The PC Radio Show
WBAI 
New York

Announcements and Upcoming Shows

Recently Mentioned

Links and Downloads

About the Show

Archives

Home


Search our site by entering a keyword or phrase:

April 2003 Archive

Shows  (on this page)
  April 30, 2003   April 23, 2003   April 16, 2003   April 9, 2003   April 2, 2003 

For a full list of all archived shows, see the Archives page.


April 30, 2003 Show     RETURN TO TOP

In the News

Virginia Governor Signs Tough Anti-Spam Law  The Washington Post. April 29, 2003. Spam now totals at least 40 percent of all e-mail. In response, Virginia passed the nation's toughest legal attack on electronic junk mail. The new law, which takes effect July 1, creates stiffer criminal penalties for spammers and allows the state to seize some of their assets. State officials said they hope that by winning a few attention-getting convictions, they can deter other spammers. 

The Wi-Fi hotspots in lower Manhattan, that we mentioned on our April 9th show, are now live. They are in City Hall Park, the South Street Seaport area, Bowling Green, the Vietnam Veterans Plaza on Water Street, Liberty Plaza, Broadway and Liberty Street and Rector Park in Battery Park City. They use standard 802.11b networking. 


 HP Digital Cultural Exchange

Our guests were two students (Elizabeth and Laura) from The Robert F. Wagner Jr. Institute for Arts & Technology in Long Island City. The school participated in the HP Digital Cultural Exchange Program, a program from HP to promote cultural and environmental awareness among the world's youth, using digital imaging technology donated by HP. A dozen schools from eight countries (United States, Argentina, Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, India, Lebanon and Senegal) participated to learn about each other's customs, countries and cultures through an exchange of photos and emails. The goal for the students was to digitally document their everyday lives. All the students were in the 7th or 8th grade.  

As of May 2nd, the project is available on the Internet. Alternate link. 

The global photo exhibit will be unveiled on May 5, 2003 at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan from 9:30 AM to 11:00 AM. Some of the students will be at the Museum. Also involved with HP in the project was iEARN.


 Caller Questions 

Paul asked about moving his data (emails, contacts, etc.) from Outlook 2000 on an old computer running Windows 98SE to a new computer, running Windows XP. Alfred said that if Outlook is using personal folders (vs. Microsoft Exchange folders) this is very easy. Personal files is the default mode of operation. Use the folder view and get the properties of personal folders. Included in the properties will be the path and file name for your data file. Outlook has a single data file for all current data, called outlook.pst. The typical location for this file in Windows 9x is:
   C:\Windows\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook

In Windows 2000 and XP, Outlook uses:
   C:\Documents and Settings\username\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook

Joe warned that the outlook.pst file can grow to be very big. His is about 90 MB and he does not do much work in Outlook. If Outlook auto- archives, you also need to copy file archive.pst. It should be in the same directory as the outlook.pst file. On the new machine, if Outlook 2000 is already installed, find where the current outlook.pst file resides. Rename it for good luck and then copy the file from the old machine to the new one.

Dale needed advice about creating a web site on a Macintosh. Dreamweaver was recommended for building web pages. Fortunately she had not yet started with the web site, so she was in a position to shop for a web hosting company that offers database support (she asked about mySQL and MacSQL) and help in creating, interfacing and maintaining the database. A later caller, Jerry, suggested Homestead for web hosting. Another suggested using www.freshmeat.net which offers a pre-built shopping cart. It can be downloaded and installed on a web site. 

A caller was suffering modem connection errors when trying to dial onto the Internet. Specifically, he gets a message that the modem is not properly configured. The computer had never dialed onto the Internet successfully and he is using NetZero. Normally, the responsibility for getting you online falls with the ISP. One of the problems with cheap or free ISPs, such as NetZero, is that their technical support is lacking compared to a full priced ISP. Alfred offered to help, but needed the caller to email more specific details on the problem. 


April 23, 2003 Show     RETURN TO TOP

In the News

Pennsylvania State University has suspended the Internet accounts of about 220 students after investigations showed they were using the school's network to trade copyrighted music. The school said connections will be restored once the copyrighted files have been removed. This came after the school had warned students that illegal trading of copyrighted materials was against the law. Recently the Recording Industry Association of America slapped four students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Princeton University and Michigan Technological University with lawsuits. Internet News. April 22, 2003. 

