9th > January > 2006 Archive

Hands on with Samsung's HSDPA mobile

CESCES One of the most interesting exhibits in the whole of CES, from a UK perspective at least, is the HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Data Packet Access) mobile phone from Samsung. The SGH-ZX20 is a clamshell mobile that will be able to take advantage of the much faster data speeds (up to 3.6Mbps compared to 384kbps of 3G) of the new format. As for the phone the interesting part is that Samsung told us today that the mobile is not for the US market, it is being lined up for Europe. Also that Samsung's first customer might not be Vodafone as has previously been reported, but Orange. Whether Orange has a more developed HSDPA network than Vodafone in the UK is a moot point, but it has certainly made more noise about the new format than its rival. CES also marked the first time anyone had demonstrated a HSDPA phone running at speeds of 3.6Mbps, previous HSDPA demos had shown phones working at up to 1.8Mbps. As for what consumers do with all that extra speed, well the phone can obviously link up with a laptop to act as a very, very fast modem. It will also enable really good quality video streaming – the clips we saw both on the phone’s screen and on a Pc monitor looked amazing, very steady and devoid of all the usual nasties like blurring that dog 3G video. Apart from the HSDPA feature though the phone is a little disappointing. Sure it looks great – a very tidy clamshell, and yes it is very thin, but its line up of features is a little bit 2005. On the plus side it has great quality screen and large easy to use buttons. However it runs using a propietary operating system and has limited smartphone style applications. Worst of all it has a 1.3 mega pixel snapper, which seems poor show from the company that has a seven mega pixel camera phone on its books. Lastly it only has 256MB of internal storage, and again this from a company that has a phone with a three Gigabyte hard disk. The Samsung rep also told us that the phone could come in several different guises, and there may even be different model numbers. This is because the chips sets required to reach the various HSDPA speeds (the first batch will be 1.8Mbps with later models reaching 3.6Mbps) are different. Samsung does have a habit of parading products at exhibitions only for them to be quietly forgotten about as the year progresses. Nevertheless if it sticks to its promise of launching this handset in Europe this year – network wiling of course – it will have achieved a real European first. That is of course HTC doesn’t get there first. More CES hands-on Tosh's iPod rivals A digital pen that actually works Motorola's ROKR phone take two
Tech Digest, 09 Jan 2006
channel

Sage buys into US (again)

UK accounts specialist Sage is paying £184m for Verus Financial Management which provides online payment services for small and medium-sized businesses in the US. Verus has over 100,000 merchant customers and charges them service fees on transactions processed. Turnover for the year ended 31 December 2005 was £36m - up 26 per cent on the same period last year. As well as card and cheque processing the company also offers companies cash advances. Sage sees increasing demand for such merchant services. Longer term it will integrate Verus software into its accountancy packages giving better information and simpler accounting for merchants. Sage has spent much of the last year buying companies to extend its services and its geographic reach. More details here.®
John Oates, 09 Jan 2006
homeless man with sign

DSGi heads north to Finland

DSG international (DSGi) - the high street electricals outfit behind the likes of Dixons, Currys and PC World - is continuing to splash cash on its ambitious European expansion plans. The firm has blown €49m (£33m) on Markantalo, an electrical retailer with 26 stores in Finland. Bolted on to DSGi's existing Finnish operations - Gigantti - DSGi reckons that completion of the deal in March will make it the "market leader" in Finland. DSGi has stores in 14 countries including the UK, Ireland, France, Spain, Italy and Hungary. In October it announced plans to open two Electro World stores in Poland in time for Christmas. Last summer the retailer that used to be known as Dixons changed its name to DSGi as part of a corporate makeover to reflect its international nature. ®
Tim Richardson, 09 Jan 2006

