10th > January > 2002 Archive

MS rigs ZD reader poll to promote .NET

This shining jewel in the world's economy, this commercial Titan with software on virtually every desktop on Earth, this Microsoft, has stooped to rigging reader surveys to rescue the crumbling myth of its popularity. We're delighted to report that Microsoft actually sank to ballot-stuffing of an on-line poll by ZD-Net.uk asking readers whether they prefer Java or .NET for Web development. "By 21 December, more than two-thirds of the respondents (69.5 per cent), said they planned to deliver some applications by Web services by the end of 2002, with a large majority of those planning to use Java. Only 21.5 per cent said they planned to use Microsoft .Net -- less than the figure (23.5 percent) planning to use neither," a ZD-Net story reports. But then Redmond apparently got wind of the survey, and the innocent poll was swiftly corrupted. As the results swung suddenly and improbably towards .NET, the ZD Web site's logs reported an incredible swell of connections from the Microsoft domain, with one fool trying no fewer than 228 times to stuff the electronic ballot box. "There is also clear evidence of automated voting, with scripts attempting to post multiple times," the news site reports. This ties in nicely with the subtly exaggerated sales figures for Win-XP which we've observed. And it ties in as well with the paranoid memos we've seen from Windows Division Veep Brian Valentine regarding the lurking terror of Linux, linked below, in which it's revealed that MS has commissioned a study specifically designed to make Windows appear cheaper than free software. MS is clearly dancing for the analysts, stooping to every cheesy dodge it can think of to keep its many myths alive. With PC sales and corporate investment in a slump, we know they're on the ropes and in deep denial. We saw Microsoft raise the dead to lobby states' attorneys general for a break in its antitrust case; but stooping to a cheap, empty gesture like rigging a popular survey reeks of pure despair. ® Related Stories MS struggles to discredit Linux MS promotes Linux from threat to 'the' threat
Thomas C Greene, 10 Jan 2002

Guilty plea in nuke lab hack

A 22-year-old Minnesota man pleaded guilty Monday to hacking into an unclassified network at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, after reaching a last minute plea deal with federal prosecutors. Benjamin Breuninger, known by the hacker handle "Konceptor," admitted to cracking the nuclear laboratory's network in November, 1999, and planting a backdoor that allowed him to reenter over the course of the next ten days. The hacker used his access to download budget materials. As part of his plea, which came just a week before his scheduled January 14th trial date, Breuninger agreed that his intrusion cost the laboratory $20,000, for the time workers spent re-securing the network. According to court records, Breuninger told agents investigating the intrusions that he cracked the lab's network to combat depression and suicidal tendencies. Breuninger referred inquiries to his attorney Wednesday, who did not immediately return a phone call. The hacker has been free on bail since his September, 2000 indictment. He faces a maximum statutory sentence of five years in prison, but under federal sentencing guidelines will likely receive much less. Sentencing is set for April 12th before Judge D. Lowell Jensen in Oakland, Calif. Correction: This story has been modified to reflect that "Konceptor" did not speak at the Rootfest hacker convention as previously reported. SecurityFocus regrets the error. © 2001 SecurityFocus.com, all rights reserved.
Kevin Poulsen, 10 Jan 2002

SuSE buys off trademark extortionist

As we reported earlier, German Linux distributor SuSE was barred from distributing its product in Germany after a trademark infringement action was brought by a company which admitted it was only looking to make a fast buck. After surrendering a quick out-of-court settlement to the extortionist, which did not include license fees, SuSE is now permitted to distribute its software unimpeded. The plaintiff, Crayon Vertriebs, claimed that a defunct KDE app called Krayon, listed in the start menu but no longer supplied, was diluting its brand. Because crayon is a generic term it seems implausible that SuSE would have lost the suit had it gone to court. But of course the inability to distribute its product while the case was pending would have been a preposterous price to pay for vindication. This is obviously what Crayon Vertriebs had reckoned when it decided to hold SuSE hostage under threat of trademark action, with the help of lawyer Günther von Gravenreuth. Apparently, Gravenreuth has a history of using dubious trademark claims to wring money out of tech companies that would rather cut a settlement cheque than go to court. One of his victims in a similar action, whose name we think better kept under our hats, recalls him thus: "Gravenreuth is an embarrassment to the whole of German justice. His activities would seem illegal to any normal human, but the jungle of laws and the lack of computer and Internet knowledge among the judges allow him to act in twilight. Considered from a psychological point of view, he must be appreciated as a pathological personality. For many years, he has been well known for his attacks against non-commercial persons and organizations associated with computing and the Internet. He presents himself as a normal lawyer, but in fact he is a dangerous criminal. He is dangerous because he infiltrates the judicial system by means of legal practices. His intentions are destructive. He tries to hurt legally inexperienced developers, designers, service providers and other members of the information technology generation. In particular, he uses the regulations of trademark and patent law, because in this area the judical uncertainty is very high. Gravenreuth also usually acts in public. He likes to be verbally attacked in wild online discussions, and in person. The more he is attacked with threats, the more he is in his element. He knows that nothing can happen to him. None of the judges in his court hearings point to his on-line statements. It's all very sad, but there seems to be no legal means to get him out of his niche. Trend Setter It seems that chickenshit copyright suits are all the rage these days. Thus mobile Unix developer MobiliX (get it?) is under legal duress from "Astérix et Obélix" publisher Editions Albert René. "To avoid any legal trouble with this name I registered the name at the German trademark register last year," MobiliX owner Werner Heuser explains. "It is a common practice to build new names for Unix related topics from a word naming the topic and adding the letters "iX" at the end. The German computer magazine iX is even named by these letters. The name Unix itself is a registered trademark of The Open Group. Also the name Mobilix is already registered for a German manufacturer of children's furniture (but in another trademark class). And then he produces a catalogue of over a hundred commercial names ending in -ix, which for the time being have escaped the trademark jealousy of Editions Albert René. Of course a hefty chunk of the French language also ends in -ix. Perhaps those words will have to go as well, so no dominatrix, possibly named Beatrix, will ever mistake Astérix for her cervix. You see how quickly this all becomes utterly ridiculous.... ®
Thomas C Greene, 10 Jan 2002

