Saturday, November 19, 2005

Ex-Microsoft Employee Sentenced for Theft

An AP newswire article by Elizabeth M. Gillespie , via Yahoo! News, reports that:

A federal judge sentenced a former Microsoft Corp. employee on Friday to four years in prison for illegally selling millions of dollars of company software.

Finn W. Contini, 37, of Redmond, pleaded guilty in January to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and four counts of money laundering.

He admitted ordering 2,700 pieces of software worth about $7 million through Microsoft's internal ordering program, which he then sold for a personal profit of $2.3 million.

Prosecutors argued that Contini recruited others to take part in the scheme.

Dilbert: Engineering makes you sexier

Click for larger image.

Announcement Monday on EFF's Plans W.R.T. Sony BMG

Via the EFF.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will have an announcement on Monday about EFF's plans regarding the First4Internet XCP software and the SunnComm MediaMax software that Sony BMG included in 24 million copies of their music CDs. The software has affected the computers of unsuspecting customers when they used their CDs on computers running the Windows operating system.

For more on EFF's concerns see:

Friday, November 18, 2005

Cisco Not Forecasting Layoffs in Scientific-Atlanta Acquisition

China Mertens writes in InfoWorld:

Cisco Systems Inc. doesn't expect its planned $6.9 billion acquisition of set-top box manufacturer Scientific-Atlanta Inc. to result in significant employee layoffs or integration costs, according to a Cisco senior executive. Instead, as well as adding video capabilities into its product line, the networking equipment giant is hoping to realize cost savings through joint procurement and increased international business once the purchase is complete.

"I don't believe the integration costs are going to be high," Mike Volpi, senior vice president, routing and service provider technology group at Cisco, said on a conference call Friday to discuss the business and technology around the proposed acquisition. He added that he didn't think there would be much in the way of layoffs should Scientific-Atlantic become part of Cisco and he cited the set-top box maker's small, focused sales force.

U.S. Senate Takes a Swipe at Anti-Spyware Legislation

Roy Mark writes in

Anti-spyware legislation found new life in the U.S. Senate Thursday when the Commerce Committee approved a bill outlawing a number of activities associated with unauthorized downloads.

The Senate's SPY BLOCK Act criminalizes the unauthorized installation of computer software and requires clear disclosure to computer users of software features that may pose a threat to privacy.

The bill targets three main consumer harms: taking control of a user's computer; software that triggers advertising out of context with the use of the computer; and undisclosed collection of personal information.

U.S. Mammography Site Debuts

Via Red Herring.

i3 Archive, which provides physicians and researchers access to a nationwide database of digital medical images, launched a web portal on Friday for women to manage their own digital mammography images and diagnostic test results.

The site, called MyNDMA, allows women to monitor their health and access records when visiting a new doctor or obtaining a second opinion.

The company, which spun out of a federally funded program in 2003, hopes to capitalize on the push for the healthcare industry to adopt electronic medical records and imaging to be shared nationwide.

Sony BMG Offers MP3s and Replacement Disks for Rootkit CDs

A Reuters newswire article by Lucas van Grinsven, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

In an attempt to make up with consumers whose PCs have been exposed to unsecure copy-protection software which acts like malware, music publisher Sony BMG said on Friday it would swap unsecure CDs for new unprotected disks as well as unprotected MP3 files.

The music publishing venture of Japanese electronics conglomerate Sony Corp. and Germany's Bertelsmann AG had already said last week it would temporarily suspend the manufacture of music CDs containing the controversial copy-protection technology.

Stephen Hawking Flatlines, Then Goes On WIth Presentation

Stephen Hawking, seen here in an October photo, suffered a
temporary medical setback this week that stranded the physicist
and his entourage in the Bay Area.

Image source: MSNBC / Thomas Lohnes / AFP - Getty Images

Alan Boyle writes in MSNBC News:

When you're recounting the drama of cosmic origins, the show must go on — even if you're a quadriplegic recovering from a medical crisis.

At least that was the theatrical rule that world-famous physicist Stephen Hawking followed this week, in the wake of a medical episode that kept him and his entourage from traveling to Seattle for a sold-out lecture on the origins of the universe.

Wednesday's appearance at the Paramount Theatre — presented by the Oregon-based Institute for Science, Engineering and Public Policy, or ISEPP — was the last of three scheduled stops on the Cambridge professor's U.S. lecture tour. Hawking, who suffers from a progressive neurodegenerative disease that has almost completely paralyzed him, was due to travel to Seattle from San Francisco. But when he was taken off his respirator Monday morning, "he basically flat-lined," said Terry Bristol, ISEPP's president and executive director.

More here.

Beck and The Dancing Sony QRIO Robots

I just watched this Beck video, and I have to admit, this is pretty damned cool.

Sony should stick to robots. Hell yes! :-)

Via Boing Boing.

Beck's new video "Hell Yes," directed by Garth Jennings, stars four Sony QRIO robots busting their mechano-moves.

EarthLink Continues Spam Legal Battle

Ed Oswald writes in BetaNews:

EarthLink continued its legal battle against spammers on Friday, announcing that evidence it provided federal authorities had led to a one-year prison sentence for one spammer, and that it had won a multi-million dollar judgment in another case.

The ISP provided evidence in the suit against Peter Moshou, known as the "Timeshare Spammer." EarthLink claimed that in 2004 and 2005, Moshou sent millions of e-mails seeking personal information by offering brokerage services for timeshare owners.

Moshou will serve one year in federal prison and has been ordered to pay $120,000 in restitution for CAN-SPAM act violations.

In a separate case, EarthLink won a $15.4 million judgment against Craig Brockwell and his company BC Alliance.

More details can be found here.

House Passes TV Digital 'Speed-Up' Plan

An AP newswire article by Jennifer C. Kerr, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

The House on Friday backed a plan to require television broadcasters to switch to all-digital transmissions by December 2008, three months earlier than they would have to under provisions of a Senate bill.

House lawmakers also voted to set aside $830 million to help millions of Americans with older, analog TV sets pay for converter boxes so they'll continue to get service in the digital era.

The House deadline for broadcasters to end their traditional analog transmissions is Dec. 31, 2008. The so-called "hard date" was included in a sweeping budget bill.

Online Daters Sue Matchmaking Websites for Fraud

A Reuters newswire article by Martha Graybow, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

It's not easy finding love in cyberspace, and now some frustrated online daters say they were victims of fraud by two top Internet matchmaking services and have taken their complaints to court., a unit of IAC/Interactive Corp., is accused in a federal lawsuit of goading members into renewing their subscriptions through bogus romantic e-mails sent out by company employees. In some instances, the suit contends, people on the Match payroll even went on sham dates with subscribers as a marketing ploy.

In a separate suit, Yahoo Inc.'s personals service is accused of posting profiles of fictitious potential dating partners on its Web site to make it look as though many more singles subscribe to the service than actually do.