AMD (Advanced Micro Devices) released a new processor this week. Formerly called Sledgehammer, it is now called Opteron. Like Intel's Itanium it is a 64 bit processor, but better. The Opteron can run regular 32 bit software, Itanium can not. IBM will support Opteron, using it in their server computers. Microsoft said that a 64 bit version of Windows 2003 Server will run on the Opteron. Opteron is also cheaper than Itanium, at under $1,000. The second source for manufacturing the chips is IBM. HP and Dell are in partnership with Intel on Itanium and will not adopt Opteron. 
Analysis: Will AMDs Opteron chip become a high-end player?
ENT News. April 24, 2003. 
Special Report: AMD Opteron. ExtremeTech. April 22, 2003. 

Microsoft will release their new server OS this week, now called Windows 2003 Server. It replaces Windows 2000 Server. Someone asked Hank about using Windows XP as a server, but both he and Alfred said this was not a good idea. 
Sure, Windows 2003 Scales, But Will It Sell? InformationWeek  April 24, 2003
Update: Mark Minasi is giving away for free the first chapter of his book on Windows 2003 Server

Speaking of Windows XP, there was a bug in a recent XP bug fix. Patch number 811493 is bad. If you use the auto-update feature of XP you are likely to have this patch. When there is a buffer overrun, Windows XP slows to a crawl. There is no fix for the bug, so the only answer for now is to remove the patch. This applies only to Windows XP, both the Home and Pro Editions. As a rule of thumb, both Hank and Joe said never to do an automatic Windows Update. 
Microsoft Security Patch Slows XP Systems
By Mary Jo Foley Microsoft Watch April 21, 2003  
Microsoft fixing patch that can slow Windows XP IDG News Service April 24, 2003

A registrar is a company that registers ownership of Internet domains. A domain is a unique name on the Internet, such as IBM.COM, SONY.COM and PCRADIOSHOW.ORG. Network Solutions used to have a monopoly on registering domains, but now there are hundred of registrars and they compete on price and service. There is a scam regarding the renewal of domain names. The scam asks you to send money to the wrong place and tries to get you to transfer ownership of the domain to another registrar. You can go to the Network Solutions web site to check when ownership of a domain expires. ICANN has a list of authorized registrars here and here.  Our webmaster, and others, have had their share of problems with Network Solutions.


 Google Hacks Book

There is a new Hacks series of books from O'Reilly & Associates. The first book in the series is Google Hacks by Tara Calishain & Rael Dornfest (ISBN 0-596-00447-8). It discusses the Google API including programming in Perl. It comes with sample code usable by non programmers. Understanding the Google query syntax however requires no programming. Some keywords the book describes are intitle, inurl, intext and inanchor

For example, to find web pages that mention George Bush in the page title, type intitle:"george bush"  (this opens in a new window)

To search only university web sites that mention George Bush in the page title, type  site:edu intitle"george bush" (also, new window). 

To see the cached version of web pages use the "cache:" keyword and a URL. For example, see an old version of this page or the home page of Computer Gripes (both open in new windows). 

You can search for businesses in New York that sell Pizza and limit the search to just the business phone book. Typing in a phone number, does a reverse phone number look-up. Yahoo also offers reverse phone number look-ups. 

You can use an asterisk as a wild card in a search. For example, a famous quote can be found by searching for "to be * is the question". Be aware that Google limits queries to 10 words. If you type in 11 words, they ignore the last one. This wild card searching is one way around this limit. Google is available in many languages including Klingon for Star Trek fans.  

Hank pointed out that the book is well written, is 400 pages and includes a section on increasing the ranking of your web site. 
   

 Caller Questions 

Phil complained that his computer often fails to boot up completely. He recently installed Norton System Works 2003 which Alfred suggested he un-install. Since the problem is with one of the programs that runs at start-up time, he should review those programs and eliminate any that are not critical. This is good advice for everyone, however the process for finding the complete list of start-up programs varies with different versions of Windows.