Tribble at the Top? Apple, NeXT grande fromage returns

Guy 'Bud' Tribble, one of the original Mac designers, has returned to Apple as Avi Tevanian's software lieutenant. His official title is VP of Software Technology. But Tribble might be excused for feeling that he's never been away. Tribble was a co-founder of NeXT with Steve Jobs, and following NeXT's reverse-takeover of Apple in 1997, will find himself among familiar faces. According to the Raskin School of Apple History, Tribble was a friend of Bill (HyperCard) Atkinson from UCSD, and Raskin hired both to work on the Macintosh user interface. Since NeXT, Tribble worked at Sun, heading consumer and embedded division, was the Sun-Netscape's Alliance CTO, and co-founded Eazel. Why mention it? Well, let's get the red herring out of the way. Tribble's experience twenty years ago as a UI designer has given rise to hopes that he'll make the OS X UI more Mac-like. This is the holy war du jour. We can't surpass As The Apple Turns description of the return of an old hand: "Don't get too excited - Apple hasn't capitulated and recrafted Mac OS X to conform to the Macintosh Human Interface Guidelines, nor has the company seen the light and admitted that filename extensions are an inherently morally offensive way to track file metadata. And no, the rainbow Apple logo isn't back, either." Indeed, it's ridiculous to suggest that a senior industry figure with a reputation as a deep-thinking technology strategist will be making low-level user interface design judgements, such as how many items go in the 'Recent Documents' menu, or what the tint on the 'Home' icon should be. No. Everyone knows Steve makes those kinds of decisions himself. Far more interesting, given the seniority of the appointment, is the issue of succession. If the unthinkable were to happen, and Steve Jobs was run over by a runaway muesli container truck, who would inherit the hot seat? The two most prominent VPs are Jon Rubinstein, the hardware chief, and Avie Tevanian. Both of course, performed the same roles for NeXT, although Tevanian is the more junior of the two. Rubinstein is the more ebulliant public speaker than the modest Tevanian, and can be relied on to turn on the hyperbole in the corporate videos that accompany new kit. He's really quite good at it. And he's proved that he can handle the operations side (manufacturing comes under VP Tim Cook's umbrella) efficiently: making sure projects runs to schedule, keep to budget, and ensuring that supply roughly equates to demand: all factors that have been as crucial is saving Apple as the stylish product design. Boards like that. Although Tribble reports to Avie, he's by several degrees the more senior. In fact, Tribble is comfortably senior enough to run Apple in the event of the Muesli Container Scenario. A Tribble-led Apple would be a lot quieter after the departure of the Reality Distortion Field, but then boards, like the English Football Association, often like to alternate between bookmakers and bishops when appointing the top man. This isn't to say that there's any indication at all that Jobs wants to hand over the reins, or that there's any reason he should. But he now does have a third candidate, and all three have impeccable NeXTish DNA. Dauphin Bud?®
Andrew Orlowski, 10 Jan 2002