Vatican Official Refutes Intelligent Design

An AP newswire article by Nicole Winfield, via ABC News, reports that:

The Vatican's chief astronomer said Friday that "intelligent design" isn't science and doesn't belong in science classrooms, the latest high-ranking Roman Catholic official to enter the evolution debate in the United States.

The Rev. George Coyne, the Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, said placing intelligent design theory alongside that of evolution in school programs was "wrong" and was akin to mixing apples with oranges.

"Intelligent design isn't science even though it pretends to be," the ANSA news agency quoted Coyne as saying on the sidelines of a conference in Florence. "If you want to teach it in schools, intelligent design should be taught when religion or cultural history is taught, not science."

Surprise! Copyrights Misdirect Congress

Via eMail Battles.

Copyright problems? Not to worry. Washington's on it. Florida Congressman Cliff Stearns, concerning the movie industry's inability to limit copies: "I can't think that this is not a solvable challenge. Why don't we make it the copyright equivalent of the race to the moon. We went to the moon almost 40 years ago - it seems to me technology should afford a means of limiting the number of copies we can make of a protected work."

Tim Lee of The Technology Liberation Front notes: "Files are just strings of 1s and 0s. Computers manipulate 1s and 0s. There's no such thing as an uncopyable 1 or 0, so there's no such thing as an uncopyable file. If you've got one copy of a file, you can make as many copies of it as you like. That's just the way computers work."

Encrypt till you smoke your hard drive. As long as a file is destined for human consumption, it must reveal itself to speakers and/or video display. In that process, the file can be easily intercepted.

Then one person with an Internet connection anywhere on Earth can drop it to BitTorrent and the world.

More here.

WSIS: U.S. Protests Net Summit Crackdown

Secretary-General Kofi Annan defends U.N.'s decision
to hold Internet summit in the controversial location of Tunisia.
Image source: C|Net / Declan McCullagh

Declan McCullagh writes in C|Net News:

The U.S. government on Friday protested a crackdown by Tunisian secret police on the streets and a new spate of Web censorship during a United Nations Internet summit here.

John Marburger, director of the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy, told delegates that it was important that the Internet be viewed "not only as a vehicle of commerce, but also as an extraordinary vehicle for freedom and personal expression."

In a statement distributed after Marburger's speech, the U.S. offered a more pointed criticism of Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali's autocratic regime. It expressed "disappointment that the government of Tunisia did not take advantage of this important opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to freedom of expression and assembly."

Network Providers Fight FCC on VoIP Wiretapping

Caron Carlson writes in eWeek:

The government's stance on VOIP is creating uncertainty for many network providers heading into 2006.

Protesting that new federal wiretapping rules will stifle innovation and require the re-engineering of private IP networks at a huge expense, universities, ISPs, libraries and privacy organizations, along with Sun Microsystems Inc., are going to court to overturn the rules.

Two petitions were filed last month challenging the Federal Communications Commission's decision to apply the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or CALEA, to voice-over-IP providers whose networks connect with the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network).

Sun joined the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Electronic Privacy Information Center,, Comptel and the American Library Association in filing a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

EMI, Apple Disagree on Copy Protection

Ed Oswald writes in BetaNews:

EMI said Thursday that its copy-protected music CDs would soon play on Apple iPods, but the maker of the best-selling portable player denied that was [not] the case.

Copy-protected CDs are the industry's latest move towards combating music piracy, however the technology employed often makes discs only compatible with Windows-based computers and players. The industry has attempted to push Apple to support Windows Media DRM on the iPod, but to no avail.

The record label claims that Apple was close to completing the work needed to make EMI's DRM compatible with the iPod. "This is an important step for EMI and Apple, but even more so for music consumers who will soon be able to legitimately port music from protected discs they own to the iPod," EMI said in a statement.

The public statement led Apple to take the unusual step of disputing EMI's claims.

More: Sony Posts List of 52 Rootkit DRM CDs

Joe Wilcox writes over on the Microsoft Monitor Blog:

The more I learn about the Sony rootkit DRM, the more troubled I am by the implications.

Sony has posted a list of 52 CDs that included the ill-fated copy-protection mechanism. Last night, I checked release dates on 10 randomly selected CDs. The earliest-released CD in that group: March 29, 2005. So that means that at least for seven months, Sony BMG music CD buyers have been unsuspectedly installing rootkits on their PCs.

Why then did no security software vendor detect a problem and alert customers?

More here.

F-Secure: Money Laundering Phishing?

Image source: F-Secure

Mikko writes in the F-Secure "News from the Lab" Blog:

Somebody has been sending fake "" job applications last night. These link to two sites: and, which are fake look-a-likes, offering an open job position.

The job description talks about moving money from foreign accounts to your account and you transferring it to elsewhere for a 3% cut. So the bad boys are hiring money launderers, possibly to wash money gained via phishing or via credit card fraud.

More here.

Sons Rescue Mother With Help of Webcam

An AP newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

A Web camera in a Norwegian artist's living room in California allowed her sons in Norway and the Philippines to see that she had collapsed and call for help, one of the sons said Friday.

Karin Jordal, 69, collapsed Thursday in her living room in Pinon Hills, California, and was motionless on a couch when her son Tore in the Philippines checked in through the Internet.

Hawaii Hospital Loses Personal Data on 120k Patients

Bob Sullivan writes in The Red Tape Chronicles:

Last month, Wilcox Memorial Hospital in Kauai had to inform 120,000 past and present patients that their private information had been misplaced. Their names, addresses, Social Security numbers, even medical record numbers had been placed on one of those tiny USB flash drives -- and now, according to a letter sent home, the drive was missing.

The device had been misplaced in early October, and hasn't been heard from since, said hospital spokeswoman Lani Yukimura. While medical information was not on the device, it would be a treasure trove for an ID thief who found it. Once plugged into any computer’s USB port, a finder would have access to about as many identities as ChoicePoint Inc. leaked to criminals last year. So why has the Wilcox incident gotten so little attention?

The Hawaii hospital’s lost thumb drive passed by largely unnoticed. Perhaps it was because Hawaii flies a bit under the radar of the mainland. Or it may just be that people are tired of this kind of news. After all, according to a survey conducted by the Ponemon Institute recently, about 1 in 9 adults received a letter in the mail this past year saying their data had been lost or stolen. So what's another 120,000?

Read more here. Offering Refunds for Sony Rootkit CD Buyers

Via The BBC.

Amazon is offering refunds to customers who bought Sony BMG CDs that use the controversial XCP anti-copy system.

The offer has been made in an e-mail sent to Amazon customers known to have bought a CD by one of the 52 Sony which contained the XCP software.

Customers can get the refund by sending back the CD, even if they have not used the disc in their computers.

At the same time Sony BMG has released details of how customers can get XCP-free versions of CDs.

SBC to Pump $800M into Video and Internet Initiative

Via The Austin Business Journal.

