Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Twelve-step programme for e-mail addicts

By Jon Hurdle Tue Feb 20, 11:35 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Alcoholics have one, and so do drug abusers. Now people addicted to e-mail also have a 12-step programme designed to tackle their obsession.

An executive coach in Pennsylvania has devised a plan to teach people how to manage the electronic tool, which some users say can be as much an intrusive waste of time as it is fast-paced and efficient.

Developed for cases such as a golfer who checked his BlackBerry after every shot, and lost a potential client who wanted nothing to do with his obsession, Marsha Egan's plan taps into deepening concern that e-mail misuse can cost businesses millions of dollars in lost productivity.

"There is a crisis in corporate America, but a lot of CEOs don't know it," Egan said. "They haven't figured out how expensive it is."

One of Egan's clients cannot walk by a computer -- her own or anyone else's -- without checking for messages. Other people will not vacation anywhere they cannot connect to their e-mail systems. Some wait for e-mails and send themselves a message if one hasn't shown up in several minutes, Egan said.

The first of Egan's 12 steps is "admit that e-mail is managing you. Let go of your need to check e-mail every 10 minutes."

Other steps include "commit to keeping your inbox empty," "establish regular times to review your e-mail" and "deal immediately with any e-mail that can be handled in two minutes or less but create a file for mails that will take longer."

Egan says she hosts no 12-step meetings but is planning a monthly teleconference for "e-mailers anonymous."


Michelle Grace, an insurance agent in Lehighton, Pennsylvania, said she receives up to 60 e-mails a day and uses Egan's program to make it less time-consuming and less stressful.

"E-mail had me by the throat," she said. "When you can't find what you need, then it becomes a problem."

Now that her e-mails are transferred -- some manually and some automatically -- into files, Grace said she spends less time hunting for them.

On average, workers who receive an e-mail take four minutes to read it and recover from the interruption before they can resume working productively, Egan said.

She also recommends checking e-mails not more than three or four times a day.

Some employees resist the lure of e-mail during the regular workday, only to find themselves putting in extra hours at home to clear the backlog, she said. One of Egan's clients said he had 3,600 e-mails in his inbox.

Part of the problem is senders who copy messages too widely and are too vague in their subject lines, so recipients don't know what they need to open right away, Egan said.

For Grace, relief from her e-mail addiction means she is not checking her computer every five minutes.

She said she has let her colleagues know that if they need to reach her immediately, e-mail is not the way to do it.

"I told them, 'If you need me urgently, pick up the phone,'" she said.

Africa's Inexpensive Laptops

Michael Malakata, IDG News Service 2 hours, 38 minutes ago, 02/20/2007

African countries are bracing themselves for this month's rollout of US$150,
Linux-based laptops for school children under the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative.

The OLPC is the brainchild of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab co-founder Nicholas Negroponte.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, for example, said last week that the government intends to provide the laptops to primary schools.

The Rwandan government, through the Ministry of Infrastructure, Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Research will collaborate with the OLPC in rolling out the machines in schools.

"Rwanda wants to transform into a knowledge-based economy hence the need to provide schools throughout the country with computers," Kagame said in a statement.

Libya, Nigeria, Egypt and Ethiopia, among other countries, are also expected to receive the machines this month.

Libya has agreed to work with the OLPC project to deploy the laptops for every school-age child in the country. The commitment for the PCs however, differ from country to country depending on the number of primary school going children, according to Jackie Lustig, a spokesperson for OLPC.

"Nigeria, Rwanda and Libya have showed commitment to the OLPC. We are also in discussion with several other countries that have approached us and showed varying levels of interests," Lustig said in an e-mail exchange.

Lustig said that Libya has committed to provide 1.2 million children with the laptops within one year while Rwanda will provide 2 million children with the laptops in five years.

Libya has said, however, that it will buy more laptops than the number of children in the country and will contribute the excess machines to poorer African nations.

The Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) has said Nigeria has committed to buy one million OLPC machines.

