Hackers deemed terrorists in U.K.

Hackers now have a new tag in the U.K.: cyberterrorists. Under the Terrorism Act 2000, people who endanger lives though the manipulation of public computer systems will be punished under the anti-terrorism law as would any other terrorist.

The Terrorism Act is intended to extend the definition of what is legally a terrorist and now includes, along with violent foreign groups such as the Irish Republican Army (IRA) or Hezbollah, any U.K.-based group planning an attack outside of the U.K. or any group threatening or planning “serious violence” within the U.K. That can include hackers or political protesters if their actions or intentions “turn violent,” a spokesperson said. Under the new powers, the police now have the authority to determine what they deem to be violent and who comes under the legal definition of a terrorist.

Dell announces first layoffs in its history

Despite issuing a profit warning recently, Dell Computer Corp. on Feb. 15 announced what it called “strong” results for its fourth quarter ended Feb. 2, due in part to a 63 per cent increase in demand for its servers.

Even so, the Round Rock, Tex.-based company said it will lay off 4 per cent, or 1,700, of its full-time staff as a cost-cutting measure. Dell doesn’t expect to announce any more across-the-board layoffs this fiscal year, said Kevin Rollins, one of Dell’s two vice-chairmen. The job cuts – the company’s first – were made as soon as Dell felt the impact of “a global recession,” Rollins said.

Airports ground use of wireless

Airport operators already control the airspace in their regions. Now they want the airwaves, too.

Baltimore/Washington International Airport recently became the latest airport to clamp down on the public wireless LAN industry as well as on cellular carriers that operate on airport turf. Their concern: wireless interference with other systems, but also a decline in pay-phone revenue that has prompted some airports to look for ways to seek income from wireless technology. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport earlier this year declared a 90-day moratorium on wireless installations, until it can develop a regulatory and business strategy. BWI hasn’t issued a formal ban, but John Linz, acting director of the airport’s IT division, said he would deny any requests for installation of wireless LANs or cellular phone microcell sites within the airport until BWI has a contract in place for a third-party provider. BWI took the step to prevent interference with air traffic control and security systems, eliminate signal interference between wireless LANs and maximize revenue.

SAS president steps down after six months

Data analysis software vendor SAS Institute Inc. confirmed recently that its president and chief operating officer has resigned after only six months on the job.

Andre Boisvert’s departure comes on the heels of the resignations of two other senior employees in the past few weeks. Boisvert was originally hired last February to handle investments and acquisitions at Cary, N.C.-based SAS. He was promoted to president in September, taking over much of founder, chairman and CEO Jim Goodnight’s responsibilities and heading an effort to go public that was started several years before.

Belluzzo appointed Microsoft COO, president

Microsoft Corp.’s CEO Steve Ballmer has named former Silicon Graphics Inc. head Rick Belluzzo as president and chief operating officer, replacing COO Bob Herbold.

Belluzzo, 47, joined Microsoft in 1999, serving as vice-president of the personal services and devices group and the company’s consumer group. In this position he oversaw operations of the Microsoft’s MSN.com Web site, a job that may have given him the necessary experience to oversee Microsoft’s transition to its .NET business strategy. In his new role, Belluzzo will lead Microsoft’s business strategy and direct business operations, sales, marketing and business development, as well as Microsoft’s non-PC businesses, the company said. Herbold, after six and a half years at Microsoft and 26 years at Procter & Gamble Co., is retiring. He will stay on part-time as a liaison to industry, government and customers.

First P2P virus hits

File-swapping on the Internet hit a sour note recently with the appearance of a virus that attacks users of the Gnutella file-sharing service and that several anti-virus vendors say is the first virus to affect peer-to-peer communications.

Named W32/Gnuman.worm or Mandragore, the malicious file poses as an ordinary, requested media file. This masked file, however, is actually an EXE that infects a user’s computer once the program is run, according to statements from a variety of anti-virus software vendors. After it infects a computer, the virus cloaks itself for other Gnutella users, leading them also to believe that it is actually an MP3 music file or an image file. Every time a Gnutella user searches for media files in the infected computer, the virus will always appear as an answer to the request. If, for example, a user looked for songs containing the word “happy,” the infected computer would return “happy.exe” as a response to the query, vendors said. While the virus does little damage other than taking up extra system resources, officials warn that it could open the way for attacks on Napster Inc. – the most popular P2P service -and on P2P applications in general.

Active Directory fix requires upgrade

A key security flaw in Microsoft Corp.’s Active Directory pointed out more than 12 months ago by early adopters won’t be patched for yet another year.

What’s more, enterprise users will have to upgrade all their directory servers, known as domain controllers, to the forthcoming “Whistler” version of Windows 2000 to activate the patch. Observers say the security flaw, which can cause changes to user groups to be dropped before being recorded, tops the list of issues that need to be addressed in Active Directory. Until the flaw is fixed, Microsoft says the workaround involves procedural policies for administering the directory. The flaw centres on the requirement that administrators manage user groups as a single entity, or attribute, and not by individual user, a concept called “multivalued attributes.” Multivalued attributes force administrators to update an entire attribute, or list, to add or delete even a single user. If two administrators make changes to the same list, one set of changes is tossed out during replication as part of conflict resolution. Microsoft said a year ago the issue would be resolved in a Service Pack, widely believed to be Service Pack 2, which will be released in the next few weeks. But after the company discovered what was needed to correct the problem, the fix was added to the feature list of Whistler, which Microsoft expects to have out by year-end.

Domain-name registration gets more languages

Three months after VeriSign Global Registry Services (GRS) began registering Web site addresses in four languages other than English as part of a test process, the company has added 64 new site registration languages to directly bring the Internet to a larger number of native speakers around the globe.

The added language support will allow Internet users who speak Greek, Western European languages, including French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, or Eastern European languages such as Armenian, Russian, Bulgarian, Macedonian and Georgian to register Web sites in their native tongues, according to VeriSign GRS. The unit of Mountain View, Calif.-based VeriSign Inc. maintains the master database of Internet domain names. The 64 new languages are being added to a multilingual domain names test-bed program that VeriSign GRS launched last November. The company had said last month that an expansion of the test process to include more languages was in the works.

Computer glitch grounds airline

A computer malfunction temporarily shut down the flight dispatch system used by a Delta Air Lines Inc. subsidiary recently, causing flight cancellations and delays that affected operations all day long across the unit’s entire travel network in the eastern U.S. and Canada.

Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA), which flies between major hubs such as New York and Atlanta and numerous smaller cities, said in an advisory posted on Delta’s Web site that the glitch “resulted in a temporary outage of its computer-based flight dispatch system.” Atlanta-based ASA said the systems breakdown was resolved in a few hours, after which the Delta Connection carrier was able to resume issuing computer-based flight dispatch notices. The advisory didn’t provide details about the computer glitch, nor did it specify how many flights had to be cancelled or delayed.