17th > January > 2005 Archive

Harvard Man in lesbian mix-up wants satire clearly labeled

The two fathers of 'podcasting' have called for jokes and satirical broadcasts to be clearly labelled as such, after they were bamboozled by a comic female impersonator. Two "bloggers" - former MTV video jockey Adam Curry and former software developer Dave Winer cooked up the idea of enclosing audio files in some XML code so they could be pulled off the web onto a portable device - a nifty, if not terrible original idea. With real, grassroots webcasting itself in mortal danger, its seems an odd distraction. The Webcaster Alliance is locked in epic battle with the RIAA over the right to distribute art, but instead of supporting them, these bloggers have other priorities, and top of the list is the right to be able to burp at home, and then broadcast it over the fabled Interweb. Unscripted burps are particularly welcome. And so not surpringly, people have taken the idea and run with it, making their own burpy broadcasts in their kitchens, and shoving them up on the web. For a week on their own burpy 'show', Curry and Winer rebroadcast the adventures of a podcaster they admired, one Yeast Radio's Madge Weinstein. Madge Weinstein is really a database programmer called Richard Bluestein, who performs the part of "a domineering Jewish lesbian" - firmly in the tradition of John Waters' diva Divine, and a long-line of female impersonators including Dame Edna Everage. He's been recording his own scatalogical skits for a while. But Curry and Winer didn't realize that Madge wasn't really ... a woman. It's an easy mistake to make, looking at the pictures of Madge in action (below), hearing her show, or if you don't have an internet connection, where Madge flaunts let's it all hang on a number of web sites. Judge for yourselves - Madge Weinstein is really a man in drag. Who would have guessed? Now let Winer himself describe the historic moment in podcasting history where they realized that Madge was actually - gasp - a man in drag! In a post entitled: "Oh shit, Madge is a hoax" Winer [audio] wrote - "I looked over at Adam and asked how he felt about this. "Not good." Then he asked how I felt, and I said I had repped Madge as being something other than what she or he was. An act." The intrepid twosome leapt into action. "We both agreed we should do an instant podcast to explain and raise questions." And so they did. "It's borderline podcast material to do that," opined Winer. "It's like stage material, or fiction. It was scripted - clearly scripted." The horror! Curry agreed. "Oh my god, this is scripted" replied the 80s throwback former video jock. "How much is scripted?" wondered Winer. "I clearly wasn't talking to Madge, a transgender 50 year old jewish guy with a beard. So... it's an act!" Winer articulated his anxiety further. "I don't want the feeling that this is a script written by a comedian who just wants to er, entertain us." Of course, there's no danger that anyone could mistake Curry and Winer's earnest podcasts for entertainment -but the script scare had to be dealt with, urgently. Great issues of morality were at stake. And so Winer demanded that Bluestein report in to the Podfathers to explain hershelf. "We need to hear from whoever Weinstein to it is as to how we should interpret that other stuff," he declared. "We'll give her another chance." "I want a direct statement on how we are intended to interpret this podcast. And then I'm going to make my decision," huffed Winer. These very issues are going to be discussed at a conference he explained, at Harvard, where until last year, on the recommendation of Professor Lawrence Lessig, he was appointed a Fellow of to the Law Schools' internet think tank, the Berkman Center. "Madge broke the rules" concludes Winer. "I need to know which parts of what's she's doing are real!" Gender bender Alas the happy podcast nation didn't take this outbreak of morality very well. "You guys sound like you are about to start regulating what podcasters can do and your first rule is that you cant be make-believe? What kind of shit is that?" asks 'Dave'. "You must be the only two people in world of podcasting who thought he/she/it was legit. Get a grip guys!" " I think podcasting just bit you in the ass" writes Ian. On Madge's blog, much more incredulity is expressed at the gullible and Pompous Podfathers. "Do they go out to clubs and think, 'Wow, this place is great! Barbra Streisand AND Carol Channing together on stage! Though I had no idea Barbara had such huge feet." writes one. "Who they heck are Dave and Adam to define what should and shouldn't be the content of a podcast?". I appreciate that their efforts have been key to the popularity and success of podcasting as a medium," "To the fathers of podcasting- wake up. Your revolution is about to start leaving you behind," agrees another 'caster. "Fuck you" replied Winer, echoing a theme he had developed earlier on this weblog. The great communicator issued a pre-emptive welcome for the press on New Year's Eve. Here's a screengrab - And Madge's response? "I've been accused of being dishonest but that's from people who don't know what the fuck they're taking about," she declares. "I am a lesbian. I am a rock band manager. And most importantly - a former lover of Ethel Merman." Which should be good enough for anyone. ® Related Harvard Man Stories One blogger is worth ten votes - Harvard man Harvard man loses 3,000 weblogs Harvard man provides musical solace for bereft bloggers Webloggers deal Harvard bore a black eye
Andrew Orlowski, 17 Jan 2005

