Conficker, IBM-Sun Redux, Italy Quakes

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Security researchers have found that the Conficker worm has been updated to make it harder to fight, and it is also aiming to invade more PCs (3 million to 12 million not being enough, obviously). While security vendors work to fend off the worm, analysts say that Sun is not likely to fend off other suitors now that it has rejected IBM. A major earthquake in central Italy underscored once again how important mobile communications and the Internet are in helping survivors appeal for help and in getting out information.

1. Conficker, Internet's No. 1 threat, gets update: Conficker has been altered to make it stronger and the worm is also trying to invade more systems. Thus far, it has infected at least 3 million PCs worldwide and perhaps as many as 12 million, creating an enormous botnet and a serious security concern.

2. Collapse of IBM-Sun deal could leave Sun without a suitor, analysts say: Sun might have blown its best shot at being acquired when it rebuffed an offer from IBM that it deemed too low, analysts say.

3. After a year of bad blood, Microsoft, Yahoo talking again: Microsoft and Yahoo are once again exploring a possible business deal, according to a Wall Street Journal blog posting. The two companies are supposedly considering a search and advertising partnership. These talks come nearly a year after Microsoft's efforts to buy Yahoo ended in naught.

4. Quake has Italians reaching to YouTube, mobile services and Italian earthquake spotlights early warning systems: After a magnitude 6.3 earthquake rocked central Italy Monday, survivors turned to mobile devices to make emergency contact, and those in the region as well as outside of it turned to Facebook and YouTube for appeals for help and information. Seismologist Giampaolo Giuliani had posted a video warning on YouTube last week, predicting that an earthquake with a magnitude of at least 4.0 was imminent. He took down the video after authorities criticized him for creating panic. The earthquake was centered at L'Aquila, the region's capital, and left thousands homeless and injured, with the death toll at at least 275 by week's end. The quake sparked discussions about the need for early warning systems.

5. Report: Cybercriminals have penetrated US electrical grid and US agency moves toward smart-grid road map: For several years, U.S. officials and security experts have been saying that the power grid and other electronically controlled systems are in danger of being accessed, and possibly taken over, by cybercriminals. Spies from Russia, China and other nations have gained access to the grid and installed malware that could shut down service, The Wall Street Journal reported this week, citing anonymous government officials and others with knowledge of the infiltration. Meanwhile, the National Institute of Standards and Technology this week awarded a US$1.3 million contract to the Electric Power Research Institute to begin work on a road map for developing a smart grid for electricity.

6. Demand for H-1B visas tumbles: Preliminary numbers indicate that the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services has received so far this year about a third the number of visa petitions it had received at the same time last year.

7. High-tech job cuts soar in Q1: First-quarter technology sector job cuts totaled 84,217 in the U.S., for a 27 percent increase over the quarter before and the biggest number of job losses since the end of 2002. That figure is also about five times more than the same period of 2008, Challenger, Gray & Christmas said. (Warning: Next week begins the quarterly spate of financial reports, so there is likely to be more bad news then.)

8. Twitter use explodes: Traffic to the insanely popular social-media site Twitter has soared by ridiculous percentages recently -- 1,000 percent in just the past two months. But the real news in the figures is that the bulk of those posting messages on Twitter are over 45 years old. People who are 45 to 54 are 36 percent more likely to use Twitter than are other age groups. (Though we can say with authority that some in that age group continue to resist.)

9. FBI claims ISP stole millions from AT&T, Verizon: A collocation facility in Dallas was raided by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, which said that individuals associated with two Texas companies allegedly used fraudulent means to trick AT&T and Verizon Communications into providing them with 120 million minutes of telephone service.

10. MLB in social media stumble with MLB.TV blog: Baseball season kicked off this week, and while that may not matter in some parts of the world, Major League Baseball provided an excellent example of how not to conduct social media, scrubbing its official blog of months of posts, including updates about technical issues, after problems with its new media player came to light. If that sounds familiar, it's because last season's then-new media player was a mess in the opening days of the season, too. The default explanation seems to be that doesn't have the warm-up stretch of spring training the way the teams do to work out the kinks. But we cannot give more of an explanation than that because they aren't returning calls. That probably sounds familiar, too.

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