Saturday, December 24, 2005

Toon: More Merry Christmas

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U.S. Has Been Secretly Testing U.S. Muslim Sites for Radiation

An AP newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

A classified radiation monitoring program, conducted without warrants, has targeted private U.S. property in an effort to prevent an al-Qaida attack, federal law enforcement officials confirmed Friday.

While declining to provide details, including the number of cities and sites monitored, the officials said the air monitoring began after the Sept. 11 attacks and was conducted from publicly accessible areas, which they said made warrants and court orders unnecessary.

U.S. News and World Report first reported the program on Friday. The magazine said the monitoring was conducted at more than 100 Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C. area — including Maryland and Virginia suburbs — and at least five other cities when threat levels had risen: Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas, New York and Seattle.

Dilbert: The PowerPoint Zone

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Verizon-MCI Deal Clears Last Hurdle

A Reuters newswire article, via C|Net News, reports that:

Verizon Communications said Friday that Washington state telecommunications regulators had approved its purchase of MCI, which sets the stage for Verizon and MCI to close the deal in early January.

With the OK from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, the companies have now received all required regulatory approvals for the $8.6 billion deal, including federal, state and international, Verizon said.

Visa: Possible Data Breach

Natalie Weinstein writes in C|Net News:

Visa USA acknowledged Saturday that a U.S. merchant "may have experienced a data security breach" that compromised credit card account information.

The statement came in response to a inquiry related to customers whose Visa debit cards had been put on fraud watch or deactivated due to a security breach. The customers include a San Francisco Bay Area man whose Wells Fargo-issued card had been deactivated and a couple in Ohio whose card was placed on a watch.

In its statement issued Saturday, Visa said that after it learned "of the compromise, Visa quickly alerted the affected financial institutions to protect consumers through independent fraud monitoring and, if needed, reissuing cards."

User Friendly: Ultra Geek Christmas


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'Little Red Book': Federal Agents' Visit was a Hoax

Aaron Nicodemus writes on

The UMass Dartmouth student who claimed to have been visited by Homeland Security agents over his request for "The Little Red Book" by Mao Zedong has admitted to making up the entire story.

The 22-year-old student tearfully admitted he made the story up to his history professor, Dr. Brian Glyn Williams, and his parents, after being confronted with the inconsistencies in his account.

Had the student stuck to his original story, it might never have been proved false.

A Macabre Theater of Greed

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

Authorities are investigating allegations that hundreds of bodies were illegally carved up in funeral homes around New York City and sold for parts without the permission of the families of the deceased.

Corpses — including that of famed British broadcaster Alistair Cooke — were used to harvest human bone, skin and tendons which were then sold for a profit, authorities allege.

Worse, health officials fear some of the stolen body parts were diseased, and could infect patients who received them in skin grafts, dental implants or other orthopedic procedures — a risk concealed by paperwork doctored with forged signatures and false information.

Warner Subpoenaed in NY for Music Download Probe

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

Warner Music Group Corp. has been subpoenaed by the New York Attorney General in connection with an ongoing antitrust investigation into the pricing of digital music downloads, the company said in a securities filing on Friday.

The disclosure of the subpoena appeared to be the first time that the probe by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer of the market for song downloads has come to light.

Warner said it received the request for information on Tuesday.

Google's AOL Investment May Lead to 2008 IPO

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

Google Inc.'s $1 billion investment in America Online could lead to an IPO in 2008, giving the online search engine leader and AOL parent Time Warner Inc. an opportunity to capitalize on an Internet advertising boom that they hope to fuel through their partnership.

The possible timeline for an initial public offering by AOL emerged in a Friday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The documents provide additional details about a deal announced earlier this week that extends the business ties that Google and AOL formed when they began working together in 2002.

Four Arrests Made in Stolen Explosives Case

An AP newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

Four men were arrested Friday in connection with the theft of 400 pounds of explosives from a storage depot, federal officials said.

All the explosives, which authorities had said was enough to flatten a large building, were recovered.

There was no evidence to suggest a link to terrorism, though officials were investigating why the materials had been stolen from the Cherry Engineering’s storage depot eight miles southwest of New Mexico’s largest city, said Wayne Dixie of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. fix...

Via Enjoy!

NSA Spy Program Much Broader Than Bush Admitted

A Rueters newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

The volume of information gathered from telephone and Internet communications by the National Security Agency without court-approved warrants was much larger than the White House has acknowledged, The New York Times reported Saturday.

Citing current and former government officials, the Times said the information was collected by tapping directly into some of the U.S. telecommunication system’s main arteries. The officials said the NSA won the cooperation of telecommunications companies to obtain access to both domestic and international communications without first gaining warrants.

A former telecommunications technology manager told the Times that industry leaders have been storing information on calling patterns and giving it to the federal government to aid in tracking possible terrorists since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Workers Exposed to Plutonium at Los Alamos

A UPI newswire article, via, reports that:

Five workers at New Mexico's Los Alamos National Laboratory are being monitored after an accident resulted in plutonium being found inside their noses.

Details of the accident inside building TA-55 Monday are sketchy, but lab official Kevin Roark verified automated sensors picked up the plutonium release, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday.

Will Los Alamos Contract be Protested?

Roseanne Gerin writes on

The University of California, the incumbent contractor, and teammates Bechtel National Inc., BWX Technologies Inc. and Washington Group International Inc. form the limited liability corporation called Los Alamos National Security LLC, which officially won the work.

[However,] Wendy Owen, vice president of communications at Lockheed Martin Information and Technology Services in Cherry Hill, N.J., said the company was disappointed by the loss and was waiting to get more information about the evaluation criteria. The company has not yet decided whether to protest the award, she said.

Alito Defended Government Wiretapping

Well, I think we can count this clown out insoafar as getting confirmed as a U.S. Supreme Court judge.

An AP newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito defended the right of government officials to order domestic wiretaps when he worked for the Reagan Justice Department, documents released Friday show.

He advocated a step-by-step approach to strengthening the hand of officials in a 1984 memo to the solicitor general. The strategy is similar to the one that Alito espoused for rolling back abortion rights at the margins.

The release of the memo by the National Archives comes when President Bush is under fire for secretly ordering domestic spying of suspected terrorists without a warrant. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., has promised to question Alito about the administration’s program.

