Tag Archives: North America

Did Prolexic Fend Off Anonymous’s Sony Attacks?

Prolexic, a company that defends clients against Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, says it has successfully combatted the “Largest Packet-Per-Second DDoS Attack Ever Documented in Asia”:

“Prolexic Technologies, the global leader in Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) mitigation services, today announced it successfully mitigated another major DDoS attack of unprecedented size in terms of packet-per-second volume. Prolexic cautions that global organizations should consider the attack an early warning of the escalating magnitude of similar DDoS threats that are likely to become more prevalent in the next 6 to 8 months.”

Although it describes the customer only as “an Asian company in a high-risk e-commerce industry” it could well be connected to the recent attacks on Sony by Anonymous. A piece by Sebastian Moss – The Worst Is Yet To Come: Anonymous Talks To PlayStation LifeStyle — in April quoted an alleged member of Anonymous called Takai as reacting to unconfirmed reports that Sony had hired Prolexic to defend itself (Sony Enlists DDoS Defense Firm to Combat Hackers):

“It was expected. We knew sooner or later Sony would enlist outside help”. Pressed on whether Anonymous would take out Prolexic, Takai showed confidence in the ‘hacktavist’s’ upcoming retaliation, stating “well, if I had to put money on it … I’d say, Prolexic is going down like a two dollar wh*** in a Nevada chicken ranch  ”. He did admit that the company “is quite formidable” and congratulated “them for doing so well”, but again he warned “We do however have ways for dealing with the ‘Prolexic’ factor”.

The website also quoted Anonymous members expressing frustration at the new defences, but that they appeared to be confident they would eventually prevail. That doesn’t seem to have happened.

Prolexic’s press release says the attacks had been going on for months before the client approached the company. The size of the attack, the company said, was staggering:

According to Paul Sop, chief technology officer at Prolexic, the volume reached levels of approximately 25 million packets per second, a rate that can overwhelm the routers and DDoS mitigation appliances of an ISP or major carrier. In contrast, most high-end border routers can forward 70,000 packets per second in typical deployments. In addition, Prolexic’s security experts found 176,000 remotely controlled PCs, or bots, in the attacker’s botnet (robot network). This represents a significant threat as typically only 5,000-10,000 bots have been employed in the five previous attacks mitigated by Prolexic.

It does not say why it considers the attack over, now gives any timeline for the attack. But if it is Sony, it presumably means that Anonymous has withdrawn for now or is preoccupied with other things. Prolexic, however, is probably right when it warns this is a harbinger of things to come:

“Prolexic sees this massive attack in Asia with millions of packets per second as an early warning beacon of the increasing magnitude of DDoS attacks that may be on the horizon for Europe and North America in the next 6 to 8 months,” Sop said. “High risk clients, such as those extremely large companies in the gaming and gambling industries in Asia, are usually the first targets of these huge botnets just to see how successful they can be.”

The Rise and Fall of Blogging, Twitter and Facebook

A lot of people ask me whether they should blog. Usually I give them the stock answer: blog because you’ve got something to say, because you feel you’ve got to write, and because you want to connect to other people on the same subject. But now I think I’d add another suggestion: don’t bother.

Here, in a nutshell is a history of blogging: a few years back someone invented the idea of software that would make it really easy to add text and links to a website. It could also add them atop the existing material, so the fresh, new stuff was on top, not the bottom. Blogging was born.

Geeks were of course the first bloggers, and while political blogging is now hugely influential, it’s geeks who have led the pack, adding innovations like voice, video, and mobile blogging (where you can blog from lots of different devices, like phones.) Geeks define the way blogging is going outside political blogging, for the simple reason that geek blogging tends to branch out into other subjects, whereas political blogging is mainly political (more like pamphleteering, I’d say.)

Which is why blogging is now changing. In the past year it’s started to morph into something else. There’s been a rise in something called microblogging (sometimes called tumblelogs), where services allow you and me to post and share little snippets of information about ourselves, whether it’s what we’re doing, thinking, reading or listening to, where we are or who we’re talking to. The best known of these is Twitter, but there are others: Jaiku, Pownce, for example.

These microblogs may not look much like blogs – they’re just streams of 150-character consciousness, from the mundane to the slightly less mundane, to which other users subscribe — but for a lot of people they perform the same function: link them into a broader social network where they can both broadcast their doings and find out what others are doing too. As we in Asia found with SMS, North America has found that an enforced limit on the number of letters you can use in a message is a blessing, not a curse.

Twitter et al have not been for everybody. But as with most technology, its usage has evolved into a new medium. Technology rarely replaces another in direct succession, but creates a new category of its own, as users make it their own (or reject it.) Old technologies might fall by the wayside, but rarely because another technology replaced it overnight.)

So with Twitter. Twitter did lots of things, but probably its most lasting impact was to push blogging away from writing and more into connecting. Most people read blogs because they wanted to feel connected to other people by reading what they were thinking. But it’s time consuming, and as blogs proliferated, and as blog posts tended to get longer, readers had less and less time to read these things. Twitter made a perfect alternative: a palatable buffet of updates, without the indigestion that comes from having to read blogs.

