Cisco Systems is reporting multiple vulnerabilities in three popular wireless products that can unleash all kinds of nastiness, including denials of service, privilege escalation, information disclosure and the ability to gain full administrative access. The flaws reside in Cisco's Wireless Control System (WCS), Wireless LAN Controller and Lightweight Access Points.
Citrix Systems has tossed its code into the virtual desktop market. The company this week pumped out Citrix Desktop Server 1.0. The software covers the whole spectrum for sending Windows out from the data center to a user's desktop, including virtual machines, blade PCs and terminal services. Like a number of vendors, Citrix claims that the long-hyped move away from traditional desktops is finally happening.
Sun Microsystems is purchasing the IP assets of mobile Java platform specialist SavaJe, which went dark in unexplained circumstances last year.
Have you ever heard of a space tsunami? Neither had we, but apparently they are common and are the forces responsible for making the Earth's aurorae dance. These magnetic substorms, as they are known, are complex events that take place at altitudes from 100km to 150,000km. ESA says trying to understand such phenomena with a single spacecraft is like trying to predict the behaviour of a tsunami with one buoy in an ocean. Now data* from the Cluster constellation of four satellites is shedding new light on how these so-called substorms form and how they interact with the Earth's magnetic field. The image above shows how a substorm can affect an otherwise calm aurora, as seen in the left-hand picture. The centre and right pictures show two different kinds of disruption. There are two competing explanations for the behaviour of substorms: the "Current-Disruption" model, and the "Near Earth Neutral Line Model". The data from Cluster seem to support the former, ESA says, but the researchers are not in a hurry to throw out the alternative explanations, saying it is unclear how generally the findings should apply. You can read up on the phenomenon in more detail here. We really just wanted to show you the pretty pictures. ® *In a paper called Cluster observation of plasma flow reversal in the magnetotail during a substorm, published in Annales Geophysicae, 9 August, 2006.
Anyone who's thought of flogging their old games on eBay or Amazon and found prices too small to be worth the hassle may care to try new website Infinite Continues, a kind of Multicoloured Swap Shop for games. Well, without Keith Chegwin and Noel Edmonds, of course.
ColumnColumn Should songwriters get paid for a public performance when you download a song? Thanks to a New York legal case, we'll soon find out.
AMD's 'R600' graphics chip will ship as the ATI Radeon HD 2000 series, the company has apparently revealed. Note the expulsion of the 'X'. The chip will contain 320 unified shaders and is capable of 24x anti-aliasing.
Scenting summer and out to appeal to anyone who got lost or stuck in traffic during the Easter break, Sony has pointed the way to a major refresh of its Nav-U satellite navigation kit range.
Earlier this year, we asked our readers why people thinking of Linux aren't also thinking of OpenSolaris (or vice versa), now that both are pukka OSS operating systems.
Samsung's on again, off again plan to produce a player that can handle both next-gen optical disc formats - HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc - is going to happen after all. The Korean giant today said it will ship such a machine in the US in time for Christmas.
Troubled telco and broadband provider Vonage has lost its chief executive. Michael Snyder has quit as CEO and resigned from the board of directors. Vonage chairman Jeffrey Citron is stepping in as interim chief exec while the company looks for a replacement. The company also announced prelimary results for the quarter ended March 31, 2007. The firm made revenues of $195m and added 166,000 net line subscribers. Average monthly churn was 2.4 per cent. Vonage also announced cost cutting measures - it is cutting $110m from its marketing budget and another $30m from its general and admin budget. The company's release is available for download here. ®
A report on public private partnerships says they are not a simple solution to improving government assets. Public private partnerships (PPPs) are being hindered by unproven ICT systems and specification changes, which disregard time or budget implications, according to a survey of PPP specialists by financial market intelligence provider Standard & Poor's.
Google is launching its payment system, Google Checkout, in the UK. The service is aimed at merchants rather than for person to person payments and will compete with PayPal and traditional credit and debit cards. The service has been available in the US since June 2006.
Apple will bring out an iPod with Wi-Fi wireless connectivity on board during the latter half of the year - if the latest whispers coming from Taiwan's electronics manufacturer community are to be believed, that is.
AnalysisAnalysis Accused Pentagon hacker Gary McKinnon is continuing to fight against extradition to the US after losing an appeal last week.