Osama bin Laden banned from orbit

The US Federal Aviation Authority has responded to the possible threat of terrorist exploitation of the burgeoning space tourism business by drafting some proposed regs to ensure Ossie bin Laden and his mates don't book themselves aboard Virgin Galactic. In effect, the FAA says space tourists should be treated the same as airline passengers, with the usual security checks and a quick shufti of the global "no-fly" list to see if the wannabe astronaut has previously been barred from airlines worldwide for attempting to open the door mid-flight in order to have a quick ciggie. According to the BBC, the FAA's report declares: "New technologies carry new risks. Nonetheless, Congress recognises that private industry has begun to develop commercial launch vehicles capable of carrying human beings into space, and greater private investment in these efforts will stimulate the nation's commercial space transportation industry as a whole. "The public interest is served by creating a clear legal, regulatory, and safety regime for commercial human spaceflight," it adds. There are, thankfully, a few potential benefits of the FAA proposals for customers who will pay $200,000 a pop to blast off from Virgin Galactic's New Mexico spaceport when it eventually opens for business. The FAA recommends "companies should give passengers safety advice including the number of flights the spacecraft has been on and any problems they have experienced with the craft" as well as offering "pre-flight training to handle emergency situations such as a loss of cabin pressure or fire". Interestingly, the FAA offers no passenger health recommendations, so we'll have to wait to see what minimum fitness criteria Virgin Galactic applies to its low-orbit punters. ®
Lester Haines, 09 Jan 2006

TV to iPod, PSP conversion tools spill onto the market

It’s been difficult to predict how Apple will continue to develop the video iPod, given that it had such a poor start in signing up so little content for the device.
Faultline, 09 Jan 2006

Collection for anti-RIAA case

An online news service is collecting money for Patricia Santangelo's defence fund - the New York woman who is defending herself against a lawsuit from the Recording Industry Ass. of America(RIAA). The RIAA accuses her of illegally distributing copyrighted material. The divorced mother of five children believes a friend of the family may have put Kazaa on her machine - she says she had not heard of it before the legal action started. The "Fight Goliath" campaign has already collected some $3,678 which will be kept in an escrow account to pay Santangelo's legal fees. Any money left over will be distributed to other "victims" of the RIAA. The organisation is pursuing legal action against 14, 800 US individuals accused of "illegal file-sharing". It is running similar scare campaigns in other countries - the RIAA's British counterpart, the BPI, is taking action against some 150 individuals accused of sharing music files. Many people decide to settle out of court rather than rack up large legal fees. Santangelo is the latest poster child for the file-sharing community although some bloggers remain cynical about the collection scheme. Late last year Cecilia Gonzalez lost an appeal against the RIAA and was ordered to pay $22,500. More on P2Pnet here.®
John Oates, 09 Jan 2006

TechnoDepot does Sudoku - in hex

Cash'n'CarrionCash'n'Carrion The new Cash'n'Carrion Reg merchandising shop is now up and fully functioning and - as a prelude to a Spring burst of e-commerce activity - we're delighted to announce the arrival of a new TechnoDepot t-shirt. Yup, those cheeky chappies have jumped squarely onto the Sudoku bandwagon, but with a techie twist - these lads do their brainteasers in hex. Nicely done, and available right now in medium to XXXL for £14.99 inc VAT (£12.76 for those of you spared the Value Added rod). As ever, the image is screen printed onto a top-quality, 100 per cent cotton shirt. You can see the whole TechnoDepot range right here - including the perennial faves Read the F***ing Manual! and Warning: Dates on calendar are closer than they appear. Lovely. ®
Cash'n'Carrion, 09 Jan 2006
globalisation