BT focuses on dull old broadband

Broadband is a key priority for BT this year, according to its chairman, Sir Christopher Bland. So too is defending its traditional phone business from further erosion - a process BT Retail CEO, Pierre Danon, appears to have started. However, this much-welcomed reassertion of core principles from the monster telco is unlikely to steal today's headlines. Instead, they are more likely to focus on Sir Christopher's decision to cool his ambitions for BT to become a broadcaster. In the Sunday Times last week he said BT could branch out into the delivery of broadcast content much like BSkyB or the cable companies. Today though, the FT reports that Sir Christopher has effectively put the issue on the back burner amid concerns from shareholders. "We will not become a full vertically integrated media company, like BSkyB and News Corp," the FT reports him as saying. Furthermore, there is no budget available this year to fund any necessary network upgrade that would enable broadcast quality pictures to be transmitted over copper cable. Phew-ee. You can see it now - the media bosses at BSkyB, the BBC, ITV and every other broadcast outfit in the land must be breathing a collective sigh of relief that they won't have to compete with "BTTV". After all, with BT's recent track record of "big ideas" it couldn't fail, could it? Instead, it has to concentrate on dull old things like making sure telephones work and providing fast Internet access that people can rely on. How boring. ® Related Stories Broadband 'revolution is in the air' - BT's Bland Bland retreats on BT broadcast plans - FT
Tim Richardson, 10 Jan 2002

Legend plans European notebook launch for April

China's biggest computer maker and the Asian PC market leader, Legend Holdings Ltd, plans to launch in Europe, starting with a low-end notebook that will be manufactured on the continent by Taiwan-based First International Computer Inc. According to DigiTimes, the Taiwan electronics news service, Legend sees an opportunity in the European budget notebook sector which has already proved a profitable shelter from the dominant, but more expensive US brands for local manufacturers, such as Austria's Gericom AG. Legend has already made an experimental foray into Europe with the launch last September of its QDI notebook, again in association with FIC. However, that was just a toe in the water exercise. in April, sources say, the Chinese company wants to make a major impact in Southern European markets as a precursor to a wider European expansion. Legend's aggressive plans for Europe may raise eyebrows in some quarters, given that many analysts believe the company's domestic stronghold will come under severe competitive pressure this year as more US companies flood into China in the wake of its entry into the World Trade Organization. WTO entry is expected to wipe out Legend's price advantage in its home market, which has previously been protected by tariffs ranging from 20 per cent to 15 per cent of the cost of a machine. However, Legend says it is confident that it can meet all comers on a level footing, pointing to its established 12 per cent share of the Asian market, a substantial 30 per cent share of the China market, and a 2,000 strong-distributor network in the country which is the world's fastest growing PC market. © ComputerWire. All rights reserved.
ComputerWire, 10 Jan 2002

Search firms deliver mixed results

Northern Light Technology LLC revealed this week it is to scrap its well-regarded but low-visibility public web search service to focus on its business-to-business offerings. Meanwhile, Ask Jeeves Inc boasted of increased search usage as a result of the recently completed integration of technology from Teoma Inc, a recent acquisition. The varying strategies of search firms is a symptom of an industry that has been in flux for at least two years, since the decline of the banner ad business and the storming success of Google Inc's search engine. Many old favorites have had problems: Infoseek is dead, Excite is probably dead, and AltaVista is increasingly under-supported as the cash-strapped company focuses on its enterprise products. On Tuesday, Northern Light added itself to that list, announcing its search site will close on January 16 so the company can focus on selling software to businesses. "Over the past year, Northern Light has seen booming demand for search, classification, taxonomy, and content solutions from our enterprise customers and marketing partners," said CEO David Seuss. "Meanwhile, the business model for free, advertising-supported, public Web search has not been developing for us." Ask Jeeves, which is doggedly pursuing both ad-supported and enterprise opportunities, says it has seen a 25 per cent increase in the number of click-throughs on search results since it started using Teoma, and has seen site abandonment decrease 15 per cent. Teoma, one of the self-styled "Google-killers" that emerged early last year, uses a method of on-the-fly categorization of results by scanning its index for common word groupings. The engine also finds sites that act as "hubs" of big topic-specific link lists to act as authoritative sources. © ComputerWire. All rights reserved.
ComputerWire, 10 Jan 2002

Game over for Playing Fields

The UK multiplayer games scene has lost another participant with the demise of The Playing Fields. The London-based company this week announced that it had run out of cash and had placed itself in the hands of the liquidators. All activities will cease as of January 29, and the company urges members to cancel subs with their banks. The Playing Fields operates an Internet cafe, housed in a basement just off Tottenham Court Road. It is a popular venue for LAN gaming sessions and a venue for tournaments. In an email, Edward Watson and Charles Allen, founders of The Playing Fields, write: "We started out in April 1997 with a vision of helping to push multiplayer computer gaming into the mainstream. After four and a half years of hard graft we have finally run out of money and so can no longer carry on. History will tell whether we made a difference. To all our customers, members and friends thank you for all your support over the past few years and thank you for the memories. But most of all thank you to our staff. We have been blessed with some of the best, most loyal, most dedicated staff that you can find. We are only sorry that we couldn't find the finance to build on their efforts. We have always enjoyed making people happy through our own brand of entertainment. It's been a roller coaster ride, but it has always been fun and rewarding." Barrysworld and Gameplay, the UK's biggest games ISPs went bust last year. Barrysworld is now owned by Electronics Boutique, while BTOpenworld and BlueYonder, the broadband ISP arm of Telewest, are entered the market (in BT's case re-entered). ®
Drew Cullen, 10 Jan 2002

