It's a Crime-filled Week in IT Land
In an unusual week for IT news, headlines were dominated by alleged crime, actual crime and crime that could be in the offing. Technical details of the dreaded DNS flaw were inadvertently released, leading to publication of the attack code, there were more twists and turns in the story of the jailed San Francisco network administrator, and a convicted spammer who walked away from a minimum-security prison apparently killed his wife, their young daughter and himself. And, we sadly learned that Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch died -- he inspired countless people with his "Last Lecture" that is a YouTube classic.
1. Details of major Internet flaw posted by accident and DNS attack code out in wild: After a computer security company inadvertently posted details online of a major flaw in the Internet DNS (Domain Name System), it was just a matter of time before the attack code made the rounds. The errant post from Matasano Security was quickly removed, but as we all know, once something has hit the Internet, it's not possible to really remove it. Sure enough, attack code was posted two days later. And now we all just have to wait and see if the expected exploits of the flaw will be catastrophic, as some believe, or not such a big deal, as others have opined.
2. San Francisco DA discloses city's network passwords and San Francisco's mayor gets back keys to the network: Arguing in a court motion against a defense request to decrease the US$5 million bail in the case of Terry Childs, the San Francisco district attorney publicly revealed usernames and passwords of the city's network. Part of the argument against reducing the bail for Childs? The usernames and passwords, found by investigators to be stored on his computer, pose an "imminent danger" were they to be used. OK, then. Childs is the city network administrator charged with computer tampering after he refused to give up passwords, thereby holding the city wide-area network hostage. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom secretly met with Childs at the jailhouse and got him to turn over the passwords Monday.
3. Fugitive spam king dead in apparent murder-suicide: Convicted spammer Eddie Davidson, who walked away from a minimum-security prison camp Sunday, was found dead Thursday in his hometown of Bennett, Colorado, after he shot his wife, their 3-year-old daughter and himself in an apparent murder-suicide, the U.S. Department of Justice said. Davidson, known as the "Spam King," was serving 21 months at the federal facility in Florence, Colorado, after pleading guilty late last year to spam charges. A teenage girl who was also shot survived and sought help.
4. Microsoft's online woes hint at larger vulnerability and Microsoft exec leaving to become Juniper CEO: Microsoft reorganized the division that oversees its Online Services Business and Windows OS, splitting Platform and Services to separate the distinct product lines. The move could well signal that the company is no longer content to be a follower when it comes to online services and that it is ramping up its competitive approach to Google in particular. The same day Juniper Networks said that Kevin Johnson, head of Microsoft's online operations, would become its new CEO.
5. 'Last Lecture' computer-science professor Randy Pausch dies: Randy Pausch, 47, the inspiring computer-science professor, died of pancreatic cancer in Chesapeake, Virginia. The Carnegie Mellon computer-science professor was well-known in academic circles long before he gave the talk called "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams" to students at the university in September 2007, shortly after doctors told him he had only months to live. The inspirational talk -- by turns humorous and sad -- remains a YouTube sensation and will continue to serve as testament to Pausch's spirit.
6. Microsoft gives Apache cash to promote open source: Microsoft, for the first time, is giving money to the Apache Software Foundation to support that open-source project. The company is also giving code to the PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) project and will offer royalty-free specs for Windows Server and .NET Framework protocols.
7. Yahoo settles with Icahn on board members: Yahoo reached an agreement with investor Carl Icahn, who owns not quite 5 percent of company shares, to end a proxy fight in which Icahn was trying to wrest control of the board and push for the company or its search business to be sold to Microsoft. Under the deal, the board of directors will be expanded, with Icahn becoming a member along with two people from a slate he had proposed. Icahn continues to insist that selling the company or its search business is a good idea, and as part of the agreement that possibility, along with strategy for following through, will be discussed by the full board.
8. AOL to shut down XDrive, other services: AOL is getting rid of a number of online services that have failed to become popular among users, including hosted storage, photo, music and video sharing, as well as photo management. The Time Warner division is having a rough go of transitioning from a subscription-fee business model to one that survives on advertising revenue. According to recent published reports, Microsoft has talked to Time Warner executives about the possibility of buying AOL.
9. Intel: Human and computer intelligence will merge in 40 years: Here's something to ponder -- Intel CTO and senior fellow Justin Rattner says that human and computer intelligence could begin to merge by as soon as 2012, and that aspects of our lives by 2050 will bear little resemblance to those of today. The best part of this for those of us who love to eat potato chips and other things our doctors warn us off of, is that nanoscale chips or machines will be able to work inside of us to fix ailing organs and unclog arteries. Blood sugar levels and heart rates will be monitored by sensors that float inside of us and let our doctors know when possible health concerns show up.
10. CalTech: Intelligent space robots will explore universe by 2020: Scientists are likely to launch robots for space exploration by 2020, according to Wolfgang Fink, a physicist and senior researcher at the California Institute of Technology. Work on the robots is under way, and Fink envisions the day when robots are used instead of sending humans into space on long missions. "In the old 'Star Wars' movies, especially in 'The Empire Strikes Back,' the empire was sending out probes or floating robots," Fink said. "Those were ideal robotic explorers because they floated over planets and had sensors and communication capabilities."