Seagate preps Iomega, iVDR killer

CESCES Watch out, Iomega - Seagate has you in its sights. The hard drive giant used the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to sound out the industry on a scheme to create a new removable hard disk drive standard. The system isn't so far removed from Iomega's Rev product. Having offered RHDD products in the past in which only the platter was removable, Rev placed the read/write heads, drive motor and core drive electronics inside the cartridge, the better to isolate the platter from data-damaging dust. Seagate's system, shown this week in prototype form and codenamed 'Tornado', packs in a regular HDD, linked to the outside world through a standard External Serial ATA port, the company told The Register. The drive is hot-swapable, and connects through the ESATA connector to a cradle which, in turn, connects to a PC's USB 2.0 port. Seagate would provide no timescale for the system's commercialisation - the CES demo is about running the concept up the proverbial flagpole to see if consumer electronics, computing and other companies salute it. Seagate staffers envisage partners producing a range of dock-like products, some to connect the drives to PCs, others incorporating media codecs and AV ports allowing them to play stored music and movie files straight onto a TV screen. Car makers might build Tornado-sized, ESATA-equipped slots into their in-car entertainment systems. So might PVR manufacturers. The list of applications, they claim, is endless - and these are just consumer-oriented roles. Seagate's concept also borrows from the iVDR (Information Versatile Disk for Removable) drive system pioneered in Japan by the likes of Hitachi, Fujitsu, Pioneer, Hitachi, Sanyo, Sharp JVC and IOData. Hitachi was showing a range of iVDR disks and devices on its CES stand, too. As yet, it and its partners have had little success building momentum for the format outside of Japan. Like Rev, iVDR shipped in 2004, so it's probably due a revision. Seagate's Tornado isn't ready to replace either Rev or iVDR yet, but if it garners solid industry support, it could well become the removable drive system to beat. ®
Tony Smith, 09 Jan 2006

Stakes raised in NTL - Virgin Mobile bid talks

There's still little sign of a breakthrough in the stalemate surrounding NTL's bid to buy Virgin Mobile. The Sunday Telegraph reports that the cellco's institutional shareholders are playing hard to get and want the firm to hold out for 400p a share. In December, NTL - whose merger with Telewest recently received the green light from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) - offered 323p a share for Virgin Mobile valuing the business at around £817m. This offer was rejected by Virgin Mobile. Sir Richard Branson, who owns 72 per cent of Virgin Mobile and is keen to see the deal go ahead, has said that 360p a share might be enough to secure a deal but institutional investors are standing firm and want 400p, reports the paper. Negotiations are due to kick off again this week after the Christmas break with recent reports suggesting that NTL might be prepared to up its £817m offer for Virgin Mobile by around 10 per cent. But this could be complicated further because a group of private investors, thought to comprise Apax Partners, Cinven, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Premier, Providence Equity Partners, is understood to be keen on buying the whole kit and caboodle for around £8bn. Should the firms and investors manage to strike a deal it would lead to the creation of a mega media business offering punters a four-play service of TV, fixed-line phone, broadband and mobile. As part of the deal the whole business would be renamed under the Virgin brand. ®
Tim Richardson, 09 Jan 2006

AOL agrees to settle 'wrongful billing' lawsuit

AOL has agreed to cough up as much as $25m to settle a class action lawsuit that alleged the giant ISP "wrongfully billed consumers". The agreement forms part of a proposed class action settlement reached by the Illinois state court after both sides in the case agreed to mediation conducted by a retired federal judge. According to a statement issued Friday, the settlement covers claims that AOL "wrongfully billed consumers for online services, such as additional and 'spun-off' AOL accounts, and other services and products, such as AOL Desk Planner, without first receiving consumers' consent or authorization". The agreement still needs court approval but if given the go-ahead could cost AOL up to $25m. For its part, AOL "strenuously denies the plaintiffs' allegations, or that a class manageable for trial is certifiable". However, the Time Warner-owned internet outfit agreed to settle the action "to avoid the burden and expense of litigation", said the statement. ®
Tim Richardson, 09 Jan 2006

Google Earth menaced by WW2 bomber

The results of our Google Earth black helicopter competition last year proved just how eagled-eyed you lot were when it came to virtual planespotting, but here's one you missed, and a real blast from the past it is too: Zooming in, we have... ...yup, an Avro Lancaster flying over Stukeley Meadows, Huntingdon, England, as originally spotted it appears by a chap on Google Earth Community who lives just about right under the aircraft's position when Google Earth's satellite captured this snap. The Lancaster in question is the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's "City of Lincoln." The image is at 52 20 10.87N 0 11 43.34W, or right here (Google Earth KMZ link). ® Bootnote Thanks to reader Marc Hockfield for the heads-up on this one.
Lester Haines, 09 Jan 2006

