Tuesday, May 05
With cybersecurity currently a hot topic in Washington, D.C., researchers at the University of Santa Barbara have taken the step of hijacking a botnet in order to see just how much damage it does. Ars Technica has the scary scoop:
UCSB’s researchers were able to gather massive amounts of information on how the botnet functions as well as what kind of information it’s gathering. Almost 300,000 unique login credentials were gathered over the time the researchers controlled the botnet, including 56,000 passwords gathered in a single hour using “simple replacement rules” and a password cracker. They found that 28 percent of victims reused their credentials for accessing 368,501 websites, making it an easy task for scammers to gather further personal information. The researchers noted that they were able to read through hundreds of e-mail, forum, and chat messages gathered by Torpig that “often contain detailed (and private) descriptions of the lives of their authors.”
The University’s full research paper is available here.
The New York Times is reporting that the FTC—that would be the Federal Trade Commission—is investigating whether Apple and Google are a little too cozy:
Apple and Google share two directors, Eric E. Schmidt, chief executive of Google, and Arthur Levinson, former chief executive of Genentech. The Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914 prohibits a person’s presence on the board of two rival companies when it would reduce competition between them. The two companies increasingly compete in the cellphone and operating systems markets.
Antitrust experts say the provision against “interlocking directorates,” known as Section 8 of the act, is rarely enforced. Nevertheless, the agency has already notified Google and Apple of its interest in the matter, according to the people briefed on the inquiry, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity because the inquiry was confidential.
The FTC’s investigation is still in its infancy and, according to the story, nobody is yet commenting. Stay tuned…
How will a national broadband policy succeed? Telephony Online has a long article attempting to answer the question:
Successful National Broadband Policies across the globe have three distinct features: (1) Definitive goals to provide “x” bandwidth to “x” percent of population by “x” date; (2) some form of government financing; and (3) telecom policy that supports the goals of the plan. In addition, many of the plans also have specific goals related to broadband adoption, not just availability, and develop government policy and programs to support those goals.
Another key element of most National Policies is the fact that a market analysis detailing the competitive environment, the market position of the incumbents, availability and affordability of broadband has been undertaken ahead of policy making.
The full article is definitely worth checking out.
A new national broadband strategy has been offered, and as GovTech reports, it’s being offered by the nation’s universities:
Last week, 200 universities nationwide offered a national strategy to the Obama Administration “as a first step in realizing (his) vision bringing the benefits of broadband technology to all Americans.”
The plan was offered to NTIA—The National Telecommunications and Information Administration—which has $4.7 billion to help build our national information infrastructure as part of the so-called stimulus plan passed by the Congress earlier this year.
As for the plan itself, Blandin on Broadband nutshells it:
A National Broadband Strategy should begin with America’s colleges and universities, community colleges, K-12 schools, public libraries, hospitals, clinics, and the state, regional and national research and education networks that connect them and extend to reach government agencies, agricultural extension sites, and community centers across the nation.
The full plan—titled “Unleashing Waves of Innovation: Transformative Broadband for America’s Future—is available in pdf form.
From the Sacramento Bee:
The good news is that 96 percent of California’s households have access to a high-speed Internet connection.
The bad news is that despite the good news, 45 percent of California residents – a number greater than the populations of all but five states – still don’t have broadband connections in their homes because of geography, disabilities, a lack of English language skills or poverty.
Now the promising news: The state is poised to grab as much as $1 billion in federal stimulus money for closing what’s referred to as a “digital divide” between Internet haves and have-nots.
With stimulus dollars still up for grabs, expect more states to try and get in on the action.
Monday, May 04
Amazon is about to release a third version of its popular Kindle, this time aimed toward newspaper and magazine readers.
Whether the device—which reportedly has a larger screen—will be a hit with dead tree diehards remains to be seen. But given the overwhelming cost of traditional printing, the future of journalism is definitely online.
Last week, the Obama administration announced it was venturing into social networking by joining sites such Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and Flickr. From the official White House blog:
In the President’s last Weekly Address, he called on government to “recognize that we cannot meet the challenges of today with old habits and stale thinking.” He added that “we need to reform our government so that it is more efficient, more transparent, and more creative,” and pledged to “reach beyond the halls of government” to engage the public.
While the government certainly needs shake off “old habits and stale thinking,” the move into social networking isn’t without concerns from privacy groups. As the New York Times “Bits” blog reports:
The privacy advocates’ biggest concern is that most social networks treat a government agency no differently than a former roommate. People might friend the White House on MySpace, for example, to indicate support for the president or to get messages about what the administration is doing. In doing so, however, they are agreeing that every party photo, love poem, and wisecrack from a friends that appears on their profiles will be visible to White House Web masters. And so far there are no guidelines that say whether those Webmasters might keep copies of any of personal information they see or send it to the government officials who could use it to get authorization to audit people’s taxes, keep them from boarding an airplane, tap their telephones or even arrest them.
In response to concerns, the White House had this to say:
“We are focused on opening government to the people (and not the other way around), and like with any other online friends, the individual users can still choose to keep information private using their privacy settings,” said Moira Mack, a White House spokeswoman in an e-mail. “The White House takes privacy seriously and we are engaged in an ongoing conversation with privacy advocates to ensure that we are aware of the latest concerns and issues.”
According to a new report from marketing research firm In-Stat, web-to-TV video streaming is about to explode—to the tune of 24 million households with five years.
This, obviously, poses a problem to traditional TV providers—and might explain why some cable companies have been making noises about metered broadband. Will cable companies turn to cap limits to make up for lost revenue?
Search engines have come a long way, but as The Independent reports, a revolution may be on the horizon:
The new system, Wolfram Alpha, showcased at Harvard University in the US last week, takes the first step towards what many consider to be the internet’s Holy Grail – a global store of information that understands and responds to ordinary language in the same way a person does.
Being able to make Internet searches more personable is cool and all, but Wolfram Alpha has something else up its sleeve:
The real innovation, however, is in its ability to work things out “on the fly”, according to its British inventor, Dr Stephen Wolfram. If you ask it to compare the height of Mount Everest to the length of the Golden Gate Bridge, it will tell you. Or ask what the weather was like in London on the day John F Kennedy was assassinated, it will cross-check and provide the answer. Ask it about D sharp major, it will play the scale. Type in “10 flips for four heads” and it will guess that you need to know the probability of coin-tossing. If you want to know when the next solar eclipse over Chicago is, or the exact current location of the International Space Station, it can work it out.
An Internet that not only stores information but can also work out problems? What could possibly go wrong?
The rural demand for broadband can be seen from the level of utilization for those who do subscribe. Rural households transfer more information on average than their urban counterparts. This may be because rural users turn to the Internet for products and services that they cannot get locally, whereas urban users have more options.
Peha, Jon M. “Bringing Broadband to Unserved Communities.” Part of The Hamilton Project, Advancing Opportunity, Prosperity and Growth. (Washington DC: The Brookings Institution) May 2008.
More facts about broadband and rural areas.