Register merchandise Jan sale is go

It's that time of year when, although the belly is stuffed with Xmas excess, the wallet might be feeling a tad slim. So, we thought that loyal customers of our Cash'n'Carrion Reg shop might welcome the chance to pick up a few bargains. Our January sale has slashed one third off selected items (prices include VAT): Grey, Red and white Reg t-shirts are down £4 to an unbeatable £8 BOFH Bastard Operator shirts also come in at a modest £8 If you buy a blue or white Reg polo shirt, you can save an impressive £5 The few remaining Reg button shirts have found their way into the bargain basement at a modest £10 And this is your last chance to snap up an Integrity, we've heard of it limited edition for £8 And, once we've cleared a bit of shelf space down here at Vulture Central, we'll be unveiling our new spring range of products. Happy shopping.®
Lester Haines, 10 Jan 2002

AOL UK pulls PC-SMS service

AOL UK has pulled its PC-based text messaging service ahead of the launch of "enhanced" services due out sometime later in the year. A notice on its AOL Mobile section reads: "Service Currently Unavailable. We apologise for any inconvenience caused. AOL looks forward to providing you with a new service in the near future. Stay tuned for more details." So what exactly is going on here and why has AOL UK pulled this free service that enabled AOL users to send text messages to mobile phone users from their PC? Unfortunately, we haven't got a clue. A spokesman for AOL UK declined to comment on its decision to pull the service except to say that it was necessary in order to carry out "back-end configuration". New mobile services are due to be launched some time in the future but AOL UK declined to say what they'll be, when they'll be available or whether they'll cost anything. ®
Tim Richardson, 10 Jan 2002

Hercules waves the ATI flag

Hercules, the graphic retail board sub of Guillemot, is to mainline on ATI chips for high-end products. It has won exclusive European retail and distribution channel rights to ATI's latest ALL-In-Wonder products. Which beggars the question: what does this mean for Guillemot's relationship with Nvidia, the supplier of graphics chips to Hercules' current high-end offerings and ATI's arch-rival. At the very least, it is a warning shot from a major customer across Nvidia's bows. Today's deal with ATI marks a "strategic shift for Hercules to meet the expectations of both the digital generation and the most demanding gamers," Claude Guillemot, President of Hercules Technologies, says in a statement. He reckons that ATI delivers "the most advanced technology for both 3D gaming and digital PCTV applications". Products featuring this technology will be branded under the Hercules Prophet range and are due to ship next month. The deal marks another step forward in the performance retail channel for ATI. Historically, the Canadian graphics chipmaker's strengths lie in the PC OEM market. But with PC manufacturing suffering, and Nvidia winning market share in this sector, ATI is feeling some pain too. This week, ATI announced Q1, 2002 sale (warning PDF) were down nearly 27 per cent on the same period last year. Some of this is technical - the company is shifting its system integrator business from supplying complete boards to supplying chips only. This means higher margins, but lower top-linerevenues. ATI says its suffered from the slowdown in PC sales but has not published an estimated cost to its business. ATI's Q1 results were, all things considered, rather good, with higher margins from a better product mix, and more cash generated on the back of improved inventory management. The company expresses optimism for performance in Q2. ® ®
Drew Cullen, 10 Jan 2002

Donut virus highlights holes in .Net

Virus authors have created what is believed to be the first malicious code to targets Microsoft's .Net web services architecture. The Donut virus is written primarily in Win32 assembly and some MSIL (Microsoft Intermediate Language), infects other .NET executables using the .EXE extension. Donut was sent to antivirus vendors by its author, who is believed to be a Czech member of the 29/A virus writing group. Due to the uncommon system requirements and replicating environment, the virus is unlikely to become widespread, so antivirus vendors are treating it as a low risk threat. The .NET architecture must be installed on Windows2000/XP in order for the virus to function and it only infects some files. Donut is not designed to spread by email and the only threat arises if someone saves an infected file on a PC. However experts say emergence of the "proof of concept" virus means the industry needs to invest in changing the way antivirus software works and adapt it to new environments. "This virus proves that virus authors will continue to target new platforms, so antivirus vendors need to invest in research and work out better ways to detect threats," Jack Clark, product marketing manager for the McAfee division of Network Associates, said. ® External links Description of the virus by McAfee Related stories .Net may lead to fewer viruses
John Leyden, 10 Jan 2002

