Monday, February 4, 2008

Daily Report

• A report in the Sierra Sun detailed a Thursday drill in Martis Valley California in which firefighters from the Eastern and Central Hazardous Materials Teams joined with the military’s 95th Civil Support Team to practice rescues and evacuations in the event of a chemical, biological, or radiological attack. The 22-member support team is one of 54 identical teams nationwide. (See item 3)

• According to CNN and other sources, another undersea cable carrying Internet and telephone traffic was cut Friday, this time about 50 kilometers off the Persian Gulf emirate of Dubai. The cut cable was the third such loss in three days after two lines linking Europe and the Middle East were apparently damaged by a ship’s anchor Wednesday. The cause of the third incident remained unclear, and officials said repair ships were en route. (See item 26)

Information Technology

24. February 1, – (National) Spyware morphs into new threats. Security software firm McAfee has warned that spyware is getting out of control and “morphing” into new threats. The McAfee “Spyware: A Morphing Campaign” report examines the evolution of adware and spyware and details the current threats to society. The McAfee report details how spyware has become a financially-driven business and is increasingly used in cybercrime and even domestic violence cases. Using spyware for surveillance in cases of domestic abuse is a serious matter, says the report. Installing software to track and control an unaware victim’s computer has social and legal implications. Gartner estimates that by 2010, 70 percent of all IT security incidents will be spyware-related. McAfee’s Avert Labs report that rootkits, which are used to hide spyware, are on the rise, and more than 12,000 variants exist in the wild.

25. February 1, Computer – (National) Hackers setting security blog honeytraps. Malware distributors are setting up security blogs to attract web surfers looking for security information before redirecting them to other sites that infect their machines with malware. In most cases, the visitor is automatically redirected from the blog page to a randomly selected porn site, but in some cases the redirect is to rogue security sites that offer fake security applications and infect visitors with spyware and Trojans. Google’s is the most popular free blog with tools for creating and hosting blogs. Creating and editing blogs on Blogger is simple, as anyone can sign up for an account, choose a template for their blog’s look, and be up and running within minutes. Blogger lets users add and arrange page elements merely by dragging and clicking. The Aladdin eSafe Content Security Response Team, which reported the new threat, says malware distributors are using this feature to plant malicious scripts inside scam-filled blogs that redirect victims to a wide range of websites harboring various kinds of malware.

Communications Sector

26. February 1, CNN – (International) Third undersea Internet cable cut in Mideast. An undersea cable carrying Internet traffic was cut off the Persian Gulf emirate of Dubai, officials said Friday, the third loss of a line carrying Internet and telephone traffic in three days. Dubai has been hit hard by an Internet outage apparently caused by a cut undersea cable. Ships have been dispatched to repair two undersea cables damaged on Wednesday off Egypt. The ships were expected to reach the site of the break on Tuesday with repairs completed by February 12, according to a press release from FLAG Telecom, which owns one of the cables. The loss of the two Mediterranean cables has snarled Internet and phone traffic from Egypt to India. Officials said Friday it was unclear what caused the damage to FLAG’s FALCON cable about 50 kilometers off Dubai. A repair ship was en route, FLAG said. A senior analyst with TeleGeography said the FALCON cable is designed on a “ring system,” taking it on a circuit around the Persian Gulf and enabling traffic to be more easily routed around damage. He said the two cables damaged Wednesday collectively account for as much as three-quarters of the international communications between Europe and the Middle East, so their loss had a much bigger effect. Still, he stressed that although the problem created a “big pain” for many of carriers, it did not compare to the several months of disruption in East Asia in 2006 after an earthquake damaged seven undersea cables near Taiwan. TeleGeography Research’s director said new cables planned to link Europe with Egypt should provide enough backup to prevent most similar problems in the future.