Tom Daschle: Power We Didn't Grant

Tom Daschle writes in The Washington Post:

In the face of mounting questions about news stories saying that President Bush approved a program to wiretap American citizens without getting warrants, the White House argues that Congress granted it authority for such surveillance in the 2001 legislation authorizing the use of force against al Qaeda. On Tuesday, Vice President Cheney said the president "was granted authority by the Congress to use all means necessary to take on the terrorists, and that's what we've done."

As Senate majority leader at the time, I helped negotiate that law with the White House counsel's office over two harried days. I can state categorically that the subject of warrantless wiretaps of American citizens never came up. I did not and never would have supported giving authority to the president for such wiretaps. I am also confident that the 98 senators who voted in favor of authorization of force against al Qaeda did not believe that they were also voting for warrantless domestic surveillance.

Level 3 Completes Acquisition of WilTel

An AP newswire article, via, reports that:

Network operator Level 3 Communications Inc. said Friday it has completed a $696.5 million cash-and-stock deal to acquire WilTel Telecommunications Group.

The acquisition will add $50 million to $90 million to overall cash flow next year and as much as $150 million in incremental cash flow per year beginning in 2007, Level 3 Chief Financial Officer Sunit Patel said. Integration costs were estimated to be from $100 million to $150 million.

Did Voting Error Ruin Madrid's Olympic Bid?

A Reuters newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

London’s winning bid for the 2012 Olympics could have been helped by an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member pressing the wrong button during the voting process, according to a BBC report.

The report says that the member mistakenly voted for Paris in the third round of voting in Singapore on July 6, giving it 33 votes to 31 for Madrid instead of 32-32 which would have prompted a vote-off before the final round. Madrid had been ahead after the second round.

London then beat Paris 54-50 in the final round of voting, although it is widely believed that Madrid would have been a bigger threat to London had they got through to the final round where Paris votes would have moved across to their bid.

FTC 'Opts Out' of Spamhaus Input

Brian McWilliams writes in the Spam Kings blog:

I haven't yet finished reading the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's 116-page Report to Congress on the 2003 CAN-SPAM Act. But I've already spotted a conspicuous omission.

The FTC conducted wide ranging interviews with scores of smart people. (Transcripts of some of the interviews are available online.) Yet for some reason, Spamhaus director Steve Linford was not among those interviewed. Nor was Spamhaus cited once in the agency's report.

Ask any spammer, "Who's done more to make your life difficult, The Federal Trade Commission, or Spamhaus?" I'm pretty sure the spammer won't say the FTC.

MS Begins Exit of MSNBC Partnership

Ed Oswald writes in BetaNews:

Microsoft continued to quietly back away from its partnership with NBC Universal for MSNBC Friday. The two companies announced that NBC had acquired a controlling interest in the cable channel, and has the ability to exercise an option that would allow it to buy the entire channel in 2007.

Steve Capus, president of NBC News, said the deal would allow the company to further integrate the cable channel into the news business. However, he did not elaborate on what exactly that would entail.

Ohio Police Officers Resign Over On-Line Escapades

An AP newswire article, via The Globe and Mail, reports that:

Two police officers in northwest Ohio resigned because they had been looking at pornography and participating in on-line gambling on the department's computer while on duty, Police Chief Chad Millner said Thursday.

The officers, who have not been criminally charged, resigned last week rather than oppose a recommendation to Mayor Tom Perry that they be fired, the chief said in a prepared statement.

The chief suspected the activity and contacted the state Bureau of Criminal Indemnification and Investigation, which examined the department's computer.

Village Solicitor Peter Gwyn would not comment on whether there would be any criminal charges filed against officers Brian Chambers and Adam Lants. They could not be reached by telephone for comment.

Hitler Voicemail Message Brings Jail Time for Austrian Man

Actually, this sounds pretty funny, but I know that folks are a little touchy about jokes of such nature in (especially) that part of Europe. ;-)

An AP newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

An Austrian man who used an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler for his cell phone voice mail has been sentenced to two months in prison.

Police came across the message on the 20-year-old’s phone in 2004 when they called to question him about a burglary.

Prosecutors say he downloaded the message from the Internet. It includes the repeating of the phrase “Sieg Heil!”

TomTom Legal Threats Kill TamTam

A MacCentral article by Peter Cohen, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

The navigation system manufacturer TomTom has threatened legal action against Mac software maker Equinux, causing Equinux to discontinue sales of its software program TamTam.

Equinux — a Mac software developer whose previous credits include the eBay selling utility iSale, VPN Tracker and more — created TamTam, a utility that enables Mac users to access the data on the included CD, including uploading maps, addresses and voices. The software only worked with the TomTom “Classic” system — one of several TomTom systems available.

ID Theives Hitting New Lows: Hospital ID Theft

Bob Sullivan writes in The Red Tape Chronicles:

It is an almost unthinkable crime, to steal from the sick and dying. And yet we all know it happens. I remember as a child hearing my parents discuss leaving a family member at home during funerals, to ward off any would-be burglars. Burglars, they said, read the obituaries, too -- and know exactly when the entire family will be busy elsewhere.

So it should not be surprising that identity criminals target the dying or the dead. Still, it’s hard to imagine until you see it for yourself. On Christmas night, you will. Dateline NBC will tell the incredible story of a man sick with a terrible form of leukemia, a man literally days from his death -- and the repulsive crime he suffered while enduring everything else that comes with cancer. Eric Drew's identity was stolen by a hospital worker. While Drew was gasping for life, his imposter was living it up on fraudulent credit cards. After all, the criminal must have thought, Drew was hardly in a position to complain.

Toon: Iraq Christmas Wish

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2006 To Arrive One Second Late


Owing to the gradual slowing down of the Earth’s rotation, the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, based at the Paris Observatory, has announced that 2005 will contain an extra second.

The required leap second will be added at the end of 31st December, thus delaying the arrival of 2006 by one second. Although this will be the 23rd such leap second to be added since its introduction at the end of June 1972, this year’s leap second will be the first for seven years.

Gooooood Morning, Weblogistan!

By Pajamas Media staff in Barcelona.

More than 100,000 active weblogs in Iran -may be undermining, or at least are relieving, the mullahs' grip on the population, particularly among the educated, techno-friendly young generations, writes Ben MacIntyre in London's The Times today.

According to the article, Farsi has become the second most used language in the blogosphere even ahead of French, and Weblogistan -that's how Iranians call it- has become an oasis "of noisy and irreverent free speech."

