Update: Blaster Kid

 The high school senior Jeffrey Lee Parson, arrested Friday for allegedly launching a worldwide computer virus, is a loner who drives too fast, AP quotes neighbours as saying. Court papers said FBI and Secret Service agents searched Parson’s Hopkins home on Aug. 19 and seized seven computers, which are still being analyzed.
In an interview with FBI Special Agent Eric Smithmier, Parson admitted modifying the original “Blaster” infection and creating a version known by a variety of different names, including “Blaster.B.,” court papers said.

News: London Still Cool For Commercial Hotspots

 Is London ready for WiFi? ZDNet UK sets out, Michelin fashion, to investigate the capital’s commercial hot spots and find out if Londoners are going mad for the technology or need to wake up and smell the coffee. Their conclusion: poorly advertised services, bad login procedures, no onsite help, and very little sign anyone is using the services available.

Mail: How Should Virus Writers Be Punished

 This from reader Mark N. Metz, CEO of Stop Piracy Now, Inc. I wrote about the just arrested teenager suspected of being the author of a variant of the Master worm: ‘Can’t help feeling sorry for the kid. He is going down.” Mark has this to say:
You’re kidding, right?  What if the kid’s worm took down a hospital’s emergency-room server with patient records, or took down a 911 call center in the middle of a frantic call? 
If the same kid poured gasoline on a hospital or a 911 call center and lit a match, everyone would understand that it’s arson and it’s a hideous felony. And it is critically important to recognize why arson is punished the way it is — it puts people’s lives in grave danger.  People die when other people do these kinds of destructive things.
The buildings in my analogy could be rebuilt just as servers can be rebuilt, but dead people can’t.  If someone hasn’t died yet from one of these computer vandals, it is a miracle that all of us should be thankful for.  The law needs to start taking these online crimes as seriously as they do the offline ones.
I don’t feel one bit sorry for the kid.  They should throw the book at him.
Fair enough, Mark, and maybe I should have chosen my words better. Actually I was referring more to the fact that he knows he’s about to be arrested and how that must feel. But also, if the guy is 18, I’m not sure he knew this was going to happen. I agree virus writers should be held responsible and punished. But how many viruses are unleashed on the world that don’t get anywhere? Should virus writers be punished for the enormity of the result or for the fact they write a virus in the first place? I don’t know the answer. Thoughts, anyone?

Update: Blaster B Suspect Is About To Be Arrested

 There must be at least one frightened teenager out there today. AP reports that U.S. investigators have identified a teenager as one author of a version of the Blaster worm and plan to arrest him early Friday (U.S. time). A witness reportedly saw the teen testing the infection and called authorities, an official said. The worm and its variants infected more than 500,000 computers worldwide.
The “Blaster.B” version of the infection, which began spreading Aug. 13, was remarkably similar to the original Blaster worm that first struck two days earlier; experts said the author made few changes, renaming the infecting-file from “msblast” to an anatomical reference. Can’t help feeling sorry for the kid. He is going down.

News: ‘RIAA Are Not Dumb’ Shock

 The RIAA are not dumb. That’s for sure. AP reports that court papers filed against a Brooklyn woman fighting efforts to identify her for allegedly sharing nearly 1,000 songs over the Internet, show that “using a surprisingly astute technical procedure, the Recording Industry Association of America examined song files on the woman’s computer and traced their digital fingerprints back to the former Napster file-sharing service, which shut down in 2001 after a court ruled it violated copyright laws”.
The RIAA’s latest court papers describe in unprecedented detail some sophisticated forensic techniques used by its investigators. For example, the industry disclosed its use of a library of digital fingerprints, called “hashes,” that it said can uniquely identify MP3 music files that had been traded on the Napster service as far back as May 2000. By comparing the fingerprints of music files on a person’s computer against its library, the RIAA believes it can determine in some cases whether someone recorded a song from a legally purchased CD or downloaded it from someone else over the Internet. A sobering thought.