27. January 31, Network World – (International) Internet cable cuts raise alarms over infrastructure vulnerabilities. It does not look as though the Web traffic disruption that occurred this week after two underwater cables were damaged in Mediterranean Sea will have much of an impact on businesses in America. An analyst with TeleGeography Research says the two cables account for about 75 percent of the network capacity between Europe and the Middle East. But while the damaged cables have caused major service problems in the Middle East and parts of Asia, both ISPs and experts say the disruptions are unlikely to greatly affect American businesses. There has been reported difficulty, however, with receiving data sent from the United States to countries affected by the cable damage. Keynote Systems, a company that monitors Internet and mobile Web site performance, found in India that there has been an average 50 percent increase in the time it takes to download Web sites and a 10 percent decrease in the availability of Web sites overall. A Keynote representative believes the damaged cable incident will spur many global companies to think about new ways of staying connected to the Web in case of emergencies. In particular, he says companies should look into having backup connectivity through multi-honing their ISPs or even through having a satellite uplink for last-resort connections. On a more macro level, the damage to the cables has raised concerns about future incidents in which a greater number of cables could experience more significant levels of destruction. The chief of the IGI Group of Companies says one problem with many of the underwater cable systems is that many of the cables join together at shared landing points that could leave large swathes of telecom infrastructure vulnerable to potential terrorist attacks. The director of the University of Minnesota’s Digital Technology Center shares those concerns and predicts that in the near future, companies will start demanding that operators diversify the locations of their cabling systems, so that if one major system goes down, traffic can more quickly be rerouted along an alternate path. He also thinks the estimated two-week repair time for the cables is relatively slow and shows that operators may need to put more money into repair infrastructure in order to prevent similarly long outages in the future.

28. January 31, – (National) President declares broadband ‘connection accomplished.’ The Bush administration has released a new report detailing its success in fostering policies for widespread broadband Internet adoption in America. But critics charge the report is based on flawed data and does not accurately depict the true state of broadband usage, one where rural and low-income communities only have one choice for Internet service – when they can get service at all. The “Networked Nation: Broadband In America” report was prepared by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an arm of the Commerce Department that advises the White House on communications policy. The report stated that since President Bush took office in 2000, the total number of broadband lines in the United States has grown by over 1,100 percent from almost 6.8 million lines to 82.5 million in December 2006. The NTIA report, using data provided by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), also stated that number of broadband service providers in America more than tripled from December 2003 to December 2006, and that home broadband usage has increased from 9.1 percent of households in September 2001 to 50.8 percent in October 2007. But many critics have decried the U.S.’s broadband advances as insufficient when compared to other countries.

29. January 31, Ars Technica – (National) Fixing US broadband: $100 billion for fiber to every home. The U.S. is in desperate need of 100 Mbps “big broadband.” That is the conclusion of a new report from EDUCAUSE, a group that represents IT managers at over 2,200 colleges and universities. But these 100 Mbps connections are coming slowly; in the meantime, countries like Japan already have them. To avoid falling further behind, the report calls for a national broadband policy to be passed this year, one that includes $100 billion for a fiber-to-the-home infrastructure that will connect every household and business in the country. The report opens by citing the familiar, dreary facts: U.S. broadband might now be widely available, but it is slow and relatively expensive. Between 1999 and 2006, the U.S. fell from third place to 20th in the International Telecommunications Union’s broadband usage measurements. When it comes to average connection speeds, the US is beaten by Japan, France, Korea, Sweden, New Zealand, Italy, Finland, Portugal, Australia, Norway, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, and Germany. The U.S. also ranked 18th worldwide in terms of cost per megabyte. The report cites two reasons for the standings. First, the report says, the U.S. lacks national investment policy in broadband infrastructure, though some states have launched their own investment programs. Second, the report sites the failure of the U.S. broadband market due to a lack of competition caused by the failure to adopt “unbundling rules.”

30. January 31, Sacramento Bee – (California) Sacramento Wi-Fi project to start. Sacramento, California, is taking another crack at citywide wireless service and plans to launch a downtown pilot program in February. The funding for the $1 million pilot project is in place, bankrolled by Sacramento Metro Connect LLC. The project, which was delayed for the second time last autumn, will center on a part of the city’s downtown grid. It is to be completed by May. The pilot is the first phase of a $9 million three-phase project, said the city’s chief information officer. The next two phases, seen as a continuous rollout, would cover 46 square miles and then 48 square miles across the city over the next 20 to 24 months, starting from city-owned buildings and working outward, he said. Ultimately, Metro Connect would cover up to 95 percent of Sacramento with wireless Internet access. Connections of up to one megabit per second are to be free, but will include pop-up ads. Metro Connect could charge between $15 and $50 a month for those who want faster connections. The city of Sacramento would have the option of buying wireless at discounted rates for its mobile employees, for heating, air conditioning, and utility control systems, said the CIO. Locally and nationwide, results have been hit-and-miss. West Sacramento and Elk Grove are among Sacramento-area cities with Wi-Fi, while Folsom has scaled back its initial wireless efforts. Leaders believe Sacramento will be the first major city to move forward with its wireless plans after recent high-profile setbacks in San Francisco, Chicago, and St. Louis.

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