$8 Billion Deal Rumored to be in Works for ACS

Andrew Ross Sorkin and Jenny Anderson write in The New York Times:

A consortium of investment firms is in talks to acquire Affiliated Computer Services, a technology outsourcing company with clients that include General Electric and McDonald's, for about $8 billion, people briefed on the negotiations said.

The group is led by the Texas Pacific Group and includes Bain Capital and the Blackstone Group, these people said. Silver Lake Partners had been part of the group, these people said, but recently dropped out.

A deal could be reached as early as next week, these people added, though they cautioned that several points had yet to be resolved and it was possible that the negotiations could drag on or collapse entirely.

Agreement Expected by Cable Firms in Germany

Via The International Herald Tribune.

Unity Media, the cable operator that won the pay-TV rights to show German league soccer matches, expects to reach an agreement with the country's dominant cable operator, Kabel Deutschland, to reach more viewers, an executive involved in the talks said Thursday.

On Wednesday, DFL, the German soccer league, sold the rights to air live league soccer on pay TV for the next three seasons to Arena. Shares of the current holder, Premiere, plunged more than 40 percent.

Kabel Deutschland is expanding by offering services such as pay-television and fast Internet access after it failed to get regulatory approval to buy three regional competitors last year. Unity Media was created in August by the merger of Ish and Iesy Repository, two of the cable companies that Kabel Deutschland was not allowed to purchase.

Mediaset to Buy Europa TV frequencies

A Bloomberg News article, via The International Herald Tribune, reports that:

Mediaset, the television company controlled by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, said Thursday that it had agreed to buy television frequencies from the broadcaster Europa TV as it expands a project to develop and show programs on mobile phones.

Europa TV, controlled by the financier Tarak Ben Ammar and Société Télévision Française 1, will sell the frequencies for about E200 million, or $237 million, Ben Ammar said. Mediaset confirmed the purchase without giving a price.

San Francisco Seeks Proposals for City-Wide Wi-Fi

Verne Kopytoff and Ryan Kim write on

Mayor Gavin Newsom's quest to blanket San Francisco with wireless Internet access took a big step forward Thursday, when the city opened formal bidding on the project.

Companies are being asked to provide free high-speed service to users -- whether at home, at work or in the park -- at no cost to the city. The companies will also be required to provide a premium level of paid service with 1 megabit-per-second download speeds at prices that are less than commercial rates.

Bidders will have 60 days to respond to the request for bids. The city has said it wants to have the wireless network up and running sometime next year.

Agenda at FCC Depends On Powers of Persuasion

Arshad Mohammed writes in The Washington Post:

In the nine months since he became chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Kevin J. Martin has pushed through a series of decisions that have made the country's largest phone companies even bigger and, in the view of critics, made it harder for smaller companies to compete with them.

On three major mergers and a string of regulatory decisions, he has persuaded a divided FCC to vote unanimously, testimony to political skills that observers say far outstrip those of his predecessor, Michael K. Powell.

User Friendly: Seeing Halos


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Daschle: Congress Denied Bush War Powers in U.S.

Barton Gellman writes in The Washington Post:

The Bush administration requested, and Congress rejected, war-making authority "in the United States" in negotiations over the joint resolution passed days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to an opinion article by former Senate majority leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) in today's Washington Post.

Daschle's disclosure challenges a central legal argument offered by the White House in defense of the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. It suggests that Congress refused explicitly to grant authority that the Bush administration now asserts is implicit in the resolution.

The Justice Department acknowledged yesterday, in a letter to Congress, that the president's October 2001 eavesdropping order did not comply with "the 'procedures' of" the law that has regulated domestic espionage since 1978. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, established a secret intelligence court and made it a criminal offense to conduct electronic surveillance without a warrant from that court, "except as authorized by statute."

Florida AG: 'My e-Mails Aren't Spam'

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

Florida's attorney general has spearheaded an aggressive campaign against unsolicited e-mails, or spam. But as a candidate for governor, he appears to be generating some unwanted Internet clutter himself.

Charlie Crist was a staunch defender of a tough anti-spam law passed by the state legislature last year, under which violators can be fined up to $500 for every e-mail they send.

But a report in Thursday's St. Petersburg Times said Crist, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, had annoyed some residents of the state by sending them unwanted e-mails promoting his candidacy and soliciting campaign donations.

Unilever Signs 7-Year IBM Outsourcing Deal

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

Anglo-Dutch consumer products group Unilever Plc said on Friday it has signed an outsourcing contract with IBM, the world's biggest computer company, that will lead to several hundred job cuts.

Financial terms were not disclosed although Unilever said cost savings under the 7-year outsourcing contract would contribute to a targeted 700 million euros ($831.4 million) of annual savings.

Unilever said IBM would provide a number of financial services from IBM centers in Portugal, Poland and India.

Around Unilever 750 jobs are likely to be affected.

Dilbert: Delusions of Effectiveness

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Bubble 2.0: Bubble-Era Buyouts Are Back

A Business 2.0 article by Om Malik, via CNN/Money, reports that:

In a big about-face since the bust, selling online "eyeballs" is back in vogue.

The idea that Web traffic could be converted into ad dollars -- that "eyeballs" could be monetized -- led to some of the most overpriced acquisitions of the era. Remember when ExciteAtHome paid $780 million for, the online greeting company with 11 million monthly visitors and negligible revenues?

But now a new wave of deals -- from Dow Jones's $519 million acquisition of MarketWatch a year ago to America Online's recent purchase of Weblogs Inc. for a reported $25 million to Google agreeing to buy a 5 percent take in AOL for $1 billion -- all signal that Internet content is hot again.

Latest Tax Tool: 'Internet shaming'

Ben Jones writes in USA Today:

Tax scofflaws, beware. State governments are combining new technology with old-fashioned shame to goad delinquent taxpayers to pay up.

At least 18 states have launched websites to post the names of people and businesses that owe back taxes. Maryland calls its website "Caught in the Web." In South Carolina, it's "Debtor's Corner." Wisconsin on Jan. 3 will launch "website of Shame."

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Google Founders are Financial Times 'Men of the Year'

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

The founders of Internet search engine Google have been named the Financial Times men of the year, the newspaper announced.

Sergey Brin and Larry Page, both 32, were given the accolade for the effect the company they founded seven years ago has had in the last year on Internet users and the worlds of business and technology, the FT said.

