Saturday, December 30, 2006

In Celebration of: Raiders of the Lost Ark

Watching one of my all-time favorites tonight, Raiders of the Lost Ark, (I can hardly believe its been 25 years) in celebration of the news that a third sequel is due to be filmed next year.

I love 'Raiders', but above all, I love what it portrays -- guts, integrity, and truth.

Go, Indiana. Go!

- ferg

U.S. Toll in Iraq

Via The Boston Globe (AP).

As of Saturday, Dec. 30, 2006, at least 2,998 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,397 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

The AP count is 15 higher than the Defense Department's tally, last updated Friday at 10 a.m. EST.

More here.

And as always, keeps a very, very extensive list here, as does the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count website here.

The 10 Most Outrageous U.S. Civil Liberties Violations of 2006

Dahlia Lithwick writes on Slate:

I love those year-end roundups—ubiquitous annual lists of greatest films and albums and lip glosses and tractors. It's reassuring that all human information can be wrestled into bundles of 10.

In that spirit, Slate proudly presents, the top 10 civil liberties nightmares of the year:

10. Attempt to Get Death Penalty for Zacarias Moussaoui
9. Guantanamo Bay
8. Slagging the Media
7. Slagging the Courts
6. The State-Secrets Doctrine
5. Government Snooping
4. Extraordinary Rendition
3. Abuse of Jose Padilla
2. The Military Commissions Act of 2006
1. Hubris

Read the entire list in detail here.

Toon: Dubya 2007

Click for larger image.

Wisconsin Tax Mailing has Social Security Numbers Visible

Larry Sandler writes on The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

When Wisconsin taxpayers pull their packets of 2006 state income tax forms out of their mailboxes, tens of thousands of them will see something even less welcome than the annual reminder of how much money they owe to Madison.

They'll see their Social Security numbers, printed right on the outside of the booklets - where identity thieves might be able to see them.

About 170,000 tax booklets were mailed with Social Security numbers on the address labels because of a computer programming error at a printing company hired by the state, Meredith Helgerson, spokeswoman for the state Department of Revenue, said Friday. That's about 15% of the 1.1 million booklets mailed out to individual taxpayers who file their returns by mail, she said.

The error is limited to taxpayers who filed Form 1, the long form, by mail earlier this year to pay their 2005 state income taxes, Helgerson said. It does not affect individuals who filed electronically or through professional tax preparers; individuals who filed the state's short, EZ or non-resident forms; or businesses, she said.

More here.

(Props, Pogo Was Right.)

National Park Workers Not Permitted to Discuss True Age of The Grand Canyon Due to Creationism Concerns

You've got to be kidding me. This is simply retarded...


Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees. Despite promising a prompt review of its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's flood rather than by geologic forces, more than three years later no review has ever been done and the book remains on sale at the park, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

“In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “It is disconcerting that the official position of a national park as to the geologic age of the Grand Canyon is ‘no comment.’”

In a letter released today, PEER urged the new Director of the National Park Service (NPS), Mary Bomar, to end the stalling tactics, remove the book from sale at the park and allow park interpretive rangers to honestly answer questions from the public about the geologic age of the Grand Canyon. PEER is also asking Director Bomar to approve a pamphlet, suppressed since 2002 by Bush appointees, providing guidance for rangers and other interpretive staff in making distinctions between science and religion when speaking to park visitors about geologic issues.

More here.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Quote of the Day: Wil Wheaton

"I swear to god, if I hear one more fucking person tell me that I have to take off my shoes or give up some more privacy, or fall to my knees and worship George Bush so we don't have 'another 9/11' I'm going to put three ounces of my foot right in their ass. Stop. Treating. Us. Like. Children."

- Wil Wheaton, writing on his blog. We're with you, Will.

(Props, Homeland Stupidity.)

Gapingvoid: Welcome Home

Via Enjoy!

Off Topic: Lucas to Shoot Next 'Indiana Jones' in 2007

Harrison Ford as "Indiana Jones".

This is great news!

I'm a huge Indiana Jones fan, and I think the original "Raiders of the Lost Ark" is probably one of the best action-adventure films ever made.

An AP newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

George Lucas said Friday that filming of the long-awaited “Indiana Jones” movie will begin next year.

Harrison Ford, who appeared in the three earlier flicks, the last one coming in 1989, is set to star again.

Lucas said he and Steven Spielberg recently finalized the script for the film.