Intellect gets tough on best practice compliance

Intellect, the UK technology trade association, is adding a compliance mechanism to its Code of Best Practice. This will make easier for clients to assess the performance of its members, it say. The organisation is formally launching the mechanism, along with revised guidelines, at the annual OGC Senior IT Forum Conference. The Code is based around ten basic commitments, such as sending the right person to do a job, agreeing a risk mitigation strategy with a client and only bidding for projects the supplier can actually service, etc. Full details can be found here. Intellect holds a register of companies who are adopting the code, but now, it says, suppliers will be able to "better demonstrate how they intend to implement the code, in real terms". "Both Government and Industry have been criticised in the past for IT project failures. The development of this compliance mechanism is proof that we've not been sitting idly by," said John Higgins, Intellect Director General. Indeed, the announcement comes as government departments are beginning to protect themselves against more high-profile IT project failures. The Ministry of Defence recently insisted that EDS sign a failure clause before it would allow the company to continue pitching for its Defence Information Infrastructure contract. John Oughton, OGC chief executive, acknowledged that it is not easy to deliver successful projects in the public sector. He welcomed the compliance mechanism as part of a joint effort from government and industry to "ensure that projects can be more successful in the future". ® Related stories BT has 'Big Brother' wobbles over ID scheme bids UK public sector unready for Freedom of Information Act 'Sophisticated' UK sprints ahead in ICT race
Lucy Sherriff, 17 Jan 2005

Scots man held over DDoS charges

A 27 year-old man suspected of launching denial of service attacks is to appear in a Scottish court today following his arrest on Friday, 14 January in a joint operation between Scottish police and the US Secret Service. Police searched housesin Elgin, north east Scotland and seized some computers. The police were taking part in Operation Casper, which targets cybercriminals who launch DDoS attacks on online websites using compromised, zombie PCs. The Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency's (SDEA) National Hi-Tech Crime Unit is leading the investigation. "Over the past year we have seen a considerable rise in this type of attack, some of which also form the basis for extortion attacks," a spokesman for the SDEA told the BBC. Detective Chief Superintendent Stephen Ward, crime co-ordinator at the SDEA, said: "Operation Casper has involved the SDEA working closely with the US Secret Service and is an excellent example of how law enforcement agencies, working together, can impact on internet-related crime." ® Related stories Botnet used to boost online gaming scores Russian extortion gang faces 15 years Extradition ruled out in bookie extortion case Security incidents and cybercrime on the up
John Leyden, 17 Jan 2005

UK betting exchanges face taxing future

Internet betting exchanges face a more taxing future - Chancellor Gordon Brown is expected to change rules to squeeze more cash from websites which allow punters to place bets with each other. The changes follow a National Audit Office report which found online exchanges paid just £7.3m in tax last year despite taking bets worth more than £2.67bn. This compares to £376m paid by bookmakers on bets worth £30bn. Quoting a "well-placed industry source", The Observer wrote yesterday: "The duty and the commission that exchanges make just doesn't add up. It's all pointing to the Treasury acting to stop this." Traditional bookmakers now pay tax on gross profits rather than punters paying tax on their winnings. But increasing popularity of betting exchanges has reduced the amount of revenue Customs and Excise has collected. The NAO also raised concerns that Customs needs more technical expertise to help it ensure new types of gambling are compliant with legislation. More details here ® Related stories Punters warm to online poker Amex prevents punters gambling online Racing scandal hinges on Betfair records
John Oates, 17 Jan 2005