Computacenter trading is curate's egg

Computacenter, the UK's biggest IT reseller, today issued a curate's egg of a trading statement for the year ended December 31. First - the bad parts. Market conditions (Computacenter is also big in France) were were than expected, deteriorating since August 2001, when it reported its interims. Product supply revenue fell 28 per cent compared with the first half of 2001. In the mid-1990s, Computacenter sold one in five Compaqs and one in four IBM PCs in the UK. If it retains anything like this market share (the company only has SCC breathing down its neck), that augurs poorly for these manufacturers. Market conditions are not expected to improve materially in the short term. And it is too soon to forecast the outcome of 2002. Now for the good parts. Computacenter will meet analyst FY profit projections (consensus is £52m post BIOMNI, pre-exceptionals). Improved service revenues means higher margins and greater resilience - the company says - when faced with a market downturn. The improved margin mix goes a long way to mitigate tumbling product sales. The integration of GE Capital Information Technology Services in the UK carries on apace. And the company is out of Germany, where it was too small to compete against GECITS. Computacenter is exercising its option to buy the services business of GECITS France, which will complete next month. Full results are due in March.
Drew Cullen, 10 Jan 2002

Clackmannanshire collared for ‘loose’ MS licenses

Clackmannanshire Council in Scotland has trousered a settlement with the Business Software Alliance after it was caught using 470 illegal copies of Microsoft Office 97. The amount is unspecified, but it includes damages and costs. Clackmannanshire has incurred the ignominy of a BSA press release after choosing to fight Microsoft's contention that a: it had bought 470 heavily-discounted 'loose' end-user licenses (over and above a Select Agreement volume purchasing license it held with the software firm) which were rendered invalid as they were not supplied with software and b: that, in any case, the licenses were counterfeit. Furthermore it ignored Microsoft's advice to seek redress from its supplier. Mike Newton, programme manager for BSA said: "This is a classic case of the deal being too good to be true and proves that local councils are not immune to unscrupulous vendors. Local councils should be setting a good example, operating within the law, and should be vigilant when buying software.” He continued: "In instances such as this one where organisations find that they possess illegal software, it is imperative that they don't bury their heads in the sand but approach the software manufacturer and take advice on how to solve the problem and seek redress from the illegal supplier. Unfortunately, Clackmannanshire Council persistently refused to co-operate with either Microsoft or BSA to rectify the situation." The BSA says it is currently investigating 500 UK organisations for suspected under-licensing, six of which are government funded. ®
Drew Cullen, 10 Jan 2002

Actors to teach kids about Net dangers

A touring drama group is to teach school kids about the dangers of the Internet. The group is expected to visit 20 schools in the next four or five months as part of a Government-backed initiative launched today to improve child safety on the Net. KidSmart is backed by kids Internet charity, Childnet International, and UK PC maker Tiny. Aimed at children aged between 8 and 11, the KidSmart Web site will also provide resources for parents and teachers so they, in turn, can help children. This latest attempt to teach kids about the dos and don'ts of life online is based on the UK Government's acronym-based "SMART"* rules, which are designed to help youngsters play safely online. Andrew Walwyn, MD of Tiny, said: "We believe that KidSmart is an essential initiative in building awareness of the issues and providing practical advice to children, parents and teachers." In December 2001, the Government spent £1.5 million in an advertising campaign warning children and parents about the potential dangers of paedophiles lurking on the Net. ® Related Story Govt launches pedo warning campaign *The SMART rules are: S - SECRET Always keep your name, address, mobile phone no and password private - it's like giving out the keys to your home. M - MEETING someone you have contacted in cyberspace can be dangerous. Only do so with your parent's/carer's permission, and then when they can be present. A - ACCEPTING e-mails or opening files from people you don't really know or trust can get you into trouble - they may contain viruses or nasty messages. R - REMEMBER someone online may be lying and not be who they say they are. Stick to the public areas in Chat rooms and if you feel uncomfortable simply get out of there. T -TELL your parent or carer if someone or something makes you feel uncomfortable or worried.
Tim Richardson, 10 Jan 2002

‘Moron Spammer’ shot down in flames

Bernard Shifman is a computer consultant, 'moron spammer' and quick to threaten litigation when reported to his ISP for sending junk mail. One victim, Neil Schwartzman, has turned the tables with SpamFlames, a site dedicated to exposing Mr. Shifman's antics. It's very funny. And unlike the formerly famous revenge site PsychoExGirlfriend, no-one is questioning whether it's a hoax. Will Schwartzman succeed in stopping the spammeister? Almost certainly not, but who cares - certainly not Mr. Shifman, now very famous indeed, with Spamflame namechecks cropping up at Slashdot, Good Morning SiliconValley,and TechDirt. He gets another 15 minutes in the limelight, courtesy of The Register. ®
Drew Cullen, 10 Jan 2002

