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The week in review: Web security concerns

Internet security and privacy issues dominate the news, topped by a hacker attack on an e-commerce site that represented the latest in a string of alarming online break-ins.

Internet security and privacy issues dominated the news this week, topped by a hacker attack on an e-commerce site that represented the latest in a string of alarming online break-ins.

In this latest attack, credit card numbers were stolen and then posted onto the Web, sources said.

Since late January, at least eight small e-commerce sites have been hacked by people exploiting a known security hole in Microsoft software, according to a security investigator and companies and individuals affected by the attacks. The companies were listed on a Web site posted by an anonymous hacker who claimed credit for the attacks and listed thousands of stolen credit card numbers, sources said.

The incidents come amid heightened concern about Web security after other high-profile attacks. In January, several top-tier sites, including Yahoo and eBay, were shut down after being flooded with requests for information in "denial of service" attacks. No customer or company data were stolen in those attacks.

DoubleClick backs down
Other firms felt the heat over privacy concerns this week. Bowing to pressure from privacy advocates and consumers, online advertising giant DoubleClick said it will hold off on plans to combine online and offline data that it collects on consumers.

In an interview, CEO Kevin O'Connor said the decision was in response to feedback from hundreds of consumers regarding DoubleClick's plans to link specific names and addresses to data gathered through its extensive online advertising network--a move that irked privacy groups.

O'Connor said the announcement does not mean the company has given up on the plan. Rather, he said, DoubleClick has pledged only to delay moving forward until new guidelines on privacy are hammered out between government and industry.

Palm's wild ride
Palm charged out of the IPO gate amid much frenzy but then plunged back to earth on its second trading day as investors took a hard look at the company and its prospects.

After soaring to $160 Thursday, Palm shares slid steadily, closing at $80.25 yesterday. That raises the question of whether investors already are washing their hands of an IPO that was touted as the most anticipated debut of the year.

Some IPO analysts said that while Palm's 150 percent first-day gain was respectable, they were surprised that the performance was not stronger. After all, the company had taken the bold move of doubling its pricing range before setting its IPO price, a sign that usually signals extraordinary investor demand.

A whole lotta megahertz
Ever-faster computers were in the news this week as it was revealed that systems running speedy 1-GHz chips will arrive sooner than expected.

Hewlett-Packard will start shipping consumer PCs containing Intel's Pentium III running at 1 GHz (1,000 megahertz) later this month, sources at HP said. Other PC makers will soon follow.

Meanwhile, AMD said it will phase out its K6-III processor as it puts more energy into its Athlon chip.

Wireless in The Big Easy
The promising future of the wireless Web had companies talking big this week at the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association's annual trade show, Wireless 2000, in New Orleans.

Top executives at Compaq Computer and Sun Microsystems predicted the death of the desktop computer as the leading method of accessing the Internet, saying wireless handheld devices will soon rule the day.

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates joined the bandwagon, reiterating during a speech the software giant's commitment to wireless. Gates unveiled MSN Mobile 2.0, the latest iteration of Microsoft's portal Web site, which has been customized for wireless Net connections. Microsoft also announced agreements with Nextel Communications and AirTouch Cellular, two of the nation's largest wireless carriers, as well as with WebLink Wireless and Totally Free Paging, to offer the updated portal to their subscribers.

Legal woes
The TV-Net conflict also made headlines this week. Earlier in the conflict, it looked like the start of a new chapter on the Net, in which Web entrepreneurs might finally push old-guard television services online.

But groups representing the TV, film and sports industries forced Canada's to permanently close its Web site, ending any possibility it will resume showing TV programs without permission.

Opening the lines
Also this week, AOL and Time Warner announced plans to open their high-speed cable lines to outside Internet service providers. The expected move means consumers will be able to subscribe to any ISP supported on Time Warner's cable lines, even if the access provider has no affiliation with AOL.