The rollout has already started in some countries in Africa but the full-scale roll out is scheduled to begin in the second quarter of this year, Lustig said.

African countries are signing up for OLPC laptops because of the huge need in Africa for low-cost PCs. There are different projects under way to meet the need. In Kenya, the government has managed to assemble low-cost computers with the help of several vendors.

Lenovo Group Ltd., Sahara Computers Ltd. and Mecer PC have been appointed by the Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) to assemble the first computers in the Madaraka line this month. These computers are priced at $450.

Lustig said the OLPC machines will be priced at cost-- meaning that the price will change over time. While the prices of the laptops are currently $150, Lustig said the plan is to hit $100 in the 2008-2009 timeframe and $50 in 2010-211. The laptops will only be sold to governments and issued to schools.

The companies that are participating in the OLPC project include Google Inc., eBay Inc., Nortel Networks Corp., Advanced Micro Device Inc. and News Corp. with Quanta Computer Inc. of Taiwan as the original design manufacturer for the laptops.

Future of Net phone firm Vonage hangs in balance

By Leslie Cauley, USA TODAY
Tue Feb 20, 6:57 AM ET

NEW YORK - Verizon and Vonage on Wednesday will present opening statements in a patent-infringement case that could have a big impact on consumers and the nascent Internet telephone industry.

Most immediately at risk is the future of Vonage (VG).

Vonage, one of the best-known brands in the Internet phone world, acknowledged last week that it doesn't have a plan for getting around use of technology that Verizon (VZ) claims violates patents it owns.

The upshot: If Verizon prevails in court, Vonage could be forced to shut down, at least temporarily, while it redesigns its service. That could cause a lot of heartburn for Vonage's 2 million customers.

Brooke Schulz, a Vonage spokeswoman, said Monday that Verizon's claims are baseless. "This is about Verizon trying to stifle competition," she said. "We have not infringed on their patents, period."

As for the prospect of Vonage shutting down, Schulz says, customers shouldn't worry. "We're working on a redesign plan."

Internet telephony, also known as VoIP, for Voice over Internet Protocol, is a Web-based phone service that closely mimics traditional phone service but sends calls over the Internet. VoIP costs only about $20 a month - though it requires an existing high-speed Internet connection - compared with $40 to $60 a month for regular phone service.

By the end of 2006, there were 8.6 million VoIP users in the USA, estimates JupiterResearch. By 2010, the number is expected to reach 22.5 million. Many of those customers are coming from traditional local phone providers such as Verizon and AT&T.

Verizon sued Vonage in June, claiming broad patent violation. An amended complaint in January alleged that Vonage "has appropriated the results of years of research conducted by Verizon and its predecessors.

"Vonage does not currently own any issued U.S. patents," the complaint continues. "Instead, Vonage relies on the intellectual property developed by Verizon in delivering its infringing product and services."

Verizon wants unspecified monetary damages and for Vonage to stop using what it says is Verizon's technology.

That may not be easy for Vonage. The patents Verizon claims have been violated cover, among other things, the "gateway interfaces" - critical for providing VoIP phone services that mimic traditional phone service - fraud detection, billing and features such as call-forwarding. In short, the patents are a road map for providing Bell-quality VoIP.

In total, Verizon has 48 different "terms," or patent claims in dispute. In pretrial rulings, Verizon has succeeded in getting broad interpretations of its claims.

William Bosch, a Vonage lawyer, conceded last week that it's been a tough slog. "Frankly, we didn't anticipate that all 48 terms would be construed to Verizon's favor," Bosch told the judge.

As a result of the court's rulings, Bosch said, Verizon's "patents are now so broad, it may be that nobody can design around them."

That begs a larger question: If the court orders Vonage to stop using Verizon's patented technology, can Vonage work around that?

Asked this very question by the judge, Bosch didn't mince words: "Given the claim construction that we have now, my understanding is we cannot do that because (the patent claims) are so broad."