Media Lab Europe shuts down

Media Lab Europe, the Dublin-based research facility based on the MIT Media Lab in Massachusetts, is to close down. The move comes after reports of financial difficulty for the institution, which relied on government support and private investment to keep afloat. At one time, it was hoped that the lab would be able to become self-sustaining, with revenue coming from patents, licenses and continual private sector support. According to one estimate, Media Lab Europe needed some €50m to remain afloat - funding which the Irish government, the private sector and MIT would not put up. The Irish government poured €35m into MLE, when it was set up in 2000, and companies such as Orange, Eircom, AOL and Ericsson, subsequently contributed millions more. It is understood that the facility, which employs almost 90 researchers and administrators, will wind down over the next few months. The lab wis headed by Simon Jones, who took the job following the departure of Dr Rudy Burger in 2002. Over the years, researchers envisioned and designed speakers that could be implanted into teeth, gadgets that measured passive smoke inhalation, and "digital butterflies" that helped children to communicate in new ways -- just a few of the marvellous projects at the lab. However, few MLE projects offered immediate commercial prospects. The closure of the high-profile venture will also be a blow to the government's plan to develop the Liberties and Coombe areas of Dublin into a hive of digital media activity. Media Lab Europe was set to be the psychological centre of that hub. Observers say the Lab's biggest drawback as far as private-sector supporters were concerned, was the lack of near-term commercial potential for technologies developed there. The Minister for Communications, Noel Dempsey, acknowledged that the lab was closing, and said it was a disappointment. He said its failure can be explained in part by the economic downturn that particularly affected the technology sector but also by the changing attitude of business to "non-directed research". "The lab was particularly successful in a number of collaborative projects with Irish third level institutes," he said. "A number of these are ongoing and I am committed to funding these Higher Education Authority supported projects through to completion in their Irish educational establishments." Dempsey said Ireland will aim to develop sustainable research activities in the Digital Hub location under a new institutional framework with the involvement of the Irish third-level education sector. In 2003, the MIT Media Lab abandoned Media Lab Asia in Bangalore, India, following a run-in with the Indian government and the country's new information minister, Arun Shourie. © ENN Related stories Southampton Uni goes Open Access Cambridge launches mentor group for women tech researchers Google founder ponders Irish R&D unit HP builds inkjet R&D centre in Ireland
ElectricNews.net, 17 Jan 2005

Madasafish 'Churchill' ad banned

A TV commercial for a UK ISP featuring comedian Harry Enfield and Winston Churchill has been banned because it is "grossly offensive to the public and the wartime leader's surviving family", reporta the Sunday Telegraph. The ad - one of three for ISP Madasafish - feature's Enfield's thuggish Frank Doberman character who shouts: "Oi, Winston, No" before calling him a "porky Prime Minister". This, and a reference to the wartime leader downloading "saucy pictures of Monty from El Alamein using a dial-up connection" was too strong for the Broadcasting Advertising Clearance Centre (BACC), which banned the ad. But the intervention of the BACC has angered the ISP's boss, David Laurie, who said the ad was not intended to cause offence. He described the ban as "absurd and an affront to the British sense of humour. "I can hardly believe the Nanny State has come to the point of blocking the kind of ironic mockery for which we are world-famous. "Of course Madasafish recognises Churchill for the hero he was, but he was also a politician and would certainly have been thick-skinned enough to laugh this off." All three ads can be seen on Madasafish's website here. ® Related stories Harry Enfield fronts Madasafish broadband ad 'Pukka celeb' to front Madasafish ad BT savaged for 'poorly run' free flights promo OFT rattles sabre over 'free flights' web offer
Tim Richardson, 17 Jan 2005

Sony PSP 'update' adds office apps, browser, email

Sony may be preparing to release its first PlayStation Portable (PSP) update, if a file that briefly appeared on the web this weekend is what it purports to be: a leaked copy of an early version of the update code. Whatever its provenance, the software certainly includes some interesting features. In addition to the usual bug fixes, the update is said to add not only a web browser and an email program, but a word processor and a spreadsheet. At this stage, the translations from the original Japanese exploration of the alleged PSP update file doesn't make it clear whether these are fully functioning office apps - or simply readers put in place to handle emailed attachments. Given the device's nature, we suspect that latter, but early talk of a PSP keyboard accessory has led some observers to suggest they're the real thing. The update also adds an on-screen calculator utility, three games and an automatic software update feature along the lines of the utilities found in desktop operating systems. Early looks at the update suggest it is not complete, with the update process failing some way in. If by any chance you find yourself with a copy - don't ask us where to get it, we don't know - it's probably not a good idea to run it. Quite apart from being potentially incomplete, it has not yet been verified that the file has even come from Sony, and could in fact be something more malign. If the file does represent an early build of an official update, then it seems likely Sony will release it ahead of the PSP's US and European launches, expected to in March. So far, the PSP is on sale in Japan only. As Sony demonstrated with the launch of the PSX PS2-based PVR in December 2003, it is willing to ship a number of updates, each adding extra functionality that was originally planned for the machine but dropped in order to get it to market on schedule. Given Sony's rush to get the PSP out the door, it's entirely plausible that components such as the browser and email app were cut at the eleventh hour. ® Related stories Sony PSP to ship in UK on 18 March - Amazon Nintendo sets DS date down under Gizmondo gears up for US launch Nintendo ships 2m DS consoles worldwide Nintendo preps DS media module Sony PSP takes off on schedule Sony selects 25 March 05 for Euro PSP launch Nintendo lauds 500,000 first-week DS sales
Tony Smith, 17 Jan 2005