“It’s going to be fantastic. It’s going to be the best one yet,” the 62-year-old filmmaker said during a break from preparing for his duties as grand marshal of Monday’s Rose Parade.

More here.

Aftershocks Hamper Taiwan's Cable Repair

Ed Sutherland writes on

Days after earthquakes hit Taiwan, cutting communications cables linking the country with the rest of the world, the country is still contending with the effects of aftershocks on its underwater communications system.

Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan's largest communications provider, now says it is using satellite connections to restore voice and data to Asia and the U.S. The original plan was to route traffic over cables spared by the initial quake, but the cables were hit by two aftershocks, according to an e-mailed statement.

Chunghwa said ships are steaming toward the damaged cables, and repairs will be done "as soon as possible." Verizon Communications, Chunghwa's partner in a proposed $500 million undersea optical cable project directly linking the U.S. with China, said it could be two weeks before voice and data service return fully.

Telus, a Canadian operator, said its Asian operations have returned to normal. However, calls to the Philippines remain at half capacity. A spokeswoman said Internet users are still experiencing delays.

More here.

FCC Likely to Approve AT&T-BellSouth Megamerger by Year's End - UPDATE

Marguerite Reardon writes on the C|Net Broadband Blog:

Word around Washington, D.C. is that the Federal Communications Commission will approve the $84 billion merger between AT&T and BellSouth before the end of the year, which practically speaking could mean by the end of the day Friday.

On Thursday AT&T submitted a letter to the FCC agreeing to stiffer conditions on the merger, including the sell off of certain wireless airwaves in the 2.5 gigahertz band, a special $19.95 per month price tag for stand-alone basic high-speed Internet service and a promise for the next two years to adhere to Net neutrality rules outlined by the FCC.

More here.

UPDATE 12/29 16:23 PST: It's a done deal.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Defense Tech: Japan, U.S. Set For Deal to Exchange Sensitive Military Info

A Reuters newswire article, via The Boston Globe, reports that:

Japan is set to agree to a U.S. proposal that the two countries protect classified military information in a move to further strengthen security ties, a Japanese newspaper reported on Friday. The agreement, set to be finalized in the first half of next year, will allow Tokyo and Washington to share more highly confidential information and have more Japanese companies take on tasks such as repairing U.S. navy vessels, the Asahi Shimbun said.

The scope of protected information is currently limited, with the two sides having to sign memorandums each time they exchange information on areas such as missile defense development, the newspaper said.

More here.

Gapingvoid: Hey! How About a New Acer Ferrari Notebook?

Via Enjoy!

Background here and here and here.

Cheating Bluetooth Chess Player Banned For 10 Years

A Reuters newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

An Indian chess player has been banned for 10 years for cheating after he was caught using his mobile phone's wireless device to win games, chess officials said on Wednesday.

The player, Umakant Sharma, had logged rating points at a rapid pace in the last 18 months and also qualified for the national championship, arousing the suspicion of officials and bemusing rivals.

Mr. Sharma was finally caught at a recent tournament when officials discovered that he had stitched a Bluetooth device in a cloth cap which he always pulled over his ears.

More here.

SNL Flashback: Tom Brokaw Announces Ford’s Death

A classic.

Click here to watch.

(Props, SilentPatriot.)

AT&T Agrees To Keep The Net Neutral For 30 Months To Get BellSouth

Mike Masnick writes on

With FCC chair Kevin Martin unable to push through an approval for the AT&T BellSouth merger due to an (no, seriously, don't laugh) ethical stance from a fellow commissioner, it looks like AT&T needed to go back to the bargaining table.

With rumors swirling that a deal would be wrapped up by the end of the week, AT&T has apparently told the FCC that it will commit to adhere to network neutrality rules while guaranteeing low-cost DSL access for at least 30 months after the merger. In essence, this is a punt move to get approval for the deal.

More here.

U.S. Toll in Iraq

Via The Boston Globe (AP).

As of Thursday, Dec. 28, 2006, at least 2,991 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,396 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

The AP count is 12 higher than the Defense Department's tally, last updated Thursday at 10 a.m. EST.

More here.

And as always, keeps a very, very extensive list here, as does the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count website here.

Verizon Plans Improved Pacific Network After Quake

Ritsuko Ando writes for Reuters:

Verizon Communications Inc. said on Thursday it will build a multiroute network across the Pacific Ocean after an earthquake in Asia disrupted service and highlighted the need for a more robust system.

Verizon Business, part of the No. 2 U.S. phone carrier, announced this month plans to build an undersea cable with five Asian partners. It will directly link China with the United States and is due for completion by the third quarter of 2008.

