Features

Hacked off

National | Technology

Issue: "Iraq: Liberation Day 2004," April 10, 2004

Hacked off

THERE'S A HACKER FIGHT ON THE INTERNET -- AS recent e-mail worms contain insults directed at other virus writers. Creators of malicious programs Netsky, MyDoom, and Bagle are apparently engaged in a shouting match carried on around the globe.

This could be a real flame war -- or somebody's way of covering his tracks. One Netsky variant includes the message, "Bagle -- you are a looser!!!!" A version of Bagle warns the Netsky author, "don't ruine our bussiness [sic], wanna start a war?"

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All three worms are variations on a theme. They all travel through e-mail, bearing fake headers to entice unwitting Windows users to open the messages. The turf war follows MyDoom's February assault, which some experts consider the worst to date. One of the most recent creations unleashed is a variant known as Bagle.u. Once launched, it mails itself to any e-mail address it can find on the victimized computers' address books, then hides on host hard drives while awaiting further instructions (apparently from its author).

The usual warnings from experts apply here: Update your virus software and be careful about messages with attachments. Yet a few of these worms have made detection harder by hiding inside encrypted files that can dodge scanning programs. Some programs activate once a message is open, even if the user does not open the attachment.

Price of piracy

NEARLY 2,000 PEOPLE NOW FACE LAWSUITS IN THE recording industry's ongoing war against online piracy.

The Recording Industry Association of America's latest wave of more than 500 lawsuits includes complaints against 89 individuals at 21 different universities, ranging from Stanford and Berkeley to the University of Arizona and the University of Northern Colorado.

College students have long been blamed for fueling the online piracy craze, since they are disproportionately young and have easy access to massive amounts of bandwidth. Industry officials have asked universities to crack down on use of peer-to-peer networks, where millions of song files move around. No school was named as a defendant in the recent lawsuits, however.

All the student suits were so-called "John Doe" claims, in which the alleged offender is identified only by a numeric internet protocol address. The RIAA can then ask the court to order network administrators to dig through service logs and identify the specific users. Until identification, a defendant may not know about the court case.

The RIAA says that about 400 of its cases against online pirates were settled out of court, with settlements averaging about $3,000.

Bits and Megabytes

Starbucks now brews digital music, as it rolls out in-store computers that let people legally burn songs to CDs from a 150,000-track library. Unlike coffee, this service known as Hear Music (which charges $6.99 for five songs) is self-serve; customers pick songs off a touch-screen display and can listen to selections through headphones. The chain plans to offer the personalized discs at about 2,500 locations from coast to coast.

FBI Director Robert Mueller says the Trilogy project, an effort to update FBI computers, will finally be finished this summer. This effort is more than $120 million over budget and was set for completion in 2002, but was hampered by the 9/11 attacks and the Robert Hanssen espionage case. The overhaul is supposed to reduce the FBI's reliance on paper documents and outdated technology.

Microsoft's appeal of the EU's $613 million antitrust judgment against the company could drag out the dispute for several years. The company was ordered to share some source code with competitors and release a stripped-down version of Windows. The software giant claims the ruling (which the U.S. Justice Department opposes) violates its intellectual property rights and undermines software innovations.

Sony and Philips will ship new DVD burners next month that can store double the amount of data on a single disc, up to 8.5 gigabytes. The dual-layer technology resembles the process movie studios use to cram about four hours of video on one disc. The two manufacturers use competing formats, but both should be readable on standard DVD drives.

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