SBC Communications Inc. will invest $800 million in video and high-speed Internet technology in Texas, the San Antonio telecommunications company said Thursday.

During a ceremony in Plano, SBC said it signed a five-year deal with Plano-based Alcatel USA Inc. to provide equipment and video system integration services for SBC's Project Lightspeed. As part of the project, SBC Texas plans to install about 5,500 miles of fiber-optic wire and related network technology throughout the state.

SBC's investment will lay the groundwork to provide video and high-speed Internet access technology over power lines, Gov. Rick Perry says. Texas consumers will be among the first in the country to be able to get high-speed voice, data and video services through power lines, he says.

U.S. Tech Firms Aid China's censors

A Fortune article by Marc Gunther, via CNN/Money, reports that:

Until recently, technology companies like Cisco, Yahoo, Microsoft and Google saw nothing but opportunity in China. Now they are experiencing headaches as well -- not because business is bad, but because their ethics are being questioned.

U.S.-China relations will take center stage this weekend when President Bush visits Beijing. With about 100 million Internet users, second only to the U.S., China is a big, high-growth market for technology. The trouble is, the Chinese government goes to extraordinary lengths to restrict what its people publish and read on the Internet -- and the authorities are getting help from the U.S. technology giants.

As a result, U.S. firms have come under fire from human rights groups, shareholder activists and members of Congress. Julian Pain of Reporters without Borders, an advocacy group, calls it "unethical" for technology companies to "help the world's most repressive regimes, especially China, carry out online censorship and surveillance."

UK: Call for Reform of Denial of Service Law


Tom Harris MP yesterday called on fellow MPs to support his proposals to update the Computer Misuse Act, in the wake of a failed attempt to prosecute a teenager over an alleged denial of service attack on his former employer.

The teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was cleared earlier this month after District Judge Kenneth Grant agreed with defence lawyers that even if the teenager had sent an alleged five million emails to his former boss – something that was not confirmed in court – no offence had been committed.

This was because the Act, which was drafted in 1990, before the World Wide Web existed, does not contain a specific offence dealing with denial of service (DoS) attacks.

WSIS Summit Turns Spotlight on Web Censorship

An AFP newswire article, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

Attempts by a United Nations communications and technology summit to expand the availability of the Internet turned the spotlight onto a dispute about censorship.

Chinese vice premier Huang Ju told the World Summit on the Information Society that some Internet restrictions were warranted to protect the state, although China wanted to "guarantee freedom of speech".

"For the Internet, we need effective measures to fight against criminal acts using this technology as well as economic fraud, violence, terrorism and anything that harms state security," he said.

China recently obliged Internet search engine Yahoo to hand over data that would allow it to track down a journalist who was critical of the authorities.

User Friendly: 'Sony mucked up my cup holder!'


Click for larger image.

Google Closes Security Holes in Google Base

Via Netcraft.

Google has fixed a security hole in Google Base that would have exposed sensitive information stored by users of Google's services. The cross site scripting vulnerabilities discovered by British Computer Scientist Jim Ley would allow an attacker to steal cookies and other information from users, while providing fraudsters with the facility to publish their own forms and receive input using an apparently reassuring Google Base URL.

Google Base will spearhead the search giant's entry into classified advertising and payment processing, where it will compete with established offerings from eBay and CraigsList. If it succeeds, Google Base will likely accelerate a trend which has seen a growing percentage of advertising dollars shift to the web and away from television, magazines and especially newspapers, which rely heavily on classified ads for revenue. Strong application security is important to gain user confidence in the service, as Google Base is eventually expected to integrate a micropayment system (presumably Google Payments).

Google's move towards a single Google Account for multiple services exacerbates the problem, as the same account used by the Google Base site can also be used to access financially sensitive services such as AdWords and AdSense, and Google's GMail webmail service.

UK Company Signs 'Dirty Sanchez' Deal With MTV

Via Reuters.

British computer graphics firm DA Group Plc said on Friday it had signed a deal to create interactive characters for TV, web and mobile based on the MTV series Dirty Sanchez.

DA has created three-dimensional versions of characters from the program about four pranksters who perform unusual stunts such as rolling in stinging nettles, naked paintballing and, in their first series, nailing their genitals to a piece of wood.

No financial details of the deal were given. fix

Via Enjoy!

WSIS: Cry for Food, Get a Cheap Computer

Editorial via The Zimbabwe Independent.

The children who were made to cheer the computer donations did not have three square meals a day. As the president donated computers, there were no drugs at rural clinics and ambulances were grounded due to a shortage of either spare parts or fuel - sometimes both.

To use the wise words from the president, the child who sat for the whole day in the sun waiting for his arrival was not looking for a computer terminal but for morsels of food and for a "humane society that guarantees him food, health, shelter and education". How cruel can the world be? Children crying every morning for food get computers instead.

It is trite that the computer donation blitz was President Mugabe's pet project.
Read more here.

Alltel to buy Midwest Wireless for $1.1B

A Reuters newswire article, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

Leading rural telephone operator Alltel on Friday said it would acquire Midwest Wireless Holdings for $1.075 billion.

The deal will give Alltel 400,000 customers in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin, which are next to existing Alltel wireless operations. The company said closing depends on regulatory approval and is expected in the first half of 2006.

Cisco to buy Scientific-Atlanta for $6.9B

A Reuters newswire article, va Yahoo! News, reports that:

Cisco Systems Inc. said on Friday it had agreed to buy Scientific-Atlanta Inc., a leading U.S. maker of cable television set-top boxes, for $6.9 billion in cash in a deal that would move the networking equipment giant more deeply into the consumer market.

Cisco will pay $43 a share, a 3.7 percent premium over Thursday's closing price of $41.45 on the New York Stock Exchange. Scientific-Atlanta stock has risen over 20 percent in the past month on speculation it would be bought.

Cisco said its net cost would be $5.3 billion, after subtracting Scientific-Atlanta's existing cash balance. It also plans to assume outstanding options, under the agreement.

The deal was approved by both boards, and is expected to close in the third quarter of Cisco's fiscal year 2006.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Yet Again: Another Vulnerability In A Sony BMG Offering

Mike Masnick writes over on

How much do you think Sony BMG dislikes Alex Halderman? Halderman, a graduate student working under Ed Felten at Princeton, became quite well known to the recording industry two years ago after publicizing how the copy protection scheme being used by what was then just BMG, supplied by SunnComm, could be defeated by holding down the shift key as you inserted the disc. This wasn't a high tech solution. The software needed to run to be installed, and it would run automatically if you had autorun enabled, which most people do. Holding down the shift key just overrides autorun. Nothing special -- but Halderman made sure that blocked the copy protection and (more importantly) got that information out. That eventually meant that SunnComm even thought about suing Halderman for publishing a way to circumvent copyright protection, in violation of the DMCA.

