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This week in the wild, wild Web

At Oracle OpenWorld, Sun CEO Scott McNealy inadvertently illustrates how easy it is to fall for a high-tech hoax.


Sun Microsystems Chief Executive Scott McNealy showed a photo during an OpenWorld speech to illustrate how rapidly technology improves--but instead illustrated another computing phenomenon: how easy it is to fall for an Internet hoax.

During his keynote address, McNealy displayed a picture supposedly from the magazine "Popular Mechanics" showing how people in 1954 envisioned the home computer. His point was to show how far computing has advanced beyond what was expected. Alas, in reality the photo he used is a doctored picture of a nuclear submarine control room mock-up, according to the myth-debunking site Snopes.com.

But he may not be alone. A function built into all major browsers could be co-opted by attackers to fool Web site visitors into surrendering sensitive information.

The issue, which security firm Secunia labeled a flaw, could allow a malicious Web site to refer visitors to a legitimate site--such as a bank's Web site--and then control the content displayed in a pop-up windows. The issue affects Microsoft's Internet Explorer, the Mozilla Foundation's Mozilla and Firefox browsers, Opera's browser, the open-source Konqueror browser and Apple Computer's Safari, the firm stated in advisories on its site.

Meanwhile, the number of phishing attacks launched each month has increased nearly 10-fold this year. Tech security company MessageLabs, which has intercepted almost 20 million phishing e-mails throughout 2004, said in its annual report that the number of phishing attacks has soared from 337,050 in January to 4.5 million in November. The rate rose most sharply between June and July--from 264,254 to 2.5 million--which could be due to the widespread use of zombie networks.