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Week in review: Securing the Net

The White House releases a draft of its long-awaited plan for cyberspace security, but the plan garnered criticism as not doing enough.

The White House released a draft this week of its long-awaited plan for cyberspace security, but the plan garnered criticism as not doing enough.

The Bush administration's plan, a 64-page document called the "National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace," outlines a mainly hands-off approach to securing the Net, giving primary responsibility to individuals and corporations rather than the government.

The report was widely praised by technology companies, but the focus on voluntary measures drew a tart response from a handful of critics.

"It has no teeth," a security consultant said. "It has no enforcement. The first rule of having any security policy is you have to have enforcement. Without it, it's just a nice press release."

The White House on Friday defended the report, saying that it was not watered down under pressure from technology companies. Earlier drafts of the report seen by CNET were more detailed and envisioned a far greater role for the federal government.

Security alert
Recent events show that there is plenty of reason to be concerned about security on the Net.

A Linux worm compromised more than 6,700 servers as it continued to create a peer-to-peer attack network that could shut down even corporate Internet connections. Unlike past worms, a computer that gets infected becomes part of a network and could be commanded, or used to command the other computers on a network, to attack.

The worm, known as Linux.Slapper.Worm and Apache/mod_ssl Worm by the security industry, takes advantage of a hole in OpenSSL, a program used by many Web sites based on open-source software to secure Web communications.

Another vulnerability involves a bug in Netscape and other Web browsers based on the Mozilla development project that leaks people's Web surfing data. The bug reveals the URL of the page someone is viewing to the Web server of the site last visited. This allows a Web server to track where people go after they leave the site, even if the next Web address comes from a bookmark or is manually typed into the browser.

Microsoft warned all users of its Windows operating system of two new critical flaws that could allow an attacker to take control of a victim's PC. The critical flaws occur in the software giant's implementation of the Java Virtual Machine, which allows platform-independent programs to run on a PC.

"(The flaws) could enable an attacker to gain complete control over a user's system," stated the advisory. "This would enable the attacker to perform any operation that the user could, such as running applications; communicating with web sites; (and) adding, deleting or changing data."

Sun heats up
Sun Microsystems launched new projects in an effort to revitalize its diminished computer-industry leadership. Sun's revenue and stock price have plummeted since peaking in 2000, but is trying to fight back.

Sun executives promised companies major cost savings if they sign on to its "N1" plan to make servers, storage and network equipment better work together. At the SunNetwork 2002 conference in San Francisco, executives explained that network administrators will be able to increase computing power available for a particular job and, ultimately, will be able to guarantee response times for completing those jobs.

The N1 plan is designed so administrators can get more use out of existing hardware by sharing jobs across several systems. Analysts call the new program ambitious. It must span numerous different types of systems--Unix servers from Hewlett-Packard and IBM as well as Windows servers from many different companies.

Sun will get into the PC business next year, selling Linux-based desktops that will cost less than half to own and operate than comparable systems running Windows. Sun will sell PC hardware as well as software--calling the system a "purple box," a phrase that applies the company's trademark product hue to the "white box" term for generic PCs.

The PCs are designed to drive sales of expensive back-end systems. The Sun-branded PCs will be sold in quantities of 100, along with software and a required server that's used to store individual users' settings, login information and e-mail and online calendar applications.

DVD burner heat
Two industry groups, DVD+RW Alliance and the DVD Forum, fighting to set a rewritable DVD standard are showing no interest in working together, but technology tricks and behind-the-scenes talks could inch the sides toward a compromise.

A number of companies, though, are working on products to get around the format showdown. Consumer-electronics giant Sony Electronics announced two new drives that will be able to read and write to both DVD+RW and DVD-RW discs.

Adding a little fuel to the fire, Pioneer Electronics warned that its DVD-rewritable drives overheat when recording on certain high-speed disks. Representatives said that writing to blank 4x DVD-R and 2x DVD-RW discs can cause its DVD-rewritable PC drives and DVD recorders to freeze.

If the drives or recorders remain frozen for longer than five minutes, the optical lens, which writes to the discs, can overheat and render the hardware inoperable. To fix the problem, a user must download new software that can manage the system's hardware.

Budget PC buyers could land a once-luxury DVD burner as computer makers use lower prices to chase sales ahead of the holiday season. Consumers will likely be able to find the high-end technology in machines that sell for as low as $1,000. Weak PC sales and the ever-troubled economy may push companies to offer new PCs--even high-end models with DVD burners--at bargain prices.

Also of note
Handheld maker Palm will release three newly designed devices in October...Nikon and Fuji Photo Film announced sleek new digital cameras as camera makers continue to emphasize style over technology...Visa International is making a push with a new smart-card payment system that would allow hands-free transactions...Cisco Systems officially named Dell Computer as a competitor...A federal court has asked the CEOs of Intergraph and Intel to appear in court in an effort to resolve the remaining issues in a patent infringement case...E-mail management company confirmed that customer e-mail addresses were stolen from its database, allowing some customers' mailing lists to be bombarded with spam...Apple Computer has started shipping its top-of-the-line dual processor 1.25GHz Power Mac...General Magic, a once-hot Silicon Valley company that seemed to change its business plan every couple of months, has finally called it quits.

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