Hardware

The Top 10 Stories in IT This Week

This week's news took a political slant, with a panel discussing how the new U.S. political landscape will affect IT legislation and security experts telling Congress that new threats require a more robust approach to security. This intersection of politics and technology wasn't limited to the U.S. Special interests tainted India's 2G spectrum auction, with licenses going to favored companies and resulting in the loss of billions of dollars. Finally, this week's Web 2.0 conference produced some noteworthy news, including Facebook's effort to retool Web messaging.

1. Experts: Stuxnet changed the cybersecurity landscape: The sophisticated Stuxnet worm represents a cyberthreat level that requires new security measures from the U.S. government and businesses, experts told U.S. politicians. The worm targets industrial control systems and can steal company secrets and hijack manufacturing operations. While some in the security industry speculate that a government created the worm to cripple Iran's nuclear program, one security expert said that tracing the worm's origins is impossible and efforts should focus on bolstering industrial systems against future, and inevitable, attacks.

2. Some tech issues may move forward in split Congress: While partisan gridlock seems the likely outcome after the U.S.' recent midterm elections, the divided Congress may pass technology legislation that deals with creating jobs and improving the economy, said a speaker at a policy forum. One panelist noted that Democratic President Bill Clinton and a Republican Congress worked together to pass technology laws. Politicians should work on IT issues with broad support and avoid the always-controversial topic of net neutrality, he said. Hope, however, appears slim. Some lawmakers on the panel disagreed over the need for privacy legislation and a Google executive said IT political groups need to seek consensus instead of bickering.

3. India played favorites in 2G licenses, says auditing agency: The Indian government lost US$39 billion due to irregularities in how the country issued 2G licenses to mobile carriers in 2008, according to an audit. The country's minister of communications and IT resigned over the controversy, in which he allegedly sold the licences for prices based on their 2001 market value to favored companies and individuals. The audit found that more than half of the companies that won licenses lacked essential eligibility requirements and submitted false or incomplete information.

4. Malaysian charged with hacking Federal Reserve, others: U.S. officials charged a Malaysian man with hacking into the computer systems of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and a company that handles financial transactions. More than 400,000 stolen credit and debit card account numbers were found when the U.S. Secret Service searched his laptop.

5. H-1B at 20: How the 'tech worker visa' is remaking IT in America and H-1B: The voices behind the visa: The H-1B visa program, which grants highly skilled foreign employees permission to work in the U.S., turned 20 this week. Program opponents claim that businesses abuse the system and use it to replace U.S. citizens with cheap foreign labor. Others emphasize that the program is essential to U.S. innovation and helps the nation maintain an economic edge. Computerworld explores the issue with a package that examines how H-1B workers continue to shape IT and interviews people who have been affected by the program.

6. Facebook unveils new messaging system, Bartz: Yahoo can't do what Facebook does--yet and Microsoft's Mehdi: Google is a hard habit to break: This week's Web 2.0 summit produced news on all things Internet. Facebook used the event to announce its "modern messaging system" that aims to converge e-mail, instant messages, Facebook messages and text messages. Yahoo's CEO would like her company to use user data the way Facebook does, but collecting and organizing that data is a work in progress. Finally, a Microsoft executive acknowledged that while its Bing search engine has gained market share, catching search leader Google is still a major challenge.

7. Supercomputing Top500 brews discontent: There was some drama at this week's Supercomputer 2010 conference, when some attendees questioned how the Top500 list of supercomputers can accurately reflect the extreme processing power of a system when only one criteria is used in the judging. That metric, called Linpack, fails to account for 80 percent of a supercomputer's workload, said a conference attendee. Another said that application performance, not overall processing power, is what ultimately matters. Others defended Linpack, saying that its simplicity makes it easy for supercomputer administrators to figure out how to beef up their systems' processing speeds.

8. AT&T mobile data growth eases -- to 30x: U.S. iPhone users should rejoice that AT&T, the smartphone's exclusive carrier in the country, reported a decrease in mobile data traffic, the carrier's CTO said at a conference. AT&T's network is not known for robust service, and less data traffic should mean faster mobile Web connections. In this year's third quarter the growth rate increased by around 30 times compared to 2007's third quarter. That is down from a three-year growth rate of 50 times earlier this year.

9. Wiseguy scalpers bought tickets with CAPTCHA-busting botnet: Did you have trouble buying tickets for a Bruce Springsteen concert? Perhaps the three California men who pleaded guilty to constructing a CAPTCHA-solving computer network played a factor in your misfortune. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the group's network impersonated humans and purchased 1.5 million tickets to events like Broadway productions, Bruce Springsteen concerts and the television show "Dancing With the Stars." The network targeted ticket websites such as LiveNation, Ticketmaster and MLB.com.

10. Android traffic catches iOS, Millennial says: Google's Android mobile-phone OS is gaining on the iPhone, according to October figures from a mobile advertising network. Millennial Media reported that Android and Apple's iOS tied in October as the mobile OSes most frequently hitting the company's ad network. This marks an 8 percent increase for Android compared to September, when Android tallied 29 percent and iOS accounted for 46 percent of the traffic.

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