May 26, 2006
Teens Arrested in Extortion Attemp Against MySpace.com
Two teens are arrested for threatening MySpace.com with releasing exploit code unless the web site gave them $150,000. Shaun Harrison and Saverio Mondelli of Long Island, New York, were arrested in Los Angeles when they attempted to get the payoff from MySpace employees, who were in fact undercover cops posing as MySpace employees. Whoops. Charges include two felony counts of illegal computer access and one count of sending a threatening letter of extortion and attempted extortion.
These guys had figured out a way to steal personal information from MySpace through a vulnerability exploit and had successfully done it. They couldn't figure out there were going to be cops at the other end of the transaction? What were they thinking?
Apple Loses Appeal on Product Leaker
A three judge state appeals panel ruled today in California that Apple could not subpoena a web site (AppleInsider) for records relating to communications on leaked products. Apple has been determined to find out who gave information on an unreleased product, a break-out box used to connect musical instruments to a computer. The court ruled that bloggers were entitled to the same privileges that allowed journalists to protect confidential sources. Onward to the California Supreme Court!
May 25, 2006
If Microsoft Designed the iPod Box
The TaxProf Blog presents a video clip of Microsoft's design of the iPod Box. It's hilarious. I think we'll finally see if Bill Gates and/or Steve Ballmer have a sense of humor. The clip was produced by Microsoft designers.
See it here.
Office 2007 Beta 2 Available to Public
Microsoft released beta 2 of Office 2007 earlier this week. You can get access to a download or order a set of discs here. The two big changes in the new Office include the revolving ribbon which changes tasks intuitively instead of the static toolbars, and the change in format to XML as a file format. Reviews indicate that older documents can come into Office 2007, but not saved in old formats. I have a copy of the beta and will give my own review on this after I install it on a test system.
Microsoft is attempting to get its own Open XML format approved as standard but is running into opposition with the adoption of the Open Document Format. This XML format is supported by the usual rivals of IBM, Sun, etc. Microsoft plans to go ahead with a version of Office that does not support ODF working on the supposition that the large installed base will make Open XML a defacto standard. The Open Document Foundation plans to issue a plug-in for Office that seamlessly integrates ODF as a file format in the new Office.
May 24, 2006
Registrar Sues Commerce Dept. for Docs Over Failed .xxx Domain
ICM Registry is suing the Department of Commerce to gain access to the documents and emails concerning the creation of the .xxx domain. ICANN defeated the domain creation recently on a 9-5 vote. The Freedom of Information Act lawsuit is meant to show how the United States government interfered with ICANN, an independent body, on behalf of the religious right for political reasons.
That may be, but post-defeat analysis shows that several other governments had issues with the creation of the domain and that the porn industry was also generally opposed to the idea. Most porn entrepreneurs have established URLs where they conduct business and were not looking forward to the disruption moving to another domain would cause. The domain also represented another level of regulation the industry felt it didn't need. From their perspective, having a .com address put them on par with other "legitimate" businesses.
Some religious leaders have claimed the opposite, that a .xxx domain would legitimize the porn industry. If creating the domain would have this effect, it would largely be a formality at this point. A quick look at Google trends shows that the historical trends for searching the word "porn" has increased over time (2004-2006). The top 10 cities identified by Google where the searches originated are:
1. Birmingham United Kingdom
2. Manchester United Kingdom
3. Brisbane Australia
4. Perth Australia
5. Melbourne Australia
6. Sydney Australia
7. Brentford United Kingdom
8. San Diego, CA USA
9. Chicago, IL USA
10. Los Angeles, CA USA
At last look, all of these locations are in democratic countries with elected governments where freedom of religion is respected. (Checking the results for the word "pornography" rather than "porn" brings up a different list with Salt Lake City coming in at 3 and Seattle coming in at 10.)
On a regional basis, the results showed these countries in the top 10:
1. South Africa
2. New Zealand
5. United Kingdom
9. United States
Google Trends uses a number of qualifiers to create these lists and the company does not promote the Trends service as scientific. The point here is that porn is popular as an Internet search. That creates a kind of legitimacy irrespective of any one view on the topic or how it's organized on the web. The value of this suit is not to promote or denigrate pornography, but to show the influence and motivation of the United States government in ICANN's decisions. That should create some interesting political fodder.
May 23, 2006
Wired News Publishes Secret Documents in AT&T-NSA Case
In an amazing bit of free speech exercising, Wired News has published documents under seal in the Electronic Frontier Foundation lawsuit against AT&T. The suit is based on AT&T's cooperation with the National Security Agency by allowing the latter to place equipment on transmission lines that effectively gather and monitor all traffic on the Internet. AT&T has asked a judge to have the documents returned to them as "trade secrets." The judge has refused. The government has filed a motion to dismiss based on state secrets.
The documents as published by Wired provide a highly detailed description of the equipment, where it is located (down to the secret room, aisle, and bay within the room) and even includes pictures and related information about the history of this surveillance, and the use of equipment from other tech companies in accomplishing it. There's enough detail there to give anyone pause, whether from the point of view that this information needs to be protected to keep us safe or we need to be protected from the government (to keep us safe). The documents were given to the EFF by former AT&T technician Mark Klein. The same judge ordered the EFF not to release them.
Wired has published two stories, one on the documents and their content, and another on why the magazine published them. The short reason is that Wired wasn't covered by the court's gag order and the editors felt it important that the information be public. AT&T will not confirm that these documents are the real thing. Wired says that since the documents in the court file are under seal there is no real way to compare. Of course, if they are, it's pretty scary stuff.
The links to the documents are in the stories, linked above. The response time from Wired may be a bit slow as these articles are in demand.
More legal documents in the case are at the EFF website here, and includes the government motion to dismiss the suit on grounds of revealing state secrets. Collect them all while they are still in the wild.
May 22, 2006
MS: Symantec Suit Will Not Delay Vista Release
Steve Ballmer says the Symantec lawsuit against Microsoft for patent infringement in Vista will not delay the operating system. He could have added that Microsoft is quite capable of delaying a release of a major operating system without any help from litigation.
Microsoft Media Player 11 is Out
The new player is a break from previous incarnations released by Microsoft. This version combines the Urge Music Service from MS and MTV into the player. The Library has also been substantially revised in the way it organizes and displays media. Reviews of the player are at the Washington Post, ZDNet Australia, CNET, and InfoWorld.
The download from Microsoft is here.
Sony BMG Rootkit Settlement Approved
A judge in federal district court in New York gave final approval to a settlement between Sony BMG and others over the use of flawed DRM software used on Cds distributed last fall and winter. The software in question installed a rootkit which was extreme in the way it embedded itself on consumer machines and placed those same machines at risk to a hacker attack.
The settlement prohibits Sony from using the offending software, requires the company to submit any other DRM software to independent review, and to place a a description on new CDs about the software. Customers who had the offending discs were given unprotected replacement discs, a number of MP3 downloads of the same music, and a small cash amount. Sony BMG still faces other litigation over the episode.