Fred warned of another scam involving domain names. Some companies that host web sites offer to register a domain name for free or for an unusually low price. The problem is that they register the domain to themselves, meaning that they own the rights to it, not you. You can't move the domain to another web site hosting company when they raise their prices. Also, if they go out of business, you are really in trouble because you don't own the domain. 

Storm asked about replacing Windows XP with Linux. He only cares about running a small number of programs. Joe said to research whether there are comparable Linux programs that can read file formats from his desired programs. For example, Open Office runs under Linux and can read files created by Word and Excel. Joe felt that Linux would not be as easy to use as Windows. He suggested Lindows which can be purchased at Wal-Mart, although he has not actually tried it. Buying a computer with Linux pre-installed is much easier, installing Linux on your own is not easy. Although not mentioned on the show, you can run Microsoft Office under Linux using a product called CrossOver Office from CodeWeavers. For more on running Windows programs under Linux, see an article that our webmaster, Michael Horowitz, wrote comparing Linux to Windows. 

Mike asked about Magic Lantern. This is only a proposal, it is not actually implemented. It is part of TIA, Total Information Awareness, a program headed by John Poindexter. For background, Joe suggested reading Darkness at Noon by Arthur Custler and Animal Farm by George Orwell. 

Jose has to find his boss a laptop computer that comes with technical support as part of the package. Alfred suggested Everdream which offers machines with technical support. See also Defensively Buying a New Laptop Computer written by our webmaster, Michael Horowitz


April 16, 2003 Show     RETURN TO TOP

In the News

Cecil Howard Green, who founded Texas Instruments in 1951 passed away at the age of 102. 

A federal judge threw out a challenge by the ACLU against N2H2, a company that makes software that blocks web sites. Which web sites?  N2H2 would not say. A Harvard student, along with the ACLU, sued to be able to reverse engineer the N2H2 program. The judge said no. This is where the DMCA has brought us. Hank called this ridiculous. 
ACLU loses digital copyright battle  Business Week Magazine. April 19, 2003. 

Kinkos will have Wi-Fi networks by the end of the year, at the high cost of 10 cents a minute.
Kinko's Goes Wireless April 14, 2003. Internetnews.com

FCC just granted permission to 7 companies to use electrical power for Internet access, competing with cable modems and DSL. All seven companies are not using the same technology. Standards are needed to insure this does not cause interference with other devices in the home. One of the companies is in Briar Cliff in Westchester country. 
High-speed Net coming to a plug near you? USA TODAY April 13, 2003.


 Developing PDA Software

Our guest was Stephen Walton of Ideonautics who discussed Developing Applications on a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) such as the Palm Pilot. Steve is the founder and owner of the company. He is one of the developers of Run/C (a C interpreter) in 1985. 

Comparing and contrasting the Pocket PC vs. a Palm Pilot: Palm is a minimalist system. A Pocket PC is trying to be a real laptop PC in every way possible. Pocket PCs are feature rich, memory hungry and more expensive than Palm based PDAs. Stephen felt they do not succeed at being PCs and he got rid of his Pocket PC quickly. A Pocket PC is a Windows computer - it runs the Windows CE operating system, a stripped down version of Windows compared to the versions on desktop and laptop computers. A Palm based PDA (including the Sony Cli) uses its own operating system designed by Palm for a portable device. It was intended from the start to be compact, tight and tiny. 

Palmgear.com is a website for downloading Palm OS based software. It has 17,000 programs available (some are freeware, some shareware and some commercial). 

Developing Palm applications: Originally people used CodeWarrior from Metro Werks based on the C language. There are also development systems based on Pascal that look much like Delphi (Pocket Studio is one). There is also AppForge which runs as an add-in to Visual Basic on your desktop/laptop and lets you use the same source code to develop applications that run on both a Palm Pilot and the Pocket PC. Forth can be used to develop programs on the Palm. So too can SmallTalk, C++ and Java. There are several Java Virtual Machines available for the Palm Pilot. The most popular is Super Waba. IBM has a JVM called J9. 

For database applications, Satellite Forms is a popular development system that can work with DB2 databases.  There are packages, such as DB2 Everyplace, to connect a Palm Pilot to a DB2 database.

For simple data capture applications, Satellite Forms is very popular and well developed. A competing program is CASL. 