The company said on Thursday it would use the Transpacific Express cable to launch a "mesh" communications network to ensure uninterrupted voice and Internet service in case of a disruption by rerouting traffic on alternate lines.

More here.

Thieves Cut Phone Line To Steal Copper Wire

Via KMBC-TV (Kansas City).

Authorities said thieves cut a major phone line in Wyandotte County on Wednesday.

About 100 customers lost their phone service when the thieves took about 200 feet of a phone cable at 7100 Holliday Drive.

Investigators said the cable contains hundreds of copper wires, and the thieves probably want to sell the wire for scrap.

More here.

(Props, Vicky.)

Gmail Users Complain of Vanishing Data

Via CBC News.

Users of Google Inc.'s free e-mail service are reporting that their e-mails, archives and even their accounts are being irretrievably deleted.

Starting as early as Dec. 17, some subscribers of the internet search giant's Gmail offering have found that their messages and accounts were wiped out, according to some accounts.

Frustrated Gmail users have been posting messages to online discussion forums — including the company's own Google Groups — complaining of the problem and demanding a resolution.

More here.

Quote of the Day: Siva Vaidhyanathan

"Well, thank you, Time, for hyping me, overvaluing me, using me to sell my image back to me, profiling me, flattering me, and failing to pay me. As soon as I saw myself on my local newsstand, I had to buy a copy of Time."

- Siva Vaidhyanathan, in an MSNBC commentary on Time's Person of the Year.

Your Computer is Hot -- And I Know Where You Live

Image source:

Annalee Newitz writes on the PopSci Blog:

This morning at the Chaos Communication Congress, Cambridge Ph.D. student Steven Murdoch knocked everybody's socks off with a presentation [.pdf] about how people can unmask an anonymous online publisher by remotely monitoring his computer's temperature.

It sounds about as tin foil hat as you can get, but the trick is real. Every computer's clock is run via quartz crystals, but those crystals change their speeds as the computer heats up. Therefore a computer's clock runs nanoseconds faster or slower depending on the overall temperature of the unit. This process is called clock skew, and it creates a uniquely off-kilter time "fingerprint" for every computer.

More here.

Can-Spam Law 'Big Disappointment'

Gregg Keizer writes on InformationWeek:

As the federal Can-Spam Act nears its third anniversary, a spam researcher calls it a "big disappointment" and says it hasn't been a deterrent to junk e-mailers, who have stepped up their efforts in the last few months to flood inboxes with an unprecedented volume of spam.

"Can-Spam has provided more prosecutorial teeth, but it hasn't had a huge deterrent effect," says Scott Chasin, the chief technology officer of MX Logic. "It's been a fairly big disappointment."

To be fair, Chasin says, Can-Spam was never meant to stop spam, only regulate it. But even at that job, the law has been a dismal failure. According to MX Logic's data, no more than 7% of all spam was ever compliant with the legislation's requirements. And that was within the act's first year. This year, compliance ran at all-time lows, never once reaching 1%.

"It's just another reminder that the legislative leg is not having a lot of impact," Chasin says.

More here.

Christmas: The Enemy of Botnets

Via heise Security News.

Apparently, Christmas helps to thwart botnet operators. According to observations made by several watchdog groups, the size of global botnets has abruptly decreased. Botnets are networks of thousands, to hundreds of thousands, of infected PCs, which are mostly running on Windows and are remotely controlled, often without the knowledge of their owners. Criminals use botnets to distribute spam mails and malware or to launch large attacks (DDoS) on other web servers or networks.

The ShadowServer Foundation, a consortium of several security specialists who watch botnets, malware and phishing activities, reported a drop in the count of zombie PCs from Saturday to Sunday of the past week from about 500,000 to just under 400,000. The Internet Storm Center DShield, also recorded lower levels of activity; however, their counts only show a drop of about ten percent.

These numbers can be explained by the exchange of old infected PCs against new PCs received as Christmas presents on Christmas Eve, which removes a large number of zombie PCs all at once from the Net. Although the new Windows PCs are not necessarily 100% up-to-date and must be updated accordingly, the firewall of Windows XP SP2 should provide a minimum of protection when connecting to the Internet for the first time, allowing users to update their systems.

More here.

FAA to Block Wireless Activity Near Agency Networks

Aliya Sternstein writes on

The Federal Aviation Administration has signed a contract to install a nationwide wireless intrusion-detection system at air traffic control centers, FAA training centers and the organization’s headquarters, according to FAA officials.