We can all be Big Brother now

You've read the book and seen the film. Now you too can oppress the proletariat - and for only £3.50 per week! Yes, it's true. You can take part in this groundbreaking social engineering project without leaving the comfort and safety of your own ivory tower, which we will refurbish using the same interior architect who kitted out the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. If you are a resident of the famously groovy London borough of Shoreditch, you can further the area's gentrification by helping us cleanse your streets of the undesirable unemployed, foreign and other suspicious looking people - and not to mention people who don't wear the right trainers. Our scheme gives you access to our network of 500 CCTV cameras from your own home PC, so you can spy on your neighbours and snitch on anyone who looks like they may be doing something you don't like. No more giveaway twitching curtains! No more risk of being caught using your own home video camera to film shady looking people who are no doubt up to know good. All you need to take part is a PC, an Internet connection, a glass of Chablis and sneer. If you see someone on our CCTV network who doesn't know better but looks like they should, just send us an email. It's as easy as that! We'll send a government goon straight round to sort them out. Why not have a big brother after-dinner party? Take turns snooping - you can even match your CCTC footage against a photo line-up of people in your community who have been known to misbehave themselves. Anyone who spots someone we have already penalised with an anti-social behaviour disorder can win extra points. Don't waste any time telling us, then before you can say, "ignorance is strength", there'll be nothing on your CCTV cameras bar gorgeous, smiley people like yourselves. Wouldn't that be a great place to live? * Offer currently available to the first 1,000 residents only. Under the ODPM's New Deal for Communities, schemes such as Shoreditch CCTV homesnoop are devised by committees comprised of locally elected residents and other busybodies. Scheme will soon be expanded to all 20,000 local residents, but we only expect those who can afford to own a PC will take up this offer - that's okay with us because it's those people who can't afford to buy PCs who we don't want living round these parts anyway.®
Mark Ballard, 09 Jan 2006
cloud

Apple online store blacklists innocent Channel Islanders

Apple UK has confirmed it is turning down orders from residents of the Channel Islands made through its online store while it considers opening a dedicated site serving the small islands in the English Channel quite near France. Sales stopped in December, Apple told us, with customers asked to use real world shops instead. Apple sent us a statement: "In order to provide an optimum service quality to our customers, we are evaluating the need for a Channel Islands Apple Online store. In the meantime, customers continue to be able to purchase Apple products from our network of local resellers." Channel Islanders are a laid-back lot and seem to have taken this exclusion order in good heart. But rumours are beginning that Apple may open a dedicated web store to exploit the Islands' tax status. The Channel Islands (Alderney, Guernsey, Jersey, Sark and a couple of really little ones) have a population of 162,000 and enjoy various tax breaks, notably freedom from VAT. Online CD retailers have been quick to exploit the loophole - Tesco.com sells CDs from its base in Jersey because purchases worth less than £18 can be sold to UK residents without charging VAT. So is Apple planning something similar? Does Apple sell anything for less than £18? Well, there's a whole load of iTunes. Otherwise, Register research reveals you can buy a set of six socks for your iPod for just £19 and a two-button mouse can be yours for £14.95. Cutting VAT from these prices could be just the New Year filip Apple needs... Thanks to Reg reader and blogger Ryan Morrison for the tip. Read his thoughts here.®
John Oates, 09 Jan 2006

Digital camera sales boost Jessops Xmas sales

Yet another surge in demand for digital cameras helped boost sales at Jessops, the high street photographic retailer revealed today. Publishing its Christmas trading statement Jessops - which also flogs camcorders, binoculars, film and photo imaging materials - reported that like-for-like sales in the five weeks to January 1 were up 9.4 per cent on last year. Sales of digital cameras were up 23 per cent overall, while sales of digital SLR (Single Lens Reflex) models were up a whopping 93 per cent. "This year's growth is once again driven by an uplift in digital camera sales across all channels," said Jessops in a statement, adding that its success was down to "exclusive camera deals and competitive pricing on market leading cameras". Elsewhere, posh department store outfit John Lewis reported that sales of electricals and home technology products in the busy Christmas period jumped a "massive" 26 per cent, while sales via the internet and call centres "were up significantly". Just before Christmas John Lewis announced it had racked up online sales of £100m.®
Tim Richardson, 09 Jan 2006