A Qantas jet had to swerve out of the way of a sky-hog hang glider in the vicinity of Adelaide, Australia, according to reports. The incident actually took place in February, but has only been picked up by the Australian media in recent days. The Sydney Morning Herald quotes a Qantas spokesman as stating that "a hang glider entered controlled airspace without clearance", placing the blame squarely on the wayward bird-man. Apparently, "the Qantas crew noted the hang glider's presence", - there isn't any description of what the pilots actually said, sadly - "and took appropriate action". The airline immediately squealed to the Australian safety authorities, and also gave its pilots a "reminder of the importance of scanning outside the flight deck in busy approach airspace" - pilot speak for looking out the window now and then. But a hang-gliding enthusiasts' spokesman cast some doubt on Qantas' version of events. Chris Fogg, general manager of the Hang Gliding Federation of Australia (HGFA), told the Herald that none of his members had coughed to jostling any airliners. According to Fogg, that leaves only two possibilities. Firstly, that a dastardly "renegade" non-HGFA scab birdman had intruded into controlled airspace; or alternatively that the rogue aircraft wasn't a hang glider at all, but something resembling one – perhaps a paraglider. Fogg seemed unwilling to entertain the possibility of an errant HGFA member simply keeping schtum. He also downplayed the seriousness of the incident, saying that the Qantas aviators had "made a correcting course, not a severe evasive action", according to the Herald. There seems little hope of the mystery birdman being brought to book, as the Aussie air-safety investigators don't seem to be putting significant resources into the hunt. Or any resources at all, in fact. An Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) spokesman said a report on the incident had been received from Qantas, but candidly admitted that the ATSB had done nothing about it. ®
Brazilian airline TAM has announced it will offer free virtual flights in saddo paradise Second Life, Reuters reports. The airline said yesterday the jaunts will set off from Berrini Island - where avatars will be greeted by "a virtual pilot and a flight attendant" - to islands called England, Milan, New York and Paris. A spokesman explained: "Of course, avatars can fly there on their own, or we can take them there, free of charge, for which they get frequent flier points and gifts like a virtual aircraft or clothes. It's more of an institutional marketing tool, for people to learn about the airline's destinations, and for us to be present in this new online fever." TAM reckons there are 200,000 Brazilians wandering aimlessly around Second Life, making it the world's "fourth-biggest community by country". ®
A new social networking website - originally begun as a graduate project by a DIT student - is primed to go head-to-head with Bebo in a bid to attract users. Nimble.ie is an online community which, like MySpace, enables web users to get - and stay - in contact with friends and family. The online community provides an easy way for users to create a presence on the internety, and add "friends" to their network. Social networking sites have become incredibly popular around the world. According to recent statistics from Alexa Internet, Bebo, a leading social networking site, is the number one trafficked website in Ireland with around one million users. Nimble.ie is hoping to woo people away from established social networking sites, particularly Irish Beboers, by offering more entertaining functions than its competitors, and by including plenty of local information to keep users up to date on news and new developments The website started out as a project by Per Jacobsson when he was undertaking an MSc in Business & Entrepreneurship in Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT). His project was recently accepted for the Hothouse programme run by the PDC, a DIT off-shoot which offers help for start-ups with commercial potential. While the website started off as a hobby, Jacobsson realised that it could prove popular with internet users after carrying out research into Irish Bebo users' opinions about the social networking site. The feedback led him to include a range of extra functions apparently not covered by Bebo or its rivals. These include a Hot or Not functionality where users can rate pictures of other Nimble.ie users, local event postings, daily updated comics, online radio stations, games, jokes, movies and games reviews. Nimble.ie was formally launched at the end of March, and while it only has around 70 users at present, these have all been gained by word of mouth according to Jacobsson. The website is gearing up to launch an advertising campaign throughout Ireland and is sponsoring the Future Fashion show which takes place in Trinity College over the weekend. "There's nothing saying that users have to choose either Bebo or Nimble because they are both free. But, the key success factor for all of these social networking sites is that the young target audience aren't particularly loyal to a certain brand, they just go to who has the most fun and up-to-date functions on their site... so it's all about staying ahead of the competition," Jacobsson told ENN. "Our research has highlighted what Bebo in particular is missing and [that is what] we've included on Nimble.ie so I believe that we'll prove popular with social networking users who want to stay in touch," Jacobsson added. Copyright © 2007, ENN
