Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Are they crying, “Wolf?” A serious attack would not be so easily detected...
"Iranian officials on Tuesday said a 'Stuxnet-like' cyberattack hit some industrial units in a southern province. 'A virus had penetrated some manufacturing industries in Hormuzgan province, but its progress was halted,' Ali Akbar Akhavan said, quoted by the ISNA news agency. Akhavan said the malware was 'Stuxnet-like' but did not elaborate, and that the attack had occurred over the 'past few months.' One of the targets of the latest attack was the Bandar Abbas Tavanir Co, which oversees electricity production and distribution in Hormuzgan and adjacent provinces. He also accused 'enemies' of constantly seeking to disrupt operations at Iran's industrial units through cyberattacks, without specifying how much damage had been caused. Iran has blamed the U.S. and Israel for cyberattacks in the past. In April, it said a voracious malware attack had hit computers running key parts of its oil sector and succeeded in wiping data off official servers."

Key management...
Glitch imperils swath of encrypted records
December 25, 2012 by admin
Shaun Waterman reports:
A widely used method of computer encryption has a little-noticed problem that could allow confidential data stored by almost all Fortune 500 companies and everything stored on U.S. Government classified computers to be “fairly easily” stolen or destroyed.
The warning comes from the inventor of the encryption method, known as Secure Shell or SSH.
“In the worst-case scenario, most of the data on the servers of every company in the developed world gets wiped out,” Tatu Ylonen, chief executive officer of SSH Communications Security Corp., told The Washington Times.
Mr. Ylonen said a computer programmer could create a virus that would exploit SSH’s weaknesses and spread throughout servers to steal, distort or destroy confidential data.
Read more on Washington Times.
[From the article:
About “90 percent of U.S. companies are out of compliance with regulations governing financial institutions because of this issue,” Mr. Ylonen said.
SSH is used “deep inside the back-end systems” Mr. Ylonen said, referring to programs that run in the background on large computer systems, unnoticed by the average user.
Without careful monitoring and management, SSH goes on creating keys and storing them in easily identifiable directories where hackers can find and use them to access secure computers.
For example, one major bank that Mr. Ylonen’s company audited had used SSH in more than 5,000 applications on as many as 100,000 servers.
He said the auditors found in “a fraction of the bank’s environment” more than 1 million unaccounted-for keys — 10 percent of which granted root access, or control of the server at the most basic level.

Fighting dirty in the gun control debate? (Think of all the other “public information” maps we could produce.)
New York newspaper faces backlash after publishing map of gun permit holders
December 25, 2012 by Dissent
Fox News reports:
A local New York newspaper is drawing the ire of its readers after publishing an interactive map that shows the names and addresses of thousands of residents who have handgun permits.
The online map was published by The Journal News along with an article under the headline: “The gun owner next door: What you don’t know about the weapons in your neighborhood.”
The newspaper obtained, and then published, the names and addresses of pistol permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Read more on Fox News.
[The map:

Lots of interesting questions here, like: If I buy a company, do I need to repurchase all the software licenses?
The Electronic Frontier Foundation recaps two court cases pending in the U.S. which will decide whether you're allowed to re-sell the things you purchase. The first case deals with items bought in other countries for resale in the U.S., such as textbooks. An unfavorable decision there would mean "anything that is made in a foreign country and contains copies of copyrighted material – from the textbooks at issue in the Kirtsaeng case to shampoo bottles with copyrighted labels – could be blocked from resale, lending, or gifting without the permission of the copyright owner. That would create a nightmare for consumers and businesses, upending used goods markets and undermining what it really means to 'buy' and 'own' physical goods. The ruling also creates a perverse incentive for U.S. businesses to move their manufacturing operations abroad. It is difficult for us to imagine this is the outcome Congress intended." The second case is about whether music purchased on services like iTunes can be resold to other people. "Not only does big content deny that first sale doctrine applies to digital goods, but they are also trying to undermine the first sale rights we do have by forcing users to license items they would rather buy. The copyright industry wants you to "license" all your music, your movies, your games — and lose your rights to sell them or modify them as you see fit."

