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Technology

Technology

Issue: "Iraq: Present and past," June 12, 2004

Unsafe and insecure Wireless networking may be booming, but many households that install the equipment are lax about security. Manufacturers and experts estimate that up to 80 percent of these users forgo basic protections. Part of the problem is that wireless connectivity works differently from traditional hookups. Wi-Fi is much like radio, in which a transmitter sends packets through the air to receivers. This runs the risk of intruders who can snoop around the network or borrow some bandwidth for unauthorized use. An unprotected network can open a family's internet connection to neighbors or passersby. If illicit activity occurs, it would be traced back to the people who pay for the internet account. (Some hobbyists even wander around looking for unsecured connections.) Another problem is that Wi-Fi security is often more complicated than installation. It may require surfing through several screens of geek-speak, typing in confusing codes and acronyms along the way. The non-tech-savvy may throw up their hands. Yet Wi-Fi security is as necessary as anti-virus software and adware blockers. The most secure protection is the one that causes the most headaches, since the user often must type in a set of numbers and ­letters to scramble data going in and out of the network. Naming rights Ron Fitch checked his e-mail last Christmas and got a shock: Someone had sent him a cartoon depicting him, his wife, and his St. Bernard. Mr. Fitch was listed as the sender, but he hadn't created the ­message. So he went to court to find out who had. The case tests the limits of anonymity in the internet age. In an effort reminiscent of recent music-piracy suits, he's suing someone he knows only as "John Doe." The defendant won't admit his identity and the case is headed to the Maine Supreme Court. ("John Doe" found out about the case through his internet provider, Time Warner, which has not revealed his identity.) Mr. Fitch claims the spoofed e-mail, which was also sent to some of his neighbors, is no different from identity theft. He also accuses "John Doe" of violation of ­privacy, misappropriation of identity, depicting him in a "false light," and ­infliction of emotional distress. The case hangs on whether the prankster can use an e-mail account in Mr. Fitch's name when sending the cartoon, which was apparently intended as humor. A lower court found in Mr. Fitch's favor last month-ruling that the state's confidentiality law was intended to protect internet users' personal data from commercial misuse. "John Doe" refused to give in and filed an appeal. Bits & Megabytes • Isamu Kaneko, creator of a file-sharing program called Winny, was indicted by Japanese authorities, who claim he assisted copyright violations. The University of Tokyo professor faces three years in prison if convicted, but he denies any wrongdoing. Winny, which was written in Japanese, has been used by as many as 1 million people. • EBay announced new restrictions on firearms-related items that may be ­auctioned on its site. Among items banned this month are "any assault-weapon-related parts or accessories" and "any firearm receiver or firearm frame." Sellers may still offer barrels, stocks, holsters, and other items. • Comcast, America's dominant cable company, expects to offer internet phone service to 95 percent of its 21.5 million subscribers by the end of next year. This revives the "digital convergence" concept of voice, video, and data ­services all coming from the same ­fiber-optic link. Comcast acquired a struggling phone service when it bought AT&T Broadband in 2002. • Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang plans to collect part of his dot-com treasure, selling 8 million shares of company stock. The stake is ­estimated at $245 million, a fraction of his $2 billion fortune. The 35-year-old currently holds the tongue-in-cheek title of "Chief Yahoo" at the portal powerhouse.

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