Global warming may compel Australian wine producers to shift their vineyards to cooler climes, The Telegraph reports. As temperatures rise - by an estimated 1.5°C to 2°C in the next 50 to 100 years - and rainfall decreases, a southward migration of vineyards may be in order, experts predict. Mark McKenzie, executive director of the Winegrape Growers Council, explained: "If the climate projections are right, we'd see the ideal zones for different grape varieties shifting south. "Areas which are currently considered too cool for Cabernet Sauvignon grapes may become ideal for that variety, for instance. But it doesn't necessarily mean we are going to have to abandon existing areas." Brian McGuigan, a winemaker based in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales, says the changes are already evident. "We're noticing that the seasons have moved forward, reflected by the time at which you pick the grapes," he said. Higher temperatures mean the grapes ripen earlier, losing some of their flavour. Accordingly, a relocation of vines from, for example, sweaty Queensland to more temperate Tasmania could provide a solution, The Telegraph notes. ®
Scientists in Germany have managed to coax stem cells drawn from bone marrow to grow into immature sperm cells. The team says if these so-called spermatagonial cells can be matured, the work would have massive implications for fertility treatments. The research team isolated mesenchymal stem cells from samples of bone marrow donated by male volunteers. This is a type of cell which has previously been induced to grow into other body tissue, such as muscle. Next, these mesenchynmal cells were cultured in the lab and grown into male reproductive cells, called "germ cells". Genetic markers revealed the presence of spermatagonial stem cells, an early phase of the male germ cell development. Spermatagonial cells are found in the human testes, and in most men these would develop into mature, functional sperm cells. This is the first time this kind of cell has been artificially produced. But important as the breakthrough is, researchers are cautioning against wild street parties and other unrestrained celebration. For one thing, proposed legislation in the UK would ban using artificially created cells in fertility treatments. And for another, the work is still at a very early stage. Even the research team leader, Professor Karim Nayernia, formerly of the University of Göttingen but now of the North-east England Stem Cell Institute (NESCI), counsels caution. He said that before he could say that the work has potential applications in terms of fertility treatments in humans, there would need to be a significant investment of research time, within an appropriate social and ethical framework. Professor Nayernia said: "We're very excited about this discovery, particularly as our earlier work in mice suggests that we could develop this work even further. "Our next goal is to see if we can get the spermatagonial stem cells to progress to mature sperm in the laboratory and this should take around three to five years of experiments." The work, a joint project between the Medical School of Hannover and the University of Göttingen, is published in the April 13 2007 issue of the journal Reproduction: Gamete Biology. ®
If you've got between $7,800 and $173,100 to spare and fancy owning a piece of history, Geneva watchmaker Romain Jerome has just the thing for you: a watch incorporating steel and coal from the Titanic. Watches in the "Titanic-DNA" collection are made from gold, platinum and steel, the latter coming from a 1.5 kg piece of the hull acquired by Romain Jerome from an unnamed seller*. The plate has been authenticated by Titanic's builder Harland and Wolff and is alloyed with steel "being used in a Harland and Wolff replica of the vessel", Reuters explains. The black laquer of the watch face also boasts "coal recovered from the debris field of the Titanic wrecksite", sold by RMS Titanic Inc. Romain Jerome chief exec Yvan Arpa reckons the Titanic-DNA timepieces will appeal to "collectors and garrulous luxury goods buyers". He said: "So many rich people buy incredibly complicated watches without understanding how they work, because they want a story to tell. To them we offer a story." Getting up a full head of steam, Arpa continued: "The combination of new and old materials infused the watches with a sense of renewal, instead of representing a reminder of the 1,500 passengers who drowned when the oceanliner met her tragic end off the coast of Newfoundland". He concluded: "It is a message of hope, of life stronger than death, of rebirth." Romain Jerome says it will make 2,012 Titanic-DNA watches to commemorate the 2012 centenary of the Titanic's demise. ® Bootnote *The plate was recovered in 1991, Reuters notes, before the Titanic site was protected to prevent further exploitation.
LG has introduced a candybar incarnation of its Shine slider phone. The new model - dubbed the KE770 - is 9.9mm thick, just shy of the regular Shine's 14mm waist.
The threatened Amur tiger - the world's biggest* - has staged a bit of a comeback in its native Siberia, with the population "finally stabilised", according to the WWF. The Amur population, which by the 1940s was represented by just 40-odd individuals in the Russian wilds, is now estimated at 480 to 520, The Telegraph reports. There are also small populations in China and North Korea, bringing the world total to 600. Poaching and habitat loss almost did for the Amur tiger, aka the Siberian tiger, but wildlife experts last year "celebrated the first birth of Amur tiger cubs in the wilds of southeast Siberia for over a century" - a fact confirmed by "paw prints in the snowy forests of the Amur region".® Bootnote *An adult male Amur tiger can weigh in at 800lb and reach 10ft in length.
The Sdbot and Gaobot malware families are responsible for most botnets worldwide. The two strains were responsible for 80 per cent of detections related to bots during the first quarter of 2007, Spanish anti-virus firm Panda Software reports.