The installation is designed to keep out hackers and other unauthorized users who try setting up a rogue wireless access point to gain entry into an FAA local-area network at one of the agency’s facilities, said Jeffrey Widom, owner of Simplex Data Solutions, the company that will conduct site surveys and install intrusion-detection sensors. Simplex is a service-disabled veteran-owned small business based in Leesburg, Va.

More here.

Earthquake in Asia, Spam Plummets

John Levine writes on CircleID:

An earthquake on Tuesday near Taiwan caused widespread disruption to telephone and Internet networks. The quake affected an area of the sea bottom with a lot of undersea cables that broke, and since there is only a limited number of cable repair ships, it will take at least weeks to fish them up and splice them.

China and Korea were heavily affected, with most of their connectivity to the rest of the world cut off. Not surprisingly, this meant that the rest of the world got a lot less spam, too. Neither country is the haven for overt spammers that it used to be, but both have large broadband networks with vast numbers of virus controlled zombie computers.

One large network in North America saw their mail from Korea drop by 90% and from China by 99%. Since the mail sent from those countries to the US is typically 99% spam and 1% legitimate mail, the earthquake’s effect on e-mail was, to a first approximation, to get rid of a lot of spam. Brett Glass, a journalist who runs a small rural ISP in Wyoming, noted that if the affected countries dealt more effectively with their spam, they might not well have needed all of the capacity they’d lost.

More here.

Lost Bag With Passport Applications is Found


A bag with hundreds of passport applications was found at Los Angeles International Airport, nearly after a month after it was supposed to be shipped to a processing center in Charlotte, N.C.

"The applications appear to be intact and undamaged," said Kate Goggin, spokeswoman for consular affairs at the U.S. State Department.

The bag with more than 700 applications was reported missing Dec. 1. Most applications were from Texas and California but a handful were from Utah.

More here.

(Props, Pogo Was Right.)

Programming Note

I'm pretty busy today so posts will be light until later this evening.


- ferg

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Quake Knocks Asia Back to Pre-Internet Days

An AP newswire article, via CNN, reports that:

With one blow, Mother Nature triggered the largest telecommunications outage in years, cutting off or slowing telephone and Internet traffic in Asia from Beijing to Bangkok.

A powerful earthquake off the southern tip of Taiwan late Tuesday damaged up to a dozen fiber-optic cables that cross the ocean floor south of Taiwan. They usually carry traffic between China, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, the U.S. and the island itself.

The magnitude-6.7 tremor, which struck near the town of Hengchun, killed two residents of Taiwan and injured more than 40 people.

It also showed the vulnerability of the global telecommunications network.

Chunghwa Telecom Co., Taiwan's largest phone company, said the quake damaged several of the undersea fiber lines, and repairs could take two to three weeks.

Taiwan lost almost all of its telephone capacity to Japan and mainland China. Service to the United States also was hard hit, with 60 percent of capacity lost.

More here.

Toon: 2007

Click for larger image.

Online Shoppers Overwhelm iTunes Store

An AP newswire article by Jordan Robertson, via The Mercury News, reports that:

Swarms of online shoppers armed with new iPods and iTunes gift cards apparently overwhelmed the Apple's iTunes music store over the holiday, prompting error messages and slowdowns of 20 minutes or more for downloads of a single song.

Frazzled users began posting urgent help messages Monday and Tuesday on Apple's technical forum for iTunes, complaining they were either not allowed into the store or were told the system couldn't process their request to download songs and videos.

It was not immediately clear how many people were affected by the slowdowns, and Apple Computer Inc. would not immediately comment Wednesday on what caused the slowdown and whether it had been fixed.

More here.

U.S. Toll in Iraq

Via The Boston Globe (AP).

As of Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2006, at least 2,983 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,391 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

The AP count is nine higher than the Defense Department's tally, last updated Wednesday at 10 a.m. EST.

More here.

And as always, keeps a very, very extensive list here, as does the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count website here.

Covad Finishes National ADSL2+ Network Buildout

Loring Wirbel writes on EE Times:

Covad Communications Group Inc. has completed upgrading its national digital subscriber line footprint to ADSL2+, the fastest asymmetric DSL speed carriers can implement without moving to very high-bit-rate DSL, which mandates shorter lengths between access multiplexers and the home.

Covad, one of the few national competitive local exchange carriers to survive the CLEC heyday of the late 1990s, now covers 14 million homes and businesses in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle and Washington, D.C., providing downlink speeds of up to 25 Mbits/second.