Siemens mobile arm for sale or closure

Siemens will close its mobile handset division unless it can find a last minute buyer, according to the Sunday Telegraph. Siemens is the fourth largest handset maker by market share it has struggled to make a profit. In the fourth quarter of 2004 the mobile division lost €140m. The paper reports a final decision will be announced at the Siemens annual general meeting on 27 January. A spokesman for Siemens declined to comment on the report but confirmed to the Scotsman newspaper that the division's future was under review by chief executive Heinrich von Pierer and that an announcement will be made at the annual meeting. Von Pierer told Bloomberg: "Either the situation has to be fixed or we have to find a partner for cooperation. We have to fix, close or sell.". NEC denied it is interested in buying the division. Chinese manufacturer Ningbo Bird also denied interest. ® Related stories Printing for camera phones Super 3G group flexes its muscles China rejects Siemens phone business Siemens to sell mobile phone biz to China - report
John Oates, 17 Jan 2005
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Ingram Micro unites Europe

Ingram Micro Europe is bringing together back office functions for all its European businesses to save money and improve efficiency. Ingram Micro Pan-European Group will provide services for three businesses - Ingram Micro Components Europe, Ingram Micro Networking Services and Ingram Micro Supplies Europe. The three businesses will continue to work as normal but should benefit from reduced costs for back office functions. The three divisions will continue to trade under their existing names and logos. Hans Koppen, president of Ingram Micro Europe, said: "The formation of our new pan-European group is part of Ingram Micro's overall effort to optimise processes and reduce costs. It is an important step in the further development of our central business model that we have already very successfully in place for components products for many years." The new division will deal with functions like finance, logisitics, procurement, purchasing and warehousing. Rainer Kozlik will run the new division, reporting directly to Hans Koppen. He was previously vice president of Ingram Micro Components Europe. ® Related stories Ingram buys Aussie distie for $493m Six charged in $10m Ingram computer fraud SCC wins CSC £500m desktop contract
John Oates, 17 Jan 2005

Dell Axim X50v wireless PocketPC

ReviewReview While recently we've seen big names like Sony and Toshiba leave the PDA market, Dell has become a major player in the Pocket PC arena with its Axim line, most likely due to its ability to offer a well specced yet attractively priced device, writes Benny Har-Even.
Trusted Reviews, 17 Jan 2005

New JV to flog phone service to the UK

A new company is to employ a 1,000-strong telesales workforce to flog its phone service to residential customers in the UK. Applicahome - a JV between IT and outsourcing services company Allserve Systems plc, UK telco applica and ex-NTL MD Mike Bandeira - will target 450,000 customers a month by calling them direct. On offer is a residential phone service which the company claims is between 40 and 60 per cent cheaper than BT. The start-up telco is also offeringbroadband. And thanks to the adoption of Wholesale Line Rental (WLR), all this will be contained on one bill. At the moment, punters ditching BT for rivals such as The Carphone Warehouse, Tele2 or Tesco - still receive a bill from BT for line rental. The introduction of WLR means that telcos own the whole billing relationship with the customer. ApplicaHome is gunning for 200,000 punters within two years - which would enable it to generate £80m in revenue. Said MD Simon Smith: "Our aim is to be the fastest growing player in this market space within the first 12 months, and one of the top three triple play resellers in the UK within two years. The scale and synergy created by uniting Allserve?s huge, cost effective, sales force with applica?s exceptional back office skills makes this possible.? The company's salesforce will be spread between the UK, US and India with its UK HQ based at Camberley in Surrey. ® Related stories Post Office delivers phone service BT appoints phone Czar Carphone trumpets telecoms success
Tim Richardson, 17 Jan 2005