After realizing how stupid this idea was, SunnComm backed down on the lawsuit threats, leaving Halderman and Felten (who has been threatened with plenty of lawsuits himself) to continue their work. And, in the last couple of weeks, the two of them have been pretty damn busy investigating the whole Sony rootkit thing. Their big find, earlier this week, was how the uninstaller for the rootkit opened up new security holes.

The rootkit, though, comes from First4Internet, not SunnComm. Sony BMG still does use SunnComm's copy protection on other CDs, and over the weekend Halderman pointed out why SunnComm's technology might not be a rootkit, but certainly fit the definition of spyware. To make things even better, Halderman has just published another post noting that SunnComm's uninstaller is just as bad as the XCP uninstaller for the rootkit. In other words, if you've used SunnComm's uninstaller to get rid of their copy protection, you've left your computer incredible vulnerable to malicious attacks. Yes, the saga continues...


Spammers Pay Fines to Settle FTC Complaint

Grant Gross writes in InfoWorld:

Four people operating adult-oriented Web sites and an affiliated e-mail marketer have paid $621,000 to settle a U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) complaint that they violated federal antispam laws, the agency announced Thursday.

The settlement also bars the defendants from violating the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 2003. The settlement also requires the adult-oriented businesses to monitor their affiliates to make sure they also comply with the law.

The defendants sold access to sexually explicit Web sites through unsolicited e-mail, or spam, according to an FTC complaint filed in January. Four defendants control a network of businesses that operate adult Web sites, and the other defendant was an affiliate hired to market the content from the Web sites. The affiliate sent many of the e-mail messages that allegedly violated federal law, but under CAN-SPAM, all of the defendants are responsible for the e-mail, including the defendants who paid others to send e-mail on their behalf.

Guilty Pleas in ShadowCrew ID Theft Bust

Kim Zetter writes in Wired News:

Six defendants pleaded guilty Thursday in New Jersey in one of the federal government's largest sting operations involving credit card fraud and identity theft.

The six were among 19 who were indicted last year following a year-long sting, called Operation Firewall, conducted by the Secret Service against members of a website called

All pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit credit and bank card fraud and ID document fraud.

Authorities say the members-only site was a marketplace for people from around the world to sell stolen credit card numbers, debit card and PIN numbers, fake IDs and stolen identity information, such as Social Security numbers. Authorities say the site trafficked in more than 1.5 million stolen credit and debit card numbers, resulting in losses exceeding $4 million.

Cisco Deploys Wi-Fi Networks on Three College Campuses

A UPI newswire article, via, reports that:

The wireless-network boom on American college campuses continues, with Cisco deploying three more campus-wide wireless local area networks.

Cisco said Thursday it was setting up WLAN technology at Purdue, Wisconsin and William & Mary.

WSIS: Tensions Persist Between Bern and Tunis

Leuenberger speaks to journalists in Tunis
Image source: Carol Vann / InfoSud /


Swiss Communications Minister Moritz Leuenberger gives swissinfo his take on the diplomatic crack that threatens to grow between Switzerland and Tunisia.

On Wednesday Swiss President Samuel Schmid's criticism of nations that imprisoned people for their political beliefs was deemed unsuitable for the eyes and ears of Tunisian television viewers.

Schmid made his comments at the opening of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

Since Schmid's remarks, it has not been possible to access swissinfo anywhere in Tunisia apart from at the WSIS press centre.

WSIS: Amnesty International Prevented from Meeting Tunisian Human Rights Delegates

Via Amnesty International.

Amnesty International delegates were forcibly prevented from meeting members of the Tunisian human rights group Conseil national pour les libertés en Tunisie (CNLT), National Council for Liberties in Tunisia at its office in Tunis today. They were stopped from entering by some 15 to 20 Tunisian security officers wearing plain clothes, who were stationed in front of the building and keeping it under surveillance in an open and intimidating manner. The officers gave no reason for denying Amnesty International’s representatives access but made it plain that they would not let them enter the building.

This is the latest in a number of incidents in which Tunisian security personnel have prevented delegates, civil society activists and journalists attending the UN-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) from going about their legitimate activities. As the Summit, which Tunisia is hosting, opened on 16 November, three UN human rights experts publicly expressed "profound concern" about restrictions on freedom of expression and association in the country and appealed to Tunisia's President to take immediate steps to respect these fundamental freedoms.

More here.

AIM Rootkit Worm Linked to Hackers in Middle East

Greg Sandoval writes in C|Net News:

Security sleuths at FaceTime Communications say they have linked a group of hackers operating in the Middle East to a worm that began spreading last month via America Online's Instant Messenger service.

Experts at FaceTime's security unit reported Thursday that the hacker group has seized control of at least 17,000 computers across the globe. The hackers have the capability to pilfer personal information from a computer's hard drive or remotely commandeer a PC to help launch attacks against companies or networks.

FaceTime, headquartered in Foster City, Calif., has alerted the FBI and warned that the 17,000 computers were controlled by a single compromised server. There is a chance that the hacker band may control other servers and thousands more computers, according to Tyler Wells, senior director of engineering at FaceTime.

U.S. Databrokers Compromising Canadian Privacy

Thanks to Bruce Schneier for pointing out this article in his blog.

Jonathon Gatehouse writes in

Jennifer Stoddart is a dedicated public servant who has spent years -- first working for the province of Quebec, and since 2003 as the federal privacy commissioner -- trying to protect Canadians' personal information from prying governments and greedy businesses. A lawyer by trade, she has impeccable qualifications for the job, with a strong background in constitutional law and human rights.

But there's a point to be made about the type of highly confidential data that can be obtained by anyone with an Internet connection and a credit card, and Stoddart has the misfortune of being the perfect illustration. Not that she's pleased about it. Her eyes widen as she recognizes what has just been dropped on the conference table in her downtown Ottawa office -- detailed lists of the phone calls made from her Montreal home, Eastern Townships' chalet, and to and from her government-issued BlackBerry cellphone. Her mouth hangs open, and she appears near tears. "Oh my God," she says finally. "I didn't realize this was possible. This is really alarming."

When police are investigating a crime and want phone records, they must seek a court order. Recent commissions of inquiry, like Justice John Gomery's probe of Adscam or the investigation into the computer leasing fiasco at Toronto city hall, had to issue subpoenas to compel telecom companies to share such data. Government efforts to expand their phone monitoring powers as part of the war on terror are being fought tooth and nail by privacy and civil liberties organizations. Most Canadians consider their call records privileged information, and the courts have backed them up time and time again.

