Top 10 IT News Stories of the Week

Wi-Fi virus outbreaks, lithium battery ban, Apple UMPC, Intel breaks it off with OLPC, and more...

1. "Wi-Fi Virus Outbreak is Possible, Researchers Say,"

CIO.com, 01/04

Urban Wi-Fi networks could be attacked in piggyback formation if miscreants targeted unsecured wireless routers, Indiana University researchers ay. A successful Wi-Fi attack could take over 20,000 wireless routers in New York City within two weeks, they estimate. Criminals who guess administrative passwords could then tell the routers to install worm-like firmware that would lead the infected router to attack devices within its range. With Wi-Fi networks in close proximity in many cities, such an attack could leap from router to router across miles. The researchers didn't develop attack code, but they believe that code could be written that guessed at default passwords by first trying the default administrative passwords that ship with routers and then going down a list of 1 million commonly used passwords one by one. Thirty-six percent of passwords can be figured out using that approach, they estimate. Perhaps a new year's resolution ought to involve coming up with more secure passwords.

2. "US Bans Spare Lithium Batteries from Checked Bags,"

CIO.com, 1/02

In case you missed the news at the end of the holiday stretch, lithium batteries are now forbidden from checked baggage on U.S. flights. The restriction took effect Jan. 1 as a way to diminish the risk aircraft fires. Lithium batteries have been linked to several such fires. Lithium batteries can be carried in checked bags if they are in a device such as a laptop or digital camera, but loose batteries have to go in a plastic bag and be carried on as hand baggage. Each passenger is limited to two "extended-life" lithium batteries.

3. "Apple Patent Reveals Docking Station for Ultramobile PC,"

Macworld, 1/03

Apple has been granted a U.S. patent that appears to indicate that the company is working on an ultramobile PC. Ostensibly, such a PC would compete against Microsoft and its hardware partners in that arena. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted the patent for "a docking area configured to receive a portable computer." The docking station will double as a monitor and connect data lines and devices to the device when it is docked. The device that fits in the docking station will also be enabled for Bluetooth and IEEE 802.111 wireless connections. Rumors abound that Apple will use Intel's new generation of ultramobile processors in a new product line, but neither company has anything to say about those rumors.

4. "Intel Quits OLPC Board Over Effort to Kill Classmate PC,"

PC World, 1/03

"OLPC: Won't Miss Intel's Halfhearted Effort,"

CIO.com, 1/04

Intel quit the One Laptop Per Child board of directors after being asked to stop its Classmate PC program, which competes with OLPC's XO low-cost laptop designed for students in developing countries, according to a source familiar with the situation. OLPC and Intel had agreed last July to develop technology for such laptops and to refrain from making snarky comments about each other's products. So much for that. OLPC President Walter Bender said after the resignation was made public that it will have "no impact" on operations since Intel hasn't contributed much to the project. "The only thing they were interested in was ... helping them make marketing statements about how Intel's approach to learning was different from OLPC's approach to learning," he said about Intel. "They weren't interested in how we can learn together to make something better for kids."

5. "Facebook Hack Fuels Web 2.0 Concerns,"

InfoWorld, 1/03

Fortinet researchers have found an adware-distribution scheme being used at Facebook that they consider to be the first attack on the social-networking site. The scheme is disguised as a "Secret Crush" request to let Facebook users know that others find them attractive. Researchers at Fortinet, a security gateway vendor, say that the application tries to sereptitiously install a Zango adware program and then get users to share it with other Facebook members. Up to 3 percent of Facebook's 60 million users have downloaded the adware, Fortinet says. Although the program doesn't present much of a threat overall and users have discovered the ruse and begun posting about it, Fortinet researchers warn that it's a harbinger to expect more serious attacks.

6. "Lawsuit Charges IBM With Pollution Around One-Time N.Y. Plant,"

Computerworld, 1/04

More than 90 current and former residents of Endicott, N.Y., are suing IBM, contending that manufacturing operations contaminated the environment and made them ill. IBM manufactured computers, circuit boards, integrated circuits and other related electronics at its Endicott plant from 1924 to 2002. The plaintiffs allege that the company did not protect residents from toxic chemicals used to make those goods. "Millions of gallons of various industrial chemicals" were used at the facility, the lawsuit says, and the discharge, release, emission or leakage of chemicals or waste products contaminated homes and businesses and made people sick. Chemicals leaked into the air, local groundwater and soil, the plaintiffs charge. IBM says that the lawsuit has no merit. "as we explained to plaintiffs' lawyers before they filed this case, these suits have no basis in science or law and IBM will defend itself vigorously, spokesman Michael Maloney said.

7. "Consolidating Data Centers Not Always the Right Move,"

Network World, 1/03

If you're thinking about consolidating data centers in this new year, it could be worth pondering whether your company is one of those that should buck that growing trend. Analysts cite various reasons for some to stick with a distributed data-center model, including disaster recovery, real-estate costs and latency. In some cases, services or applications "require rich interfaces with a client, which is not all that easy to do over a wire from a headquarters' data center," says Forrester analyst Jim Staten. True, the distributed model does have issues, but analysts say that one side doesn't fit all when it comes to data-center models. Even so, 47 percent of U.S. companies have consolidated data centers for cost savings, with 39 percent of IT organizations consolidating in the last three years, according to separate studies.

8. "Asus to Reveal Terabyte Laptop,"

Techworld, 1/03

Asus plans to debut the M70 1T-byte laptop at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week. The laptop will have dual 500G-byte Hitachi drives that can be organized in a RAID 0 configuration so that data is distributed between the drives or in a RAID 1 configuration with data mirrored on each drive for redundancy in case one of them fails. Using RAID 1, storage space the user can see will drop to 500G bytes. That still ought to be plenty of storage for the vast majority of users.

9. "Will Web 2.0 Efforts Pay Off for Candidate's in Today's Iowa Caucus?"

Computerworld, 1/03

We'll refrain for the moment from declaring that social-networking sites played a starring role in Barack Obama's victory in the Iowa caucus this week, but the Illinois Democrat does have a healthy number of "friends" and his YouTube videos draw viewers. Then again, Texas Republican Ron Paul "owns the online space, completely trouncing ever rival on both sides of the aisle with online activity," according to Matt Pace, director of new markets at Compete, a firm that measures 2.0 efforts of candidates. Paul isn't likely to emerge as the GOP nominee or even finish near the top of the pack. Still and all, the Internet has become a political force and that will play out in the 2008 election cycle.

10. "NASA to Find Most Earth-Threatening Asteroids by End of 2008,"

Computerworld, 1/03

OK, so it's not really IT news, but it could help some of us sleep better to know that by the end of this year NASA hopes to have identified some 90 percent of the biggest asteroids with the potential to smash into Earth with enough force to hurl dust into the atmosphere, cause firestorms and acid rain. Not to mention what a direct hit could do to a dwelling. Such asteroids are at least 1 kilometer, or 3,208.8 feet, in diameter, although some are much, much larger. NASA estimates there are 900 asteroids within range of the planet that are big enough to have that sort of dramatic effect if they hit Earth. The asteroid 99942 Apophis is the closest known risk, with an impact probability of 1-in-45,000 in 2036.

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