Sony unveils 'Centrino 2' notebook family

Sony UK today unveiled its latest Centrino notebook, two days before the technology on which it's based will be formally launched by Intel. That probably explains why the Japanese giant is so frugal in listing the new Vaio FS series' processor specs. However, it did let slip that the machines will used Intel's 915M chipset family, formerly best known by its codename, 'Alviso', and essentially a mobile version of the desktop Pentium 4 chipset 'Grantsdale'. It's probably a 915PM chipset, since the notebooks feature Nvidia's recently announced GeForce 6200 Go mobile GPU which "takes full advantage of the PCI Express architecture", Sony said. There'll be a Pentium M chip in there, of course, almost certainly using Alviso's 533MHz frontside bus. And since the FS series is Centrino-branded, an Intel Wi-Fi adaptor too. Sony said the new machines will sport 802.11b/g WLAN connectivity. The FS series' display is a 15.4in widescreen XGA job built using Sony's superior X-black (aka X-brite) technology. Sony has also integrated double-layer DVD±RW drives. The whole lot weighs 2.8kg. Intel is expected to announce 'Sonoma', the second generation of its Centrino platform on Wednesday, 19 January. Last week, Toshiba announced its own Sonoma-based notebook line-up. ® Related stories Boxed 533MHz FSB Dothans seen on sale Toshiba announces Sonoma-based notebook early AMD unveils Centrino spoiler Nvidia unveils mainstream GeForce 6 mobile GPUs Intel next-gen Centrino chipset ships
Tony Smith, 17 Jan 2005

Panix recovers from domain hijack

UpdatedUpdated The hijack of its domain name on Friday (14 January) has thrown the operations of a New York ISP into turmoil. Panix staff worked around the clock over the weekend to recover services after the rug was pulled out from under its business. "Panix's main domain name, panix.com, has been hijacked by parties unknown," the ISP said in a statement on a temporary site Panix.net. "The ownership of panix.com was moved to a company in Australia, the actual DNS records were moved to a company in the United Kingdom, and Panix.com's mail has been redirected to yet another company in Canada." "For most customers, accesses to Panix using the panix.com domain will not work or will end up at a false site... as a temporary workaround, you can use the panix.net domain in place of panix.com." Panix warned customers that hijackers could have captured passwords inadvertently submitted to the bogus site. By Sunday, Panix had recovered its Panix.com domain from Australian domain hosting / registration firm Melbourne IT, where the purloined domain was parked, back to its natural home at Dotster. Root servers have already been updated but the distributed nature of the net's Domain Name System means that it will take up to 24 hours before normality is restored fully. Domain transfer rules that came into effect last November mean that inter-registry transfer requests are automatically approved after five days unless countermanded by the owner of a domain. Contrary to our earlier report speculating that Panix may have fallen foul of these rules, the company said its domain was taken without any warning. Panix, established in 1989 and New York's oldest commercial ISPs, said neither it nor its registrar received any notification of the proposed changes. Ed Ravin, systems administrator at Panix, added: "Our registrar, Dotster, told us that according to their system, the domain had not been transferred, even though the global registry was pointing at Melbourne IT. Something went wrong with the Internet registry system at the highest levels." Domain hijacks were a problem even before ICANN's revised rules came into effect. Last September, German police arrested a teenager who admitted hijacking the domain of eBay Germany as part of a "prank". Visitors to eBay Germany were redirected to a site hosted by internet provider Intergenia AG. Netcraft advises users to 'lock up' domain to safeguard against the possibility of "errant transfers". Even this safeguard is not foolproof, according to Panix, which said this precaution had failed to stop its domain been hijacked. ® Related stories Phishers suspected of eBay Germany domain hijack eBay domain hijacker arrested Penguin and the great katie.com hijack Penguin backs down on Katie.com DNS trouble made Microsoft, Yahoo! unavailable TUCOWs pawn in Internet.com domain theft
John Leyden, 17 Jan 2005

Europe must invest more in IT research: report

Information technology research in Europe is vital for the continent's competitiveness, but needs more investment according to a new report from the European Commission. It also warns that the tangle of red tape is making it increasingly more difficult to motivate high-level people from industry and academia to take part in vital work. As well as calling for an increase in funding for IT/telecoms R&D, the report called for greater collaboration between firms and academia, and to step up the involvement of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs). The EU - which spends more than €1bn (£703m) a year on IT/telecoms R&D - is adamant that such research is essential to the future wealth and prosperity of Europe. Responding to these concerns Viviane Reding, Information Society and Media Commissioner said today: "I intend to respond very quickly to the panel's concerns about red tape which is a general problem of EU Research programmes, but felt most directly in IST Research where we operate in a particularly dynamic and fast evolving environment.