Most Palm development environments let you develop the application on a desktop computer and then transfer it to a Palm for final testing. POSE is a Palm OS emulator which emulates a Palm Pilot in a window on your desktop computer. Serious development packages include support for infrared communications and Blue Tooth. 

There are some packages that allow application development right on the Palm itself. These produce stand-alone native code. The executables can be beamed to other Palm users. Two languages supported this way are C and Forth. 

For a long list of Palm development products see: PalmPilot Software Development - Alternatives to C  alternate link

Stephen's latest product, Esticost, was developed while looking for co-op apartments. There was no easy way to figure out the real bottom line - the after-tax monthly cost of owning the apartment. It is a simple calculator that works for co-ops, condos and houses. It is being marketed to brokers but is available to home buyers too. There is  a free trial available at www.esticost.com. The cost is under $30. 

Hank asked what is involved in marketing Esticost, to which Stephen said - much more than he originally thought. He sells it on his own web site and on palmgear.com. Direct sales means using a payment partner - he uses Sherret. As for advertising, his advice was not to be shy. It takes nerve. 

In discussing Palm add-on toys, Hank noted that he had a GPS device that hooked to his Palm Pilot but since it came with a five foot antenna, it was not very practical walking down the streets of Manhattan. There are many different keyboards that hook up to Palm devices. Symbolics makes a barcode scanner for the Palm Pilot. There are also MP3 players and camera add-ons. 

A suggested web site with information on Palm Pilot development is www.appforge.com. Their products is good for prototyping and for VB developers. Pocket Technologies makes Pocket Studio the program that Stephen uses. 


 Caller Questions 

John suggested that we offer a seminar on getting your web site listed in search engines. As Google is the most important search engine, you should start there first. Submit a web site to Google here,  then review Google information for webmasters. You can submit your web site to each search engine individually for free. Avoid programs that offer to do this for you. To learn more about search engines, see the Search Engine Watch web site.   

Kurt asked about pushing the limits - he wants a mobile production company on a Palm Pilot. He wants to carry a film script, a short film trailer, comic book art and word processing documents. Stephen said you can turn word processing documents into text or PDF files - there is a PDF reader for Palm OS devices from Adobe. TinySheet is a spreadsheet that will synch with Excel and lets your create spreadsheets on the Palm Pilot. Wordsmith is good for word processing - it is compatible with Word and lets you originate docs on the Palm pilot. You can play movie clips on Palm OS PDAs, but Stephen did not know the details off the top of his head.

Dave has a mouse pointer that used to freeze once a day. He is running Windows 2000 Professional with 128 MB of RAM. He lowered the hardware acceleration (control panel -> mouse -> motion tab -> hardware acceleration) and now it freezes once a week. Lowering the hardware acceleration even more did not fully eliminate the problem, it still freezes once a week. Hank suggested adding more RAM.  

Tom is running Windows XP Pro and can't install the Shockwave file viewer. In general, when you install software there should be no other programs running. Not even an anti-virus program and not a firewall. You should not be logged on to the Internet. Hank suggested using msconfig to turn off programs that run automatically at boot time. You can also try right clicking on the icons in the system tray and closing each one individually. 

Jim is running Windows 2000 and needs a boot floppy disk. If Windows is using either the FAT16 or FAT32 file system, then Hank says he uses a Windows 98 or Windows Me startup floppy disk. This will not work however, if Windows 2000 is using the NTFS file system. Hank said that there is a boot disk somewhere on the Windows 2000 CD. You can also make a custom Windows 2000 boot disk, but this should be done before trouble strikes.

  • Format a floppy disk by right clicking on the A disk icon in My Computer and selecting Format
  • Do a full format, not a quick one. Formatting must be done from Windows 2000
  • Copy these files from the root directory of the C disk to the floppy with Windows Explorer
            Boot.ini, Ntdetect.com, NTLDR
  • If there is a file called Ntbootdd.sys in the C root directory, copy it too 
  • If there is a file called Bootsect.dos in the C root directory, copy it too fs
Microsoft has a KB article on this: How to Use a Windows Boot Disk to Prevent Boot Failure (Q101668). This is for when the boot record for the active partition or files required to boot Windows become corrupted. This article is for Windows 2000 or Windows NT.  . 