AnalysisAnalysis Beleaguered ISP PlusNet is attempting a comeback with a suite of new deals, backed by its new owner BT. PlusNet's 200,000 subscribers were picked up by BT at the tail end of a year which saw its long standing good reputation dismantled at its own hand. Technical cock ups, followed up with terrible customer service resulted in the Sheffield-based outfit taking a pasting in these pages, and eventually the mainstream press. Product development director Neil Armstrong told The Register: "As a PLC we squeezed too hard. Too many decisions were made which put shareholders before customers." One such decision resulted in a catastophic email failure and customer data loss. Budget Sun servers were stretched beyond what they were designed to cope with. A cash injection from sugar daddy BT Retail has paid for a new NetApp setup. PlusNet is halfway through migrating to to the new system, so far without any hiccups. It'll be a long road back, however. In 2005 PlusNet went from about 100,000 subscribers to about 195,000, growing faster than the pack who were riding the wave of broadband uptake. The catalogue of disasters last year meant subscriber numbers were static, but the churn rate increased. The £67m BT laid down for PlusNet surprised many, then, but unlike when Carphone Warehouse bought AOL, there were draws beyond the current customer base. At a media briefing on Thursday, Neil Rogers, head of 21CN, BT's next generation network, said one of the main aims of the nationwide upgrade project was to automate more of broadband users' interaction with the firm, with more "click to order" services. When it bought PlusNet, BT pointed to the firm's experience in running banking-style online customer services. In the early days of dial up ISPs in the UK, the only way to get an email address was to fax an order to Demon, which operated the system back then, until PlusNet developed an automated web form. The torrent of complaints invoked by 2006's failures taught PlusNet that automation cannot do everything, however, and it has since added more call centre staff. Unanswered calls bred more complaints, sending customer care into a downward spiral it took weeks to recover from. The plan is for BT to run PlusNet hands-off, selling its broadband via BT Wholesale as it does any other IPStream ISP. It will get access to BT's extra bells and whistles, however, like Home Hub, Fusion mobile/WiFi phone, and later the IPTV offering BT Vision. PlusNet will continue as an independent business to the extent that the 10 per cent of PlusNet customers served by telephone lines which have been unbundled by Tiscali will stay off BT's network, Armstrong said. Despite the sale of Pipex apparently falling through, the broadband market is set for more consolidation this year, with many tipping Tiscali to be put on the block. Without Pipex and Tiscali, PlusNet would be left the biggest "tier 2" provider, a category which has taken the biggest hit from the entry of Sky, Orange, and TalkTalk. The consensus is there will be room for only a few smaller operators, each needing its own unique pull to survive. Armstrong said: "There are people out there who don't want to deal with a company like BT. Our aim is to be the best tier 2 provider. Sensible people know 'free' is bollocks." In a bid to win back customer trust, PlusNet's new packages all run on a one month rolling contract, rather than the 12 and 18 month lock in which TalkTalk uses to make its "free" offer make business sense. It reckons it can use the "unlimited" broadband controversy to its advantage by being up front about download limits and bandwidth throttling. Armstrong, a broadband industry veteran, says the anticipated popularity of P2P video application Joost will test many ISPs' current policies beyond their breaking point. PlusNet built its formerly good reputation on word of mouth recommendations as the ISP for people who understand the internet. Its aiming to reclaim that title with new packages which are designed and customisable depending on how users want to use their connection. There's more details here. Only time will tell whether it's learnt its lesson. And if not, you'll read it here. ®
Collaborative technologies are failing because too many users are socially inept and have poor manners, according to a report from the Leading Edge Forum, a consortium of CIOs and academics. The problem comes because users don't know which tools to use for which purposes, and don't consider the other people involved, so if employers want to get value from the technologies they buy, they need to provide guidance and social training, said Doug Neal, the report's author and an LEF research fellow. Many email and IM users will know from painful experience how easy it is to offend others by mistake, when all you have to work with is text, but Neal said similar problems can arise with other collaborative tools too – for example, when someone assumes that, because your diary shows uncommitted time you have nothing better to do than attend their meeting. "This issue will get worse as new versions of MS Office and Sharepoint are rolled out with dramatically greater capabilities," he said. He added that part of the problem is that users choose collaborative tools instinctively, rather than consciously. The forum, which is sponsored by IT services company CSC, has put together an interactive slide-show summarising its recommendations. It suggests questions people should ask themselves when deciding which tool to use, and offers advice for different types of collaboration, for example: Calendaring – Don't use a broadcast meeting invitation to gauge interest in a topic. Email – If you expect discussion on an issue, don't send it by email. Messaging – Always assume that whatever you say by IM will be seen by others. Shared filing space – Establish the owner of any reference document and a process for keeping it up to date. Discussions – Aim to close as many discussions as you open. Audio/web conferencing – Direct your questions to nominated participants. Video conferencing – To appear natural, you must practice unnatural acts. No, the latter is not a reference to the goat and the Shih-Tzu that the MD keeps in the videoconferencing room, it's things such as looking at the camera, not the screen, and exaggerating your expressions to give greater feedback. Gurning lessons all round, then. ®