Lucy Sherriff, 17 Jan 2005

China set for ecommerce boom

China could become the world's biggest online market within two years, according to a report examining the country's potential for electronic commerce. Ecommerce is already beginning to take off in China with four in ten buying something online. This year two in three people are expected to buy online, with books and computer gear proving particularly popular. The Chinese market is "huge and willing to buy online"; and people wired up to the net are also young and affluent, finds Connecting with China - A report on the business opportunity provided by China's 100m online consumers. Nine in ten of those using the net are under 40 years-old, while two thirds earn or exceed the average wage for city dwellers. With more people shunning TV and preferring to venture online, China represents a "marketers' dream" with huge opportunities for companies - both established and start-up - to profit from a massive audience, report author Sean Hargrave writes. However, the lack of secure and trusted payment systems means etailers need to be more inventive. Credit card penetration in China is very low with many punters reluctant to pay upfront for goods because of fraud fears. Two in three transactions are paid for by cash-on-delivery or via post office transfer. China's huge population and ever-growing online numbers presents real potential for commercial gain, but the country is also very wary of the net and its influence. Over the last year it has launched a nation-wide crackdown against cybercafes fearful of the net's influence on people and of China's culture. Recently, a top official in the country wrote that the that the domination of the English language and Western ideas online are a threat to China's cultural identity. The article warned of that "other political patterns, value concepts and lifestyles opposes and undermines socialist values". It went on: "The use of the internet for cultural aggression is extremely dangerous, threatening to a people's culture, independence and freedom, even going so far to possibly unsettle a people's or a country's foundations." ® Related stories China fearful of net China moots foreign software crackdown China's IT: an inside outsider's view Skype hits the charts in China Chinese Government nets 'Internet Villain' gong
Tim Richardson, 17 Jan 2005

Intuit UK kills Quicken and TaxCalc

Intuit UK is canning its popular accounting software Quicken and TaxCalc. A letter sent to Quicken customers warns that the product will not be on sale after the end of this month. Intuit UK will continue to offer telephone support until the end of January next year. A final UK version of Quicken is included with the letter, but development will continue in the US and Canada. Users who contacted The Register expressed surprise and disappointment at the news. Intuit is offering Quicken customers a £70 discount on its QuickBooks 2005 product. The company said it was "absolutely committed to assisting our customers through the transition". In astatement Intuit said that after a review of UK operations: "we have come to the conclusion that our attention needs to be focused on the businesses/products with the biggest opportunity for sustaining growth over the long term. As a result, we’ve decided to focus all of our resources on the small business segment, where our QuickBooks product and related services have earned the confidence of customers and the strong support of the accounting community." A spokesman said some jobs could be affected but consultations are still going on. ® Related stories Sage: more acquisitions ahead Intuit opens UK small.biz support service Big software pushes hard for national Gestapo
John Oates, 17 Jan 2005

Webpay system open to voucher fraud

Webpay International AG, the market leading payment system for digital content and services in Europe, doesn't offer a flawless micro payment service, at least in the Netherlands, according to Dutch consumer watchdog tv show Kassa and computer weekly Computer Idee. It is relatively easy to manipulate user data required for the Dutch MSN music download site (TV item in Dutch over here ). The payments for that site are handled by Webpay under its original name Firstgate. Firstgate users can buy online vouchers and decide which songs they want to purchase later. Kassa and Computer Idee discovered that these vouchers can be easily purchased by filling in someone else’s name and bank details. Users can even add money to their prepaid account, again using details from other users. None of this information is verified by Firstgate. Even though upgrading the account requires a pin code, it isn’t necessary to enter the code straight away. The song or album to be purchased can be downloaded immediately. Firstgate, which offers the same service for cable operator Chello, doesn't deny that this kind of fraud is possible, but stresses that that fraudsters can be traced and will be prosecuted. However, the company wasn’t too thrilled with the publicity and originally threatened to sue broadcaster VARA. Webpay International licenses its micropayment click&buy service also to British Telecom, and to Swisscom, which launched Swisscom click&buy in Q4 2004. HSBC systems cock-up blights holiday sales WorldPay retreats from South Africa Payment card industry cleans up its act Online payment firm in DDoS drama
Jan Libbenga, 17 Jan 2005