More here.

2006 Declared Year Of The Zombies

Antone Gonsalves writes on TechWeb News:

Broadband-connected computers commandeered by spammers drove a 30% increase in the amount of spam headed to consumer e-mail boxes and corporate networks, an e-mail security firm says.

Remotely controlled armies of computers, called zombies, spread to all regions of the world in 2006, with as many as 8 million computers spewing billions of junk e-mails on any given day, Commtouch said Wednesday in its 2006 Spam Trends Report.

Zombies accounted for 85% of spam circulating the Internet, Commtouch said. Half of all phishing attempts involved spam posing as e-mail from eBay or PayPal.

On any given day, from 6 million to 8 million zombies were active, with spammers operating individual armies of as many as 200,000 hijacked computers.

More here.

Steamy D.C. Sex Blog Scandal Heads to Court

Jessica Cutler

An AP newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

When Robert Steinbuch discovered his girlfriend had discussed intimate details about their sex life in her online diary, the Capitol Hill staffer didn’t just get mad. He got a lawyer.

Soon, though, the racy tidbits about the sex lives of the two Senate aides faded from the front pages and the gossip pages. Steinbuch accepted a teaching job in Arkansas, leaving Washington and Jessica Cutler’s “Washingtonienne” Web log behind.

While sex scandals turn over quickly in this city, lawsuits do not. Steinbuch’s case over the embarrassing, sexually charged blog appears headed for an embarrassing, sexually charged trial.

Lurid testimony about spanking, handcuffs and prostitution aside, the Washingtonienne case could help establish whether people who keep online diaries are obligated to protect the privacy of the people they interact with offline.

More here.

U.S. Military Can Surf the Web Anonymously

Via UPI.

A document recently released by secrecy campaigners shows that the U.S. military uses "non-attributable internet access" for certain intelligence operations.

Newly declassified regulations governing U.S. Army intelligence-gathering activities were posted on the Internet earlier this month by Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists.

In one change to existing rules, the regulations state that although intelligence personnel must ordinarily use government computers for official business, "if operational security so requires, such as to protect a government computer from hacker retaliation, a ... commander may approve non-attributable Internet access."

The regulations say that IP addresses, URLs and e-mail addresses "not self-evidently associated with" a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident "may be acquired, retained and processed by Army intelligence components without making an effort to determine whether they are associated" with such a person, "as long as the component does not engage in analysis focused on specific addresses" -- such as trying to determine whether they are used by terrorists.

More here.

Bush Signs VA Bill That Guards Sensitive Data

Mary Mosquera writes on Washington Technology:

President Bush signed into law a $3.2 billion bill that will improve veterans’ benefits, health care, the security of their sensitive data and, when it occurs, its response to a comprehensive breach.

The Veterans Benefits, Health Care and Information Technology Act of 2006, S. 3421, directs the Veterans Affairs Department to notify veterans promptly in the case of a data breach and to provide fraud alerts, data breach analysis, reports to Congress, credit monitoring and identity theft insurance. The bill also supports an Information Security Education Assistance program, an incentive to give VA the ability to recruit personnel with the IT skills necessary to meet department requirements.

The legislation is the result of the theft in May of a VA laptop that contained the personal information of millions of veterans. It was the government’s largest data security breach.

The bill’s provisions follow on VA’s decision to completely centralize its IT environment, including enforcement of data security.

More here.

Telecom Links: Reminder of Reliance on U.S.

Wayne Arnold writes on The International Herald Tribune:

For all its vaunted ubiquity, the Internet is still defined by nationality, shaped by geography and dominated by the United States.

Asia was served a painful reminder of that Wednesday when an earthquake off the coast of Taiwan severed crucial undersea telecommunications cables carrying as much as three-quarters of the region's data from Southeast Asia to Northeast Asia and onward across the Pacific. Communications across the region ground to a standstill as voice and data traffic vied for space on alternate cables and satellite links.

Several major cables were cut, according to telecommunications executives, including the Asia Pacific Cable Network, which links North and Southeast Asia, and the SEA-ME-WE-2 link, which stretches from South Korea around the Eurasian landmass to the Netherlands. Technicians said they could not estimate how long it would take to repair the cables.

More here.

French TV Crew Smuggles Semtex, Knives Onboard Aircraft

Via FlightGlobal.

France has been rocked by its own version of the Anglo-Saxon journalist trick of by-passing airport security after a television crew was able to smuggle explosives onto Air France and Delta Air Lines flights.