China's Ministry of Public Security today announced a six month crackdown on net pornography, AP reports. The campaign will target "cyber strip shows and sexually explicit images, stories and audio and video clips" according to state news agency Xinhua. Zhang Xinfeng, a deputy public security minister, declared: "The boom of pornographic content on the internet has contaminated cyberspace and perverted China's young minds. The inflow of pornographic materials from abroad and lax domestic control are to blame for the existing problems in China's cyberspace." Zhang added that "illegal online lotteries and contraband trade, fraud and content that spreads rumours and is of a slanderous nature" would also be tackled. To show that the Chinese authorities mean business, Xinhua also announced that two website operators had attracted four year prison sentences, with a third jailed for one year for "distributing pornographic movies and other materials". Last year, 28-year-old Chen Hui was jailed for life for his part in establishing "Pornographic Summer" and three other unnamed sites. ®
Officials at the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) hope to upgrade America's defences against smuggled nuclear weapons or materials in the near future, after successful tests at the New York container terminal.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has demanded that more be done to make DIYers aware of the dangers of nail guns following a massive rise in injuries provoked by the tools. Indeed, the CDC says that since 1991, nail gun-inflicted injuries have risen by 200 per cent, averaging 37,000 victims a year between 2001-2005. However, "work-related nail gun injuries had stayed stable since 1998", Reuters notes, meaning that cack-handed amateurs were bearing the brunt. A CDC report concluded: "This increase likely corresponds to an increase in availability during the 1990s of inexpensive pneumatic nail guns and air compressors in home hardware stores." The CDC's probe does not, sadly, reveal how many of the 37,000 annual injuries were due to users nailing themselves to roofs through their wedding tackle. ®
A brawl at a Cyprus convent has resulted in two people being stabbed and two cuffed, Reuters reports. The unseemly scuffle - in which "priests and nuns were involved" - broke out last night at the Metamorphosis tou Sotiros convent, south east of Nicosia. According to police, it was provoked by "a power struggle between rival factions" over control of the convent's "speculated vast wealth". Last December, a nun was assaulted and hospitalised. The two people injured were laymen, police noted, as were those arrested. A police spokesman told Reuters: "Two required stitches for head injuries inflicted by sharp implements and two were detained for obstructing police." ®
The EU's Committee on Industry, Research and Energy has voted overwhelmingly in support of the proposed cap on EU-wide roaming charges, fixing the price at €0.40 for outgoing, and €0.15 for incoming calls. While the EU generally tries to avoid interfering with prices, especially in competitive markets, the feeling was that roaming bills were so high that some form of legislation was necessary. Of course; network operators are going to have to make up the income somewhere, so price rises in domestic and beyond-EU roaming can be expected, though they'll be carefully presented to avoid attention. The strength of support for the proposal; 45 voted in favour, 3 against and there was 1 abstention, means that legislation could be in place for this summer, depending on legal challenges or other excuses the network operators can come up with to delay implementation.
OpinionOpinion Especially with the recent indicators that the Wii is outselling the PS3, I'm beginning to think I'm seeing the PSP vs the DS again, but writ large.
Credit card giant Visa's authorisation system has been suffering from a system failure since the early hours of this morning, leaving some merchants unable to authorise transactions. One Reg reader alerted us to the issue which could prevent thousands of online Visa card transactions from being processed today.
Register HardwareRegister Hardware Register Hardware - it's just like The Register, only harder - brings you the hottest personal technology news and reviews every day. HD DRM under strain Just days after the organisation behind HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc's AACS copy-protection technology said it had patched a hole exposed by hackers earlier this year, their opponents figured out how to get an Xbox 360 external HD DVD drive to play copies of discs by bypassing part of AACS' encryption-key authorisation process.
Easter ID theft While we in the UK were taking a break on Good Friday, thieves in Chicago walked into the headquarters of Chicage Public Schools and stole two laptops which contained names and social security numbers of 40,000 teachers. Ouch. Authorities have apologised and are trying to get the information back. Sun Fujitsu boxes ready to ship We've got an exclusive story on next week's announcement of new boxes from Sun and Fujitsu. The Olympus systems are based on Fujitsu Sparc processors and are aimed at the mid to high range customer. Salesforce does content Salesforce.com has done a good job of changing the market for sales and customer management software - by making it available to people who didn't even know they wanted it - and now it wants to do the same thing for content management. It's bought a company called Koral, which is the toast of the blogosphere for being so easy to use. Summer's here, let's go to Iceland Summer brings its own problems for data centres which increasingly struggle to keep temperatures and power demands down. So maybe there's a grain of truth in suggestions that Cisco and Microsoft are looking at relocating to chillier climes. Local reports suggest that both companies are considering opening server farms in Iceland - the country has oodles of green power thanks to geothermal power stations. Redneck server farms Another