Week in review: Super shocking Sunday

The tech week got off to a not-so-super start on Super Bowl Sunday, as an e-mail virus and a risque halftime performance became the biggest things on the Internet.

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.
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Steven Musil
5 min read
The tech week got off to a not-so-super start on Super Bowl Sunday, as an e-mail virus and a risque halftime performance became the biggest things on the Internet.

The computer virus MyDoom's much-anticipated attack on the SCO Group Web site got off to an early start, knocking the company's Web site out of commission. SCO said an onslaught of data had made its usual Web site "completely unavailable."

SCO began directing customers, developers and others to a new Web site, which it says will be in effect over the next two weeks, or about how long the attack is expected to last. The attack was programmed by the MyDoom virus, which spread through e-mail in late January.

A similar onslaught was expected to be unleashed against Microsoft by a variant of MyDoom, but the virus had little impact on Microsoft's main Web site. The virus, which has spread less widely than the original MyDoom program, tried to connect to the Microsoft home page 10 times every three seconds. Those additional requests resulted in a drop in performance of about 10 percent to 20 percent.

Despite the minimal impact on Microsoft's Web site, experts are still very concerned that the virus was hardly blunted by antivirus programs during the first few hours of its exponential spread. "The MyDoom attack should never have propagated so far into the Internet," one security executive said. "It is obvious that we need another layer (of software) to protect during the first hours of attack."

One technology not suffering this weekend was TiVo, the digital video recorder system that lets viewers pause and "rewind" live television broadcasts. Apparently users couldn't get enough of pop diva Janet Jackson's fashion fiasco during the Super Bowl halftime show Sunday.

The baring of one of Jackson's breasts at the end of her duet with Justin Timberlake, which caused a flood of outraged phone calls to CBS, was replayed a record number of times by TiVo users. Subscribers hit rewind on the incident nearly three times more than they did on any other moment during the broadcast. That makes the moment the most rewatched ever during a broadcast in three years of measuring audience reactions, a TiVo representative said.

The findings were based on an anonymous sampling of 20,000 TiVo subscribers who watched the Super Bowl, but the realization that TiVo has the power to gather that kind of data worried some TiVo subscribers. "It's just sort of creepy," one longtime TiVo subscriber wrote in an e-mail to CNET News.com.

A TiVo spokesman said the company operates well within established privacy standards. For years, TiVo has disclosed its data-gathering practices in user agreements, saying it strips out any information that could be traced back to an individual viewer. While conceivably, TiVo could investigate an individual's viewing habits, it doesn't, a spokesman said.

If Janet Jackson wanted attention from the Internet by exposing her breast, she got it--and on some search engines in record-setting numbers. The brief flash of flesh has become the most searched for event in Lycos' history.

"Janet Jackson," "superbowl halftime" and "MTV," the network that produced the halftime show, were the top three Google.com gainers for the period between Jan. 26 and Feb. 2. Google users searched for "Janet Jackson" almost 10 times more the day after the game than they did on Sunday.

In the chips
Intel introduced five new Pentium 4 processors for desktop PCs, delivering a large helping of megahertz along the way. The new Pentium 4s, which are expected to spawn a number of new desktop PC models, include three chips based on a fresh processor design, code-named Prescott. Intel also is adding two new versions of its current Pentium 4, dubbed Northwood. A sixth chip, running at 3.4GHz, won't be available until later in the quarter.

The changes in Prescott's underlying circuitry will also help it reach much higher levels of performance and scale to greater clock speeds over time, Intel said. The Prescott Pentium 4 is expected to reach 4GHz by the end of the year.

The introduction came as Intel saw its share of the computer chip market grow to 82.8 percent, a slight increase over its 82.6 percent share in the second quarter. Rival Advanced Micro Devices, meanwhile, saw its share dip to 15.5 percent, 0.2 percent off its third-quarter share, but the company managed to raise the average selling price (ASP) of its chips in the past two quarters, a factor that helped it report its first quarterly profit in two-and-a-half years.

Chipmakers will get a boost next week from a new specification for high-speed connections between PC components. The HyperTransport Consortium is expected to announce Monday a new version that will be up to 75 percent faster than the original specification. It will also support PCI Express, an emerging high-speed standard for connecting PCs to peripherals and each other.

A flaw in the ointment
Some Web developers are complaining that an Internet Explorer patch that's meant to foil Net scams is disabling some applications that didn't put a premium on security. The update had some Web site programmers up in arms due to complaints from Web users that they could no longer log in to sites that secure entry through credentials included in the URL.

The incident could be the first known case of Microsoft getting attention for putting security before a feature used by some of its customers. Microsoft promised to put security first when it launched its Trustworthy Computing Initiative more than two years ago.

Three flaws affecting different versions of RealNetworks' media player could allow attackers to create corrupt music or video files that, when played, take control of a victim's PC. The flaws affect RealNetworks' RealOne Player, RealOne Player version 2, RealPlayer 8, RealPlayer 10 Beta, and the company's RealOne Enterprise products.

To exploit them, an attacker crafts the data in a media file in a certain way. When people play or stream the corrupted file in a vulnerable version of RealPlayer, the attacker's code will run, compromising the PC.

CNET News.com special focus
Millions of computers have been hit in recent years by ads and PC-monitoring software that comes bundled with popular free downloads, attracting dozens of companies seeking to profit by promising to root out the offending software. But a CNET News.com investigation finds that some software makers are exploiting the situation, critics allege, turning demand for anti-spyware software into a launching pad for new spyware attacks.

Also of note
Yahoo, rethinking earlier plans, is quietly exploring ways to develop a music download service as archrivals Microsoft and America Online place bigger bets on digital song sales...Oracle increased its cash offer for enterprise software maker PeopleSoft to $26 per share, presenting its rival's shareholders with a $9.4 billion hostile takeover bid...The U.S. Department of Defense backed off plans for a large-scale test of a voting system designed to let Americans who are overseas cast ballots in the coming election over the Internet...Microsoft is moving to a new phase in its competitive attack, arguing that the company is better than IBM and Linux when it comes to connecting different applications.