Show of 9-1-2007

  • Forum Questions and Email
    • I met Kirk Randall, one of the pop quiz winners. He came for Fine Dining at Stratford University . He got the answer for the Linux mascot, Tux the Penguin, on the June 23 show. He loves to listen to the show via podcast and sometimes live. He built a digi-comp mechanical computer in the early sixties and enjoyed our discussion of it. He worked for the government in technology and is retired now. He never misses a show.
    • He wondered what would happen to Tech Talk now that WaPo is pulling out. I assured him that it would continue unaltered. The good news is that the show will be included on the new website and will actually be part of the station.
  • Profiles in IT: Alan Mathison Turing
    • British mathematician and logician, who made major contributions to mathematics, cryptanalysis, logic, philosophy, and biology and to the new areas later named computer science, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, and artificial life.
    • The son of a British member of the Indian civil service, Turing entered King’s College, University of Cambridge , to study mathematics in 1931.
    • After graduating in 1934, Turing was elected to a fellowship at King’s College in recognition of his research in probability theory.
    • In 1936 Turing’s paper On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem [ Decision Problem] sought an effective method for deciding which mathematical statements are provable within a given formal mathematical system and which are not.
    • As part of the proof, he showed that any effectively calculable function can be calculated by a Universal Turing machine, a type of abstract computer that Turing had introduced in the course of his proof.
    • At the outbreak of hostilities with Germany in September 1939, he joined Britain ‘s wartime program at Bletchley Park to break the Enigma code, used by the German military for their radio communications.
    • Turing and others designed a radically different code-breaking machine known as the Bombe, kept the Allies supplied with intelligence for the remainder of the war. They decoded over 39,000 intercepted messages each month.
    • Turing was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire for this work.
    • In 1945, Turing was recruited to the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in London to design and develop an electronic computer.
    • His design for the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE) was the first complete specification of an electronic stored-program general-purpose digital computer.
    • University of Manchester built the world’s first working electronic stored-program digital computer in June 1948. His earlier theoretical concept of a universal Turing machine had been a fundamental influence on the Manchester computer project.
    • He then took a job as Manchester as Director and designed the programming system of the Ferranti Mark I, the world’s first commercial electronic digital computer.
    • In 1950, he asked the philosophical question, Can Machines Think? The Turing test as a criterion for whether a machine thinks.
    • In March 1952, he was prosecuted for homosexuality and lost his security clearance.
    • Turing began working on what is now known as artificial life. He wrote ?The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis,? He used the Ferranti Mark I computer to model the way that genes could control the development anatomical structures.
    • Turing was discovered dead in his bed, poisoned by cyanide. Some have postulated that Apple’s logo (an Apple with a bite taken out) is a tribute to Turing.
  • Turing Test
  • First Famous Chatterboxes
  • Website of the Week: Flash Earth
    • Web address: http://www.flashearth.com/
    • Arial image of the earth with data selectable data source: Google Maps, Microsoft VE, Yahoo Maps, Ask.com, OpenLayers, and NASA Terra
    • Zoom in and out, pan in any direction, rotate image.
    • With one particular view, select image source with the best data.
  • Second Website of the Week: Wayback Machine
    • Web address: http://www.archive.org
    • The Internet Archive is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form.
    • The Archive contains over 100 terabytes and 10 billion web pages archived from 1996 to the present.
    • Just type a URL into the entry box, click the Take Me Back button, and start exploring the past.
  • Monster Hacked Again
    • 1.6 million records were stolen from Monster.com.
    • It took Monster two days before they notified their users.
    • Even then, affected users have not yet gotten an email, they are just greeted with a "Security Notice" on Monster.com’s homepage?if they happen to visit it.
    • Symantec notified Monster.com on August 17th, that their server had been hacked. Overnight on the 20th, they finally shut down the cracked server. A few days later, on the 23rd is when the Security Notice was finally published.
    • Monster.com is trying to act blameless. However, they protected the servers, but did not encrypt their databases.
    • Using this [encryption] approach means that the data can be held securely on the web server and, even if hackers succeeded in downloading the files, the fact that they were encrypted would render the data unreadable.
    • The data stolen was not bank account numbers, but it was enough information to build a very successful phishing scam.
    • Users who had data stolen most likely received a targeted phishing email even before Monster.com notified them to be on the lookout.
  • Acer to Buy Gateway
    • Taiwan-based PC manufacturer Acer has announced that it will purchase rival firm Gateway for $710 million in an all-cash deal. The two companies should ship more than 20 million PCs annually with revenues of over $15 billion.
    • Gateway’s second quarter US market share figure of 5.6 percent. Acer plans to keep the Gateway brand around and will use it primarily to strengthen its US presence. With Gateway, Acer should easily slip into the number three slot in the US ?and possibly worldwide.
    • The deal is a double dose of bad news for Lenovo. Lenovo has 8.3 percent of the worldwide market, although its growth has lagged behind Acer’s in the past year.
    • Not only does it strengthen its chief Asian competitor, but Acer’s move may also thwart Lenovo’s plans for Packard Bell.