April 9, 2003 Show     RETURN TO TOP

In the News

The downtown business improvement district announced that as of May 1st, seven parks in lower Manhattan will have WiFi hot spots. 
Wireless Internet access coming to downtown
April 4, 2003. High-speed wireless Internet access is being planned for activation in six parks and public spaces in Lower Manhattan in May. WiFi hot spots will be installed in City Hall Park, the South Street Seaport area, Bowling Green, the Vietnam Veterans Plaza on Water Street, Liberty Plaza, Broadway and Liberty Street and Rector Park in Battery Park City. 

Symantec Adds DRM To Norton Antivirus April 8, 2003 ExtremeTech. Symantec has begun adding digital-rights-management software (copy protection) to downloadable versions of Norton Antivirus 2003 in an attempt to foil software pirates. A pilot retail program will be starting soon. Symantec executives declined to reveal the DRM software being used, although a spokesman said that the software did not write information to the boot sector, as Macrovision's SafeCast products do. Symantec software has frequently been pirated, forcing their hand.

Afghan women go high-tech Reuters, April 10, 2003. Less than two years ago young women would hardly have been let out of the house. Six women just earned industry standard certificates in computer networking skills at Kabul University. The women were 6 of the 17 students that received certificates from the Cisco Networking Academy. 

Computer scientist Anita Borg dies CNET News.com. April 8, 2003 

Akamai ends Al-Jazeera server support CNET News.com April 4, 2003. Akamai Technologies, which provided Web server services to the Arabic news network, abruptly canceled its contract Wednesday after working a short time with the organization. Akamai has more than 13,000 servers worldwide that store data on behalf of clients. Akamai gave no reason. Joe suspects they were pressured by their other clients. The English language version of their site is english.aljazeera.net Joe said to keep trying if the site fails to load.

Noted War Blogger Cops to Copying  Wired News April 7, 2003  Sean-Paul Kelley, owner of the wildly popular war blog site The Agonist, had managed to post several dozen war-related news items a day on his site for the last few weeks. It turns out much of his material was plagiarized -- lifted word-for-word from a paid news service put out by Stratfor a commercial intelligence company. Stratfor offers a proprietary newsletter, U.S.-Iraqwar.com, which Kelley admits he subscribes to (it costs $50). The moral: Question everything you read. 

RIAA Sues College File Traders  Reuters April 3, 2003 The Recording Industry Association of America said its member companies filed suit against two students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and against one student each at Princeton University and Michigan Technological University. It is alleged that the students operate peer-to-peer services on university networks. The RIAA is asking for $150,000 in damages per song. They have actively used the courts to pursue digital music pirates after a 9 percent dip in CD sales in 2002 that is blamed largely on online file sharing. 
The head of Michigan Technological University did not appreciate one of his students being sued without the university being contacted first. 
President Responds to RIAA Suit April 4, 2003 

13th Annual Conference on Computers, Freedom & Privacy at which Emmanuel Goldstein did not speak. You can download audio of the presentations from the Program page. 

The Federation Against Software Theft recovered money for an independent software developer, from a larger firm that attempted to rip him off. 
FAST recovers $14,000 for independent software developer
April 8, 2003. The Register.  

HP has broken a price barrier, with a $319 computer. Previously the cheapest new computer with Windows XP pre-installed (always the Home Edition on cheap machines) was $400. Sometimes you might catch a sale and a rebate at Dell that would combine to sell a new machine for less than $400, but it is the exception not the rule. At times J&R Music World offered computers for $350 but they were not new. Wal-mart sells a new machine for $338, but it is not from a top tier vendor and the machines are not very powerful. 