The investigative journalism series Pièces à Conviction ("evidence") is airing a film made by undercover reporter Laurent Richard tonight on airport security. In it Richard, accompanied by security expert Christophe Naudin, is reportedly filmed on board an Air France Airbus A320 family aircraft to Nice carrying de-activated Semtex explosive and a detonator in his hand baggage.

More here.

(Props, Defense Tech.)

Researcher: AppleScript Great for Malware

Robert Lemos writes on SecurityFocus:

Apple's scripting language for the Mac OS X operating system is both easy to use and a powerful way to automate system tasks--two attributes that empower malicious coders as well as legitimate developers, the security researcher behind the Month of Kernel Bugs, known as "L.M.H.", stated in a blog post.

The researcher--who has also promised to deliver an Apple bug every day for a month, likely to be January--demonstrated the utility of AppleScript for writing a mass-mailing computer virus by showing how portions of the LoveLetter virus could have been written in AppleScript. The code snippets in the blog post show how to spread using e-mail, download arbitrary code and send messages to every iChat account.

The researcher gave Apple high marks for usability, but failed them on security.

More here.

Quakes Disrupt Asia Telecommunications Links

A Reuters newswire article, via CNN/Money, reports that:

Telecommunications around Asia were severely disrupted on Wednesday after earthquakes off Taiwan damaged undersea cables, slowing Internet services and hindering financial transactions, particularly in the currency market.

International telephone traffic was restricted from some countries and Internet access slowed to a crawl. Sources working with Asian telecoms providers said it could take several weeks before all the cables were repaired.

South Korea's top fixed-line and broadband service provider, KT Corp, said six submarine cables were knocked out by Tuesday night's earthquakes.

More here.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

FBI Says Files In Leak Cases Are 'Missing'

Josh Gerstein writes in The New York Sun:

The FBI is missing nearly a quarter of its files relating to investigations of recent leaks of classified information, according to a court filing the bureau made last week.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the FBI said it identified 94 leak investigations since 2001, but that the investigative files in 22 of those cases "are missing" and cannot be located. "There is no physical slip of paper on the shelf which indicates that the file has been charged out to a particular FBI employee, so therefore there is no way of knowing where the file may actually be," an official in the bureau's records division, Peggy Bellando, wrote in a December 22 declaration.

"That's an amazing number," an academic who has studied the FBI's record-keeping procedures, Athan Theoharis of Marquette University, said in an interview yesterday. "These are very sensitive investigations. ... They could be called to account for whether they are monitoring reporters. These are records that should be handled very well."

More here.

Taiwan Quake Damages Undersea Cables

Via Reuters AlertNet.

Two people were killed and 42 injured when three buildings collapsed in earthquakes that shook southern Taiwan, authorities said on Wednesday.

The two dead were caught in the collapse of a furniture factory in the southern city of Hengchun, where eight people, including four children, were trapped for a time, the National Fire Agency said in a statement.

While a tsunami warning came to nothing, the quake damaged at least six undersea telecommunication cables, affecting users in Taiwan and South Korea, and was felt in China and Hong Kong.

More here.

(Props, Virendra.)

Quote of the Day: Peter Gutmann

"The Vista Content Protection specification could very well constitute the longest suicide note in history."

- Peter Gutmann, writing in "A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection".

R.I.P. - Former President Gerald R. Ford

Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr.
July 14, 1913 - December 26, 2006

Via Wikipedia.

Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. (July 14, 1913 - December 26, 2006) was the 38th (1974–1977) President of the United States. Ford also served as the 40th (1973–1974) Vice President.

He was the first person appointed to the Vice-Presidency under the terms of the 25th Amendment, and upon succession to the presidency became the first (and to date, only) president in U.S. history to fill that office without having been elected either President or Vice-President.

He is also the longest-lived United States president ever, having surpassed Ronald Reagan's record on November 12, 2006.

More here (as updated).

Next Time You Fly, and Check Bags, Think of This...

An AP newswire article, via The Boston Globe, reports that:

Authorities were trying to figure out Tuesday how dozens of pieces of luggage belonging to air travelers ended up in a trash bin behind a Houston pet store.

FBI special agent Rolando Munoz said 68 pieces of luggage from various international flights were discovered. He said the luggage was turned over to Continental Airlines to sort out.

Mary Clark, a spokeswoman for Continental, said she didn't know if the contents of the bags were stolen.

The owners of the pet store found the luggage.