Toon: Liberty Paying The Price

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Microsoft, Google Settle Over Executive Hire

Greg Sandoval writes in C|Net News:

Microsoft has settled its case with rival Google over the hiring of Kai-Fu Lee, an expert in speech recognition technology and the man who founded Microsoft's China research lab in the late 1990s.

"The parties have entered into a private agreement that resolves all issues to their mutual satisfaction," Microsoft said in a prepared statement released Thursday afternoon. "The terms of the agreement are confidential and all parties have agreed to make no other statements to the media regarding it."

Beijing Netcom Signs Broadband Contracts With 108 Olympic Hotels


Beijing Netcom, which has taken 80% of the residential broadband market in Beijing, says it has signed broadband installation agreements with 108 hotels in the city which have been designated as the service hotels of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Liu Fang, manager of Olympic Client Department of Beijing Netcom, says that after the agreements are signed, Beijing Netcom will hold a separate negotiation with each of the concerned hotels to determine the investment involved and schedules of the construction which may be carried out from the beginning of 2006 to the end of 2007.

After the transformation, those Olympics Hotels will be able to provide high-speed broadband network access, video frequency program ordering, video hotel room service and video telephone services during the 2008 Olympics.

Just How Extensive is NSA's Spy Program?

Declan McCullagh writes on C|Net News:

A week after a domestic-spying scheme by the National Security Agency was disclosed, the details remain shrouded in secrecy.

President Bush forcefully defended the operation in a press conference on Monday, but offered few clues about how it worked in practice. Neither did Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, except to say that "it is probably the most classified program that exists in the United States government."

But some technologists and civil libertarians, using clues that dribbled out in press briefings and news articles, are concluding that the operation involves widespread monitoring of millions of e-mail messages and telephone conversations that cross any U.S. border.

House Renews Patriot Act for One Month


The House passed a one-month extension of the Patriot Act on Thursday and sent it to the Senate for final action as Congress scrambled to prevent expiration of anti-terror law enforcement provisions on Dec. 31.

Approval came on a voice vote in a nearly empty chamber after Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, refused to agree to a six-month extension the Senate had cleared several hours earlier.

It was not clear when the Senate would act on the one-month extension, but approval was possible by evening. A GOP aide who spoke on condition of anonymity told NBC News that the Senate would come back in session Thursday at 8 p.m. ET. They will pass the one-month extension of the Patriot Act, at which point it will be sent to President Bush for his signature, the aide said.

Top Scientific Breakthrough of 2005? Evolution

Deborah Zabarenko writes for Reuters:

Two days after a U.S. judge struck down the teaching of intelligent design theory in a Pennsylvania public school, the journal Science on Thursday proclaimed evolution the breakthrough of 2005.

Wide-ranging research published this year, including a study that showed a mere 4 percent difference between human and chimpanzee DNA, built on Charles Darwin's landmark 1859 work "The Origin of Species" and the idea of natural selection, the journal's editors wrote.

Motorola Buys Austin's Wireless Valley Communications

Via The Austin Business Journal.

Wireless device giant Motorola Inc. bought Wireless Valley Communications Inc., a privately held software developer in Austin, for an undisclosed amount.

Wireless Valley was founded in 1995 by University of Texas electrical engineering professor Ted Rappaport. Rappaport was the company's chairman and chief technology officer, and Jim Welch was CEO.

Representatives of Motorola and Wireless Valley couldn't be reached for comment about Rappaport's and Welch's employment status, and what will happen to Wireless Valley's 25 or so employees.

Lucent, BT Ink Deal on Network Technologies

A UPI newsbrief, via, report sthat:

Lucent Technologies and the BT Group Thursday signed a contract to develop a cutting-edge Internet network.

Lucent said that it will help the British telecommunications group establish a more efficient core network that will allow voice, broadband, Ethernet and virtual private networking services, in addition to supporting asynchronous transfer mode transport services.

Blizzard Shuts Down 18,000 Cheaters

Via Red Herring.

Blizzard said it shut down more than 18,000 accounts that were using illegal software to cheat in its immensely popular video game World of Warcraft.

In the game, players spend hours collecting virtual gold and other goods that advance the player’s status. But some players use unauthorized programs to collect gold easily, then sell it for cash on third-party sites like eBay.

By banishing the players, Blizzard has taken a hard stance on the issue. Some online video game companies ignore the practice of “gold farming” or actively encourage it.

Los Alamos Unhappy with UC Contract

Dibya Sarkar writes in

Current and former employees of the Los Alamos National Laboratory are unhappy that the Energy Department selected the University of California and a group of private companies to manage and operate the lab.

DOE officials announced yesterday that they had awarded a seven-year contract worth up to $558 million to a group called Los Alamos National Security –- a limited liability corporation consisting of the university, Bechtel National, BWX Technologies and Washington Group International. The group, whose new contract will start June 1, 2006, beat out a team led by Lockheed Martin and the University of Texas.

Under the terms of the contract, an additional 13 years can be added depending on contract performance.

But the university, which has managed and operated the lab since the facility was established in 1943, has come under fire in recent years for security lapses and mismanagement.

Court Blocks California Video Game Sales Restriction

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

A federal judge has blocked a California law that would have made it illegal to sell or rent violent video games to minors, saying he doubted whether such sales could be banned even if the games were proved to cause violent behavior among children.

The preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the law comes amid a political and cultural war over the content of video games, which last year accounted for $7.3 billion in U.S. sales and rivaled Hollywood box office receipts.

Ariane 5 GS Lofts Indian/European Satellites into Orbit

Peter de Selding writes on

Europe's Ariane 5 GS rocket successfully placed an Indian telecommunications satellite and a European weather satellite into orbit Dec. 21, marking the first time the heavy-lift rocket has conducted five launches in a calendar year.

The launch of the Indian Space Research Organization's Insat 4A telecommunications satellite inaugurates a new generation of domestic communications spacecraft. Insat 4A will be used for Indian domestic governmental and commercial telecommunications. Its 12 Ku-band transponders have already been sold to direct-broadcast television companies serviing India, an illustration of the surging demand for satellite television in the subcontinent. The satellite also carries 12 C-band transponders.

Jordan Telecom Launches DSL Voice Service

A UPI newsbrief, via, reports that:

Jordan Telecom this week became the first Middle East company to offer double-play broadband voice and data service.