The new Compaq Presario S3000Z is only $319 (after rebate). It comes with: 1.7 GHz AMD Athlon processor, 256 MB ram, 40 GB hard disk, 56K modem, Ethernet Network adapter, floppy disk drive, USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire port, DVD-ROM drive and Windows XP Home Edition. There are no speakers and no monitor. It is offered for sale at www.hpshopping.com. Model S3000Z is very similar and also $319. 
HP does low-price PC limbo
CNET News.com April 8, 2003


 Caller Questions 

John asked about WEP encryption for Wi-Fi networks. Most people don't use security on a WiFi network both because it takes more effort. The default is to have it disabled, no doubt because this means less tech support hassles for the vendors. Michael said there are about 9 different steps you can take to secure a WiFi network and encryption using WEP is only one of these steps.  Hank pointed out that the manuals for Wi-Fi hardware are lousy. Specifically, he griped about the manual for an SMC access point which was written in the worse English he had ever seen.  

Stanley needed advice on where to give away old computers. Joe suggested John German at Non-Profit Computing, which gives old computers to community groups. Hank suggested The National Cristina Foundation. For a longer list, see our Links and Downloads page. 

Tim has a Pentium II motherboard with a slot1 socket. He also has a Pentium III that would fit into the slot. His question was whether the newer Pentium III will work in the older motherboard. In general, it is doable, but it won't work all the time. Hank suggested checking the web site of Evergreen and PowerLeap. They give you model numbers and say which accelerator boards you can put in the various motherboards. 

Dale got an email message from a web site called Word of Mouth. She went to the web site where people can report on people. The web site wanted personal information from her at which point she stopped. This is almost definitely a scam designed to get as much personal information as possible. She was right not to enter anything. Dale also asked about cookies and Joe suggested downloading the free Cookie Cutter program from www.download.com.  

Bob is running Windows 95 and his programs crash often (illegal operation). No surprise there. Now his icons look wrong, the picture quality has decreased. Michael suggested checking on the number of colors being used (Desktop Properties -> Settings Tab). Hank guessed that he might have been thrown back to a standard VGA adapter which only uses 16 colors. In that is the case, new drivers are needed. They can be installed using the Find New Hardware wizard. Hank warned that before making any changes, you should always backup, backup and then backup. You can reset video, by removing the video display adapter in Device Manager and then re-booting. Windows should find the correct video hardware and drivers for it when it starts up. If that fails, determine which monitor you have and get the appropriate driver from the vendors web site.


April 2, 2003 Show     RETURN TO TOP

In the News

Digital divide shrinks among U.S. kids March 20, 2003. Reuters. The "digital divide" between rich and poor children in the United States is rapidly shrinking as youngsters of all income levels and ethnic groups increasingly use the Internet. Internet use among minority and low-income children has surged over the past two years and children under 17 now spend nearly as much time in front of a computer as they do watching television. 

Goodbye to the classic Apple iMac. BBC News. March 31, 2003. The computer that came in different hues and revolutionized the home computing market - not to mention Apple's fortune - is finally being phased out. When the company first unveiled its new, blue model in 1998, the iMac was an instant hit. The iMac is widely credited with saving the company from a long and miserable demise. It pumped much needed cash, cachet and credibility back into Apple at a time when it sorely needed it.

The military detected that a previously unknown vulnerability in Microsoft's Windows 2000 operating system was being exploited by online intruders. Microsoft released a patch for the security hole five days later, and the incident acted as a reminder that there are a whole host of security flaws of which companies are not aware. March 19, 2003. CNET News.com. 

Al-Jazeera's English Site Slammed by Traffic  atnewyork.com March 25, 2003 
Hackers Blamed for Al-Jazeera Outage. March 26, 2003. 2600 News. Once again, hackers are taking the blame for a denial of service attack which almost anyone with the desire and decent net connectivity could have accomplished. Hackers do not exist to do this kind of thing. Launching a denial of service attack is almost universally looked down upon by the hacker community, much like credit card fraud has been. 
Hackers Put U.S. Flag on Al-Jazeera Site Associated Press March 28, 2003.  Hackers wreaked electronic havoc Thursday on Internet sites operated by the Arab television network Al-Jazeera, diverting Web surfers to pornography and to a page with a U.S. flag and the message "Let Freedom Ring." Their English site is english.aljazeera.net  


 Cyber Terrorism

Our guests were David Perry of Trend Micro and a former member of National Critical Infrastructure Protection Coalition and Bill Neugent of Mitre Corporation and the author of No Outward Sign, a novel is about an Iraqi cyber attack on the US. MITRE is a not-for-profit national resource that provides systems engineering, research and development, and information technology support to the government. Mr. Neugent is the chief engineer for cyber security.   

