Microsoft class action to go ahead as spammers crack Gmail captcha

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Privacy matters

Google continues to try to muddy the waters around the debate over the privacy of IP addresses by saying that, sometimes, IP addresses can change and be shared. Which, of course, implies that sometimes they remain a way to identify people.

Meanwhile, the Information Commissioner's Office has dropped its probe into Facebook, now that it's actually possible to leave the site.

A deal involving ISPs BT, Virgin Media, and Carphone Warehouse giving customer data to Phorm, an advertising company with a murky spyware-ridden past, has sparked privacy fears. Phorm dismissed the concerns.

Data breaches can cost companies an average of £47 per record lost, according to figures published by the Ponemon Institute, with financial services companies' losses even higher at £55. Thirty-six per cent of the cost is attributable to lost business.

But privacy's overrated anyway, as evidenced by a CD full of confidential Home Office data being found on a laptop on eBay. But at least it was encrypted this time.

A look at the courts

Microsoft customers have been given the go-ahead to file a class action lawsuit over misleading claims about Windows XP machines being able to run Vista. "Vista capable" stickers began appearing on computers more than six months before the operating system's release.

And the EC has slapped another €899m on to the fine Microsoft must pay for failing to comply with 2004's anti-trust ruling. This record-breaking fine is meant to cover the period from the 2004 decision to 22 October, 2007.

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has ordered that the damages Microsoft must pay over a patent the company's Excel software infringed on be reconsidered. The damages of 12 cents per copy of Excel sold were appealed by both Microsoft and the Guatemalan inventor who holds the patent, wanting the amount changed to four cents and two dollars respectively.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has subpoenaed Comcast's traffic management records after the company admitted throttling BitTorrents.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is suing the US Department of Justice and demanding records of conversations between ex chief privacy and civil liberties officer Jayne Horvath and Google. Horvath left the DoJ for Google in August 2007, prompting the EFF to request the data under the Freedom of Information Act. Six months have passed, and the watchdog is getting restless.

Germany's Federal Constitutional Court - the highest in the land - has imposed new restrictions on the government's ability to intercept internet communications. The court ruled that data stored on computers is covered by constitutional guarantees to personal privacy.

Subprime PC retailer BlueHippo is to hand over $5m in fines over Federal Trade Commission charges that the company had taken money from customers to do nothing.

And Nokia has won another round in its tussle with Qualcomm. The US International Trade Commission upheld its decision to let Nokia import handsets into the USA, though Qualcomm had wanted them banned.

Microhoo! reassurance

Microsoft sent an email to all its staff to reassure them about the Yahoo! acquisition. But it seems to have been aimed at Yahoo! staff as well, since it was released publicly and contains reassurances that parts of the company would survive the purchase.

Acquisitions

Anti-virus outfit Trend Micro has bought Identum, and is looking to combine the purchasee's encryption technology with its own internet security products.

And Novell looks set to grab virtualization firm PlateSpin in a $205m cash deal. The company will continue to operate from its Toronto headquarters.

Spammers, phishers, and bugs

Spammers have cracked Gmail's bot-busting captcha image system. The images, intended to distinguish between humans and computer programs registering for an email address, are no longer immune to automated attacks.

Microsoft reassured users that a disk encryption system built into Windows Vista is still a valid defence against a Bitlocker hack, which can allow miscreants to change protection settings with a script.

A bug in VMware virtualization applications allows attackers to take complete control of the underlying machine. The virtual machine is no longer an impregnable sandbox.

Phishers have extended their attacks to hit online casinos run from Antigua and the Dutch Antilles. The crims attempt to hook personal details from customers of the sites, then empty their accounts.

But the baddies are also fighting amongst themselves. Malware has been discovered designed to remove other malware before replacing it with its own version. The mind boggles.

Comings and goings

eBay is to launch its own Josh Silverman, currently CEO of Shopping.com, to the top spot of Skype - the Voip firm it bought for $2.6bn, let's hope he can find it a business model.

Tiscali boss Tommaso Pompei is to leave the company as sell-off rumours continue to circulate. Mario Rosso, currently a director at Tiscali, will replace him.

And Siemens is to cut 6,800 jobs at its corporate telecommunications unit. The decision follows Siemens' failure to find a buyer for the ailing division.

IBM launches mainframe computer

IBM is pushing a new high-end mainframe computer. The company claims it can lead to an up to 85 per cent energy use reduction, though it's fairly pricey at $1m+.

Logica looking shaky

Logica has posted below-expectations results and is worried about its future. The company admitted that its outlook for 2008 is uncertain on the back of this.

Pirates ahoy!

Ofcom prosecuted 61 people for illegal broadcasting in the 2006/7 financial year. It has recently been cracking down on pirate radio in the capital.

Meanwhile, a petition on filesharing has cropped up on the 10 Downing Street website. Peer-to-peer users are asking the government not to introduce "three strikes" legislation against the activity. But are they asking for something they don't really want?

Lindsay Lohan sweeps the Razzies

The Razzies - like the Oscars but for rubbish films - were held this week, and Lindsay Lohan swept the awards. The promising young starlet picked up two worst actress awards and one for "worst screen couple" for her twin roles in I Know Who Killed Me. The film itself grabbed a record eight Razzies, winning Worst Horror Movie, Screenplay, Director, Remake or Rip-Off, and Picture. A fine performance. ®

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