure Forum CEO David Roberts foresees the costs to increase an average of 94 percent. Small and nonprofit firms such as Habitat for Humanity could be seriously impaired by the increases, while other companies' operations could be disrupted every time they receive a new upgrade, regardless of whether they actually need one. Critics say the dominance of Microsoft's software gives customers little choice in paying more for upgrades.

  • "Internet Will Become 'Unusable' by 2008"
    Register Online (09/24/01); Leyden, John

    Viruses could soon make Internet communication impossible, according to MessageLabs. The firm forecasts that one in 10 emails could carry a virus by 2008. By 2013, one in two emails is likely to contain a virus. The onslaught of corrupted email could prompt people to give up using email, MessageLabs says. However, a number of measures can be taken to limit the effects of viruses. Changes could be made at the operating system level, ISPs could install more filtering devices, and home users could increasingly use AV software. At present, one in every 300 emails are infected by viruses.

  • "Survey Reveals That Employers Filter E-mail to Avoid Legal Action"
    InfoWorld.com (09/25/01); Pruitt, Scarlet

    Employers are using various forms of employee email monitoring to stem lawsuits, according to the 2001 Electronic Policies and Practices survey released by the American Management Association, the ePolicy Institute, and U.S. News and World Report. Out of 435 surveyed employers, 68 percent say they are undertaking employee Internet surveillance to reduce their legal liability. Personal Internet use is restricted by 85 percent of the respondents, while 81 percent claim to have implemented email policies; 77 percent have an Internet policy, and email and Internet activity is monitored by 62 percent. However, ePolicy Institute executive director Nancy Flynn is concerned that only 24 percent of the respondents have e-policy training programs. Employees need such programs "to understand the risks that employers face," she says. Flynn suggests that companies can eliminate email and other electronic "smoking guns" in three steps: The first step is to implement written email, Internet, and software policies; the second step is to use software to filter employee emails and report Internet activity; and the third step is to educate employees on e-policies. In addition, Flynn recommends that employees sign corporate electronic policies to protect companies from invasion of privacy lawsuits.

  • "Ailing Tech Industry Gets Boost From Government"
    Wall Street Journal (09/27/01) P. B3; Benson, Mitchel; Thurm, Scott

    In the midst of the dearth of corporate technology sales, many vendors are focusing on selling their products to the government. IDC predicts government sales to grow by 6.5 percent this year, compared to just 3 percent for tech sales overall. Current Analysis senior VP Tom Davies says the spending at the state and local government level is growing the fastest, about 10 percent annually to $55 billion this year. Vendors such as Cisco and Oracle say that government sales are one bright spot this year. Cisco public-sector director Mark Boyer says government sales are quickly ramping up after lagging the private sector for so long. California e-government director Arun Baheti emphasizes the steady growth of government technology spending, much of which will continue despite shrinking tax revenues because many IT initiatives save money. Tennessee's online drivers' license renewal, for example, saves the state about $6.50 on each transaction.

  • "Worldwide Software Spending Down in 2001"
    CyberAtlas (09/27/01)

    New software spending has slowed considerably from last year, according to Gartner Dataquest, which now says software sales will grow only about 7 percent this year as opposed to 18 percent last year. Total new license revenue worldwide will equal about $77 billion, with the market shifting in favor of larger vendors who can offer broader support and more complete packages. Smaller companies will likely lose out, especially since they are more susceptible to the fall-off in new license revenue. Large companies often use services and maintenance contracts to prop up their business in slow times. Dataquest analyst Tom Topolinski says companies should respond to the softened market by offering more flexible contracts to customers and focus on the low-risk and short-term ROI value of their products.
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  • "Real-Life Cyborg Challenges Reality With Technology"
    New York Times (09/25/01) P. D4; Schechter, Bruce

    Steve Mann protests what he calls the totalitarian use of technology by inventing wearable technology that he himself uses. He dons a headset with cameras that record everything he sees, which he can then project onto his retina through eyetap glasses. Other recording devices are embedded in computers strapped to his body, through which he can share his sensations with others. The computers are controlled by a handheld "chording keyboard" and feature a wireless Internet connection. The eyetap glasses Mann wears facilitate video orbit, a mathematical algorithm that is used to create a seamless combination of images of superior resolution by tracking his head movements. Mann creates such technology, which he calls "existech," for intellectual enrichment. His inventions have been used to make experimental films and exhibits that poke fun at totalitarian technology. Mann expects wearable computers to become the norm within a decade.

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  • "State Profits from Dot-Com Bust: Tech Workers Are Starting to Decide That Government Jobs Aren't so Bad After All"
    Sacramento Bee Online (09/22/01); Hill, John

    California's agency IT departments are reaping the benefits of a down Internet economy by filling their ranks with hard-to-find tech workers. The Department of Information Technology has instituted several changes in order to lower the barriers to being employed by the state, including streamlining the application process and loosening qualification requirements. Tech vacancies have dropped from 18 percent to just 12 percent since the changes were implemented in early 2000. Previously, the state government was having a difficult time competing with private-sector pay scales, even though it raised the pay of some key positions by 40 percent. Department of IT recruitment and retention manager Sandra Sales says the security and balanced lifestyle offered by a government job is appealing to many former dot-commers.

