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Tech and telco insecurity problem exposed

Spare a thought for the poor saps running systems in the technology, media and telecoms industry.

International management whizzkids Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu have fingered the TMT sector as riddled with insecurity. And we don't mean missing deadlines, keeping up with the Jones's and wondering what the other half gets up to when they're working late.

Nope, it seems half of companies in this sector have had a security breach in the last year. That would be a big concern for their chief security officers - if it wasn't for the fact that barely two thirds of these companies even have someone in charge of security.

You might expect this of media firms anyway, of course. They're probably more concerned with looking under 30 and coming up with the next Big Brother.

Well, that's fair enough. But TMT also includes technology and telecoms - you know, the guys who try and sell you secure IT products and bulletproof networks. Still, at least when they cold-call you and ask to speak to you chief security officer you can say, "OK, but only if I can speak to yours". More details here.

Another degree of insecurity

And on the subject of security, you'll be pleased to know the University of Abertay is training up a new generation of hackers. Sorry, make that ethical hackers.

Yep, the nation's brightest can spend four years learning how to become whitehat hackers, able to defend UK Plc from cyber evil-doers. Applicants will be subjected to background checks to weed out anyone with a criminal background or other antisocial leanings.

As course leader professor Lachlan McKinnon said: "We will monitor students closely because we want them to become ethical hackers. But there is no guarantee. Harold Shipman qualified as a doctor, after all, before deciding to become a murderer."

Suddenly, we're feeling riddled with insecurity again. More here.

Musical furniture at Microsoft

Insecurity may be also be rife at Microsoft. With the streamers for Bill Gates's sort of leaving party still trailing across the plasma screens and basketball hoops, the firm let slip that it had parted company with its erstwhile point man for the assault on Linux.

Martin Taylor had spent 13 years at the company and was an adviser to CEO Ballmer. His departure was so sudden that the company's PR department was still canning his quotes for press releases even as he was packing up.

Lately, he'd been revamping MSN marketing, but previously had overhauled the company's response to Linux, transforming it from frothing rants by Ballmer to a more articulate approach deploying factual/commissioned research and reaching out to customers. While it is debateable whether this has done much to kill Linux's momentum, it at least made Microsoft appear to be a reasonable company that could respond to emerging changes in the industry in an adult manner, rather than turning straight to that well-known business play book, What would King Herod do?. More on the Taylor of Tacoma here.

Nothing to sing about at Novell though

Microsoft wasn't the only firm which was oiling the revolving doors this week. Novell waved goodbye to CEO Jack Messman. Well, wave goodbye may be too gentle a way to describe matters.

The board of the Linux/networking/groupware/whatever software firm voted to replace Messman with erstwhile president and COO, 45-year-old Ron Hovespian, who has been at the company since 2003.

Messman said in March that it would take two years to turn around the company. Clearly, the board thought it would be quicker to turn around Messman - towards the door that is. Novell also announced CFO Joseph Tibbetts is to be replaced by current finance VP Dana Russell. More here.

Ice chips

If you think someone has overdone it on the aircon, spare a thought for the eggheads at IBM and the Georgian Institute of Technology (Big Blue Gits for short?). They managed to get a silicon germanium chip running at 500GHz - that's GHz - by dropping the temperature to a mere 4.5° above absolute zero -286.5 to you and me. Yes, we know that's cooler than even the Fonz. But they did manage to hit 350GHz at room temperature. More here.

Voda jumps gun on HSDPA

If you're thinking about speed in the here and now, Vodafone looks to be first to market with HSDPA - or 'Super3G' - laptop data cards. The telco is touting peak download speeds of around "1.4Mbps and upload speeds of up to 384 Kbps". Beware though, complete UK coverage won't arrive till next year. More, including the price, here.

White light, white heat

Be warned though, the British Medical Journal points out that mobile devices can be seriously damaging to your health. It details how metallic objects in contact with the skin can make a lighting strike even more dangerous. And yes, no matter how light they are, those fancy phones and notebooks are chock full of highly conductive metal. And we're talking about just having a mobile about your person here - it doesn't have to be connected to anything. So if the clouds are gathering over the corporate hospitality tent this summer, do the sensible thing. Hand your mobile to the nearest PFY. More here.

Government loses your NI contributions...

Government IT systems provided a steady stream of headlines this week. Around half a million people had holes blown in their National Insurance records by a glitch at HMRC. But don't worry, it'll all be fixed by the autumn. Do your bit to help Whitehall get back on track - don't retire, change jobs, die, between now and Christmas. More here.

...but sells your name and address

Thank god the DVLA was on hand to show what happens when things go right with government IT systems. Turns out Cardiff's finest have been making £6.5m a year selling names and addresses from its database to hire purchase companies, car park owners, clamping companies and credit companies like MBNA Europe and the like. Whose names and addresses? YOURS, everyone, anyone. At £2.50 a pop. The politicos are promising to get to the bottom of this. I mean, a government database that not only works, but actually MAKES money? It's just not on. More here.

Unplugging WGA in the name of security

Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage anti-piracy scheme continues to cause uproar, being widely condemned as spyware, after it emerged it calls back to the Microsoft mothership. And then calls again. And again. One firewall testing site has highlighted the potential security threat to both corporates and individuals and launched a tool that removes the notification element of WGA. Morehere.

Unplugging just about everything

Meanwhile, endpoint security vendor Bit9 said unauthorised apps are a bigger threat than malware. It reeled off a list of applications it says contain multiple vulnerabilities, and which naughty users tend to download to their machines. Many of the apps may not ring alarm bells - Firefox 1.0.7 Acrobat Reader 7.02/6.03, Apple's iTunes 6.0.2 and Quicktime 7.0.3 for example. Rather, it is when these versions are not updated and remain unpatched. Its answer? Completely disable the offending apps. More details here.

Third of Europeans completely IT-witless...

Perhaps your best defence is to employ IT inepts. You won't have to look far to find them.

Researchers in Europe found that over a third of Europeans have no basic computer skills. And they mean basic. A shocking 37 per cent of people between 16 and 74 were unable to use a mouse to copy a file or folder. The top performers, you may or may not be relieved to find, were Denmark, Sweden, Luxembourg, Germany, and the UK. More here.

So Microsoft eyes Robots

Alternately, you could just bypass humans altogether. Reg reporters in both Korea and Pittsburg were shown the future this week. And the future, it seems, comes in a shiny steel skin with articulated legs. And is probably called HAL. True to form, Microsoft is looking to "standardise" programming for robots, with Robotics Studio.

You don't need us to spell out the potential ramifications - gim crack programming, security holes, remote seziure of robots by hackers, global apocalypse, etc etc. Meanwhile, robots are one of the key products of Korea's latest five year technology plan. Digital automatons are already working in the country's post offices and domestic service models should be appearing soon. It seems the most successful robot to date is the US's Roomba, a self-controlling vaccum cleaner. Frankly, we think it should stay that way. More details here and here.

That's it for now. We're going to lock ourselves in a darkened room for the weekend while we read the Visual Basic programmers guide in case we ever need to disarm a rampaging Micro-bot. Or do the hoovering. Same time next week. ®

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