Hacking activity plummets

Security breaches and hacking attacks have diminished in numbers since the September 11 terrorist attacks, according to data from a US government monitoring agency. Monthly reports by the Federal Computer Incident Response Center (FedCIRC), a central security coordination and analysis facility run by the US government, show just 15 incidents of intruder activity reported to it last month - less than a third of that recorded in December 2000. This compares to a peak during 2001 of 297 incidents (which include root compromises of systems, Web face defacement attacks [presumably counting only high profile targets], probes and malicious code outbreaks) in May. In August there were 114 such incidents but this had dropped to 63 by September, which was especially surprising because of the anticipated upswing in hacking activity following the September 11 attacks. As FedCIRC says, these statistics should be treated with caution and used only to get a general impression of the variety of intruder activity. However security experts with Harris Corporation, which provides security software systems for both federal government and private sector customers, say hacking activity is the slowest they've seen in years. Bill Wall, chief security engineer at Harris, said this lull was especially pronounced in December, a time when college students are on holiday and hacking activity picks up. Among the reasons for the change are improved enterprise security practices and behaviour-based intrusion detection tools to block attacks, Wall believes. He said around three in four NT servers he comes across now are "hardened" against attack against less than 50 per cent a year ago. Harris believes this modest improvement might lead crackers into targeting computers of home users rather than businesses. The introduction of laws that equate hacking with terrorism might also be having an effect, said Wall, who believes hacking activity will remain low unless something like the spate Chinese/US hacking attacks from early last year kicks off. "You're not seeing that kind of cyberwar with Al-Queda," said Wall. Records from the U.S. Space Command Computer Network Operations Center, which conducts computer network defence on behalf of the Defense Department, show an immediate lull in cracker activity following the World Trade Centre atrocity, though not for the rest of the year. Major Barry Venable, a spokesman for the U.S. Space Command, which is responsible for three million computers spread over 10,000 networks, said that intrusion activity attempts actually decreased in the two to three weeks after September 11. "We were watching networks very closely after September 11 because it was considered a ripe environment for people to be motivated towards hacking, however that didn't happen. I think hackers didn't want to be linked with terrorism," he told us. U.S. Space Command data is only available up to October and that shows that attacks against Department of Defence systems, always a favourite target for crackers, have "continued unabated" throughout the year. Intrusion attempts against DoD systems totalled 40,000 for the first 10 months of 2001 against 26,000 for the whole of 2000 but the "primary reason" for this increase is improvements in detection technology, we were told. ® Related stories Taleban can't hack - UK govt FBI condemns vigilante hacking Hackers are terrorists, says UK law Bush admin to make hacking a terrorist offence MS makes its pitch on security, cyber terror to House US Congress whips up 'cyber menace' again Cyber Virus Mutant Terrorists get Hip to the Trip Bill Clinton associates Love Bug with terrorism
John Leyden, 10 Jan 2002

Samsung raises DRAM prices, keeps schtum

Samsung and Hynix are to stop telling the press when they raise contract DRAM prices, according to the Korea Herald. Too late then for Samsung's latest price rise - up 30 per cent today, The Korea Maeil Business newspaper reveals. Too much publicity over DRAM price rises is interfering with negotiations with big customers, several of which, thought to be PC makers, have complained, the Korea Herald says. It's not clear whether they are complaining about price rises per se, or whether it's having a knock-on effect on their customers. Yesterday, two prominent UK system builders, Time and Mesh, announced their intention to pass on DRAM price rises to customers. It is reasonable to infer that similar plans are underway among other computer makers. The sustainability of increased contract DRAM prices, set twice a month and based on spot prices, is contingent upon industry consolidation, as Boston investment bank Fechtor Detwiler points out. The big play right now is between Micron, the world's no.2 manufacturer and Hynix, the world's number 3. There is an enormous gap between Micron's offer, reported by the estimable Jack Robertson of EBN to be $1.5bn- $2bn, and the sum, variously reported at $5bn and $7bn demanded by Hynix's creditors. Failure to conclude this deal will see DRAM prices fall back again. ® Forward contract prices are set
Drew Cullen, 10 Jan 2002

blueyonder in free broadband promo

Blueyonder is offering a free month's subscription to anyone who signs up for its broadband cable service this month. The move is designed to maintain the momentum experienced last year when it reported that broadband take-up had increased 71 per cent to more than 70,000 users for the three months to the end of September. While the offer is modest, it is further evidence that broadband providers are becoming more competitive and beginning to offer deals to tempt punters to sign up to high speed Internet services. Earlier this month Bucks-based ISP Nildram announced it was extending a promotional offer for half price installation of ADSL. Any moves to cut the cost of broadband should be welcomed, but many industry watchers believe prices for broadband - especially ADSL - must fall substantially before it stands a chance of becoming a mass-market product. ® Related Stories UK to follow broadband lead of S Korea - Hewitt Nildram extends half-price ADSL install offer Telewest signs up 70k broadband customers
Tim Richardson, 10 Jan 2002