He said other VoIP players could also be at risk. "It may be that the entire VoIP universe now infringes the patents given how broadly they have been defined."

Bosch also offered a prediction: "We think there is an extremely good likelihood this jury is going to find that (the Verizon patents) are invalid, that they never should have been granted in the first place."

Jeffrey Citron, Vonage's chairman and chief strategist, has been subpoenaed to appear as a witness - for Verizon. That has put him, potentially, in the awkward position of testifying against his own company. Vonage is fighting the subpoena, Schulz said.

The case is being heard in federal court in Alexandria, Va.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Fring aims to cut cellphone costs with VOIP

ohn Blau 21 minutes ago, 02/16/2007

San Francisco (IDGNS) - Avi Shechter, co-founder and CEO of Fringland (Fring), could be on to something big with the launch of a cheap Internet-based phone service that runs over mobile networks. But the Israeli entrepreneur could also be in for the fight of his life with mobile phone network operators determined to protect their cash-cow voice business from virtual service providers.

"I believe Fring brings value for users," Shechter said in an interview on the sidelines of the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona, adding that the low-cost service will have an impact on the voice business of mobile phone network operators.

Fring didn't have a booth at the show but if you ran into Shechter, he was more than happy to demonstrate the service.

The former co-general manager of instant messaging company ICQ and his team of 30 have launched a peer-to-peer VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) service that carries calls over cellphone networks in much the same way PC-based Internet telephony services transport conversations over Wi-Fi or fixed-line broadband connections.

You can download the 200KB Fring application to your handset for free. You'll need a
Nokia Series 60 3rd Edition phone but Fring hopes to widen the choice of handsets by enabling the application to run on other operating systems as well, including Microsoft's Window Mobile.

Fring not only looks and feels a lot like other PC-based applications such as Skype, Google Talk, and MSN Messenger that offer integrated VOIP, instant messaging and real-time presence services; the application also connects with them. It uses Skype's API (application programming interface) but is not endorsed or certified by Skype, according to Fring's Web site.

You can fill your contacts list with other Fring users, or friends on the other services, see when they're online and communicate directly with them.

When in idle mode, the Fring application drains the battery a little faster than a cell phone normally would in standby mode -- but with the advantage that you are able to see when your friends are available, and signal your availability.

The cost of using Fring depends on your data plan -- the application sends around 4.5MB per hour spent talking. While the costs of local or in-country calls are comparable with standard calls, the real savings appear to be made on international calls.

You can make calls to users on public telephone networks, using Skype Out, but these carry an additional fee on top of the data charges. Also, if you make a "roaming" call from outside your home network, you will be charged a data roaming fee as you would for any other data service.

For all its features, Fring still has some kinks. If you try to make calls over GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) or GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) networks, you'll notice a crackly voice quality similar to early PC-based VOIP service, according to Shechter. "Our service is designed for 3G networks but we're working on improving the quality in the other networks," he said.

Because you have to connect to the Internet to use the service, you'll need a data package of sufficient size, and although most mobile Internet data packages are volume-based, make sure there's no time limit. That would severely restrict your ability to use Fring or any other mobile VOIP application for that matter.

Some operators, such as T-Mobile International, have banned the use of VOIP applications on their networks.

Other operators may also introduce measures to block access to virtual mobile VOIP service providers like Fring that use their mobile data networks without commercial agreements. To offset any lost voice revenue from the switch to IP, such operators could charge a specific VOIP subscription fee, or offer a more expensive data package service fee for using VOIP or even bundle additional services for a higher fee.

Particularly in Europe, operators have invested far too much money in licenses, equipment and customer acquisition to give anything away. Like fixed-line operators that first fought and then adopted VOIP services, mobile operators must now deal with a disruptive technology that could radically change their business models.

Enterprises are uncertain about mobile security

Nancy Gohring 17 minutes ago, 02/16/2007

San Francisco (IDGNS) - Uncertainty about how to secure mobile phones in the face of increasing threats is slowing enterprise adoption of mobile applications, experts exhibiting at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona this week said.