Yet Maclean's was able to purchase the privacy commissioner's phone logs online from a U.S. data broker, no questions asked. For about US$200 per order, delivered months of long-distance records from her Bell Canada home and cottage accounts. They were also able to access her Telus Mobility cellphone call logs for October -- a monthly bill she probably hadn't even received at the time. And all the Internet requests were turned around in a matter of hours. (In a test run, the company was also able to obtain the cell records of a senior Maclean's editor from Fido, a division of Rogers, the company that owns this magazine.) Reverse phone number lookup engines on federal government and phone company websites provided the identities of many of the people Stoddart called, or who called her. On Sept. 15, for example, there was a call from her Montreal home to a relative in Frelighsburgh, Que. On Oct. 15, she called the house of one of her communications advisers from her cellphone. And on Oct. 27, she twice called the desk of another. While many of the numbers on the bills were cellphones or unlisted, anyone looking to fill in the blanks would only have to call until they hit voicemail recordings.

More here.

Consumer Groups Question Flat-Rate Telecom Tax Proposal

Grant Gross writes in InfoWorld:

A proposal being considered by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to rework funding for a program that provides telecommunication services to rural and poor areas includes a "regressive" tax that would harm low-income U.S. residents, a coalition of consumer advocates said Thursday.

A new way of funding the controversial Universal Service Fund (USF), which also helps subsidize telephone and Internet access to schools and libraries, could add up to $707 million in new taxes to 43 million U.S. households that sparingly use long-distance telephone service, said members of the Keep Universal Service Fund Fair Coalition during a press conference in Washington, D.C.

Low-income customers and seniors with fixed incomes would be among the hardest hit by a proposal to impose a flat-rate tax of about $1 to $2 a month per phone line, the coalition said. Currently, the USF, which took in $6.4 billion in 2004, is funded through a percentage-based tax on long-distance charges. The percentage, adjusted quarterly by the FCC, is 10.2 percent.

Los Alamos Contract To Be Decided Soon

A UPI newswire article, via, reports that:

The fate of U.S. nuclear exploration is waiting on the Department of Energy to decide who will get a contract to operate Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Los Alamos has been run by the University of California since the lab's inception in 1943, but a series of embarrassing missteps have forced the contract with UC to be opened up for a bid, the San Francisco Chronicle reports

The National Nuclear Security Administration is debating between two bids and said it will decide around Dec. 1, although the determination could come at any time.

UC along with partners in the private sector like Bechtel National Inc., are going toe-to-toe with Lockheed Martin Corp. and their partners of various New Mexico universities, the University of Texas and other companies for a six year contract worth $79 million annually.

WaveRider and Wave Wireless to Merge

A UPI newswire article, via, reports that:

North American broadband companies WaveRider and Wave Wireless will merge to strengthen their marketing positions.

The companies announced Thursday that the planned merger would join the Wave Wireless mesh networking operations with WaveRider's Last Mile Solution mobile products.

Texas Town Renames Itself 'Dish'

Updated to add nifty picture:

Image source: Engadget


Leonard David writes in AstroNotes (

It used to be the town of Clark, Texas. But as of November 16, the new legal name is Dish, Texas.

The rebranding was spurred by an offer from EchoStar Communications Corporation as part of the DISH City Makeover promoted by the telecommunications firm.

In exchange for the townsfolk renaming their city, DISH Network has agreed to provide every household in Dish, Texas ten years of free basic satellite TV programming, including equipment and standard installation. DISH Network introduced the DISH City Makeover as part of a new advertising campaign trumpeting “Better TV for All.”

Clark, Texas was first incorporated as a town in 2000 and is located 25 miles north of Fort Worth. It claims a population of 125. The town of Clark is a rural agricultural and ranching community as well as a bedroom community for commuters who work in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Explained Bill Merritt, Mayor of DISH, Texas: “We accepted this challenge because we believe this relationship will give us a unique opportunity to put our town on the map, and we hope it will help us attract new people and businesses so that our town can grow in the right direction. With free DISH Network satellite TV, we’ll become a place people are proud to be a part of.”

WSIS: Swiss delegates hounded by Tunisian media

Kieren McCarthy, in Tunis, faithfully reports in his blog:

The most extraordinary thing has been happening for the past two hours. The Tunisian media has been hounding the Swiss minister for communications, Moritz Leuenberger, in what is becoming a massive spat between the two countries' governments as well as media.

It all started at the opening ceremony when the Swiss prime minister made some extremely pointed remarks about freedom on the press and lack of human rights in Tunisia.

The Tunisians took it upon themsleves to edit this part of the speech when it was shown outside of the UN-designated area of the Kram conference centre. The Swiss response was go on the record about the matter.

And from that point the Swiss delegation has been hounded by Tunisian journalists. Things got really heated when the Swiss held a press conference in the restricted media centre. The editor of the Tunisian national newspaper - a mouthpiece for the government, as well as another three Tunisian journalists took over the conference demanding to know about Swiss banking laws, accusing the Swiss of lecturing other nations, setting hypocritical standards and so on.

Read more here.

AIM Buddy 'Bots' Draw Complaints

Yeah -- when I logged into AIM yesterday afternoon (even via my Trillian client) after getting home from work, there they -- I just deleted them. :-)

An AP newswire article, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

Two new buddies greeted chatters on America Online Inc.'s instant-messaging service this week, but they were not universally welcomed.

Some AIM users complained that the buddies — to promote AOL's movies and shopping services — amounted to an intrusion. In a Web journal entry, Mike Masnick of Techdirt Inc. compared them to "buddy list spam."

The new buddies are known as bots. Users who send a message to the "MovieFone" buddy are automatically given options to check movie showtimes. The "ShoppingBuddy" offers ideas for gifts and information on deals. Sponsored by Gap Inc., products from its stores get top billing.

Cogent currently experiencing major outage

Brian Krebs writes in The Washington Post:

Cogent, which runs one of the major Internet backbone networks that handles long-haul Web traffic, is currently down after its fiber network was somehow cut in two different locations. A look at Keynote's Internet Health Report site indicates serious problems across the board for Cogent. At the moment, even Cogent's homepage appears to be down from my location in Northern Virginia, serving up nothing more than a 404 File not Found Error.

I spoke with Tecora Washington from Cogent. She confirmed that there were two fiber cuts in the past 12 hours, one that happened in New Orleans and a separate one in Washington, D.C. "This has effectively isolated the Southeast portion of Cogent's network. We are still fixing it, but we have no estimated time of completion at this point."

WSIS: U.S. Congress Unhappy With Internet Compromise

A TechWeb News article by Gregg Keizer, via InformationWeek, reports that:

Even though negotiations in Tunisia left the U.S. in charge of the Internet's naming system, Congress Wednesday passed a resolution that called for the United States to make plain its intention to permanently control the Internet's day-to-day operations.

Led by Reps. John Doolittle (R-Calif.), Rick Boucher (D-Va.), and Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), and first introduced in October, House Resolution 268 passed 423 to 0.

Late Tuesday, representatives from more than 100 counties came up with a compromise to the long-running feud between the U.S. and other nations, including China, Brazil, Iran, and those of the European Union, that would leave the U.S. in control of the Domain Name System (DNS), but would create a special forum to address concerns.

