Cyberattacks against Pentagon on the rise

The number of cyberattacks and intrusions into Pentagon computer networks last year is expected to top off at 24,000, an increase of 5 per cent compared with 1999, said the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). However, the overwhelming majority of those intrusions are due to known vulnerabilities and poor security practices.

Ninety-nine per cent of the successful attacks and intrusions can be attributed to known vulnerabilities and security gaps that have gone unfixed and poor security practices by defense agencies, said Navy Capt. Robert West, the deputy commander of the Pentagon’s Joint Task Force for Computer Network Defense. Malicious hackers and other criminals penetrated Pentagon network security at least 14,059 times during the first seven months of last year, West said. Hackers stung the Pentagon at least 22,144 times in 1999 and 5,844 times in 1998. In addition to weak security practices by DOD network administrators, the increase in the number of attacks can be attributed to the greater availability of sophisticated hacker tools on the Internet, West said. “Someone with a very limited amount of computer skills can do a lot of damage.”

Sun refutes financial rumours

Sun Microsystems Inc.’s chairman and CEO Scott McNealy has charged rivals like Hewlett-Packard Co. with engaging in funny math when reporting their financials. McNealy warned in October that HP might endure a downward turn and was proved correct when HP announced poor results in its last quarter.

Recently however, Sun faced up to funny financial allegations of its own and rejected such rumours as false. Rumours were circulating last month hinting at some accounting irregularities in Sun’s financials. The news kept Sun’s shares in check during a strong overall market performance. While the majority of tech shares moved, Sun lost around 20 per cent of its value. In response to the damaging hearsay alleging accounting irregularities, Michael E. Lehman, executive vice-president corporate resources and chief financial officer at Sun, issued a statement. “Over the last few days, there have been rumours in the market to the effect that Sun Microsystems Inc. has experienced ‘accounting irregularities’ or ‘revenue recognition’ problems. These rumours have no basis in fact and are false,” Lehman stated.

AMD joins profit warning fray

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) and Intel Corp. are already bitter rivals in the microprocessor market, often competing for the same customers. So, not surprisingly, AMD recently issued its own fourth-quarter profit warning only days after Intel made waves with its glum forecast for the quarter ahead.

AMD joined a long list of PC-related vendors suffering from weak year-end demand. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based chip company looks for Q4 net income to stand at around 50 to 60 cents (US) per share, AMD said in a statement. These numbers fall well below the predictions of analysts polled by First Call/Thomson Financial who forecast earnings per share of 68 cents (US) for the period. The chip vendor expects fourth-quarter sales to be flat or “nominally higher” than those recorded in the third quarter of US$1.2 billion. AMD is due to report its fourth-quarter and year-end results on Jan. 16, 2001. Like Gateway Inc., Apple Computer Inc. and Intel, AMD pointed to slow sales of PCs in U.S. retail markets and dragging processor sales as indicators that the coming quarter will not finish as hoped.

Movie passes death sentence on Gates

Expect Bill Gates to paraphrase Mark Twain’s famous remark as word gets around about a new film portraying his assassination. The makers of the film, MacArthur Park, are using the Internet to create a buzz around the production, shot in the style of a feature-length documentary.

Haxan Films, the company behind the 1999 hit The Blair Witch Project, another film extensively promoted on-line, has been engaged as “key advisor.” One Web site promoting MacArthur Park ( carries a fake police report on the murder, while another is the supposed home of an action group dedicated to uncover the truth on the Gates’ assassination. In the film Microsoft’s Bill Gates is killed while attending a charity event in Los Angeles’ MacArthur Park. The fatal shot is fired from the rooftop of the Park Plaza hotel. The staging looks similar to that of Oliver Stone’s 1991 movie JFK about the assassination of U.S. president John F. Kennedy in 1963. In what the movie portrays as the “official version,” the gunman fled, killed a police officer and was caught in the hotel basement where the police killed him. The investigation into the motive of the alleged assassin reveals he is a political radical attempting to start a “class war” by killing the world’s richest man.