More here.

Happy Holidays!

U.S. Toll in Iraq

Via The Boston Globe (AP).

As of Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2006, at least 2,978 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,380 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

The AP count is 17 higher than the Defense Department's tally, last updated Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. EST.

More here.

And as always, keeps a very, very extensive list here, as does the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count website here.

Judges Approve $2.45B Nortel Settlement

A Reuters newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

Two U.S. judges on Tuesday gave their blessings to an estimated $2.45 billion settlement between Nortel Networks Corp. and shareholders, moving the pact closer to final approval.

Nortel and shareholders had agreed in principle to the settlement in February to put an end to class-action lawsuits stemming from an accounting scandal at the telecommunications equipment company. The settlement still requires approval by various Canadian courts.

More here.

Happy Boxing Day

Boxing Day is a public holiday celebrated in the United Kingdom and most other Commonwealth countries on December 26, the day after Christmas Day.


- ferg

Gapingvoid: I Get Paid By The Hour...

Via Enjoy!

Is Malware Hiding Behind that Certified Site?

Via The NewsFactor Network.

Web sites that feature the TRUSTe security Relevant Products/Services certificate are two times more likely to contain badware than Web sites without any security certification, spyware and adware researcher Ben Edelman alleges in a new report.

Among others, adware providers Direct-revenue and Webhancer are using TRUSTe certificates in an attempt to look more trustworthy than they really are, Edelman claimed. Direct-revenue is facing legal action from the New York Attorney General for its adware software. Edelman alleged that Webhancer often is installed without the user's consent.

More here.

Level 3 Acquires Savvis' Video Networking Arm

Ben Ames writes on InfoWorld:

Level 3 Communications, Inc. will pay US$135 million to acquire the content delivery network (CDN) division of Savvis, Inc., improving its ability to deliver rich media such as web-based videos over its Internet backbone, the companies said Tuesday.

Level 3 sells space on its global fiber optic network to customers like cable and Internet service providers who host Internet Protocol (IP) services, colocation, voice traffic, voice over IP (VoIP) and broadband Internet connections.

Buying Savvis' CDN business will allow Level 3 to host rich media such as video, Web 2.0 applications, multiplayer online gaming and software as a service, company president and chief operating officer Kevin O'Hara said in a news release.

More here.

FTC Gets Broader Authority to Pursue Foreign Spammers

Jim Puzzanghera writes in The Los Angeles Times:

It's the start of an Interpol for the Internet.

The Federal Trade Commission soon will go global in its hunt for spammers, phishers and other online scammers. President Bush signed a bill Friday that gives the commission broader authority to pursue e-crooks in other countries.

The FTC had pushed for more than three years for the new powers, which will help it shut down scammers such as the polite Nigerians who e-mail thousands of people a day with tales of woe and promises of riches to those kind enough to help.

More here.

U.S. Military Deaths in Iraq Surpass 9/11 Toll

An AP newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

At least 44 Iraqis died Tuesday in bombings, officials said, including a coordinated strike that killed 25 in western Baghdad.

Separately, the U.S. military announced the deaths of seven American soldiers, pushing the U.S. death toll past the number of fatalities in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

More here.

Courts Side With NSA On Wiretaps

Joseph Goldstein writes in The New York Sun:

Defense lawyers who had hoped that the public disclosure a year ago of the National Security Agency's wiretapping program would yield information favorable to their clients are being rebuffed by the federal judiciary, which in a series of unusually consistent rulings has rejected efforts by terrorism suspects to access the records.

In at least 17 criminal cases, federal district judges nominated to the federal bench by presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush have ruled against requests to force the government to tell defendants, most accused of terrorism-related crimes, whether the NSA eavesdropped on them without a court warrant.

The rulings indicate that even as public support for the war in Iraq has eroded in polls and as the NSA program has come under criticism from congressional Democrats, and even some Republicans, federal judges may be a bulwark that the Bush administration can rely on to defer to at least some aspects of its wartime policies.

More here.

Wired 2006 Foot-in-Mouth Awards

Tony Long writes on Wired News:

Welcome to Wired News' 2006 Foot-in-Mouth Awards program. You, the readers, have sent us your picks for the lamest quotes from or about the world of technology during this eventful year. We have selected the "best" of those and present them to you now.

Leading off with a stupid quote from President Bush might seem a little too easy, perhaps unfair, a bit like stealing candy from a blind kid or something. But in a year chockablock with moronic quips, obtuse observations and mind-boggling inanities, you still have to put Dubya front and center. He is, after all, the most powerful man in the world.