The forum, which is expected to meet for the first time in early 2006, would have no binding authority, U.S. officials have said, nor would it be allowed to interfere in DNS oversight.

That wasn't enough for the three Congressmen.

Lie Detectors - The Last Word in Airline Security?

Via Reuters.

A new walk-through airport lie detector made in Israel may prove to be the toughest challenge yet for potential hijackers or drugs smugglers.

Tested in Russia, the two-stage GK-1 voice analyser requires that passengers don headphones at a console and answer "yes" or "no" into a microphone to questions about whether they are planning something illicit.

The software will almost always pick up uncontrollable tremors in the voice that give away liars or those with something to hide, say its designers at Israeli firm Nemesysco.

UK: Ex-MI5 boss, House of Lords give ID cards thumbs down

Lucy Sherriff writes in The Register:

The House of Lords voted to reject the ID cards bill yesterday. The second house wants the draft legislation amended so that restrictions are placed on who would be allowed to use the cards to check a person's identity.

Peers were also unhappy that Home Office ministers said that they could not reveal the full cost of the plans. Baroness Scotland did reveal that the scheme will cost the Home Office £584m a year.

The defeat came as ex-MI5 chief Stella Rimington said that ID cards will be of no use in the fight against terror.

Ah. The truth comes out... at last.

H5N1 News: WHO Warns of More Bird Flu in China

An AP newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

China should prepare for more bird flu outbreaks in poultry and possibly more human cases as cold winter weather sets in, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

The agency issued the warning despite praising China’s handling of outbreaks in its vast poultry flocks and the country’s first human cases reported Wednesday.

“We expect there will be more poultry outbreaks,” said Henk Bekedam, the chief WHO representative in Beijing. “In this cold weather, the virus can survive longer in the climate and therefore have a bigger chance to infect poultry.

Also, the WHO released it's latest Update Advisory (41) today:

The Ministry of Health in China has confirmed the country’s first two human cases of infection with the H5N1 avian influenza virus. The first case is a 9-year-old boy from the southern province of Hunan. He was hospitalized with respiratory symptoms on 17 October and has since returned home, fully recovered.

The second case is a 24-year old woman who worked as a poultry farmer in the south-eastern province of Anhui. She developed symptoms on 1 November, was hospitalized with severe pneumonia on 7 November, and died on 10 November.

Testing was conducted by the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing.

An additional two possible human cases have been investigated in Hunan Province. The first is the boy’s 12-year-old sister. She was hospitalized on 16 October and died the following day of severe bilateral pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome. Samples from the girl are inadequate for testing, and the cause of her death will probably never be known with certainty. Although evidence pointing to H5N1 infection is considered substantial by Chinese experts, WHO reports only laboratory-confirmed cases.

The Real Story of the Sony DRM Rootkit

Bruce Schneier brings up some interesting points in a Wired article published this morning:

What do you think of your antivirus company, the one that didn't notice Sony's rootkit as it infected half a million computers? And this isn't one of those lightning-fast internet worms; this one has been spreading since mid-2004. Because it spread through infected CDs, not through internet connections, they didn't notice? This is exactly the kind of thing we're paying those companies to detect -- especially because the rootkit was phoning home.

But much worse than not detecting it before Russinovich's discovery was the deafening silence that followed. When a new piece of malware is found, security companies fall over themselves to clean our computers and inoculate our networks. Not in this case.

McAfee didn't add detection code until Nov. 9, and as of Nov. 15 it doesn't remove the rootkit, only the cloaking device. The company admits on its web page that this is a lousy compromise. "McAfee detects, removes and prevents reinstallation of XCP." That's the cloaking code. "Please note that removal will not impair the copyright-protection mechanisms installed from the CD. There have been reports of system crashes possibly resulting from uninstalling XCP." Thanks for the warning.

Symantec's response to the rootkit has, to put it kindly, evolved. At first the company didn't consider XCP malware at all. It wasn't until Nov. 11 that Symantec posted a tool to remove the cloaking. As of Nov. 15, it is still wishy-washy about it, explaining that "this rootkit was designed to hide a legitimate application, but it can be used to hide other objects, including malicious software."

The only thing that makes this rootkit legitimate is that a multinational corporation put it on your computer, not a criminal organization.

You might expect Microsoft to be the first company to condemn this rootkit. After all, XCP corrupts Windows' internals in a pretty nasty way. It's the sort of behavior that could easily lead to system crashes -- crashes that customers would blame on Microsoft. But it wasn't until Nov. 13, when public pressure was just too great to ignore, that Microsoft announced it would update its security tools to detect and remove the cloaking portion of the rootkit.

Perhaps the only security company that deserves praise is F-Secure, the first and the loudest critic of Sony's actions. And Sysinternals, of course, which hosts Russinovich's blog and brought this to light.

Read the entire article here.

WSIS Tunis: Buses, Toilets and Fear (Oh, My!)

This was good for a chuckle this morning. :-)

Kieran McCarthy writes about his odd experiences in Tunis this week in his blog. One of my favorite passages (The Hose of Death):

Now I know that the tradition in many countries is, after a healthy bowel movement, to clean yourself with your hand and then wash your hand with water. I understand the logic and the culture behind. In fact, in an abstract sense, I even like the idea.

The trouble comes when you are confronted with this and no other option. Until today, the Tunisians had only catered for Western toilet-roll tastes in certain toilets in the conference centre. Up until today, I could have told you which ones, down to the cubicle, they were. Instead, in the more local versions, there is a hose attached to the wall with its own tap to clean yourself.

You're killing me. :-)

UK: Users Flood 'Most Wanted' Website

Via The BBC.

An FBI-style website, aimed at tracking the UK's most wanted crime suspects, has received thousands of hits on its first day.

The site, launched by Crimestoppers, lists police appeals in the UK as well as pictures of wanted suspects.

The Most Wanted site proved so popular on the morning of its launch, it received 21,000 hits in five minutes.

As a result, many people were unable to access the site, Mick Laurie, chief executive of Crimestoppers, said.

The public can view the photographs, CCTV footage and descriptions of the wanted suspects at and contact police by phone or online.

Croatia to Mark Tesla's 150th Birthday

An AP newswire article, via ABC News, reports that:

Croatia in 2006 will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Nikola Tesla, an ethnic Serb who did pioneering work in electricity in the United States in late 19th and early 20th century, the country's parliament decided Thursday.

The government will finance the finishing of restoration of Tesla's home in a village in central Croatia and turn it into a museum. Conferences and lectures on Tesla's work are also planned.

Tesla, born in 1856 to Serbian parents, studied and worked across Europe, eventually settling in New York in 1885, where he lived until his death in 1943. He was awarded patents on every aspect of the modern system for generating and distributing electricity including in radio and the modern concept of radar and experts see his work as being as important as that of Alexander Graham Bell.

Further Action Against UK File-Sharers


The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) has announced 65 new file-sharing lawsuits against large-scale uploaders – more than twice the number sued in each of its previous filings. The trade body has now filed 153 actions since October last year.