Handphones And The End of Lying

 Hate people lying to you over the phone? Your worries are a thing of the past with the Agile Lie Detector. It’s software you download to your smart-phone: “Agile Lie Detector meassures the amount of stress caused by lying in a person’s voice and displays this information in a graph in real-time. When using the headset Agile Lie Detector provides you with a visual indication of whether or not someone is lying to you.”
I kinda like the disclaimer: “WARNING: This software is for entertainment purposes only. This product is not intended for covert use. You must disclose to subjects that they are being submitted to a lie detector test prior to any testing, failing to do so may be against the law in your jurisdiction and is a violation of the terms of use of this software.” You can imagine the conversations:
A: Where are you honey?
B: (to background sound of techno music and male cheers) Er… at the office.
A: Mind if I submit you to a lie detector test on that, honey?
B: Er…. Yes. I mean no. Gotta go. Conference call.

News: Anti-spam Gaming Phone For The Hip

It’s hard to be innovative in mobile phones these days but that doesn’t stop Nokia from trying. Often the results are dreadful. Here’s news of one that may not be: the Nokia 2300. Aimed squarely at young-minded, fun-loving people (who isn’t?) in new growth markets such as China, India and Russia, the Nokia 2300 features an alarm clock, a calculator, an FM radio, three games and an internal hands-free speaker. It also stops spam.
There’s also some changes to the keypad and navigating buttons, via “a new 4-way scroll with a Navi key” for fast messaging and gaming. Right scrolling provides a shortcut to the menus or options lists, allowing users to access features quickly or accomplish selected tasks without going through the complete menu sequence.
To help users monitor their mobile usage, the Nokia 2300 offers an in-call timer for checking the duration of a call, as well as an SMS counter to keep track of the number of text messages sent or received. The Nokia 2300 is also the first Nokia phone to enable users to filter out junk text messages from unwanted numbers.

A Sober Look At The Future Of Email

Here’s an interesting, thorough look by Steve Outing at the problem of email as a form of publishing and how RSS feeds are likely to be the way forward. Makes you realise the extent of the damage wrought by spam.

News: Hotels Ban Phones, Sort Of

 From the very sizeable Cheapskate Hoteliers Dept comes a report (thanks textually.org) from Scotland of a mobile phone jamming scam, as exposed by the Daily Record. Businessman Ronnie McGuire, the paper says, is flooding Scotland with high-tech phone jammers that are illegal to use. Sold to hotels, restaurants, bars and bed and breakfasts, the devices emit radio waves which wipe out the signal to mobile phones, rendering them useless. Guests, unaware their signal has been sabotaged, are forced to use expensive hotel phone lines or call boxes.
McGuire is quoted as saying: “It comes up on their phone `no service’ and people think there’s no service in that area.
But it’s best not to tell anyone you’ve got it because they might not be too happy.” True, too true. Of course they must be great for a bit of peace and quiet.

News: Terra Lycos Invents Blogging

For those of you keen to emulate the runaway success of the loose wire blog, Terra Lycos , “the global Internet Group”, are trumpeting their Tripod Blog Builder which this month won Editor’s Choice from PC Magazine. “Every step of the way, we found Tripod Blog Builder a pleasure and easy to use,” the rag gushed. “If you’re just starting out and want a simple, good-looking blog, this is the way to go.”
Revealing how little they know about blogging’s roots, Terra Lycos reckons: “Blogging is not just for the political pundits and technical elite anymore. >From families and friends to clubs, teams and students, anyone can now publish on the Web with Tripod Blog Builder. We’ve transitioned blogs from a technology tool to a lifestyle accessory, adding features most requested by our millions of members.” Er, no. Blogging has long been available to technoluddites like moi. I publish to mine via email, and you can’t get much simpler than that. Sheesh, people who claim to have ‘transitioned’ something make me cranky.