MyDoom returns

A new version of MyDoom discovered at the weekend appears months after the last iteration of the long-running series of worms. MyDoom-AI (alias MyDoom-AE) normally spreads by emails with some featuring sexually explicit images. It claims attachments contains passwords for adult websites. In fact, they contain malicious code that disables security software and turns PCs into drones for zombie attack networks. Its spread so far is limited but a fresh variant of MyDoom three months after the last batch is bad news. November's infamous Bofra worm was initially classified as a variant of MyDoom, but even excluding this more than 30 variants of the worm have been created since its debut in January 2004. By comparison Agobot (AKA Gaobot or Phatbot) backdoor - which like MyDoom is often used to commandeer vulnerable Windows PCs to distribute spam or mount DDoS attacks - has hundreds of variants (example here). The source code for Gaobot is in the public domain and it has been modified and reposted widely. Anti-virus firm McAfee reckons virus writers are creating 150 zombie programs a week. ® Related stories VXers creating 150 zombie programs a week We're all MyDoomed Zombie PCs spew out 80% of spam Bofra worm sets trap for unwary Tsunami relief donors under cyber-attack, says FBI
John Leyden, 17 Jan 2005

VXers hit new low with tsunami-themed worm

In other virus-related news, malware authors have created a mass-mailing worm that poses as a plea for donations to victims of last month's Asian tsunami disaster. The VBSun-A worm prompts users to open an attachment which furthers the spread of the worm as well as initiating an attack on a German hacking website. "Duping innocent users into believing that they may be helping the tsunami disaster aid efforts shows hackers stooping to a new low," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "This gruesome insensitivity is a despicable ploy to get curious computer users to run malicious code on their computers." VBSun-A is not the first virus to make reference to the tsunami disaster. Earlier this month, the VBS/Geven-B worm tried to spread a sick message that the tsunami was God's revenge on "people who did bad on earth". The tsunami has also become the subject of a number of email scams. ® Related stories VXers creating 150 zombie programs a week We're all MyDoomed Zombie PCs spew out 80% of spam Bofra worm sets trap for unwary Tsunami relief donors under cyber-attack, says FBI
John Leyden, 17 Jan 2005

Ebbers faces WorldCom court showdown

Disgraced former Worldcom boss Bernie Ebbers is due to face criminal charges in a New York court this week following the $11bn (£5.8bn) accounting scandal that rocked the corporate world. Ebbers is charged with fraud and conspiracy related to the collapse of telcoms outfit WorldCom in July 2002. He retired from WorldCom in April 2002, months before it went titsup. In March 2004 ex-CFO Scott Sullivan pleaded guilty to similar charges and is co-operating with investigators. His evidence is expected to form part of the prosecution against Ebbers. The trial against Ebbers was due to kick off in November but was delayed until now to give his defence team more time to prepare its case. According to The Guardian, Ebbers is expected to blame Sullivan for the accounting blackhole. When details of the accounting scandal first emerged in the summer of 2002, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) described the WorldCom disclosures as "improprieties of unprecedented magnitude" US President George W Bush said at the time: "We will fully investigate and hold people accountable for misleading not only shareholders but employees as well." Where "egregious practices, such as the one today" are uncovered, said Bush, "we'll go after them." This month ten former directors of WorldCom agreed to cough up $18m (£9.5m) of their own cash to hsettle a class action lawsuit following the collapse of the telecoms company. The ten weren't directly involved in the accounting fraud but were named in lawsuits. In total, they will pay $54m (£28.7m) to settle the lawsuit brought by former shareholders. $36m (£19m) will be paid by the directors' insurers with the rest coming from their own pockets. WorldCom emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April and since changed its name to MCI. ® Related stories Former Worldcom directors cough up $18m MCI upbeat despite $3.4bn loss Ebbers sued for $400m Ebbers and chums pay $51m to settle pensions suit Ex-WorldCom CFO coughs in Mississippi court case
Tim Richardson, 17 Jan 2005
homeless man with sign