CNC Global’s charity auction raises $90,000

CNC Global, a Canadian high-tech recruitment firm, raised more than $90,000 at its seventh annual in-house Charity Auction on Nov. 24. All proceeds will go directly to various charities, including the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Community Fund, the Canadian Cancer Society and Cornerstone 52, an umbrella organization for over 20 children’s charities.

“The Auction is a great example of how one organization can give back substantially to the community,” said Robert Beauchemin, CEO of CNC Global. “Over the past five years, our employees have raised more than $440,000 at this annual event, all from their own pockets.” As a thank you for CNC Global’s commitment of $10,000 in Charity Auction proceeds to the Maple Leafs’ Community Fund, special guest Wendel Clark was on hand to officially open the event and autograph a variety of items up for bids, including Maple Leafs jerseys and equipment. Staff, suppliers and clients donated over 200 auction items, including trips, gift baskets, artwork and dinner with the CEO.

There’s no holiday spirit in clicking a mouse

In an informal poll among CIPS (Canadian Information Processing Society) Toronto members, more than half of the respondents used the Internet to research Christmas gift ideas. However, brick-and-mortar stores shouldn’t be concerned. Sixty per cent of the respondents did not make purchases this year over the Internet, preferring instead to pay at a cash register.

Concern over financial transaction security over the Internet was not a major issue among 83 per cent of respondents. The top reason for not making purchases electronically was that the Internet just couldn’t replace the retail experience. Touching and feeling the merchandise was cited as the most important aspect of shopping in a store – as well as the “Christmas atmosphere and spirit” that a live retail experience brings. For consumers that are planning to pay for gifts over the Internet, technology experts offer the following advice: Look for “reputable” sites such as Chapters; when making a purchase with your credit card look for encryption and secure technology identification; make sure you have enough time to receive items and be able to check the product quality and make returns; buy from brands that you know to ensure product quality; have a clear understanding of all the costs involved; and allow for additional delivery time for U.S.-based merchandise.

IBM joins chief privacy officer trend

IBM Corp. recently named a chief privacy officer, joining the increasing number of companies that are appointing executives to oversee their data privacy policies and initiatives.

Harriet Pearson, who has worked at IBM in jobs related to public policy since 1993, will now assume the chief privacy officer position. In her new role, Pearson will guide the company’s privacy policies and practices and also “lead initiatives across IBM that will strengthen consumer privacy protection,” the company said. IBM’s announcement comes at a time when data privacy issues are being closely scrutinized by consumer advocates and government officials. For example, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is pushing for privacy regulations after a survey of 355 Web sites earlier this year showed that only 20 per cent offered essential privacy protection. As a result of the increased focus, companies are appointing chief privacy officers and giving them responsibility for establishing corporate data-privacy policies. There may be less than 75 chief privacy officers in place now, but that number is expected to increase rapidly.

Proposed cybercrime laws stir debate

Lots of countries still haven’t updated their laws to cover Internet-based crimes, leaving companies in many parts of the world without legal protections from malicious hackers and other attackers who are looking to steal their data, according to a new report released recently by a technology consulting firm based in Washington.

But corporate executives and IT managers may not necessarily like the laws that are starting to emerge in some regions. Of special concern is a proposed cybercrime treaty, being developed by the 41-nation Council of Europe, that some business groups fear could affect corporate data retention policies. For example, the Global Internet Project, an Arlington, Va.-based organization that’s trying to head off government regulation of the Internet, recently claimed that the proposed treaty could actually hamper efforts to stop cybercrime and to track down people who launch computer-related attacks.

Privacy centres have their eyes on Amazon

A group of American and European privacy advocates asked their respective governments recently to investigate alleged violations of fair trade and data privacy laws at Inc. and its British subsidiary.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center as well as Junkbusters have asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Amazon for “unfair and deceptive trade practices,” while London-based Privacy International asked the U.K.’s Data Protection Commissioner to investigate for violations of British data protection law. The advocacy groups are concerned about an Aug. 31 change in Amazon’s privacy policy that classifies customer information as a business asset, and thus is transferable if Amazon or one of its business units is sold. “If we don’t get good privacy from Amazon, we’re unlikely to get good privacy from any company at all,” said Junkbusters president Jason Catlett.