view of the future of data centres came from a Microsoft researcher backing an idea first mooted by Sun and Rackable Systems - put your server room in a shipping container. Power and cooling needs are reduced and the whole kit and caboodle can be moved to wherever cheap power is available - like Iceland we guess. Que passe Pipex? You may have missed reports over Easter that the takeover of ISP Pipex has all gone a bit dodgy. Bankers UBS were trying to get Carphone Warehouse, BT, Virgin and Sky taking part in a bidding war, but interest is waning. None has gone public yet, but it seems only Carphone Warehouse is still keen. Six years old and 100 million sold Apple's iPod is six years old and the company has sold 100 million of the little white boxes. It launched in November in 2001 in a Mac only version. Never feed a troll This week saw the tail-end of a heated debate on blog manners. This started when marketing wonk Kathy Sierra received a flame email and cancelled an appearance at a conference because she took the death threat seriously. This led Wiki creator Jimbo Wales and Tim O'Reilly to suggest some etiquette for the blogosphere. It hasn't received much praise yet, but see what you think. HP inks speed record Ink behemoth HP is claiming records for its new colour printer which can knock out 50 colour prints a minute. It uses a series of printer heads across the width of the page. New technology makes sure the prints are dry to the touch almost instantly. NHS IT promises summer launch The NHS IT programme is promising a summer arrival for its super site of patient information. It promises to be one of the more visible aspects of the programme and will be piloted in libraries from April. Oops, I did it again Content management can be tricky, but Ebuyer has been caught pinching content from rival websites again. This time it was using product descriptions from MoreComputers.com. And, once again, it left the images on MoreComputers.com's servers so it bore the cost of serving up information to Ebuyer customers. Security round-up Tuesday was Microsoft's monthly patch extravanganza with six bulletins released, five of them considered critical. Some of the information was released early because of widespread efforts to exploit the hole. Interesting research from Forrester this week on how much security breaches actually cost. An inexact science, as it freely admits, especially as public concern sees increasing attention paid to such problems. The boffins reckon each record lost could cost your company between $90 and $305. US data laws mean more and more breaches are reported rather than covered up. This week's biggest blunder was in the US, where 2.9 million Medicaid recipients in Georgia discovered their names, addresses, social security numbers and other information had been lost. That's all folks. Have a lovely weekend. ®
A Belgian lager whose label features a buxom lass in a removable swimsuit* has been removed from sale in the UK, The Publican reports. Rubbel Sexy Lager - brewed by Brouwerij Huyghe - violated The Portman Group's Code of Practice, the Independent Complaints Panel ruled, because "the name of the drink and the swimsuit were associated with sexual success". Section 3.2 (d) of said code states: "A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest any association with sexual success." The ruling came after a complaint from Buckinghamshire Trading Standards. The Portman Group's big cheese David Poley offered: "Some people might think this is harmless fun but there is a serious issue involved. The industry has set itself strict marketing rules and this drink has fallen short of those high standards." Bootnote *The young lady's swimwear is stripped off by scratching, we gather. As for the beer itself, one Copenhagen ale fancier described it thus: "Nice white creamy and lasting head."
Researchers have identified a variant of a gene that, should you be blessed with two copies, makes you prone to retaining extra weight. Those with one copy of the mutant FTO gene are 30 per cent more likely to be obese, while those with two copies, the researchers say, are 70 per cent more likely to be dangerously overweight. Unsurprisingly, this has prompted all kinds of hysterical headlines proclaiming that there really is a gene that explains obesity. You are not fat, one headline reads, you just have fat genes. Your genes are why you can't fit in your jeans, titters another. But the research found that those with the double helping of the gene only weighed, on average, three kilos, or six and a half pounds more than those without. So the gene can't be blamed for all of the extra poundage Europe is hefting around. In addition, the researchers still have no idea what the gene actually does that makes people predisposed to gain more weight than their non-gene carrying colleagues. Nevertheless the discovery that any gene is solidly associated with a tendency to pick up weight has got people very excited. The researchers hope that the gene will help researchers discover new ways of preventing and treating obesity, and its associated illnesses. The gene was identified while researchers were studying a group with type 2 diabetes. Sufferers are more likely to carry the variant of the so-called FTO gene. The work, published in Science by the Peninsula Medical School and Oxford University, is based on data gathered from more than 38,000 people. From this data, the team was able to establish that the gene is also associated with extra weight. They estimate that around one in six white Europeans have two copies of the gene, while half will carry one copy. ®
US military boffins are planning to put a satellite-based router into orbit. The three-year Internet Routing In Space (IRIS) project is due to see a satellite that will aid military communications launched in the first quarter of 2009.
An English teenager whose house was trashed after she posted a party invite on MySpace has blamed computer hackers for the gatecrashing debacle. A 17 year old from Houghton-le-Spring, near Sunderland, took advantage of her parents being away over Easter to invite a few friends – say 60, plus DJs – to an informal get together at the family home, according to reports.