The Livebox service consists of Voice over Internet Protocol over DSL (VoIPoDSL) with technical assistance from Alcatel and is a prelude to eventual triple-play service in Jordan in the near future.

Ford Laptop Stolen with Privacy Data of 70,000 Enployees

Via CNN/Money.

A computer with files that have the names and Social Security numbers of approximately 70,000 current and former employees of Ford Motor Company was stolen, the company reported.

An investigation into the theft -- which is believed to have occurred in late November -- is ongoing, and Ford has notified the FBI, Secret Service and Federal Identity Theft Task Force.

Ford also alerted the three major credit rating agencies.

Ford says it has no evidence that the information has been used for identity theft. The car maker has told employees whose information was in the computer, and it has offered to pay for credit-monitoring services.

Judge Rules Against Lucent in Breach of Contract Case

An AP newswire article, via The Mercury News, report sthat:

Telecommunications equipment maker Lucent Technologies Inc. said Thursday it lost a breach of contract suit brought by the trustee for Winstar Communications, and was ordered to pay a fine of $244 million plus costs by a bankruptcy court judge in Wilmington, Del.

As a result, the company said it will take a $300 million charge in its first fiscal quarter, which ends Dec. 31.

Musicmatch Customers Pissed at Yahoo!

Via BoingBoing.

Boing Boing reader J. C. Ernharth says:

Yahoo bought Musicmatch, and has deep-sixed its service team for the software product while still allowing folks to download it and subscribe to it. In the meantime, paying subscribers to Musicmatch get shoddy service, and lifetime purchasers of the software feel (and are) very screwed. It's hardly a good business plan to alienate users of one of the more poopular music programs out there -- the free version shipped loaded on millions of PCs over the past 5 years. I've been a loyal user since about 1998.

Link to Yahoo Group for Musicmatch enthusiasts, who are not so enthusiastic at the moment.

Toon: Santa Weasel

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The Search for Net Neutrality

Michael Geist writes over on CircleID:

My weekly Law Bytes column examines the growing trend toward a two-tiered Internet, which upends the longstanding principle of network neutrality under which ISPs treat all data equally.

I argue that the network neutrality principle has served ISPs, Internet companies, and Internet users well. It has enabled ISPs to plausibly argue that they function much like common carriers and that they should therefore be exempt from liability for the content that passes through their systems.

Websites, e-commerce companies, and other innovators have also relied on network neutrality, secure in the knowledge that the network treats all companies, whether big or small, equally. That approach enables those with the best products and services, not the deepest pockets, to emerge as the market winners.

More here.

DirecTV's DVRs Run into Usability Snags

Via NewsFactor News.

The interface "is not intuitive, and it's not consistent in the way it performs," Gartner analyst Van Baker says. "There's a 'back' button on the remote, but it doesn't always go back. Sometimes, it takes you to a screen you haven't seen before.

DirecTV appears to have hit some speed bumps with the rollout of its new digital video recorder -- one of the company's most important initiatives.

Following at least dozens of consumer complaints to the company and on Internet sites about sluggish and occasionally idiosyncratic performance, DirecTV on Tuesday upgraded the software for the second time since the DVR was introduced last month.

"Some things are not as intuitive as we thought, and we're polishing it," says DirecTV Chief Technology Officer Romulo Pontual. "It's the kind of thing we do for a living."

ACLU Calls for Probe of Bush's Eavesdropping

Paul Koring writes in The Globe and Mail:

An independent prosecutor should be named to probe President George W. Bush's decision to order clandestine electronic surveillance, without court approval, of communications originating or ending in the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union said yesterday.

"This administration, like that of President Nixon, has apparently secretly adopted a legal view of the executive branch's power that is unbounded," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington legislative office.

French MPs Vote to Legalize Internet File-Sharing

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

In a rare and possibly shortlived victory for millions of French Internet users who download music and movies, France's lower house of parliament has voted to legalise peer-to-peer file-sharing.

The surprise decision -- adopted 30 votes to 28 in a nearly empty chamber late Wednesday -- runs counter to moves in most other Western countries, where legislators are seeking to stamp out copyright violations via the Internet by declaring such downloads illegal.

The measure, introduced as two amendments to a government bill designed to toughen digital copyright protection, would deem that downloading copyrighted files is legal as long as it is for private use only and the downloader pays a general fee for royalty payments.

'Where Subways Stall, Publicists Rush In'

Stacy Cowley writes in NetworkWorld:

With millions of New Yorkers stranded indefinitely by the city's ongoing transit strike, a smattering of technology vendors are taking advantage of the chance to tout their wares to displaced office workers.

More here.

Japan's NTT Begins Offering Consumer IPv6 Service

Martyn Williams writes in NetworkWorld:

NTT Communications has begun offering a consumer IPv6 connection service that runs across any standard Internet access line and costs ¥300 ($2.50) per month. The service, which was launched in Japan earlier this month, is the first of its kind in the world, according to the carrier.

To use NTT's service customers must install an access program, which is offered for computers running the Japanese version of the Windows XP SP2 operating system. The software maintains an IPv6 tunnel across a standard IPv4 Internet connection - fixed or wireless broadband or dial-up - to a server that links onto the IPv6 Internet. The software also manages the PC's IPv4 and IPv6 addresses.

Merry Christmas!

Man Charged Over Sydney SMS 'Hate Text' Messages

Via The BBC.

A Sydney man has been charged with sending SMS messages to incite violence in the days following the city's race riots, Australian police have said.

The 33-year-old man - the first to be charged with such an offence - faces a maximum three-year jail term.

Police say they expect to make similar arrests in the coming days.

User Friendly: Geeks Love LEDs


Click for larger image.

Swiss Redux on Telecom Deals

Via The BBC.

Telecoms group Swisscom has been told it may buy foreign firms, reversing a previous order by the Swiss government.

Switzerland's leading telecoms firm was forced to abandon takeover talks with Ireland's Eircom earlier this month, after ministers objected to the deal.

The Swiss government currently controls Swisscom and argues foreign expansion could limit domestic investment.

While the new ruling will permit Swisscom to seeks deals abroad, it comes with strict conditions.

Singapore to Introduce $2 Plastic Notes

Image source: / AFP

An AFP newswire article, via, reports that:

More Singapore money is going plastic. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the central bank, said that two-dollar polymer, or plastic, notes will be issued from January 12.