"One of the things I've learned on the Google is to pull up maps. It's very interesting to see -- I've forgotten the name of the program -- but you get the satellite, and you can -- like, I kinda like to look at the ranch. It reminds me of where I wanna be sometimes."
- Bush, asked during an interview with CNBC if he ever googled anybody.

More here.

U.S. Justice Dept. Database Stirs Privacy Fears

Dan Eggen writes in The Washington Post:

The Justice Department is building a massive database that allows state and local police officers around the country to search millions of case files from the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and other federal law enforcement agencies, according to Justice officials.

The system, known as "OneDOJ," already holds approximately 1 million case records and is projected to triple in size over the next three years, Justice officials said. The files include investigative reports, criminal-history information, details of offenses, and the names, addresses and other information of criminal suspects or targets, officials said.

More here.

Monday, December 25, 2006

U.S. Toll in Iraq

Via The Boston Globe (AP).

As of Monday, Dec. 25, 2006, at least 2,972 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,377 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

The AP count is 15 higher than the Defense Department's tally, last updated Friday at 10 a.m. EST.

More here.

And as always, keeps a very, very extensive list here, as does the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count website here.

MySpace Users Big Targets for ID Thieves

An AP newswire article by Gary Gentile, via MSNBC, reports that:

MySpace bills itself as a "place for friends." Increasingly, it is also a place for unfriendly attacks from digital miscreants on the prowl, luring users to sexually explicit Web sites, clogging mailboxes with spam messages and playing on the trust users have when speaking to "friends" to obtain passwords that could lead to identity theft.

Managing the risks that come with rapid growth is an enormous challenge for MySpace, now part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. media conglomerate. The site can't afford to drive away users, who might defect to one of a growing number of alternative sites, or advertisers, who pay top dollar to reach the growing MySpace audience.

More here.

This article comes on the same day that yet another exploit on MySpace has been divulged.

Merry Christmas Roses

Merry Christmas to all of the readers of the blog.

Be safe, be happy, be alive.

- ferg

More Flaws Are Detected in Microsoft’s Vista

John Markoff writes in The New York Times:

Microsoft is facing an early crisis of confidence in the quality of its Windows Vista operating system as computer security researchers and hackers have begun to find potentially serious flaws in the system that was released to corporate customers late last month.

On Dec. 15, a Russian programmer posted a description of a flaw that makes it possible to increase a user’s privileges on all of the company’s recent operating systems, including Vista. And over the weekend a Silicon Valley computer security firm said it had notified Microsoft that it had also found that flaw, as well as five other vulnerabilities, including one serious error in the software code underlying the company’s new Internet Explorer 7 browser.

More here.

R.I.P. - The Godfather of Soul - James Brown

James Joseph Brown, Jr.
(May 3, 1933 – December 25, 2006)

An AP newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

James Brown, the dynamic, pompadoured “Godfather of Soul,” whose rasping vocals and revolutionary rhythms made him a founder of rap, funk and disco as well, died early Monday, his agent said. He was 73.

Brown was hospitalized with pneumonia at Emory Crawford Long Hospital on Sunday and died around 1:45 a.m. Monday, said his agent, Frank Copsidas of Intrigue Music. Longtime friend Charles Bobbit was by his side, he said.

More here.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Art of Christmas: The Adoration of the Magi

Aertsen, Pieter:
Middle panel of a triptych The Adoration of the Magi; c. 1560; Oil (?) on panel, 167.5 x 179 cm; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

U.S. Toll in Iraq

Via The Boston Globe (AP).

As of Sunday, Dec. 24, 2006, at least 2,969 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,377 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

The AP count is 12 higher than the Defense Department's tally, last updated Friday at 10 a.m. EST.

More here.

And as always, keeps a very, very extensive list here, as does the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count website here.

Ghost of Christmas Past & Present: Saluting Our Soldiers

© 2003 SEPS: Licensed by Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis IN.
All rights reserved.

Cover of The Saturday Evening Post, 7 December 1918.

We Salute Our American Fighting Men and Women who are away from home this holiday season.

You are not forgotten.

Quote of the Day: Will Chen

"I love It's a Wonderful Life because it teaches us that family, friendship, and virtue are the true definitions of wealth."

- Will Chen, writing on his blog Wise Bread (props, Boing Boing). He continues that " 1947, however, the FBI considered this anti-consumerist message as subversive Communist propaganda."

Merry Christmas.