Vodafone and Sony gang up on your ears

Vodafone and Sony are teaming up to provide a radio service for mobile phones which they claim will offer truly personalised music. The service, dubbed Vodafone Radio DJ, comes in different parts - pre-defined channels based on genre or mood which can skip to the next song if you don't like what you are listening to. Or personal channels which you can "train" to your tastes by pushing the like or dislike buttons. Vodafone will also offer collections of about fifteen songs based on themes or picked by celebrities.
John Oates, 09 Jan 2006
channel

Becta reviews UK schools for Microsoft 'lock-in'

The government agency leading implementation of the Department for Education and Skills' e-strategy has launched two reviews of schools' use of ICT. The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta) last week announced a value for money review of Microsoft's educational licensing programme, and a second looking at ways of improving home ICT access for school pupils. The first review will examine the impact of Microsoft's dominance of the UK education market and whether it represents value for money. Becta said the review would pay particular attention to Microsoft's subscription licensing models and the risks associated with non-perpetual licences. It will examine the total costs of exiting those licence agreements and the corresponding risks of 'lock-in'. If risks are found, the report will seek to identify mechanisms whereby schools and colleges could mitigate those risks and protect their investment. Becta chief executive Owen Lynch said: "Becta has always recognised the importance of ensuring schools and colleges have access to a range of products and services which represent good value for money. "In areas where a single supplier is dominant particular vigilance is necessary to guarantee that this happens and that schools do not find themselves inadvertently 'locked in' to a particular supplier via for example a licensing mechanism. Thus we have initiated a review." The interim report is expected to be published in June 2006. The agency's second review will look at software licensing and document interoperability issues in relation to home and school computer use. It will analyse ways in which both pupils and parents can acquire the applications and licences necessary when working on the same document on either a home or school computer. It will also address compatibility issues when a home computer runs different programmes to those used at school. Lynch said: "This [review] is particularly important both in the context of addressing the digital divide and in the increasing number of circumstances where pupils and parents access information and resources online from schools." The second review forms part of the DfES' e-strategy, under which it aims to open up school internet systems to pupils when they are working at home. Copyright © eGov monitor Weekly eGov monitor Weekly is a free e-newsletter covering developments in UK eGovernment and public sector IT over the last seven days. To register go here.
eGov Monitor Weekly, 09 Jan 2006

Hands on with Java XML filter pipelines

In this tutorial we will step through this little understood area of XML processing. Java XML Filters are part of the SAX API for XML processing.
John Hunt, 09 Jan 2006
homeless man with sign