IBM relies on SUN workstation for quantum computing

We thank SUN engineering tech James Gorremans for the following link to IBM's own PR Web site, clearly showing one of their researchers doing his quantum computations on a SUN workstation. You'll need to expand the second image from the top, entitled Qcomp_Dual.jpg to see what we're talking about. The site was quite slow when we visited, and now that we've linked it it's sure to slow down even more, so patience will be required. ® Related Link The evidence Related Story IBM demos quantum computing
Thomas C Greene, 10 Jan 2002

DVD hacker Johansen indicted in Norway

Norwegian prosecutors have indicted Jon Johansen for his role in creating the DeCSS program that unlocked a DVD copy protection system and unleashed a series of lawsuits by the motion picture industry. The National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime in Norway (OKOKRIM) indicted Johansen on January 9th for violating Norwegian criminal code section 145(2), which prohibits the opening of a closed document in a way that gains access to its contents, or breaking into a locked repository. The law also prohibits the breaking of a protective device in a way that unlawfully obtains access to the data. If Johansen is found to have committed the felony for the purpose of unlawful gain, he could serve up to two years in prison. "The way we understand it, the data is the content of the DVD, what you are breaking is the encryption and what you are getting access to is the data on the disk," said Halvor Manshaus of the Oslo law firm Schjodt, which is representing Johansen. Manshaus says the law has previously been used to prosecute those who broke into bank or phone company records. But he says this is the first time that the law has been used to prosecute someone who broke an encryption system. The case is expected to go to trial before summer. "There was a Norwegian Supreme Court ruling where this regulation has beenapplied before, but that was a case where he was accessing or breaking into a system that you are not legally entitled to access," said Manshaus. "The distinction here is that he is charged with breaking a code and accessing the data that he is allowed to access. He owned the DVD disk." The indictment comes more than two years after the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) contacted OKOKRIM prosecutors and requested a criminal investigation of Johansen and his father, Per, who owned the PC on which Johansen posted DeCSS. Indictment follows US lawsuits Manshaus says the MPAA also asked OKOKRIM to charge both father and son with contributory copyright infringement. OKOKRIM did not pursue this charge against Jon Johansen, and Per Johansen has not been charged under either complaint. Neither father, nor son is accused of breaking any U.S. laws. Johansen, who just turned 18, was not available for comment. The movie industry fears that the removal of the DVD encryption could spark unauthorized copying of DVD movies. But Johansen has maintained that DeCSS was intended not to make copies, but rather to create DVD playback software for computers running the Linux operating system. Johansen is co-founder of a group called MoRE (Masters of Reverse Engineering). Two members of the group, which Johansen knew only by their screen names, helped him develop DeCSS in 1999. The group found that the Windows-based DVD player XingDVD from Xing Technology Corp. had not hidden its decryption key. MoRE used this decryption key to make DeCSS. Manshaus says Johansen never used the utility to make copies of DVDs. Jan Bing, a Norwegian legal expert who testified for the EFF in a related California civil case, concluded in a legal analysis that, "there is no legal precedent or court decision in Norway to support a claim that reverse engineering is a violation of Norwegian criminal law." He added that 145(2) could, in theory, forbid the "breaking of a protective device," to gain access to information on a disk, but he noted that there is no supporting Norwegian precedent. A spokesmen for the MPAA was not immediately available for comment on the indictment. Robin Gross, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) that has supported Johansen said the motion picture industry has pushed Norwegian prosecutors to indict the young programmer. "I think they just finally succumbed to Hollywood pressure," said Gross. "The Norwegian government finally had to bow to the demands of Hollywood to prosecute Jon." In January, 2000, police entered Johansen's home and seized two personal computers, a mobile phone, and several computer disks. Johansen was taken to a police station and questioned for nearly seven hours and released. Gross says the current action against Johansen stems from two lawsuits filed in the U.S. The first lawsuit, was brought in 1999 by the DVD Copyright Control Association (DVD CCA) in California Superior Court, against Andrew Bunner and others. The suit claimed that Web publishers who posted or linked to DeCSS unlawfully misappropriated trade secrets. The suit demanded that the publishers delete the information. While he was not named in the suit, Jon Johansen decided to remove his link to DeCSS from his web site. On November 1, 2001, the California Court of Appeals reversed the court's preliminary injunction and confirmed that the publication of DeCSS is protected by the First Amendment. Bunner and his legal team have asked the court to recognize that because DeCSS is widely available on the Internet, it cannot be considered a trade secret. The second case involved a federal suit in New York court against 2600 Magazine which posted the DeCSS code on its Web site. The major movie studios sued 2600 Magazine, claiming that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) bans publication of the program. On November 30, 2001, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision banning the magazine from publishing DeCSS. The court agreed that computer programs are protected expression. But it found that when DeCSS is published on the Internet, the fact that it could be misused justified a complete ban on the program. Despite the lawsuits, Gross says that Johansen, who now works for a software company, is respected in Norway. She notes that he was awarded Norway's Karoline Prize given each year to a Norwegian student who receives top grades and makes a contribution to society. Gross says the EFF plans to coordinate protests and a letter-writing campaign similar to that which lobbied for the release of Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov. Sklyarov was jailed and later released for distributing software that could be used to circumvent access restrictions on Adobe's e-book format. "We want to get the Norwegian public to come together and put some political pressure on the prosecutors to drop the charges against Johansen," said Gross. © 2001 SecurityFocus.com All rights reserved.
Ann Harrison, 10 Jan 2002