Over two-thirds of mobile operators in Europe that took part in a survey said that they detected more than 100 incidents involving mobile viruses or mobile spyware in 2006, according to a study by conducted by Informa for security software developer McAfee. The number of European operators reporting more than 1,000 such incidents more than doubled in 2006 compared to the previous year, the report said.

IT administrators, uncertain how to protect their users from such attacks, are unwilling to enable mobile access to applications for workers.

"Enterprise security professionals haven't really worked this out yet," said Lorcan Burke, CEO of AdaptiveMobile. Companies such as banks, with strict security requirements, simply block access to any service, including Internet access, that could open doors to security issues, he said.

At the recent RSA Conference in San Francisco, some of the most crowded events were those tackling mobile security issues, said Simeon Coney, vice president of marketing for AdaptiveMobile. That was an indication that IT administrators are trying to find out how serious mobile security problems are and how to address them, he said.

Mobile services can be secured in the application, the network or in hardware or software on the device. Among operators responding to the McAfee study, most found that virus protection was most important at application and device levels, although more of them had deployed network-level security systems than the other options. Over 200 respondents from the operator community took part in the study.

AdaptiveMobile makes network-level security products for operators, including a system for filtering viruses in e-mail, SMS (Short Message Service), MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) and WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) traffic. Beyond viruses, AdaptiveMobile can also control content, so it can stop phishing and other fraudulent attacks, or limit the types of content end users can access.

If an operator has deployed AdaptiveMobile's platform, an IT administrator in a company can set and manage such controls down to the level of individual users.

For the mass market, AdaptiveMobile's product allows operators to notify a user by text message if their phone becomes infected with a virus and offer a download, either for free or for a fee, to disinfect the device. Without such software, operators will replace a user's device or ask them to send it off for disinfection, both costly propositions.

A network-based security mechanism offers some advantages over anti-virus software that sits on the handset, Burke said. Handset software doesn't prevent phishing and other nonviral scams. In addition, anti-virus software isn't compatible with all phones, making it logistically difficult for the software developers to tweak their products for each version of every phone and make sure to sell the proper software to end users.

He calls anti-virus software on the handset "the minimum acceptable response. It's a tick in the box to make people feel comfortable."

Some developers also sell security mechanisms that sit in the phone's hardware. Such solutions are ideal for organizations with very strict security requirements, such as government users, Burke said. One downside to the hardware-based solutions is that they take about two years to make it into a handset, he noted.

New Credit Cards May Leak Personal Information

Erik Larkin, PC World Fri Feb 16, 4:00 AM ET

You may be carrying a new type of credit card that can transmit your personal information to anyone who gets close to you with a scanner.

The new cards--millions of which have been issued over the past year--use RFID, or Radio Frequency Identification, technology. RFID allows scanners to use radio signals at varying distances to read information stored on a computer chip.

According to a study from academic and business researchers at the University of Massachusetts, RSA, and Innealta, many of the cards will transmit your name, credit card number, and expiration date (but not the three-digit security code) in the clear to anyone nearby with a scanner. One of the researchers, Kevin Fu of the University of Massachusetts, provided an electronic copy of the report's just-finished final version to PC World. The draft version is available online.
Millions of Cards in Use

RFID is widely used to track shipments and store inventory--and now it's in credit cards, allowing customers to swipe the cards past readers in McDonald's restaurants, CVS pharmacies, and elsewhere, making for quick and easy transactions. Visa says more than 6 million "contactless" cards exist worldwide, and their number is growing rapidly.

In an e-mail, Fu wrote that "in our collection of approximately 20 cards, the vast majority revealed CC name, CC number, and expiration" when the researchers scanned with a commercial RFID reader that they modified to work with the credit cards. According to the FAQ on the study, the sample cards "spanned all three major U.S. payment associations and several major issuing banks."