BDE plans more Sage acquisitions

Mid-market Sage reseller BDE Group has lined up a credit line for more acquisitions in 2005, with an anticipated budget of £5m. The plans will effectively double its acquisition spending after it spent £5m on two takeovers in the last 18 months: Apex, an SME Sage reseller, in December and Object Group, a mid-market Sage reseller, in August 2004. This modest expansion is significant for BDE, if not on the scale of the ballooning seen elsewhere in the market - be that the ravenous expansion of TSG, or the vast sums of money thrown at channel-building schemes by Microsoft and SAP, which are relatively new entrants to the market. A solid firm, BDE has been typical of the British accounting software sector. But the rules have changed, new entrants are looking young and snappy and the old guard is stepping aside. Peter Reynolds, who founded BDE in 1978, took the Object deal as an opportunity to sell his stake in the firm and develop an extra-curricular project. He has retained a non-executive interest in BDE, but his other ventures appear more in keeping with the stately pace of life that would traditionally have been associated with accounting software. He has written three guide books for walkers in Greece, based a holiday company on the same, and bought a publishing company through which he can revive walkers' guidebooks that have fallen out of print. Meanwhile, John Linney, former owner of Object, has brought unashamed, crude ambition to the combined firm he inherited from Reynolds in 2004. What was once a "slow, turgid finance and accounting" sector is now a dynamic marketplace, says Linney. It is populated by pushy competitors and promises big opportunities - the idea, it appears, is he who dares, wins. "It's important for my sales team to want bigger cars and houses and it's my job to give them the environment to do it," says Linney, with the qualification, "Though for consultants, there should be different motivations." The old, conservative accounting sector principles may still have some truck in the emerging sector for what is now known as mid-market ERP. Tailored, off-the shelf business solutions with bells and whistles are now the order of the day, yet the truth of the matter is that none of the new breed of business software competing in the mid-market is anything more than a trumped up accounting system. While the dust has still to settle, the deals look to put BDE in a good position. Linney says it is now the largest solus Sage reseller in the UK. Apex has doubled its customer base overnight with an additional 500 SMEs. The old BDE, combined with Object, had approximately 200 SME customers and 300 in mid and upper-mid markets. Combined turnover of the three firms is treble what it was three years ago at £9m. BDE has offices across England, some infrastructure engineers it lacked and a managing director who can talk the talk. Linney and Reynolds appear a little too dismissive of Microsoft and SAP, and too sure of their supplier, market leader Sage, to give a completely credible account of the reasons behind their recent deals and future intentions. But everyone knows they know what we know. The new entrants have an awful lot of clout. And the incumbents have the most to lose.®
Mark Ballard, 09 Jan 2006

Government minister beats workers with pistol

Armenian culture minister Ovik Oveyan was inexplicably sacked last week after steaming into the main offices of the country's Armenskiye Electroseti electricity company and pistol whipping two workers. The reason? A power cut to his apartment in the capital Yerevan had prompted Oveyan to call Armenskiye Electroseti and demand satisfaction, Baku Today reports. When none was forthcoming he gathered up an assault team comprising his son and two mates and went to sort it out in person. The two employees who copped some quick pistol-round-the-head action required hospital treatment, but the intervention worked - power was restored half an hour later. Sadly, though, when Armenia's prez Robert Kocharian got wind of the outrage he gave Oveyan the boot for behaviour "inappropriate" for a culture minister. No doubt Reg readers will join us is sending Oveyan our very best wishes and thanking him for demonstrating a highly-satisfactory method for dealing with inadequate customer service callcentre operatives. Second-rate UK companies take note. ®
Lester Haines, 09 Jan 2006

Handheld porn not just for Christmas

Parents with nothing better to worry about post-Christmas are advised that "One of This Season's Most Popular Gifts May Expose Children to Pornography". And they're not talking about the Chronicles of Narnia or Nigella Lawson's latest creamy offering. The portentous press release from SurfControl warns that the video-enabled iPod and Sony's PSP pose an unseen porn risk to children. The release warns: "This activity, already being referred to as 'PodPorn' or 'PornCasting' poses a particularly high risk to children." No explanation of how or why this is a particularly high risk to children then. But SurfControl does warn that "adult content providers are poised to capitalize on this new market by developing a raft of adult-content videos aimed squarely at these devices." Any day now then... The company notes that the iPod gets its material from a PC so provided you keep an eye on your child's use of that machine you should be safe. The Sony PSP however connects directly to the internet without using any SurfControl products. So while Dad is still trying to get his out the box the kids will already have filled it up with unsuitable filth, probably from Girls Aloud. ®
John Oates, 09 Jan 2006