MTV flogs own-brand PCs to students

MTV, the formerly hip cable music channel, is to flog PC and PC-type hardware under its own brand name. The range is targeted at "the Internet and entertainment savvy MTV demographic" - in other words American college students who live term time in dormitories. Supplying the hardware is US system builder Lan Plus, which sells PCs also under the Northgate brand. AMD gets a look-in, a design win if you will, as the MTV boxes are powered by Athlon XPs. So what's on the table: the press release is a heart-sinker for anyone who has seen the many failed attempts of PC manufacturers to pretend that they can do consumer electronics properly. The end result- to date- is invariably a horse designed by a committee. Will the MTV PC be any different? In the absence of product - it ships in Spring - and a detailed spec, we will have to make do with the marketing blurb. First up, this "phenomenal product virtually replaces the television, personal computer, DVD player and music CD/FM stereo. Just think about the impact this will have on dormitories, as well as homes and lofts with limited space," Bob Anderson, Lan Plus biz dev director gushes. And just think about the impact on the customer when it breaks - no TV, no PC, no DVD player, no radio. This is why the project is so risky for MTV - selling expensive kit which can break is a quick method of turning brand extension into brand suicide. The MTV PC line is also designed to enhance the gaming experience (how?) and will come in various colours and form factors. Also, some MTV content will be available exclusively on the beasts. It will be interesting to see if the MTV PC brand makes its way over to the UK, where its many music channels are staple fare on cable and satellite TV. Somehow, we think it will not make the journey. ®
Drew Cullen, 10 Jan 2002

Rambus makes money in DRAM downturn

Rambus, the pugnacious owner of all sorts of fast memory patents, many obtained legitimately, has turned in a profit for the December quarter, its Q3. So it was down - $6.2m, compared with $13m for the same period last year, and $6.5m in Q2, but still it's a profit. Revenues were $24.9m, 28 per cent down on Q3, 2000 and 11 per cent on the previous quarter. The chip designer Royalties were $21.8 million, 13 per cent down on the previous quarter. The company blames this mostly on DRAM price erosion during the period - and sure enough, Rambus RDRAM modules don't look so very expensive right now, up against the historically much cheaper DDR-DRAM fast memory competition (supplies for the latter have been a little tight recently). But what impact have DDR chipsets, launched by SiS, VIA and Intel in recent months had on Rambus's business? The consensus is that it don't look too good for Rambus on the desktop, but that it should hold its own in the server market. We guess it will probably take a quarter, may be two, before the effect on Rambus' market share becomes clear. Besides it's far too early to assess customer behaviour: Intel's contractual obligation to produce RDRAM chipsets only for the Pentium 4 was loosened as recently as last September, when the chip giant launched the i845, a chipset supporting cheap SDRAM memory. Intel officially launched a DDR chipset for the Pentium 4 this week, although it unofficially seeded system builder channels with product a month earlier at least.. Under its orginal terms with Rambus, Intel was barred from making its own DDR chipset for the P4 until 2003. Sue, Grabbit and Runne Rambus has been notoriously aggressive defending its intellectual property. But it suffered a major setback last year in its court case with Infineon in which it was found to have fraudulently obtained patents extending over DDR-DRAM. This means quiescence on the litigation front, and a side effect of making the company - strictly in the short term only - more profitable. Less litigation means smaller legal bills - down to $4.5 million in the December quarter, from $6.8m in Q2. ® Related Story Intel slams Rambus 'toll collecting' tactics
Drew Cullen, 10 Jan 2002