Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Daily Report

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that a University of Georgia researcher is developing a portable chemical weapons detection system that could be used for homeland security and to save soldiers' lives in the field. The technology uses human neural cells and an array of electrodes to “detect the presence of an outside agent, like nerve gas.” (See item 5)

According to an MSNBC report, the federal government will take over the responsibility of matching passenger data to terrorist “watch lists.” Under the new legislation, which is expected to be enforced in 2009, airline workers will collect over 30 pieces of data to be sent electronically to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The change will affect U.S. and international carriers, including those flying from Canada to the Latin America without stopping on U.S. land. (See item 12)

Information Technology

27. September 24, Reuters – (National) Unisys probed for Homeland Security breach: report. The FBI is investigating allegations that Unisys Corp failed to detect a Chinese Web site’s cyber break-ins on computers at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and then tried to cover up its shortcomings, The Washington Post reported on Monday. Unisys won a $1 billion contract in 2002 to build and manage information technology networks at the department and the Transportation Security Administration. But evidence gathered by the Homeland Security Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives indicates network-intrusion devices were not properly installed and monitored, the Post said. As a result, some 150 DHS computers were compromised by hackers using a Chinese-language Web site from June through October in 2006. Unisys, based in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, disputed the charge with a statement saying: “We can state generally that the allegation that Unisys did not properly install essential security systems is incorrect. In addition, we routinely follow prescribed security protocols and have properly reported incidents to the customer in accordance with those protocols.” Besides the original $1 billion contract, Unisys received a $750 million follow-up deal in 2005, the Post said. An aide on the Homeland Security Committee told the newspaper that the FBI was investigating Unisys for criminal fraud. The committee also has called for the DHS to look into the matter. The committee also said the contractor allegedly had falsely certified the computer network had been protected to cover up its failings, the Post said.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSN2436745420070924

28. September 24, IDG News Service – (International) Euro think tank recommends unbundling Windows from PCs. A pro-business think tank in Europe has recommended unbundling Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating system from sales of new PCs in order to give customers more choice when buying a new computer. A report from the Globalisation Institute in Brussels urges the European Commission to require that PCs and operating systems be sold separately in Europe to break Microsoft’s monopoly in the desktop OS market. “Microsoft’s dominant position is not in the public interest. It limits the market and has slowed technical development to the prejudice of consumers,” said the report. The report is gaining attention partly because the Globalisation Institute usually advocates a hands-off approach to business regulation. It researches and develops policy options that are sometimes championed by politicians. The report comes one week after Europe’s second-highest court turned down Microsoft’s appeal of the European Commission’s 2004 antitrust ruling against it, which fined Microsoft around $600 million for abusing its OS monopoly.

Source: http://www.infoworld.com/article/07/09/24/Euro-think-tank-recommends-unbundling-Windows-from-PCs_1.html

29. September 21, Computerworld – (National) New Firefox 3.0 alpha blocks malware, secures plug-in updates. Mozilla Corp. updated the preview of Firefox 3.0 to alpha 8 late yesterday, unveiling for the first time to users several security features it has talked up for months. Among the security provisions debuting in the new alpha of “Gran Paradiso,” the code name for Firefox 3.0, are built-in anti-malware warnings and protection against rogue extension updates, according to documentation Mozilla posted to its Web site. The malware blocker, which was first mocked up in June, will block Web sites thought to contain malicious downloads. The feature, a companion to the phishing site alert system in the current Firefox 2.0, will use information provided by Google Inc. to flag potentially-dangerous sites, warn anyone trying to reach those URLs with Firefox and automatically block access to the site. Also included is a check meant to prevent plug-ins automatic updates from sending users to malicious sites where they might be infected by attack code or drive-by downloads. The newest preview, which can be downloaded in versions for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux from the Mozilla site, still comes with a warning to end users: “Alpha 8 is intended for Web application developers and our testing community. Current users of Mozilla Firefox should not use Gran Paradiso Alpha 8,” the browser's release notes. Mozilla has not officially committed to a release date for the final version of Firefox 3.0.

Source: http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9038258&intsrc=hm_list

Communications Sector

30. September 24, RCR Wireless News – (National) UMB specification published. The groups behind the Ultra Mobile Broadband technology for wireless communications—which is often referred to as a 4G technology—announced that the specifications for the air interface have been published, and that UMB is now poised to become an official standard. The move is notable as it essentially creates a set of specifications that carriers, equipment makers and others can work from. UMB, an acronym that replaces the CDMA EV-DO Revision C designation—supports peak download data rates of up to 288 Mbps in a 20 MHz slice of bandwidth, according to the CDMA Development Group and the Third Generation Partnership Project 2 (3GPP2). The technology supports wireless Voice over IP calling and other high-tech features. UMB stands on the CDMA evolution path, and is often touted as an alternative to Long Term Evolution technology. LTE stands on the W-CDMA evolution path. According to the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), LTE is set to support peak data rates of 100 Mbps within a 20 MHz slice of spectrum. Work on the specifications for LTE technology is set to be completed sometime this month. The 3GPP association works on technology specifications for the W-CMA evolution path, while the 3GPP2 works on technology for the CDMA evolution path. The UMB announcement is notable as Verizon Wireless—a major CDMA backer—is considering joining its European parent company Vodafone in a move to LTE technology in order to improve international roaming and lower equipment costs.

Source: http://www.rcrnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070924/FREE/70924001/1014

31. September 24, AP – (National) New service eavesdrops on Internet calls. A startup has come up with a new way to make money from phone calls connected via the Internet: having software listen to the calls, then displaying ads on the callers’ computer screens based on what is being talked about. For instance, a caller talking about going for dinner might see ads to local restaurants and restaurant review sites, while someone pondering whether to buy a new computer might see ads for computer stores. Relevant unsponsored links also appear. That is, if the system works. It is notoriously difficult for computers to recognize speech. A test of Puddingmedia's beta software was a mixed success according to one reporter. In the test, the quality of the call did not seem to be affected by the extra step. The company’s CEO stressed that the calls are not stored in any way, nor does Puddingmedia keep a record of which keywords were picked up from a particular call. Outfits like eBay Inc.'s Skype unit would be possible partners. Skype provides free calls between computers but charges for calls to phone numbers so it can recoup connection fees charged by phone companies. Those costs could possibly be offset with an advertising model like Puddingmedia’s.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070924/ap_on_hi_te/ads_that_listen;_ylt=AoKC58GhMEv_Ijc3SALw2Lis0NUE