BPI chairman Peter Jamieson said, “There will be no let-up in our fight against illegal file-sharing. We will do what it takes to defend our rights under the law."

Seventy-one of the lawsuits to date have been settled, with individuals paying up to £6,500 each, according to the BPI.

Netcraft: Report a phishing site, possibly win an Ipod

Via Netcraft.

In October we received and reviewed more than 8,700 unique URLs reported to us as phishing sites; by far the busiest month to date.

To further incentivise people reporting phishing sites, each accepted report is now treated as a ticket in a monthly draw for a top of the range iPod.

Microsoft Security Advisory: Memory Allocation Denial of Service Via RPC

Via Microsoft.

Microsoft is aware of public reports of proof-of-concept code that seeks to exploit a possible vulnerability in Microsoft Windows 2000 Service Pack 4 and in Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 1. This vulnerability could allow an attacker to levy a denial of service attack of limited duration.

On Windows XP Service Pack 1, an attacker must have valid logon credentials to try to exploit this vulnerability. The vulnerability could not be exploited remotely by anonymous users. However, the affected component is available remotely to users who have standard user accounts. Customers who have installed Windows XP Service Pack 2 are not affected by this vulnerability. Additionally, customers running Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 are not affected by this vulnerability.

Microsoft is not aware of active attacks that use this vulnerability or of customer impact at this time. However, Microsoft is actively monitoring this situation to keep customers informed and to provide customer guidance as necessary.

Microsoft is concerned that this new report of a vulnerability in Windows 2000 Service Pack 4 and Windows XP Service Pack 1 was not disclosed responsibly, potentially putting computer users at risk. We continue to encourage responsible disclosure of vulnerabilities. We believe the commonly accepted practice of reporting vulnerabilities directly to a vendor serves everyone's best interests. This practice helps to ensure that customers receive comprehensive, high-quality updates for security vulnerabilities without exposure to malicious attackers while the update is being developed.

User Friendly: Sony: "We feel badly for your misfortune."


Click for larger image.

Chinese Firm Remarking Celerons as Pentium 4s?

Via The Inquirer.

AN ISRAELI hardware site claims a Chinese site is selling fake Pentium 4 CPUs.

It alleges that the maker re-labels Celerons and sells them in a bundle as Pentium 4 original microprocessors.

Hardware Zone Israel claims that the firm also has a patch it's disseminating, which fools Windows and the BIOS into recognising a Celeron as areal Pentium 4.

Robert Ménard prevented from attending the UN WSIS summit

Via Reporters sans Frontières.

Reporters Without Borders said it was outraged after the Tunisian authorities turned back its Secretary General Robert Ménard on his arrival in Tunis to attend the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

Plain clothes Tunisian police officers physically prevented Ménard from leaving an Air France plane after it touched down in Tunis on 17 November 2005. One officer told the head of the worldwide press freedom organisation that he had no right to get off the plane since he did not have accreditation for the WSIS.

Reporters Without Borders said, “We are also staggered by the complicity of the organisers of the World Summit on the Information Society and to some extent, France, which did nothing to ensure his attendance at this international summit.

“From being a masquerade, the WSIS has turned into a scandal,” the organisation added.

Dilbert: Gullible World

Click for larger image.

Counterfeiters Caught in Printer Jam

Robert Lemos writes in SecurityFocus:

Arizona authorities this week charged suspected members of a criminal ring thought responsible for 10 percent of all fake money in the state after some members sent a printer, jammed with counterfeit bills, out for repair.

A three-month investigation by the U.S. Secret Service and the local sheriff's office nabbed 10 suspects for crimes including forgery, weapons violations and drug charges, according to the Southwest Valley Republic. The ring of counterfeiters allegedly included two Wal-Mart cashiers who accepted the fake bills as payment for big-ticket items in order to put the faux money into circulation. The suspects would then go to a different Wal-Mart and return the items for cash, according to the news report.

The counterfeiters manufactured more than $160,000, according to officials, most of which ended up in circulation. vows to beat Google in China

An AFP newswire article, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

Chinese Internet firm has vowed to defeat US giant Google in the battle to become the dominant search engine for the potentially lucrative Chinese market. chief executive Jack Ma said his company was the undisputed king of the web in China after seeing off e-Bay and taking over Yahoo's Chinese operations in an August deal that secured a billion dollars of investment.

Ma said Google was vulnerable in China and that Alibaba would focus on building up its search engine to keep out Google.

Kazaa P2P File-Sharing Boss to Face Court

An AP newswire article by Meraiah Foley, via Yahoo! News, reoprts that:

An Australian federal judge on Thursday ordered the chief executive of the company that owns file-swapping giant Kazaa to face cross-examination from recording industry lawyers about her assets pending a damages hearing in the landmark music piracy case.

In September, a federal court found Kazaa's owners and distributors, led by Sydney-based Sharman Networks Ltd., guilty of copyright infringement for failing to rein in illegal file sharing on their popular peer-to-peer network.

A hearing to set damages is expected sometime next year.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Ariane 5 Rocket Successfully Launches Two Satellites

Image source: Arianespace

Via Arianespace.

The Ariane 5 ECA's successful mission tonight marked a new record for commercial launches, lofting a heavyweight dual satellite payload weighing more than 8,000 kg.

Lifting off from the ELA-3 launch complex at Europe's Spaceport, the Ariane 5 ECA deployed DIRECTV's Spaceway 2 satellite first, followed minutes later by the Telkom 2 relay platform for Indonesia's PT. Telekomunikasi Indonesia, Tbk.

Iran Says Satellite Can Be Used to Spy on Israel

An AP newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

Iran said the satellite would be purely scientific. But a month after its launch — and only weeks after the president said Israel should be wiped off the map — the head of Tehran’s space program now says the Sina-1 is capable of spying on the Jewish state.

The launch of the Russian-made satellite into orbit aboard a Russian rocket last month marked the beginning of Iran’s space program. Officials say a second satellite — this one Iranian-built — will be launched in about two months, heightening Israeli concerns.

Hackers Cracked Gmail

Via Red Herring.

Google said Wednesday it has fixed a problem in its widely used email program that allowed hackers to break into people’s Gmail accounts to read messages and pose as legitimate email users.

Security researchers in Spain exposed a flaw in the way Google authenticates its users, allowing the breach in the system that counts more than 5 million users.

The process for exploiting Gmail was posted to a hacker web site.

The site says Google fixed the problem on October 18, four days after a security researcher called ANELKAOS alerted the company to the problem.

Arrrgh! Enough with the freakin' HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray Bullshit!

Geez. No kidding.

I'm wondering when the the vendors are going to realize that the consumers won't buy disparate products for (what should be) a single freaking technology (DVDs)?!? This whole HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray specification posturing thing is really starting to piss me off, and makes me simply disgusted at the video business. And the MPAA is majorly responsible (read: DRM issues).