Their introduction comes after the first batch of 10-dollar plastic notes began circulating in May last year.

Bad Ruling on Cell Phone Tracking

Via The EFF.

Yesterday [20 December 2005], Magistrate Judge Gorenstein of the federal court for the Southern District of New York issued an opinion [.pdf] permitting the government to use cell site data to track a cell phone's physical location, without the government having to obtain a search warrant based on probable cause.

Judge Gorenstein's flawed legal analysis is in sharp contrast to three other federal court opinions strongly rejecting the government’s legal arguments, including a decision by Magistrate Judge Orenstein in the Eastern District of New York. While Judge Orenstein referred to the government's legal arguments variously as "unsupported," "misleading," and "contrived," and a Texas court called the convolutions of the government’s theory “perverse” and likened its twists and turns to a "three-rail bank shot," Judge Gorenstein bought the government's arguments hook, line and sinker.

Unfortunately, this dangerous new opinion falls into a procedural black hole. Because the DOJ is the only party in these surveillance cases, there's no one left to appeal the decision. Meanwhile, the DOJ has refused to appeal all three times it has lost, despite emphatic requests by the Texas and Eastern District magistrates. The result is that other magistrates across the country won't get clear guidance from the appeals courts on this issue.

More here.

Student Finds Stolen Thesis by Thinking Like a Thief

Susan Kinzie writes in The Washington Post:

When Linda Cerniglia went back to school, it took her almost seven years to get through all the prerequisites, the labs, the research. And it took a thief just moments to grab her purse, with the only copy of her master's thesis stored on a tiny jump drive inside.

For anyone who's ever obsessed about a project but forgotten to back up the data, watched a computer screen fizzle just before a deadline or left crucial documents in a cab -- here is a story about backing up, and moving forward.

File the Bin Laden Phone Leak Under 'Urban Myths'

The campaign of disinformation by the Bush administration continues.

Glenn Kessler writes in The Washington Post:

President Bush asserted this week that the news media published a U.S. government leak in 1998 about Osama bin Laden's use of a satellite phone, alerting the al Qaeda leader to government monitoring and prompting him to abandon the device.

The story of the vicious leak that destroyed a valuable intelligence operation was first reported by a best-selling book, validated by the Sept. 11 commission and then repeated by the president.

But it appears to be an urban myth.

The al Qaeda leader's communication to aides via satellite phone had already been reported in 1996 -- and the source of the information was another government, the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan at the time.

Passion of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Our Creator.

Kathleen Craig writes in Wired News:

Bobby Henderson is holed up in the boonies -- Corvallis, Oregon -- hard at work on his next entry into the fray over just what students should learn about the origin of species.

When the Kansas Board of Education proposed balancing evolution instruction by teaching intelligent design, said to be a scientific theory that supports an "intelligent creator" of all life, the decision outraged many, including 38 Nobel laureates.

Henderson responded with a satirical letter to the Kansas board demanding equal time for a different, "equally scientific" theory of intelligent design, in which a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the world.

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or Pastafarianism, turned into a phenomenon, appealing to scientists, academics and many others, who flock to Henderson's website to pick up FSM mugs and T-shirts, play games and learn about other school boards hostile to evolutionary thought. The site now draws as many as 2 million hits a day.

Dilbert: Holiday Product Marketing

Click for larger image.

EU Clears Oracle to Acquire Siebel

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

The European Commission on Thursday cleared Oracle Corp.'s proposed $5.85 billion acquisition of business-software rival Siebel Systems Inc., the last regulatory hurdle for the deal.

EU regulators said they examined the deal carefully to see how powerful the new company would be in the European market for customer-relations software and if the tie-up would cause wide-ranging "conglomerate effects."

EU Threatens Microsoft With Penalties for Non-Compliance

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

The European Union took new legal steps against Microsoft Corp. on Thursday to ensure better compliance with its 2004 antitrust ruling, threatening fines of up to 2 million euros ($2.37 million) a day if the software giant does not meet its demands.

The EU head office is insistent that Microsoft must provide better documentation on its software programs to competitors in order to achieve interoperability with the dominant Windows PCs and servers. It gave Microsoft until Jan. 25 to answer the complaint.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

U.S. Senate Deal Reached to Extend Patriot Act for 6 Months

An AP newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

The Senate neared passage of a six-month extension of the USA Patriot Act Wednesday night, hoping to avoid the expiration of law enforcement powers deemed vital to the war on terror.

It is unclear when the House would act on the bill.

The agreement capped several days of backroom negotiation conducted against the backdrop of presidential attacks on critics of the legislation. The Patriot Act provisions will expire on Dec. 31 if the House and Senate do not act.

Domestic Spying Indicates Changes at the NSA

Robert Windrem writes in MSNBC News:

It’s not your father’s NSA, and that may be at the heart of the current domestic spy scandal.

The National Security Agency, the nation’s supersecret electronic spy agency, has moved from just intercepting “information in motion” to seeking out “information at rest.” It is seeking out information, not passively waiting for it to arrive, an outgrowth of Bush administration policy that favors intervention rather than retaliation after the fact.

What’s the difference?

Information in motion is data moving between one person or computer to another. Information at rest is that which sits in a computer or in a cell phone that is vulnerable to penetration via the Internet. One is interception, the other intrusion.

Shanghai Telecom And Siemens To Provide IPTV Services


Shanghai Telecom and Shanghai Media Group will be collaborating with Siemens (SI) to offer Internet protocol television (IPTV) services to a national market that now includes about 25 million broadband users and 360 million television viewers, announced the Siemens Communications Group at a press conference held yesterday in Shanghai.

Shanghai Telecom has been successfully testing the Siemens SURPASS Home Entertainment solution and, by the end of February, the operator plans to use the Siemens portfolio to offer IPTV services to 5,000 households in the Shanghai borough of Pudong.

Beijing To Soon Issue First Decree On Network And Information Security


Beijing will soon issue a "Network and Information Security Decree" providing a legal basis for the actual implementation of information safety and proposals for the National Network Security Grading Protection Rules which are scheduled to come out within next year.

At the 5th Information Security Round Table Forum, Jia Li, director of the Beijing Municipal Information Office Network Security Division, introduced such issues of wide concern as the information security indexing system, annual reports for the information security industry, training for staff involved in e-political affairs as well as conditions for enterprises to participate in government procurement.