MCI airbrushed as Verizon takeover completed

The MCI name is being airbrushed and replaced instead by a new logo following the completion of its takeover by US telco Verizon. After ten months of wrangling Verizon has finally completed its acquisition of MCI - the US telco formerly known as WorldCom most noted for being at the centre of an $11bn accounting scandal. Announcing the completion of the deal on Friday, Verizon Chairman and chief exec Ivan Seidenberg described it as a "milestone for Verizon" as it creates "a new competitive force with the power of the global MCI network and the reach of Verizon's broadband and wireless networks in the US". MCI's business operation has now been folded into Verizon and is now known as "Verizon Business". Further details of Verizon Business are due to be unveiled at a later date. Verizon first announced plans to swallow MCI on Valentine's Day 2005 but things soon turned ugly when Qwest muscled in for a slice of the action. Despite both Qwest and Verizon knocking lumps out of each other in what became an increasingly bitter takeover scrap, MCI finally opted for the $8.4bn bid from Verizon believing it was a safer bet than Qwest's $9.8bn offer. As part of the completion of the deal Michael Capellas, the former president and CEO of MCI, is leaving the company. Based in New York, Verizon has some 250,000 workers and generates annual revenues of around $90bn. ®
Tim Richardson, 09 Jan 2006
fingers pointing at man

EMC adds consultants with Internosis buy

EMC has snapped up Maryland-based storage consultancy Internosis Inc just days after announcing it would part company with 1,000 existing staff this year. The companies did not reveal how much the deal is worth, but said it would add 250 professionals to EMC’s roster. Internosis has a particular focus on Microsoft environments, and will form a Microsoft Practice within EMC’s Technology Solutions business. Last week, EMC announced it would be waving goodbye to about 1,000 staff this year, at a cost of about $80m. This “rebalancing” programme is part of the firm’s effort to increase “focus on new product development and the company’s ability to focus on new product development and its ability to target, reach and support more customers around the globe.”®
Team Register, 09 Jan 2006
arrow pointing up

Security flaws on the rise, questions remain

After three years of modest or no gains, the number of publicly reported vulnerabilities jumped in 2005, boosted by easy-to-find bugs in web applications. Yet, questions remain about the value of analyzing current databases, whose data rarely correlates easily.
Robert Lemos, 09 Jan 2006
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Five million Brits duped by scams, says Which?

Five million UK adults have fallen victim to a series of moneymaking frauds, such as premium-rate prize scams, work-from-home schemes and Nigerian 419 email scams, according to research published by consumer watchdog Which?. A further 23 million people have been targeted by the scams. Britain's most widespread scam, according to the new research, is the automated phone call that invites people to claim a prize. One-third of adults have received one of these calls and two million have responded, usually by calling a premium-rate number. The scam has been so successful that the premium-rate regulator, ICSTIS, has changed its Code of Practice to stop phone networks making payments to their premium-rate service providers until at least 30 calendar days after calls have been made. The rule change, which came into effect in September, gives ICSTIS time to identify breaches of its code and, where appropriate, to order phone networks to withhold all payments pending the outcome of investigations. It can levy significant fines for breaches. But premium-rate scams are by no means the only successful fraud targeting British citizens. The survey of 1,050 adults found that almost eight million people in Britain have seen or received material promoting international lotteries. People are often too eager to believe an official-looking letter announcing they've had a big win, even if they haven't entered. Con artists often cash in by charging a "contingency" fee, as in the case of a Which? reader who was asked to pay £75,000 to "release" her winnings. The scamsters may also fraudulently use the bank account details they collect from "winners" who try to claim prizes. Adverts claiming you can "make thousands without leaving the house" are also prevalent: more than 25 per cent of adults have seen them. Although not all these ads are scams, Which? reports that job details can be hard to find and money is almost always requested up-front for a joining pack. One work-from-home scheme was nothing more than a suggestion that recipients copy the pack, place a newspaper advert, and send the same pack to people willing to pay the up-front fee – so no end product, just a succession of people scamming money from each other. The so-called "Nigerian 419" email scam, named after the relevant part of the Nigerian penal code, has been seen by eight per cent of people. Scenarios differ, but there is always a large sum of money waiting to be paid out which, in order to be claimed, requires absolute secrecy, a foreign bank account number and an "advance fee". The victims, of course, never receive any money. Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 09 Jan 2006