Intel restructures around platforms

Intel has announced a major shake-up that will see it reorganise its key operations around technology platforms rather than separate products. It's the brainchild of Intel president, COO and soon-to-be CEO Paul Otellini, who said of the shift: "The new organisation will help address growth opportunities by better anticipating and addressing market needs [and] speeding decision making. "Each operating unit has the autonomy to allocate computing and communications resources to be successful, making Intel's entire structure consistent with our platform products strategy." Those units include Digital Enterprise, Digital Home and Digital Health Groups, along with Mobility and Channel Products Groups. The Mobility Group, for example, merges the notebook x86 chips and mobile chipset products with Intel's ARM-based XScale PDA and mobile phone-oriented offerings, all in the care of former Communications Group chief, Sean Maloney, and joint head of the old Mobile Platforms Group, David Perlmutter. Maloney used to run Intel's wireless initiatives, including Wi-Fi and WiMax product development. It's not yet clear whether they will remain under his remit or pass to Don MacDonald's Digital Home Group, which focues on home computing and communications platforms and for which Wi-Fi will be a key technology. They're also relevant to the Digital Enterprise Group, under CTO Pat Gelsinger and Abhi Talwalker, of the old Enterprise Platforms Group. Louis Burns, former head of erstwhile Desktop Products Group, will take charge of the Digital Health Group to "explore business opportunities for Intel architecture products in healthcare research, diagnostics and productivity, as well as personal healthcare". It's a new market focus for Intel, but clearly one that leaves Burns with a lower-profile position than his previous post provided. How all this will sit alongside the development of key products, such as the Pentium 4 family, remains to be seen. The P4 has a role in all three of the Mobility, Digital Home and Digital Enterprise Groups - so who gets to define how the CPU line will evolve? If they all have an input, there's the strong risk that future chips could become too broadly defined to meet the precise needs of each market. Intel will retain its Corporate Technology Group, under Justin Rattner on an interim basis while a replacement is sought for Gelsinger, and this may provide some level of oversight for such cross-group product lines. Unchanged too is Intel's Technology and Manufacturing Group, as presumably is the chip giant's investment wing, Intel Capital, though it wasn't actually mentioned by name. Meanwhile, Anand Chandrasekher, formerly head of Mobile Platforms Group will replace Jason Chen as joint head of Intel's Sales and Marketing Group, who is leaving at the end of the month to focus on "health matters affecting his family". Chandrasekher will work alongside Eric Kim, who joined Intel as VP and Director of Sales and Marketing last September from Samsung. Finally, Bill Siu, formerly joint head of Desktop Platforms Group (with Burns), becomes inaugural chief of the new Channel Products Group, which will take charge of boxed processors and the like, all of which need adapting for local markets. ® Related stories Intel delays death of 100MHz Pentium Intel's record Q4 run ends with profit drop Investors gut AMD on memory slip Intel Smithfield chipsets said to support SATA 2 Intel invests in three digital home firms Intel to launch low-end 915 chipsets Jan 05
Tony Smith, 17 Jan 2005

Google plugs brace of GMail security flaws

Google fixed a brace of security holes to its web-based services last week. Each posed a serious risk for users of its popular GMail service. A flaw in Froogle, Google's price-comparison service, created a means for attackers to swipe cookies used to access GMail accounts. Israeli hacker Nir Goldshlager demonstrated how users fooled into executing script by clicking a link pointed at Froogle could be redirected to a site that steals usernames and passwords for the "Google Accounts" centralised log-in service. Google has fixed the vulnerability, preventing further theft. But Goldshlager warns that data from already stolen cookies can still be used even if the password of compromised accounts is changed. "The system authenticates the hacker as the victim, using the stolen cookie file. Thus no password is involved in the authentication process. The victim can change his password as many times as he wants, and it still won't stop the hacker from using his box," Goldshlager said, eWeek reports. Last week Google fixed a separate bug in its GMail email service that allowed attackers to snoop on users' email or obtain passwords. The security flaw was uncovered by Unix community group HBX Networks in developing code to send batches of newsletters. Email sent using this PERL code accidentally malformed the 'From' field in such a way as to confuse GMail's systems into embeding portions of someone else's HTML message in test emails. Some of these leaked messages contained GMail usernames and passwords; so it's just as well that Google acted quickly to plug the security hole to its popular service (still officially undergoing beta testing). Google fixed the bug by adopting its service to reject the type of malformed message demonstrated by HBX Networks. ® Related stories Gmail accounts 'wide open to exploit' - report Google finally fixes Desktop security vuln Google Desktop privacy branded 'unacceptable' Google's Gmail: spook heaven?
John Leyden, 17 Jan 2005