Orange has had to suspend access to its "Enable" system since last Thursday when it became aware that a third party was trying to access the credit checking and connection management system. In a statement, Orange said someone tried to get in to the system, which is designed for internal and external sales people. Orange wouldn't be drawn on what data, if any, was compromised. The system is designed to manage customers wanting upgrades or coming to the end of their contract, so it seems likely that the attacker was someone who could gain financially from that information. The most obvious candidate would be a contract reseller, who wanted to call up Orange customers coming to the end of their contracts. Such companies have, in the past, been reduced to calling people at random in the hope of hitting someone near renewal, so they would certainly be interested in details of customers nearing the end of their contracts, including their eligibility and credit rating, as well as name and number. So, if you're an Orange customer getting suspicious calls offering you a new contract, let us know. The Reg understands that new usernames and passwords have been issued to legitimate Enable users, though the system isn't fully operational and Orange says it is still investigating. So don't hold your breath. ®
CBS has signed agreements with a bunch of online partners to distribute its shows over the internet. The "CBS Interactive Audience Network" includes deals with AOL, Bebo, CNet, Comcast, Joost, Sling Media, and Veoh. All content will be supported by advertising and free to the consumer both in the US and internationally. Ad revenue will be split between CBS and its partners. Clips and whole shows will be available according to a rotating list within a specific timeframe. Shows include the Late Show with David Letterman, Survivor and CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. Some programmes from the CBS archive will also be available. Akamai Technologies will provide the content delivery network. Read the whole release here. ®
Indian outsourcing giant Infosys has posted year end results that show how its growth is still constrained by a lack of resources. At least that's the story the firm gave in January, and it happens to concur with the complaints emanating from its rival multinationals on the subcontinent.
LettersLetters This week, the MOD took to gazing into a crystal ball, and came up with a number of scary sounding predictions for what the future might hold.
The spat between Virgin Media and BSkyB took another turn yesterday when Virgin Media launched a High-Court action accusing Sky of breaching the 1998 UK Competition Act. Virgin had threatened to see Sky in court if its rival didn't back down on pricing within 30 days: Sky has always said it would be happy to return to the negotiating table at any time; but there's a big difference between being willing to negotiate and being willing to concede anything. The 30 days ran out last Wednesday, with Sky calling Virgin in the expectation of a bluff, but it now seems Virgin is prepared to go all the way. ®
Mobile phone operators in Pakistan have been deluged with calls from concerned users after they received a hoax message claiming a killer virus was being transmitted via their handsets. The message claimed that 20 people had already succumbed to the deadly plague, and proved so effective that some mosques in Karachi began advising would-be victims to "be aware of God's wrath", Reuters reports. Farah Hussain, a spokeswoman for Warid Telecom, said the company's customer service centres have been "inundated with panicky subscribers inquiring about the so-called virus". Operators issued a joint statement aimed at calming nerves, which explained: "These rumours are completely baseless. They do not make any sense in technological terms." ®
A new set of laws has been proposed to govern operations by killer robots. The ideas were floated by John S Canning, an engineer at the Naval Surface Warfare Centre, Dahlgren Division – an American weapons-research and test establishment. Mr Canning's “Concept of Operations for Armed Autonomous Systems” presentation can be downloaded here (pdf). Many Reg readers will be familiar with the old-school Asimov Laws of Robotics, but these are clearly unsuitable for war robots – too restrictive. However, the new Canning Laws are certainly not a carte blanche for homicidal droids to obliterate fleshies without limit; au contraire. Canning proposes that robot warriors should be allowed to mix it up among themselves freely, autonomously deciding to blast enemy weapon systems. Many enemy “systems” would, of course, be themselves robots, so it's clear that machine-on-machine violence isn't a problem. The difficulty comes when the automatic battlers need to target humans. In such cases Mr Canning says that permission from a human operator should be sought. “Let machines target other machines,” he writes, “and let men target men.” The concept document makes the point that various kinds of automated death-tech have been allowed to destroy machinery or even people for years. He cites anti-shipping missiles which are sometimes sent off over the horizon and told to look around for a target. Other examples include automatic air-defence systems such as Phalanx or Aegis which blast anything which comes at them too fast, or the “Captor” seabed system which torpedoes passing submarines but leaves surface ships alone. It isn't really made clear how the ask-permission-to-kill-meatsacks rule could really be applied in these cases. Doppler radar is going to have trouble distinguishing between attacking manned jets and incoming missiles, for instance. Even if the two could be swiftly and reliably differentiated, adding a human reaction and decision period in an air-defence scenario may not be a survivable thing to do. Mr Canning also says that the emphasis should be on destroying enemy weaponry rather than people. “We can equip our machines with non-lethal technologies for the purpose of convincing the enemy to abandon their weapons prior to our machines destroying the weapons, and lethal weapons to kill their weapons,” he suggests. This raises the prospect of American robot enforcers packing the crowd-cookers, strobe pacifier cannons or Star Trek puke blasters already reported by El Reg, and also some conventional exploding stuff. Once enemy troops had been partially grilled, rendered epileptic or incapacitated by vomit beams, presumably fleeing as a result, the droid assailants could blow up their abandoned tanks, artillery, ships or whatnot. Of course, this might not work so well with personal enemy weaponry such as the ubiquitous AK47 or RPG. Interestingly, though, Mr Canning quotes airforce major R Craig Burton of the Judge Advocate General's Legal Centre: “If people or property isn't a military objective, we don't target it. It might be destroyed as collateral damage, but we don't target it. Thus in many situations, we could target the individual holding the gun and/or the gun and legally there's no difference.” Which seems to suggest that a robot could decide, under Mr Canning's rules, to target a weapon system such as an AK47 for destruction on its own initiative, requiring no permission from a human. If the person holding it was thereby killed, that would be collateral damage and the killer droid would be in the clear. Effectively the robot is allowed to disarm enemies by prying their guns from their cold dead hands. El Reg's advice? Do what the droids say. They are our friends. ®
Reg Reader WorkshopReg Reader Workshop The BI jargon mini-poll results are in and they make interesting reading, with lessons in there for both vendors and IT departments.