Zhang Junbing, director of the Public Information Network Security Supervision Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security, said that the National Network Security Grading Protection Rules are going to be issued in 2006 and will consist of a complete set of standards and management measures on security grading, basic management and technical requirements.

H5N1 News: Bird Flu Victims Died Due to Tamiflu Resistance

An AP newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

In a development health experts are calling alarming, two bird flu patients in Vietnam died after developing resistance to Tamiflu, the key drug that governments are stockpiling in case of a large-scale outbreak.

The experts said the deaths were disturbing because the two girls had received early and aggressive treatment with Tamiflu and had gotten the recommended doses.

The new report suggests that the doses doctors now consider ideal may be too little. Previous reports of resistance involved people who had taken the drug in low doses; inadequate doses of medicine are known to promote resistance by allowing viruses or bacteria to mutate and make a resurgence.

Texas AG Cyber Crimes Unit Arrests Pflugerville Teacher In Online Child Predator Sting

Via The Texas Attorney General's website.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s Cyber Crimes Unit today arrested a Pflugerville man who used the Internet to solicit sex from someone he thought was a child. Dwayne Allen Lawhon, 27, was arrested in Bastrop when he showed up to meet the person he solicited online, who was actually an undercover Cyber Crimes investigator with the Texas Attorney General’s office.

“The arrest of a substitute teacher for preying on young children is especially troubling,” Attorney General Abbott said. “We must all be vigilant in making sure our children are protected from these predators. Our Cyber Crimes investigators are committed to tracking down these child predators and putting them behind bars.”

U.S. Air Force GPS Satellites Now Operational

Bob Brewin writes on

The Air Force and Lockheed Martin implemented earlier this week the first in a series of modernized Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites designed to improve encryption and defeat jamming for military users. They also put into operation a new civilian signal, which will improve the accuracy of civilian survey-grade receivers.

Lockheed Martin launched the next-generation GPS IIR-14M satellite in September, and the Air Force declared it operational this week after extensive in-orbit tests of the new military and civilian signals. Col. Allan Ballenger, system program director at the Navstar GPS Joint Program Office, said the new IIR satellite marks the start of “a new era of GPS services for our military and civilian users around the globe.”

H5N1 News: FDA Approves Use of Tamiflu for Children

An AP newswire article, via, reports that:

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of Roche Holding AG's Tamiflu to prevent flu in children as young as a year old, the company said Wednesday.

The antiviral drug was previously approved for patients that were at least 13 years old. Outage Angers Customers

Alorie Gilbert writes on C|Net News:

An outage lasting nearly an entire day cut off access to critical business data for many of the company's customers on Tuesday in what appears to be its most severe service disruption to date.

Salesforce stores customer information for thousands of businesses, delivering data "on demand" via the Web. The lack of that data interfered with some customers' sales and customer service activities on a critical pre-holiday business day.

"This is not just an inconvenience. We're losing sales," said Charlie Crystle, CEO of Mission Research in Lancaster, Pa. "It's a busy time of the year."

Security Vulnerability Found in VMware

Nate Mook writes in BetaNews:

A "very serious" security vulnerability has been discovered in VMware's line of virtual computing products, including VMware Workstation, GSX Server, ACE and VMware Player. The flaw could enable malware to effectively "jump" from the virtual machine onto the real computer running VMware software.

"Since VMware is used heavily in malware research, this is an obvious danger," says Alex Eckelberry, CEO of Sunbelt Software. VMware has posted updates to the affected products, which customers are urged to download immediately. Alternatively, users can disable the NAT service, which contains the vulnerability.

Juniper Sues Light Reading Message Board Posters

Via Light Reading.

Juniper Networks Inc. is taking a handful of Light Reading message board users to court, according to recent court filings.

The Sunnyvale, Calif., company filed a lawsuit in the California Superior Court of Santa Clara on December 14 claiming that it had been defamed and libeled by up to 10 persons unknown. These persons, referred to as "Does 1-10" in the court complaint (as in "John Doe," or anonymous), are being accused by Juniper of posting harmful statements about the company and its executives on Light Reading's message boards.

Texas Slaps Sony BMG With New Spyware Violations

Via Greg Abbott's (Attorney General for The Great State of Texas) website.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today bolstered his pending November lawsuit against SONY BMG Music Entertainment by adding a number of new allegations that reflect harm to consumers who purchased certain compact discs (CDs).

In November, Attorney General Abbott sued the New York-based company under the state’s new spyware law of 2005, making him the first state official in the nation to bring legal action against SONY BMG for embedding illegal “spyware” in consumer products.

In new allegations today, Attorney General Abbott invoked the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The Attorney General alleges the company’s “MediaMax” technology for copy protection violates the state’s spyware and deceptive trade practices laws in that consumers who use these CDs are offered a license agreement, but even if consumers reject that agreement, files are secretly installed on their computers that pose additional security risks to those systems.

“We keep discovering additional methods SONY used to deceive Texas consumers who thought they were simply buying music,” said Attorney General Abbott. “Thousands of Texans are now potential victims of this deceptive game SONY played with consumers for its own purposes.”

FCC Faces Tough Issues in 2006

Caron Carlson writes in eWeek:

Washington policymakers face several decisions in 2006 that will affect networking for years to come.

The overarching challenge on Capitol Hill and at federal regulatory agencies will be to prevent rapidly evolving Internet services from clashing with the decades-old policy framework for security, privacy protection, law enforcement needs and communications subsidies.

'Self-Aware' Robot Spells Doom For Us All

Image source: Engadget

Evan Blass writes over on Engadget:

So we've just inched that much closer to the terrifying but inevitable SKYNET-style of robotic domination that we've been warning you about, as Japanese researchers have recently developed a bot that is able to distinguish "itself" from "others" with a high degree of accuracy. We'll leave the heavy philosophical questions of what constiutes consciousness/self-awareness for discussion in comments, but the facts are these: Junichi Takeno and his team at Meiji University built a robot whom we'll call "Egobot" with an artificial nerve cell in it's computer that screens input from its sensors to determine if it is interacting with a doppelganger or a mirror image of itself.

More here.

California Refuses to Recertify Diebold Voting Machines

Michael Hardy writes in

California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson wants Diebold Election Systems to submit the source code for its machines’ memory cards for federal testing, according to a letter sent yesterday to David Byrd, the company’s vice president of operations.

