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Microsoft and the anti-competition of doom

On Friday last week, the legal eagles employed at Microsoft were sharpening their talons in anticipation of the verdict we've all been waiting for. Yes, this week the EU was set to rule on Microsoft's appeal against its conviction for monopoly abuse.

Come Monday, the European courts upheld the 2004 verdict, dismissing Microsoft's claims that sharing interoperability information would be bad for its innovation, and ordering the firm to pay up on the €497m fine that was imposed all those years ago.

Microsoft responded quickly to the verdict, in the media at least. Lobbying organisations such as CompTIA and ACT (both with strong philosophical ties to the Redmond giant) declared the ruling a blow to free enterprise in Europe and argued that it would be consumers who would ultimately pay for the decision.

Top MS lawyer Brad Smith thanked the court for considering its appeal, and said he had a lot of reading to do before announcing the firm's next move. The judgement, although delivered quickly, ran to 152 pages.

That was all on Monday. By Tuesday, the rest of the world's lawyers had piled in with their various takes on the ruling. The implications would be far reaching, with the effects being felt by other big firms, and the smaller firms that do business with them.

First the EC, then Google attacks

But last week was about more than Microsoft. There was news about Google too, as the firm launched its Google Apps answer to PowerPoint. Salesforce.com responded with a Meh, and said it could resist the pull of OpenOffice, thanks all the same.

Stealth ads

But Google has many strings to its bow. The vast advertising empire also launched Gadget Ads, which it says will feel more like original content than normal ads do. Well, that's OK then.

Just so it doesn't feel lonely in the ad delivery business, Nokia acquired Enpocket, a specialist in the delivery of targeted mobile advertising. No prizes for guessing what is planned.

Acronym heaven as ISO rejects OOXML

Google also issued a statement in which it gloated nastily about another recent Microsoft defeat. This time it's all about standards, baby. The ISO rejected a request from Microsoft to have the OOXML standard approved on the fast track.

OOXML isn't out for the count, it just means it'll have to take the longer road. And if nothing else, MS's battles with the EC have shown that it has the stomach for a long fight, even if it doesn't look winnable.

Excuse me, your data is showing

Aside from the two biggest names in tech, the web has been a wild place this week. Web host Layered Technologies has been targeted by malicious hackers.

The firm warns that the ne'er-do-wells could have made off with passwords and other personal details on as many as 6,000 of its clients. It advises customers to change login credentials for all host details submitted in the past two years.

Back on this side of the pond, patient data has escaped the secure clutches of the NHS. A computer stuffed full of confidential information turned up on eBay. Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Trust says it is trying to find out how the breach occured.

Formula One fines Maclaren, shares Ferrari's secrets

And the fast-paced world of Formula One was also caught with its internet flies undone this week. Still reeling from Maclaren's $100m fine and disqualification from the constructors championship, F1 watchers were aghast (no, really) when the technical documents that were leaked from Ferrari showed up all over the internet.

Toolkits are the root of all evil

Security mavens at Symantec are warning that developer toolkits are behind a surge in malware. From January to June, the firm counted slightly more than 212,000 new samples of malicious code, an almost three-fold increase from the last six months of 2006 and a more than four-fold increase from the first half of that year.

With that in mind, it might be useful to heed the advice of Joanna Rutkowska, chief exec of Invisible Things Lab. Known for her research into rootkits and other such nasties, Rutkowska took a speaking opportunity at a Gartner conference to suggest that malware protection needs to be built into operating systems. She argued that if it continues to be bolted on as an afterthought, the industry stands little chance of dealing with the evolving threat of targeted attacks.

You are the weakest link

And yet another survey has identified us humans, ugly bags of mostly water that we are, as being the weakest link in any security chain.

A Deloitte survey of senior security tech types in financial services firms found that customers are the common weak link in allowing viruses, worms, and hacking attacks onto companies' IT systems.

Bomb threats on servers and whiskers on kittens

A German operator of a Tor server used to anonymously route traffic over the net said he was arrested in a midnight raid on his residence that stemmed from an investigation into bomb threats said to have passed through an internet protocol address under his control.

The server in question typically handled 40GB of data every day. Police admitted they made a mistake and the man was later relased, but has sworn off his anonymising activities.

How many zero day vulnerabilities does it take to make a messenger service?

Yet more holes have been found in both Yahoo! and AOL's instant messenger services. Makes us nostalgic for the telephones and faxes, really.

Hot potatoes

Elsewhere, Sun Microsystems has cancelled its multiple awards schedule contract with the General Services Administration (GSA) amidst a scandal over alleged contracting abuses. The GSA establishes long-term government-wide contracts to provide IT supplies at prices companies offer commercial customers.

And to all round horror at Google HQ, which has been leading the charge in a campaign for a review of the radio spectrum in the US, Verizon has asked a federal court to maintain the status quo.

The telco filed a "petition for review" with the US Court of Appeals, in which it described the FCC's decision to open a portion of the band to any application and any device, as "arbitrary, capricious, unsupported by substantial evidence, and otherwise contrary to law".

Data protection? Nope, never heard of him...

The UK's biggest companies still struggle to deal with basic data protection enquiries, according to a survey of responses.

Though almost all companies have taken some action, the majority are only paying "lip service" to the issue, the report said. This news comes as the UK is slammed by the EC for botching the implementation of the data protection directive.

DNA data

All very worrying considering the scope of the police DNA database here in Blighty. This week, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics met to publish its report on the database, which stores samples from four per cent of the population. The report's conclusions? Retention of "innocent" DNA on the National Database as unjustified and unethical with "overtones of a police state". Nice.

Juxtaposition

How's this? Just days after the UK's public declared itself fully supportive of nuclear energy (it is sooo green, man), Greenpeace says it is considering legal action over the consultation. And in the Ukraine, Chernobyl is getting a steel lid.

In brief

Price comparison site uSwitch is downsizing its IT workforce.

Anti-spam appliance firm Barracuda Networks has bought application firewall firm NetContinuum. Financial terms of the deal, announced Monday, were not disclosed.

Mozilla sets its sights on the email and communication market, and is seeking email developers.

Adobe reports record Q3 revenue, and Brussels steps in with €2.2bn to save Galileo, the EU challenge to the GPS system.

Final funnies

And last but not least; a meteor might or might not have landed in Peru. It depends who you ask. Locals reported "a fireball in the sky coming towards them", and the subsequent falling to earth left a 98ft (30m) wide by 20ft (6m) deep crater. But some UK boffins who have been nowhere near it say it is more likely to have been a gas explosion.

But we couldn't leave without saying balls to it all. Yes, balls as in testicles. The salvation of mankind (well, stem cell researchers) may lie in the humble human bollock. All you need to grow a whole new you is a small "sample of flesh" from the testicle. OK, hands up who winced just then? ®

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