Isn't this inevitable? As companies grow to dominate one industry, growth requires them to branch out. Since each company develops backroom tools to support their businesses, why not sell those?
Amazon and Google, both giants in the online business world, started out as separate entities with two very different agendas. As each has grown into an empire, the overlapping areas of business between the two companies has grown as well. But with both companies moving strongly into the electronic device market, cloud services, and Amazon now building out its advertising network, they find themselves increasingly at odds, and 2013 may bring more direct battles. "Amazon wants to be the one place where you buy everything. Google wants to be the one place where you find everything, of which buying things is a subset. So when you marry those facts I think you're going to see a natural collision," said VC partner Chi-hua Chien. Adds Reuters, "Not long after Bezos learned of Google's catalog plans, Amazon began scanning books and providing searchable digital excerpts. Its Kindle e-reader, launched a few years later, owes much of its inspiration to the catalog news, the executive said. Now, Amazon is pushing its online ad efforts, threatening to siphon revenue and users from Google's main search website."

(Related) Maybe journalists are just starting to notice? Once upon a time, IBM helped circulate the meme: “No one ever got fired for recommending IBM.”
SternisheFan tips a report at the NY Times about the progress Google is making in its quest to unseat Microsoft's position atop the business software industry. From the article:
It has taken years, but Google seems to be cutting into Microsoft's stronghold — businesses. ... In the last year Google has scored an impressive string of wins, including at the Swiss drug maker Hoffmann-La Roche, where over 80,000 employees use the package, and at the Interior Department, where 90,000 use it. One big reason is price. Google charges $50 a year for each person using its product, a price that has not changed since it made its commercial debut, even though Google has added features. In 2012, for example, Google added the ability to work on a computer not connected to the Internet, as well as security and data management that comply with more stringent European standards. That made it much easier to sell the product to multinationals and companies in Europe. ... Microsoft says it does not yet see a threat. Google 'has not yet shown they are truly serious,' said Julia White, a general manager in Microsoft’s business division. 'From the outside, they are an advertising company.'"

Social replaces email? Definately worth a read...
December 25, 2012
Commentary - the evolving workplace extends to home and beyond
Brett Caine writing in Forbes: "We have become a society that communicates and shares just about everything we do, with one notable exception – work. Work is the place where social firewalls go up when they really should come down. After all, our teams are about teamwork. Social is the perfect tool to get our teams to work more collaboratively. And as it catches on, productivity is improving – people can work and play from anywhere and (finally) debunking the notion that workers need to be in an office to produce. The number of work-at-home employees is increasing dramatically and not just day-extenders. For the first time we are seeing companies implement work-at-home policies and practices that make it possible to work from home as a full member of the team. Everyone wants flexibility, more and more ask for it and the millennials will demand it. What does this changing workforce (and workplace) mean for leaders and managers in the workplace?"

Something for my Statistics class. Does Climate Change equal Rate Increase?
A recent paper in Science (abstract) examines the insurance industry's reaction to climate change. The industry rakes in trillions of dollars in revenues every year, and a shifting climate would have the potential to drastically cut into the profits left over after settlements have been paid. Hurricane Sandy alone did about $80 billion worth of damage to New York and New Jersey. With incredible amounts of money at stake, the industry is taking climate projections quite seriously. From the article:
"Many insurers are using climate science to better quantify and diversify their exposure, more accurately price and communicate risk, and target adaptation and loss-prevention efforts. They also analyze their extensive databases of historical weather- and climate-related losses, for both large- and small-scale events. But insurance modeling is a distinct discipline. Unlike climate models, insurers’ models extrapolate historical data rather than simulate the climate system, and they require outputs at finer scales and shorter time frames than climate models."

Like Khan Academy but with broader coverage?
We’ve been tracking Knowmia since it got underway over the summer. Co-founded by the creator of the Flip video camera, Knowmia has seen tremendous growth and you should start checking it out. Boasting more than 8,000 videos, the site offers video lessons by teachers to anyone.
… If you’re a teacher or want to at least help educate the young minds of the world, you can create a video lesson on Knowmia and then upload it.
They also have an iPad app called Knowmia Teach that lets you easily create your own lessons and add them to Knowmia. Check that out here.

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