David pointed out that a lot of critical infrastructure is accessible thru the Internet (i.e. sewer systems, water systems). Bill said that nobody knows how vulnerable we are to cyber terrorism.

Cyber terrorists have had recently discovered SendMail flaws and many other security flaws to attack, but nobody rose up to attack them. Why not?  Bill feels that cyber terrorism is harder than most people think it is. Terrorists are not as sophisticated as we think they are. The SendMail flaws, in particular, were very sophisticated flaws.  

Also, what is the motivation of a terrorist? They want terror. How does a terrorist make news and get covered in the media? A dead computer is not a terrifying visual and TV needs visual images. 

Are foreign governments behind viruses? David Perry said they make very poor weapons because they are difficult to aim. A virus is more like a cloud, like shaking a pillow case out the window and the feathers land wherever they will, you can't control it. Still, David has seen politically motivated viruses, but mostly propaganda oriented. He cited the Staple virus, which showed you a big polemic about what is happening on the west bank and then mailed 25 letters of protest to members of the Knesset under your name and from your email address. 

The uses of computers for espionage and sabotage are pretty well known. The problem with cyber terrorism, said David, is the name. A terrorist will get a lot more work out of a pound of TNT than a hundred pounds of computers. 

Bill noted that the national cyber security strategy is good. 

He also warned that we need to respond to a cyber attack in cyber time (quickly). Our laws, to date, have not allowed this. If something looks like an attack it is a possible crime, and law enforcement now has to apply for court ordered wire taps in response. This takes time, too much time. The slammer worm, for example, propagated in three minutes. We can't take days or weeks to respond. 

Below are the war and security related web sites that Joe mentioned on the show. Many of these are web logs, better known as blogs. A blog is very much like a diary, except that it lives on a web site rather than on paper. The blogs of war: 

Joe warned that the blogs may or may not contain facts. David commented that the printing press made everyone a reader, while the Internet made everyone a publisher. Some other cyber terrorism related links:  

  • F-Secure on the Ganda virus, which posed as a screensaver offering spy satellite photographs of Iraq. The Register reports that Swedish authorities may have found the person behind the Ganda virus.  
  • Malicious impostors sow seeds of disinformation  The Register. March 25, 2003. Security testing outfit NTA Monitor has warned of the increased likelihood of attacks against news sites and corporate Web sites during the current war in Iraq. News sites are especially at risk, because attackers could use weaknesses in sites or domain registration tricks to 'rewrite' breaking news to try to create confusion and panic, according to NTA. 
  • Why the Dogs of Cyberwar stay leashed The Register. March 24, 2003. 

After the show, Joe found another recommended war blog, War Watch a Web log of diverse news and commentary related to the war with Iraq. It is edited by editors from SiliconValley.com.


 Caller Questions 

Julie mentioned The Project for the New American Century. Among the documents there is the original Administration plans for controlling cyberspace as part of the report: Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century (September 2000). 

In response to a caller, Bill said we have more to fear in cyber security from criminals and people who want to snoop than we do from active governments organizing terrorists. They would rather put their money in something more concrete, like a gun. David agreed and noted that in Europe they trust the government and are afraid of businesses having control of the Internet, while here in the US, it's the exact reverse.  

Terry asked Bill if we could withstand an attack from a determined serious focused cyber terrorist. He felt that people who really knew what they were doing, could do very serious damage. If things were properly backed up (a big if) we could recover from it. They would however, have to be highly skilled. The release of a simple worm would not be sufficient. Joe said a determined person could learn computer programming and train themselves. While, Bill agreed, he said the difference between a good computer programmer and a bad one is not just one or two times, but rather a hundred or a thousand times. It takes some real brains to figure out where the vulnerabilities are and how to exploit them. 

David disagreed. In the spring of 1999, a 15 year old boy in Montreal, going by the nickname mafiaboy, launched a denial of service attack using software he downloaded on the Internet. He found the vulnerability listed on web sites and exploited it. He had no special skills, yet was able to shut down Amazon, eTrade and the New York Times. 


Webmaster:             Page Last Updated:  June 13, 2003