    • Gateway says that it plans to exercise its right of first refusal to buy Packard Bell, which is owned by John Hui, who sold eMachines to Gateway. That would prevent Lenovo from getting its hands on Packard Bell.
    • The battle between Acer and Lenovo is heating up.
  • AV-Comparatives
    • http://www.av-comparatives.org/
    • Compares the performance of anti-virus software
    • Neutral to all vendors
    • Wide variation in performance
    • The NOD32, my favorite because of this speed, ranked high.
    • Symantec did not rank as high on detection percentage especially on the May 2007 tests
  • Autopatcher Shut Down by Microsoft
    • Website: http://www.autopatcher.com/
    • A service designed to help Windows users download Microsoft’s updates and install them in a faster manner was ordered shut down by Microsoft, in a cease and desist letter to the service’s proprietors.
    • For the past few years the AutoPatcher service had been giving users what was believed to be a simpler and more intuitive front end and a monthly digest for downloading and installing updates. But it was redistributing Windows code – or, at the very least, distributing a new way to get to Windows code – and was an alternative to Microsoft Update, and as such, the company had no remaining patience for letting it stand.
    • Posted on website: Today we received an e-mail from Microsoft, requesting the immediate take-down of the download page, which of course means that AutoPatcher is probably history. As much as we disagree, we can do very little, and although the download page is merely a collection of mirrors, we took the download page down. We would like to thank you for your support. For the past 4 years, it has been a blast. Unfortunately, it seems like it’s the end of AutoPatcher as we know it.
  • Does Criminal Hacking (or Cracking) Pay Off ?
    • Cracking definition: criminal (black hat) hacking.
    • 1. Kevin Mitnick.
      • Mitnick is perhaps synonymous with Hacker.
      • The Department of Justice still refers to him as "the most wanted computer criminal in United States history." His accomplishments were memorialized into two Hollywood movies: Takedown and Freedom Downtime.
      • Mitnick got his start by exploiting the Los Angeles bus punch card system and getting free rides.
      • Then similar to Steve Wozniak, of Apple, Mitnick tried Phone Phreaking.
      • Mitnick was first convicted for hacking into the Digital Equipment Corporation’s computer network and stealing software.
      • Mitnick then embarked on a two and a half year coast to coast hacking spree.
      • He has stated that he hacked into computers, scrambled phone networks, stole corporate secrets and hacked into the national defense warning system.
      • His fall came when he hacked into fellow computer expert and hacker Tsutomu Shimomura’s home computer.
      • Mitnick is now a productive member of society. After serving 5 years and 8 months in solitary confinement, he is now a computer security author, consultant and speaker.
    • 2. Adrian Lamo
      • Lamo hit major organizations hard, hacking into Microsoft and The New York Times.
      • Lamo would use Internet connections at coffee shops, Kinko’s and libraries to achieve his feats earning him the nickname
      • "The Homeless Hacker". Lamo frequently found security flaws and exploited them. He would often inform the companies of the flaw.
      • Lamo’s hit list includes Yahoo!, Citigroup, Bank of America and Cingular.
      • Lamo’s intrusion into The New York Times intranet placed him squarely into the eyes of the top cyber crime offenders.
      • For this crime, Lamo was ordered to pay $65,000 in restitution. Additionally, he was sentenced to six months home confinement and 2 years probation.
      • Probation expired January of 2007. Lamo now is a notable public speaker and award winning journalist.
    • 3. Jonathan James
      • At 16 years old, James gained enormous notoriety when he was the first minor to be sent to prison for hacking.
      • James hit high profile organizations including the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, which is an agency of the Department of the Defense. With this hack he was able to capture usernames and passwords and view highly confidential emails.
      • High on James list, James also hacked in NASA computers and stole software valued at over $1.7 million. The software stolen by James supported the International Space Station’s physical environment, including control of the temperature and humidity within the living space.
      • Today James aspires to start a computer security company.
    • 4. Robert Tappan Morris (previously featured on Profiles in IT)
      • Morris is the son of a former National Security Agency scientist named Robert Morris. Robert is the creator of the Morris worm. This worm was credited as the first computer worm spread through the Internet. Because of his actions, he was the first person to be prosecuted under the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
      • Morris created the worm while at Cornell as a student claiming that he intended to use the worm to see how large the Internet was at the time. The worm, however, reproduced itself uncontrollably, shutting down many computers until they had completely malfunctioned. Experts claim 6,000 machines were destroyed. Morris was ultimately sentenced to three years’ probation, 400 hours of community service and assessed a $10,500 fine.
      • Morris is now a tenured professor at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. His focus is computer network architecture.
    • 5. Kevin Poulsen
      • Frequently referred to as Dark Dante, Poulsen gained national recognition for his hack into Los Angeles radio’s KIIS-FM phone lines.
      • The FBI began to search for Poulson, when he hacked into the FBI database and federal computers for sensitive wiretap information.
      • Poulsen’s specialty was hacking into phone lines and he frequently took over all of a station’s phone lines.
      • Poulson was featured on Unsolved Mysteries and then captured in a supermarket. He was assessed a sentence of five years.
      • Since his time in prison, Poulsen has worked as a journalist and was promoted to senior editor for Wired News.