I don't know about you, but I'm getting to the point where I refuse to buy DRM products, lock, stock and barrel.

Revolt! Don't buy the stuff. Especially Blu-Ray, since it is sponsored by Sony.

And sorry for the loss of composure. :-)

A Reuters newswire article by Sue Zeidler, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

The Blu-ray Disc group, which aims to set the standard for next-generation DVDs, on Wednesday said it would not adopt a proposal from Hewlett-Packard Co. by the launch of the technology, leading the PC maker to say it may back a rival in the looming multibillion dollar war.

That would leave HP, the No. 2 PC maker, splitting support between the two leading technologies.

Long a supporter of Sony Corp.-led Blu-ray, HP in October said if two technologies it considered important to PC users were not included in Blu-ray's specifications, it would consider backing rival standard HD-DVD, championed by Toshiba Corp.

Providers Complain Telecom Bill Adds Regulations

Grant Gross writes in InfoWorld:

One of the major goals of a telecommunications reform bill in the U.S. Congress should be to ensure that all U.S. residents and businesses have access to at least three broadband Internet providers, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said Wednesday.

Chairman Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, called for Congress to take a light regulatory approach on a bill aimed at broadening competition, but representatives of Internet providers suggested that a bill being promoted by Barton would add more regulations, not reduce them.

"Do you trust markets, or do you trust bureaucrats?" Barton said while calling for light regulations. "That's a basic question."

But officials with Verizon Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp., both large broadband providers, said the Energy and Commerce Committee's current draft telecom reform bill would create new obligations for Internet providers to allow competing technologies on their networks where none existed before. Barton and the company officials were among the speakers at a telecom reform forum sponsored by Congressional Quarterly Inc. and Dittus Communications, a Washington, D.C., public relations firm.

Yankee Group Acquired by Private Equity Firm

Greg Sandoval writes in C|Net News:

The Yankee Group, one of the technology sector's pioneer research firms, has been acquired by private equity company Alta Communications, the companies said Wednesday.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Emily Green, a long-time executive at various technology companies, including Yankee rival Forrester Research, was named CEO of Yankee on Tuesday, she said.

Internet Access on Display at APEC Summit

An AP newswire article by Burt Herman, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

Wireless technology capable of letting Internet users surf the Web at speeds almost as fast as wired connections, even while moving about, was among innovations exhibited this week at an Asia-Pacific summit.

World leaders and other delegates to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit witnessed the first-ever trial of wireless high-speed Internet access called WiBro, which is based on the emerging WiMax standard.

The service will be offered to South Korean consumers next year, in the form of WiBro-enabled phone handsets, laptop computers and expansion cards. It will permit, among other things, voice and video calling via the Internet.

Sony Unveils Internet-Based Phone Service

Would you trust them after this while DRM Rootkit dabacle? I don't. And I personally won't buy any Sony products, either....

An AP newswire article by Peter Svensson, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

Sony Corp. on Wednesday announced a free Internet-based phone service similar to the popular computer-to-computer calling provided by Skype, but with an emphasis on video conferencing.

Called IVE for "Instant Video Everywhere," the service relies on Windows-based software that can be downloaded from the Internet. It will also ship with Sony's new line of Vaio BX laptops, which feature built-in video cameras.

Like Skype, IVE also will feature a premium service that lets users dial traditional wireline phones and cell phones from their computers. The monthly fee of $9.95 for the premium service includes a 10-digit phone number so IVE users can receive calls from regular and mobile phones.

Internet Filtering in Tunisia

Via The OpenNet Initiative.

The OpenNet Initiative today released Internet Filtering in Tunisia in 2005, a country study that documents Tunisia's attempts to control Internet information, including the filtering of Web sites, blogs, and anonymizer services.

Drawing on open sources and a detailed year-long technical investigation, ONI research describes Tunisia’s aggressive targeting and blocking of on-line content, including political opposition Web sites, human rights groups, and sites that provide access to privacy-enhancing technologies. ONI research reveals that Tunisia’s government Internet agency, ATI, uses SmartFilter -- filtering software produced by Secure Computing, a US-based company -- as the basis of its filtering regime. Since all of Tunisia’s ISPs operate through ATI, the system is difficult to circumvent. Moreover, Tunisia’s public policy on filtering is opaque at best. The state falsifies the information provided to users who try to reach filtered sites; the error page received claims the site is not accessible for technical reasons. In sum, Tunisia’s control over its citizens’ access to Internet content places it at odds with the goals of the World Summit on the Information Society.

'Underneath Their Robes': Attorney No Longer Cloaked In Blog

An AP newswire article, via CBS News, reports that:

The author of a sassy blog about the federal judiciary, "Underneath Their Robes," is no longer cloaked in mystery, and it turns out it's a federal prosecutor.

The writer of the Web log, which had humorous references to judges as "hotties" and "babes," purported to be a young, female lawyer who worked in San Francisco. But in an interview with The New Yorker magazine published this week the author identified himself as Assistant U.S. Attorney David Lat of Newark.

The blog was taken off line Monday in a "mutually agreed upon decision," The Record of Bergen County reported Wednesday, citing an unidentified source. The site appeared to require a password to access it Wednesday.

Lat, one of about 100 assistants working under U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie, was still employed there Tuesday, office spokesman Michael Drewniak told the newspaper. He declined to comment further.

Attack Targets Sony DRM Rootkit 'Fix'

Alorie Gilbert writes in C|Net News:

Sony BMG took another blow Wednesday, when a security company said it has found malicious attacks based on software designed to defuse the record label's "rootkit" problems.

Websense's security labs reported that it has discovered several Web sites designed to exploit security flaws in a rootkit uninstaller program issued by Sony BMG Music Entertainment. As reported earlier, some Sony CDs deposit rootkit-like code onto people's computers that leave them open to attacks.

Websense has uncovered only a couple of Web sites set up to attack flaws in the initial uninstall program, and the damage they cause appears to be minimal so far. One of them, hosted in the United States, simply restarts infected computers.

DoD to Hold 'Security Stand-Down'

Doesn't the DoD already practice occassional password changes, and enforced "minimum strength" password standards? Perhaps it also means inventory of systems infected by Sony's DRM Rootkit... ;-)

Frank Tiboni writes in

The Defense Department will hold a “security stand-down” Nov. 29 to focus on information assurance and network security.

Military and civilian employees at the major commands, services and agencies will focus on better protecting DOD data and systems. One step will involve changing passwords, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Charlie Croom, director of the Defense Information Systems Agency and commander of the Joint Task Force for Global Network Operations (JTF-GNO). He spoke Nov. 16 during a luncheon sponsored by the Washington, D.C., chapter of AFCEA International.

Croom said DOD will stand down on security the same way the services do when one of their aircraft crashes or experiences problems. He said the department will focus on enterprise security.