Until the code is tested and certified, California will suspend Diebold's application to have its voting systems recertified for use in the state, wrote Caren Daniels-Meade, chief of the Elections Division in the secretary's office. Both optical-scan and touch-screen systems use the memory cards, which have "unresolved, significant security concerns," Daniels-Meade wrote. Furthermore, Diebold never submitted the code to an independent testing authority, which is required for federal certification.

NASA Prepares for Return of Interstellar Cargo

Artist's concept depicting Stardust spacecraft nearing
Earth for delivery of sample return capsule.

Image source: NASA / JPL-Caltech


NASA's Stardust mission is nearing Earth after a 2.88 billion mile round-trip journey to return cometary and interstellar dust particles back to Earth. Scientists believe the cargo will help provide answers to fundamental questions about comets and the origins of the solar system.

The velocity of the sample return capsule, as it enters the Earth's atmosphere at 28,860 mph, will be the fastest of any human-made object on record. It surpasses the record set in May 1969 during the return of the Apollo 10 command module. The capsule is scheduled to return on Jan. 15.

Orascom Takes Stake in Hutchison Telecom

An article by Mark O'Dell, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

Orascom Telecom, the fast-growing Cairo-based telecoms operator, is taking a stake of just under 20 per cent in Hutchison Telecom, a unit of Hutchison Whampoa, as part of a strategic agreement designed to combine the two companies' mobile operations in many emerging markets.

The deal is a coup for Naguib Sawiris, chief executive of Orascom, whose stated aim is to emulate Vodafone by building a mobile empire. The combination with Hutchison means the two groups have a combined subscriber base of 40m but an addressable footprint of 2bn in markets where penetration is generally still low.

University of California Gets Los Alamos Contract

An AP newswire article by Heather Clark, via The Austin American-Statesman, reports that:

The University of California has retained the contract to manage the troubled Los Alamos National Laboratory, The Associated Press learned Wednesday.

The contract to run the nation's pre-eminent nuclear lab had gone out to bid earlier this year for the first time in the lab's 63-year history.

A government official in a position to know the results of the competition for the contract told the AP that UC had prevailed. The university will jointly manage the seven-year contract with Bechtel Corp.

Toon: Holy Background Checks

Click for larger image.

Senate Passes Digital TV Transition Plan

Via Reuters.

The U.S. Senate approved legislation on Wednesday that would complete the country's transition to new, higher-quality digital television by February 17, 2009.

Up to $1.5 billion would be available to help some consumers buy converter boxes so existing analog televisions do not go dark when broadcasters air only digital signals.

Diebold Hack Hints at Wider Flaws

Kim Zetter writes in Wired News:

Election officials spooked by tampering in a test last week of Diebold optical-scan voting machines should be equally wary of optical-scan equipment produced by other manufacturers, according to a computer scientist who conducted the test.

Election officials in Florida's Leon County, where the test occurred, promptly announced plans to drop Diebold machines in favor of optical-scan machines made by Election Systems & Software, or ES&S. But Hugh Thompson, an adjunct computer science professor at the Florida Institute of Technology who helped devise last week's test, believes other systems could also be vulnerable.

Dilbert: Like the Wind

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Sony Rootkit CDs and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

Ed Felton writes on Freedom to Tinker:

We’ve written plenty here about the adventures of SonyBMG, First4Internet, and SunnComm/MediaMax in CD copy protection. Today, I want to consider whether the companies violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), which is the primary Federal law banning computer intrusions and malware. A CFAA violator is subject to criminal enforcement and to civil suits filed by victims.

A major caveat is in order: remember that although I have studied this statute, I am not a lawyer. I think I know enough to lay out the issues, but I won’t pretend to give a firm legal opinion on whether the companies have violated the CFAA. Also, bear in mind that the facts are different as to First4Internet (which designed and distributed the XCP software), SunnComm/MediaMax (which designed and distributed the MediaMax software), and SonyBMG (which distributed both software systems but may have known less about how they worked).

More here.


Jennifer Granick writes in Wired News:

Ignorance of the law is no defense. Someone should tell the president.

This week, The New York Times revealed that the Bush administration ignored the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, and intercepted telephone calls and e-mails from American citizens without a warrant. FISA requires that investigators provide a judge with evidence that there's reason to believe the person they plan to place under surveillance is an agent of a foreign power. Applications for these warrants are at an all-time high, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (often called "the secret court") almost never denies the requests.

Nonetheless, Bush has authorized the National Security Agency to ignore this relatively insignificant hurdle. The government has been monitoring calls to or from United States citizens to international locations, perhaps eavesdropping on as many as 500 people at any one time, according to the Times.

Australian Government Website Hacked

Chris Jenkins writes in Australian IT:

A HACKER has made a successful and embarrassing attack on the website of federal Government agency Land and Water Australia.

The agency, which works in natural resource management, discovered its website had been defaced on Monday, but believed the attack could have been mounted over the weekend, a spokesman said.

Land and Water Australia (LWA) refused to make any comment on how its systems were breached.

While the LWA website's front page appeared be unaffected, any link on the page transferred the user to the website, which carried a picture of the Turkish flag and Turkish Gallipoli hero and founder of the modern Turkish state, Kemal Ataturk.

The webpage also carried the message "Hacked by Edjer/Turkish hacker/Edjer was here."

Australia: Telstra Loses Phone Market Ruling

Via The BBC.

Telstra, Australia's largest telecoms firm, has lost a key regulatory ruling that is likely to hurt its earnings and may delay the sale of its shares.

Australia's competition office rejected plans to alter what Telstra charges firms for access to its phone network.

As a result, Telstra has put a large expansion project on hold, and said regulatory decisions could cost it 850m Australian dollars ($625m).

The government is planning to sell its 52% Telstra stake late next year.

The Security Threat of Unchecked Presidential Power

Bruce Schneier provides some provoking thoughts in his blog this morning:

This past Thursday, the New York Times exposed the most significant violation of federal surveillance law in the post-Watergate era. President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to engage in domestic spying, wiretapping thousands of Americans and bypassing the legal procedures regulating this activity.

This isn't about the spying, although that's a major issue in itself. This is about the Fourth Amendment protections against illegal search. This is about circumventing a teeny tiny check by the judicial branch, placed there by the legislative branch, placed there 27 years ago -- on the last occasion that the executive branch abused its power so broadly.

Read more of Bruce's essay here.