According to a Visa spokesperson, the company's contactless card network uses an encrypted security code to verify a transaction. That should protect against certain types of fraud--but again, it doesn't protect against someone pulling the name and number.

However, second-generation Visa Contactless cards no longer send the name, says Brian Tripplett, the company's senior vice president of emerging product development. The new cards still send their numbers, but those would be difficult to use without the card holder's name. With the first generation of cards, Visa suggested that banks not issue cards that transmit the name; with new cards, that's required.

Tripplett also says that Visa's technology has a shorter read range and communicates differently than does the standard RFID used for inventory management, for example. Mastercard didn't respond in time for this story.
Is Your Card RFID-Equipped?

How do you tell if your card has one of these chips? Some cards have visible microchips, according to the study's FAQ, but others don't. Tripplett says that Visa Contactless cards have a symbol: four vertical wave-like bands on the front or the back.

But to know for sure, and to know whether you have a first- or second-generation Visa card, you need to call your bank and ask. You should be able to request a card without the technology, or at least one that doesn't transmit your name.

Also, you can block RFID signals with a "Faraday cage," which uses a metal mesh or casing. A quick online search turned up some wallets and wallet inserts that incorporate the cages.
Other Risk Reductions

Even for the first-generation cards that do send the name, some other mitigating factors exist. First, while the researchers used a commercially available RFID reader, they made modifications to it that take "technical skills and know-how," Fu wrote. Also, the reader must be close: The card specs say only a couple of inches, but Fu says some research papers put the max range at about 6 inches.

And most important, phishing, keyloggers, and other kinds of online ID theft are far too successful right now for criminals to put in the effort required for this type of fraud. So the risk probably isn't significant--for now.

Major risk or not, however, there's no way I'd want my credit card to transmit its information without any encryption. Adding yet another opportunity for ID theft where there doesn't need to be any, whether the threat is large or small, simply makes no sense.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Mobile VOIP is on the march

ohn Blau 24 minutes ago,02/09/2007

San Francisco (IDGNS) - Nearly one year after Skype stole the headlines at the 3GSM World Congress with its plans to offer a mobile version of its Internet phone, a couple of nimble startups -- and not the Net telephony pioneer itself -- appear to have found a way to make this type of service work, both technically and commercially.

Earlier this week, Jajah announced a new mobile VOIP service that allows smart-phone users to make low-cost and, in some cases, free international calls. Customers simply enter Jajah's mobile Web portal through their handset's browser, enter their user name and password and then make a either a free or low-cost call.

The launch of Jajah Mobile Web comes on the heals of a mobile VOIP (voice over IP) offering by Fring, which, unlike Jajah, requires users to download software and install it in their Internet-enabled handsets. The Fring service gives mobile users access to P-to-P (peer-to-peer) VOIP offerings such as Skype and Google Talk.

Microsoft appears to have its finger on the pulse of mobile VOIP, too. Next week in Barcelona, the U.S. software giant will unwrap a new version of its Windows Mobile OS that will supposedly enable carriers and device maker to add VOIP functionality to Windows Mobile devices.

All these announcements -- and the many more expected at this year's 3GSM World Congress -- come as Skype, which essentially stunned the mobile phone industry last year with its VOIP plans, acknowledges technical and commercial hurdles.

In a recent interview in Finnish newspaper, Skype co-founder and CEO Niklas Zennström spoke of "technical obstacles" and conceded that efforts to make Skype work had been taking "much longer than expected."

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month, Eric Lagier, Skype director of business development for hardware and mobile, called the lack of attractive flat-rate fees for most mobile phone services a key commercial hurdle to mobile VOIP usage. He said the company didn't want to be in a position of claiming that its service is free, but facing users who at the end of the month are docked with a huge broadband usage fee.

At last year's 3GSM World Congress, Skype and the Hutchison 3 Group (Hutchison 3G) announced a partnership to provide what they had hoped to become the world's first commercial VOIP service for mobile phones.

