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Week in review: Let the games begin online

The Olympics go truly global with YouTube deal, while Yahoo tries to get along with its new family member. Also: Hackers really hack at Black Hat.

Steven Musil Night Editor / News
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
Expertise I have more than 30 years' experience in journalism in the heart of the Silicon Valley.
Steven Musil
6 min read

The Olympic Games officially begin on Friday in Beijing--and on the Web.

Citizens of Ethiopia and Thailand are among the international Web users who will be able to view online content from the Beijing Olympics via YouTube. While NBC holds the Olympics digital video-on-demand rights in the U.S., rights have not been sold on an exclusive basis in more than 70 countries. In those countries, people can access the specialized YouTube Olympics channel.

The International Olympic Committee said the Olympic Broadcasting Services will produce the YouTube channel content and will include highlights, news clips, and daily videos of the international games. YouTube and parent company Google will also help remove videos that violate the IOC copyrights on Olympics content. YouTube said it would not disclose exact terms of the deal, but that the IOC "is using our industry-leading VideoID technology to manage and protect its content on the site."

The Olympics are a media feeding frenzy, as everyone tries to capitalize on the huge audience for the global sporting event, and now Yahoo and Google are trying to get in on the action. The Internet pioneers have launched a number of shortcuts to present Olympics-related information through Yahoo's search engine. The shortcuts package up information such as the overall medal count, a country's specific medal count, and information for individual athletes.

The customized results present content including video on the search results, blurring the lines between an Internet portal and a search engine. The results also include a link that can take users to various related Yahoo Sports Olympics coverage pages, which at least at present feature a lot of advertisements by Visa.

Also, Google's DoubleClick technology will be used to deliver video advertising shown with Microsoft's Silverlight technology, and it will be used for that purpose with the Olympics video that NBC Universal plans to show online using a player based on Silverlight 2.

Google's Silverlight ad capability, called DoubleClick In-Stream, can be used to deliver video ads using Flash, RealMedia, and Windows Media technology. In-Stream also can show static ads within video, which Microsoft and NBC concluded was the best approach for live video.

Meanwhile, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft say they are close to an agreement on a code of conduct for doing business in China and other countries that censor the Internet. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) released separate letters from the companies, stating they have "reached agreement on the core components of the principles" of the code, as Google put it.

Those components, the letters say, include principles for promoting freedom of expression and privacy, implementation guidelines, and an accountability framework. The specifics of the code are now being reviewed by the individual organizations involved. Google said the companies are working toward a "set of clear and rigorous principles, such that restrictive governments would be unable to ignore or reject these best practices on freedom of expression and the protection of individual privacy."

Click here for more stories on tech and the Beijing Olympics.

Yahoo--one big happy family?
Now the fireworks and fractiousness can officially move inside Yahoo: activist investor Carl Icahn is now part of the Internet company's board.

Icahn, who owns about 5 percent of Yahoo's shares, had tried to take over the entire board in July, but settled for seats for himself and two allies. One of Icahn's first roles on the board will be to help pick the two allies who will join him. The new appointments are set to be announced by August 15, increasing Yahoo's board from 9 to 11 members.

But the dysfunctional family love doesn't end there. The shareholder approval ratings plunged for Yahoo Chief Executive Jerry Yang and Roy Bostock after Yahoo released new results that corrected a vote transmission error.

Shareholders unhappy with board members withheld their votes in the August 1 election. In Yahoo's official voting tally, 14.6 percent of votes for Yang and 20.5 percent for Bostock were withheld. But in the corrected results, Yang's withhold percentage rose to 33.7 percent and Bostock's to 39.6 percent, Yahoo said.

Quantitatively, the change means nothing: "These errors did not affect the outcome of the election of directors," Yahoo said. But qualitatively, it's a different story, because withhold votes do send a message even if the board were still re-elected.

Search engine marketers also aren't so crazy about how the Google-Yahoo-Microsoft power struggle has played out. It's not that they disapprove of Yahoo remaining independent of Microsoft. It's just that Google's search market share, at nearly 70 percent in June, has only grown stronger during its rivals' kerfuffle.

To be sure, Internet marketing executives were hopeful about the performance of Google rivals, even while they downplayed their importance. Marketers said that Yahoo, Ask.com, and others are performing well for search ad campaigns.

Hacks at Black Hat
Three journalists for a French security magazine were kicked out of the Black Hat security conference after they allegedly sniffed the press room computer network. Organizers required the men to leave the conference, confiscated their badges, and barred them from Defcon, a sister security conference that runs over the weekend, and from all future events.

The men were seen huddled over a table in the two press rooms for much of the day and took their computer to the Wall of Sheep (a project that monitors wireless network activity), asking them to display the alleged usernames and passwords of journalists. The Wall of Sheep organizers refused to do that, saying that they do not monitor the traffic of the press room.

One of the men later tried to lay the entire blame for the incident with another of the accused, but said, "For us, it was like a joke."

The Wall of Sheep board has long been a fixture at Defcon, Black Hat's sister conference. The board displays the names (with some identifying information obscured) of those connecting to the Internet in insecure ways. The idea is both meant to shame and educate users on best practices.

To see what's going across the Black Hat network, there are seats where you can plug in your own laptop and use whatever sniffer you have to see what they see. If they can see your network, they can see the clear text contents of your e-mail.

At least within the Wall of Sheep room you can get help on how not be posted on the display wall. For example, use encryption on your wireless connection such as WPA2. That will encrypt the signal from your mobile device to the access point. From there, the network itself should run Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).

At the conference, in one of the most anticipated talks, researcher Dan Kaminsky explained the urgency in having everyone patch their systems: virtually everything done on the Internet involves a Domain Name System request and therefore is vulnerable.

Expectations were running high as Kaminsky, director of penetration testing for IOActive, had revealed little about his DNS vulnerability up till then. That didn't stop others from trying to figure it out. But that actually helped Kaminsky in the end; it meant during his speech, he was able to skip the what and go directly to the why.

Security researchers always thought it was hard to poison DNS records, but Kaminsky said to think of the process as a race, with a good guy and bad guy each trying to get a secret number transaction ID. "You can get there first," he said, "but you can't cross the finish line unless you have the secret number."

Also of note
A laptop with information on prescreened travelers that was reported stolen at the San Francisco airport was found in the office from which it was reported missing, and the incident may be relabeled the case of the misplaced laptop...Google has launched a free music search service in China that will give people access to free downloads of licensed songs...Delta Air Lines passengers will get Wi-Fi access on all domestic flights by the middle of next year...Facebook is reportedly ready to let current employees unload a fifth of their stock options, at the company's internal valuation of $4 billion...A privately funded rocket suffered a launch failure, the third in as many attempts for an Internet entrepreneur who is hoping to develop private space delivery and transportation.