  • "New Web Suffixes Beset by Trademark, Registration Fights"
    Washington Post (09/27/01) P. E4; ElBoghdady, Dina

    Although the Web domain .com has become the most widely used in the world, efforts to launch rivals such as .info and .biz have become embroiled in legal imbroglios. On Wednesday, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge heard opening arguments in two class-actions suits challenging .biz's pre-registration process, and during the proceeding .biz agreed not to assign any multiple requested .biz names until the next court hearing in mid-October. NeuLevel is simultaneously asking a Virginia court to declare its pre-registration process legal after being challenged in letters by Sun Microsystems and Amazon.com. Dot-info is also facing criticism because many .info pre-registration applications cited fraudulent trademark rights in order to secure choice domain names ahead of the public's opportunity to stake claims. Experts believe .biz could generate as much as 4.5 million registrations, with 1 million predicted in the next three months. ICANN CEO Stuart Lynn says the .biz and .info problems reflect credit on ICANN's decision to go slow with the rollout of new TLDs, despite demands for more. Afilias is currently running its challenge period until Dec. 26, which allows consumers to challenge fraudulent trademark claims to .info names through WIPO, and roughly 400 challenges have been leveled so far. "This is all a learning process," comments Afilias' Roland LaPlante.

  • "'Hacktivists,' Caught in Web of Hate, Deface Afghan Sites"
    Los Angeles Times (09/27/01) P. T5; Wilson, Dave

    Responding to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, hackers have assaulted Web sites related to Afghanistan, defacing them with profanities and anti-Arab sentiments. For example, the Afghan News Network reported that it spent more than half a day offline as a result of a hacker attack. But such developments have not significantly impacted the Taliban regime. The sites' private operators are the actual victims, and some of them are American citizens. Although many of the hackers responsible for such mischief claim their goal is to topple the Middle East infrastructure, they are mainly perceived as a nuisance by experts. "I don't think it accomplishes anything," says Georgetown University's Dorothy Denning. "People engage in it to express anger, to have fun, to score points with their friends--the same reasons for other hacking activities." The FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center notified Internet users of the possibility that they may be prey to attacks by self-proclaimed "patriotic" hackers.
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  • "Higher Callings"
    Computerworld (09/24/01) Vol. 35, No. 39, P. 28; Solomon, Melissa

    An increasing number of companies are giving their IT employees the opportunity to make socially responsible gestures. For example, CultureWorx head Craig Muller has organized a nonprofit business, Warm Blankets, that supports orphanages in Cambodia; the staff of Warm Blankets are CultureWorx employees who volunteer their time to the cause. CultureWorx director of product management John Lorimer dedicates one day each week to Warm Blankets, where he is working on wireless handheld systems and databases that track and store medical records of orphans. Xerox runs a program that offers 20 employees fully paid social-service leave each year. Such programs raise a company's community value, while Michael Stevenson of The Center for Corporate Citizenship notes that they offer workers a chance to improve their teamwork, technical, and leadership capabilities. Workers are also more proud of and loyal to companies with charitable initiatives. Stevenson recommends that companies should balance their philanthropic ventures with their bottom lines, especially in times of economic slump. Enterprises can also align their charity work to their company goals, such as Yahoo!'s Camp Yahoo, which promotes Internet use among schools, nonprofit groups, and service organizations.

  • "IT Helps Business Shape Up"
    InternetWeek (09/24/01) No. 879, P. 28; Robinson, Teri

    IT projects that aim to lower costs, boost productivity levels, and generate revenue have gained a new enthusiasm in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks, which have increased worries of an unstable economy. One cost-cutting measure that firms can take advantage of is the implementation of virtual private networks. Deloitte Consulting followed such a strategy with a VPN to reduce the number of 800 dial-up lines and trim remote access costs for its consultants. Venture Industries has optimized its supply chain by deploying a Web service that Venture's Al Young says saves the company about 75 percent to 80 percent of its communications and operational costs. Transactions between Venture and its suppliers are secured and made less error-prone through the service, which also guarantees that communications are routed to the correct parties. Businesses such as home builder D.R. Horton are using IT to manage and update content, cutting paperwork, and allowing salespeople to take better advantage of leads. IT is also helping companies effect complete infrastructure revamps; Caprion Pharmaceuticals now processes information throughout the company much faster since replacing its Windows NT platform with products from Sun Microsystems and databases from Oracle, according to CEO Lloyd Segal. Among the things that the most successful IT projects have in common are a good reason for being undertaken and an accurate evaluation of best practices; a gradual unrolling that most experts recommend; and using them as a jumping-off point for other projects.

  • "Green Is Good"
    Darwin (09/01) Vol. 1, No. 12; Moore, Meg Mitchell

    Companies that do not use environmentally friendly technology are missing out on savings, according to experts. "There's evidence that companies that are looking at [the environment] are doing better," notes Dan Bakal, director of outreach for the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES). Companies such as Technology Recycling offer to disassemble and recycle old equipment for customers as a cheaper alternative to storage. Smart companies weigh the environmental value and financial value of technology prior to purchase. Salomon Smith Barney discovered that the environmentally friendly LCD monitors it wanted to buy for its Canary Wharf offices in London possessed greater heat efficiency and energy efficiency than CRT monitors, thus justifying their higher cost. Meanwhile, Kinko's uses an environmental quotient to measure the amount of recycled material in the equipment under consideration, as well as hazardous materials management and recycling programs from the providers; the process lowers inventory and labor costs and also cuts down the possibility of litigation, according to Environmental Manager Larry Rogero. He says that early collaboration between suppliers and customers will help incorporate environmentally conscious designs into products. Meanwhile, companies can also learn to make more sustainable products through extended producer responsibility (EPR).

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