Hutchison 3G, which operates IP-based mobile broadband networks in several European markets, was one of the first mobile phone operators to embrace VOIP, a technology many in the industry view as a major threat to their cash-cow voice business.

But industry experts admit that challenges remain. One hurdle in providing quality VOIP service over mobile handsets is the uplink, which is currently too slow to support quality voice calls, John Giere, chief marketing officer at Alcatel-Lucent, said in an earlier interview.

To increase uplink speeds, operators of GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) networks, which dominate Europe and many parts of Asia and Latin America, will need to upgrade their networks with HSUPA (High Speed Uplink Packet Access) technology, which will give operators "the bidirectional capability they need to run real VOIP," he said.

The high-speed technology is not expected to become commercially available in volume until the latter part of 2007 or early 2008. Operators are presently busy rolling out the downlink counterpart HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access).

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Study: Weak Passwords Really Do Help Hackers

Todd R. Weiss, Computerworld Wed Feb 7, 4:00 PM ET

Left online for 24 days to see how hackers would attack them, four
Linux computers with weak passwords were hit by some 270,000 intrusion attempts-- about one attempt every 39 seconds, according to a study conducted by a researcher at the University of Maryland.

Among the key findings: Weak passwords really do make hackers' jobs much easier. The study also found that improved selection of usernames and associated passwords can make a big difference in whether attackers get into someone's computer.

The study was led by Michel Cukier, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and an affiliate of the university's Clark School Center for Risk and Reliability and Institute for Systems Research. His goal was to look at how hackers behave when they attack computer systems-- and what they do once they gain access.

Using software tools that help hackers guess usernames and passwords, the study logged the most common words hackers tried to use to log into the systems. Cukier and two graduate students found that most attacks were conducted by hackers using dictionary scripts, which run through lists of common usernames and passwords in attempts to break into a computer.

Some 825 of the attacks were ultimately successful and the hackers were able to log into the systems. The study was conducted between Nov. 14 and Dec. 8 at the school.

Cukier was not surprised by what he found. "Root" was the top guess by dictionary scripts in about 12.34% of the attempts, while "admin" was tried 1.63% of the time. The word "test" was tried as a username 1.12% of the time, while "guest" was tried 0.84% of the time, according to the experiment's logs.

The dictionary script software tried 43% of the time to use the same username word as a password to try to gain entrance into the affected systems, Cukier said. The reason, he said, is that hackers try for the simplest combinations because they just might work.

Once inside the systems, hackers conducted several typical inquiries, he said, including checking software configurations, changing passwords, checking the hardware and/or software configuration again, downloading a file, installing the downloaded program and then running it.

For IT security workers, the study reinforced the obvious. "Weak passwords are a real issue," Cukier said.

At the University of Maryland, users are told that passwords should include at least eight characters, with at least one uppercase letter and one lowercase. The school also recommends that at least one character be a number or punctuation symbol, Cukier said. All passwords should be changed every 180 days, according to the university's recommendations.

"That's really reasonable," Cukier said of the guidelines. "It's not helpful if the password is so complicated that people don't remember it and [therefore] write it down on a sticky note next to their computer."

Users can use the title of a favorite book for a password or even the first letters from a memorable sentence, he said. "They'll be easy for you to remember because you'll be able to remember the sentence... without having to write it down," Cukier said.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Hackers attack key Net traffic computers

By TED BRIDIS, Associated Press Writer
7 minutes ago, 02/06/2007

WASHINGTON - Hackers briefly overwhelmed at least three of the 13 computers that help manage global computer traffic Tuesday in one of the most significant attacks against the Internet since 2002.

Experts said the unusually powerful attacks lasted as long as 12 hours but passed largely unnoticed by most computer users, a testament to the resiliency of the Internet. Behind the scenes, computer scientists worldwide raced to cope with enormous volumes of data that threatened to saturate some of the Internet's most vital pipelines.

The Homeland Security Department confirmed it was monitoring what it called "anomalous" Internet traffic.

