Hacker Spoof, VMware Goof

With all eyes turned to the Olympics in Beijing this week -- what with all the swimming records being blown away -- IT news eased into its usual August slow period. Hackers switched from duping people with CNN news alerts as a lure to sending out millions of messages with fake MSNBC links in them. U.K. hacker Gary McKinnon got to stay in England a little longer as he continues to fight extradition to the U.S. And more news started to pop up regarding the IT angle on the U.S. presidential race as Democrats and Republicans prepared for party conventions.

1. Hackers spoof MSNBC alerts in new twist on massive malware ruse: Hackers who had been trying to lure victims to malware-infested sites masquerading as CNN.com have now switched to fake breaking news alerts from MSNBC. The miscreants had spread as many as 2 million bogus news messages an hour by the middle of Wednesday using the new ruse, which leads victims to fake sites that pop up a box saying they need to update Adobe's Flash software to see a video clip of the news. Security researchers expect the hack to continue.

2. VMware CEO apologizes for 'time bomb' mess: VMware developers left code in ESX 3.5 and ESXi Server 3.5 updates that made users unable to power up virtual machines when Aug. 12 arrived. Users got error messages saying that their virtualization software licenses expired that date. They inundated VMware support forums about the problem, which the company patched. The new CEO, Paul Maritz, also issued an apology for the "disruption and difficulty."

3. Court delays British hacker's extradition to U.S.: Gary McKinnon's extradition to the U.S. was delayed by the European Court of Human Rights, whose ruling allows him to stay in the U.K. at least until the court reconvenes on Aug. 28 and can further consider his case.

U.S. prosecutors have charged McKinnon, who lives in London, with hacking into U.S. military networks, knocking 2,000 computers offline and deleting 2,455 user accounts as well as logs related to tracking Navy vessels. He has been fighting extradition, saying he was bullied by U.S. authorities into confessing in exchange for a lesser sentence.

4. Is America ready for its first BlackBerry president?: How much technology expertise the next U.S. president ought to possess is a subject for debate, but there is widespread agreement that technology knowledge is beneficial for the commander in chief to have.

Republican candidate John McCain is reportedly not terribly interested in technology and doesn't much use it, while Democrat Barack Obama is counted among Washington, D.C.'s cadre of BlackBerry users. What may be more important, some analysts say, is how much stock the next president's advisers and top aides put in technology and its uses. This takes us to ...

5. McCain promotes online security, privacy policies: McCain released a statement on his online security and privacy position saying that consumer education, technological innovation and beefed-up law enforcement, along with industry self-regulation, are needed to support "personal security for Americans in the digital age."

6. Intel drops Centrino Atom brand after five months: Intel's Centrino Atom brand has gone the way of New Coke, dropped after only five months in lieu of the company using just the Atom brand. The similarly named brands caused a bit of confusion. Atom-based laptops didn't use the Centrino Atom brand because they had a different version of the Atom processor and a two-chip chipset, while Centrino Atom uses a single-chip chipset.

7. When Apple's reach exceeds its grasp: In a mere five years Apple transformed itself from a niche company making non-Windows computers into a consumer electronics monolith.

Along the way, the company's reputation as a PC industry iconoclast has morphed into a perception that Apple is "a technology juggernaut with immense power at its disposal as it steamrolls over everyone else ... while creating one industry-busting product after another."But that image is off-base, given the number of times Apple hasn't quite managed to achieve the reach it seems to be grasping for.

8. How the feds are locking down their networks: In the past nine months, the U.S. government has decreased the number of external network connections it operates from 8,000 to about 2,700 as part of an ambitious plan to get rid of Internet connections that are vulnerable to attack. The government's access points will have state-of-the-art security policies and managed security services.

9. Republican National Convention venue gets network makeover: The IT challenges of transforming the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, into the venue for the Republican National Convention have thus far been manageable, but much work remains to be done, according to Max Everett, the CIO of the committee in charge of the event. The RNC opens Sept. 1 at the center, which is used primarily as the home of the Minnesota Wild professional hockey team.

10. Meet Dell's 19-hour laptop: Dell announced that it will soon launch its lightest ultraportable commercial laptop, and also a laptop that can run for up to 19 hours on battery power.

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