Sanjay Kumar, the disgraced former CEO of Computer Associates, is to pay $798.6m in restitution to victims of the company's $2.2bn accounting fraud. Well, he would if had the money...
Audio-video drives are back on the menu, with Western Digital bringing out a range of IDE and SATA hard disks that goes to a chunky 500GB – enough for up to 30 hours of HD video, reckons WD.
Nexsan and Reldata have linked up to produce an IP-based unified storage system that offers both SAN and NAS capabilities, and will be sold by both companies' dealers. According to Reldata boss Dr Boris Anderer, the joint product - called Unified Smart Storage - is a complete system in its own right, not merely a bundle. He said it consolidates an iSCSI SAN server, NAS for file storage, and data replication features for enterprise-grade disaster recovery.
Information security procedures in federal government have improved, albeit modestly. An annual computer security report card on 24 federal agencies released Thursday rated average security at "C-minus for 2006 compared to D+ in 2005. So instead of been sent to bed without their pork supper, Federal IT managers have earned a pat on the head, if not a generous end of term present. The scores are based on reports submitted in response to the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA). Perennial security underachievers the US Department of Homeland Security received its first-ever non-failing grade, managing to pull its performance up from an F to a D, the first time since the scheme began in 2003 that it didn't flunk. Although overall security procedures improved the Department of Defense (DoD) recorded a failing F grade. Meanwhile the Department of Veterans Affairs - whose loss of laptops containing veterans' confidential data triggered a huge security breach - failed to submit a report. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, another agency that has trouble keeping track of its PCs, flunked. On a brighter note, the DoJ picked up an A- while the Social Security Administration rated an A. The reports are overseen by the House Government Reform Committee, the well-spring of the FISMA laws. Although supporters of the law say it provides an incentive for improving security controls critics (including government IT managers) say the audit is more about fulfilling compliance requirements than reducing exposure to information security risks. Security industry observers also criticise the lack of remedial action, or indeed consequences of any type, that result from agencies receiving a failing grade. ®
InterviewInterview Cray's Peter Ungaro has become fully emergent. Not so much like a fluff-filled executive at a Web 2.0 start-up, but more like a CEO of a manly supercomputing firm ready to brag about his company's latest accomplishments.
CommentComment HP announced last month the availability of Virtual Connect, virtualization technologies to simplify the connectivity and management of its BladeSystem c-Class architecture. HP Virtual Connect modules separate server management from LAN and SAN management without introducing another network or disturbing existing network topologies.
Given the dearth of creativity and talent on American Idol, you'd think the show by now would have suffered a fate worse than the Hindenburg. Alas, the series is in its sixth season, so a handful of altruistic souls have taken to the net in a campaign to torpedo the show. Among the more amusing sabotage attempts is the Sanjaya War Dialer, a piece of software that makes it a snap to vote over and over for Sanjaya Malakar. The contestant is better known for his hair-do malfunctions and goofy demeanor than his pitch, even when compared with his competition. The thinking is that ginning the votes to cause this turd to rise to the top will put Idol out of its misery once and for all. Or as the creator of the war dialer puts it: "Make Sanjaya win and help us ruin American Idol." The campaign to poison the Idol well was jump-started by satellite radio jock Howard Stern, who for a month or so has entreated his 600,000 listeners to vote for Malakar. But this sort of guerrilla tactic is by no means new. Votefortheworst.com says it started in 2004 with a mission of undermining the show's producers, who frequently choose quirk and blandness over a good set of pipes. The site explains: "Vote for the Worst encourages you to have fun with American Idol and embrace its suckiness by voting for the people who the general public and the producers are rooting against." ®
Dimension Data has sold its Swedish operations to Cygate, a subsidiary of TeliaSonera. Terms were undisclosed, which means that the sale price was nothing to write home about. According to DiData, its Swedish business was sub-scale and it has prioritised its investments in other market. The South-African owned reseller says it will use Cygate to service clients with outlets in Sweden. Cygate has 250 employees in Sweden and Finland and has bought two other resellers recently. ®
Attackers are targeting a flaw in the DNS service for Windows server OSes that could hijack the computers that run them, Microsoft warns. The software behemoth advises admins to employ workarounds pending completion of its investigation.
Two California computer support technicians have launched a class action suit against their employers, AT&T and Yellowpages.com, for classifying them as 'managers' or 'engineers' to avoid paying overtime and meal breaks.