"There is no credible intelligence to suggest an imminent threat to the homeland or our computing systems at this time," the department said in a statement.

The motive for the attacks was unclear, said Duane Wessels, a researcher at the Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis at the San Diego Supercomputing Center. "Maybe to show off or just be disruptive; it doesn't seem to be extortion or anything like that," Wessels said.

Other experts said the hackers appeared to disguise their origin, but vast amounts of rogue data in the attacks were traced to South Korea.

The attacks appeared to target UltraDNS, the company that operates servers managing traffic for Web sites ending in "org" and some other suffixes, experts said. Officials with NeuStar Inc., which owns UltraDNS, confirmed only that it had observed an unusual increase in traffic.

Among the targeted "root" servers that manage global Internet traffic were ones operated by the Defense Department and the Internet's primary oversight body.

"There was what appears to be some form of attack during the night hours here in California and into the morning," said John Crain, chief technical officer for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. He said the attack was continuing and so was the hunt for its origin.

"I don't think anybody has the full picture," Crain said. "We're looking at the data."

Crain said Tuesday's attack was less serious than attacks against the same 13 "root" servers in October 2002 because technology innovations in recent years have increasingly distributed their workloads to other computers around the globe.


AP Internet Writer Anick Jesdanun contributed to this report from New York.

Bill Gates calls for more powerful computer security

Tue Feb 6, 2:04 PM ET

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) - Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates addressed thousands of computer security specialists gathered at a San Francisco conference, calling for

"People want more flexibility and anywhere access with multiple devices," Gates told a standing-room-only crowd of RSA Conference 2007 attendees.

"We need a far more powerful paradigm to handle this."

Gates and Microsoft "security guru" Craig Mundie backed a common standard for computer security technology and agreed that the traditional practice of "building walls and moats" to fortify networks needed to be evolve.

This was the 16th annual conference and it boasted an attendance of approximately 16,000 people, the largest turnout in its history.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Tracking your car by cell and e-mail

By BRIAN BERGSTEIN, AP Technology Writer
32 minutes ago, 02/01/2007

PALM DESERT, Calif. - Here's something that might appeal to your fretful or data-loving side: a service that alerts you if your car is stolen — or being driven too fast by the teenager who borrowed the keys.

Among the nearly 70 emerging technologies on display this week at the DEMO conference is a system from Chandler, Ariz.-based Inilex Inc., which uses global-positioning satellites to track the location of customers' cars and deliver a bevy of other information.

The Inilex "Kepler Advantage" device, sold through car dealers for $600 to $1,100 plus a monthly subscription, looks like a walkie-talkie and gets stowed covertly under the dashboard.

Then car owners or corporate fleet managers can go on an Inilex Web site to track their vehicles' locations — and set up alerts that would be delivered by e-mail or a cell-phone text message.

With this service, you can be notified within minutes that your parked car has been moved, presumably by a thief, and shown where it is in real time — fruitful information to pass on to police.

Or you can set up a "virtual fence" on a map and be told if the car ranges outside it (attention, suspicious spouses). Paranoid parents could halt their kids' late-night joyriding by letting Inilex warn them when the car exceeds a certain speed.

In May, Inilex is upgrading its service to grab data from many cars' onboard computers so customers can monitor their vehicles' fluid levels and other vital signs on the Web. The connection to the auto's computer also lets Inilex drivers use cell phones to remotely start, lock or unlock their cars.

Some of these features are already available through such services as OnStar for General Motors Corp. cars and LoJack Corp.'s stolen-car trackdown product. But LoJack isn't available nationwide; it uses an older radio-frequency technology rather than GPS and gets activated when owners call police.

Inilex has only 5,000 customers so far, so time will tell whether its extra features can swipe serious business from the $695 LoJack service, which boasts 5.8 million customers in 28 countries. One big test, in particular, will be whether it can beat LoJack's stolen-car recovery rate, which spokesman Paul McMahon said is more than 90 percent.