The next step in this process (and all this is happening within the space of a few months) has been the rise of Facebook. Facebook started out as U.S. college yearbook type application in 2005, but last year opened up to all users of he Internet. In the past couple of months I’ve noticed a big jump in the number of new users, at least in my little neck of the woods.

What’s interesting about this is that Facebook, among many of its features, focuses again on what I would pompously call the “networked awareness” aspect of blogging and twittering. The most important part of Facebook is becoming someone else’s friend, which then allows you to see what the other person is saying (whether in their blog, or in a one line ‘status message’ on their homepage.) There’s nothing new about this — the music-oriented MySpace does it, the business-oriented LinkedIn does it – but Facebook revolves around the something we all have in common: a past.

In other words, we build our Facebook address book around people we used to work with, people we went to school with, people who are already in our other address books. Enter your previous jobs and schools and you can easily find familiar faces and names, and add them to your buddy list. As I’m sure you have found, it’s much easier to connect with someone you already know than someone you don’t.

Not that Facebook is a sort of gallery of the past — it also allows you to connect to people via shared interests, or shared friends, or people you worked with but didn’t know at the time. All of the communication involved in this can be done publicly or privately, and can be done individually or as part of a group. Facebook occupies a middle ground between MySpace and LinkedIn because it’s restrained in design (something that could not be said for most MySpace pages) and because it’s not too businessy, which is what LinkedIn is all about.

So Facebook finds itself sharing part of a wave with Twitter, which in turn shared part of a wave with blogging. In a year we’ve found ourselves moving on from simply blogging to make ourselves heard, to building Facebook pages to reach out to those we’d like to connect to more closely. I’m not a huge fan of Facebook but it does connect me to way more interesting people (and long lost friends) than blogging ever did.

So is blogging dead? Some bloggers like Shel Israel, who co-wrote blogging’s defining book “Naked Conversations“ have noticed a fall in readers in recent months, and his comments have quickly led to another blogging “meme” (an idea that spreads, which is what blogging does well). The truth is that more people are blogging, more people competing for attention (leading to a terrible rise in Shameless Self Promotion, where instead of commenting on other posts in the space provided, a lot of folk simply try to point readers to their own sites.) Blogging long ago reached critical mass: Now it’s reached saturation point, and something has to (to mix a metaphor) give.

So expect things to evolve further. I’m not saying there aren’t some great blogs out there — blogs aren’t just about social networks, they’re also about great writing, and about information, both of which blogs also do very well. But blogs will continue to branch off into new areas as our needs, and the devices we use, evolve.

Blogging in short, never dies: It’s just the start of a road that goes we know not where. So if you’re thinking of blogging, ask yourself why you want to do it, and whether you might not be better off twittering, powncing, jaikuing or facebooking. Or waiting until the next Big Thing. It shouldn’t be long.

The Presence Problem

Steve Smith of Lavalife makes a good point about the surge of new products which extend the use of Skype beyond the desktop. Great for mobility and wider access, bad for one of the key benefits that IM-related programs like Skype bring us: presence. (Presence merely means being able to signal whether you’re online, whether you’re free to talk, or what kind of mood you’re in, letting you determine when you’re reachable and for other to be able to organise themselves accordingly. Something the ordinary old fashioned telephone, or even raw email, can deliver. ) As Steve points out, the move to such gadgets and services like free calling in North America is pointing towards “Skype being a free cellphone, not a Presence/IM/Voice platform”:

I fear that you can’t be both. Both directions are interesting, both are worthwhile. But by trying to be both you degrade the value of the IM/presence network, and thus rob one group of users from the productivity gain they currently enjoy. It’s a bit of a conundrum, and I certainly don’t have the answer, but just watch if the value of your Skype presence indications doesn’t start to drop over the next year.

I’m a huge fan of presence, and I wish folk like Skype, and now Google with GoogleChat, would stress to users how useful it is to be able to signal where you are, whether you’re online and happy to chat, or even, as one Skype buddy has done, to make it clear in the “presence note” when you want people to call you. If more people used these tags then more people would understand how useful they are, and we could all benefit. Then, given the broad usage, such companies would be inspired to find ways to include and expand such features in these second tier products.

Interview With The Guy Behind The Klips

In today’s Asian Wall Street Journal and in WSJ.com (subscription only, I’m afraid) I talk about widgets — sometimes called dashboards — as an alternative, or addition, to RSS.

Here is the transcript of an email/IM interview I did with Allan Wille, president and CEO of Serence, the company behind Klips:

The new Folio looks good. what’s the main new feature in this version?

Based on customer feedback, mostly from Content Providers, images and a richer content experience were very key. Much of that had to do with increased branding capabilities as well. So images are likely the BIG feature in KlipFolio 3.0. Enterprise to a lesser extent were also asking for images – charts, graphs that can tie into CRM or other enterprise applications

 

why would someone go for Klips over an RSS reader or similar device?

We are positioning KlipFolio as a dashboard – a personal dashboard for consumers or an digital/business dashboard for enterprise. We are not an RSS reader, and I see our paths moving appart, such that the two products –KlipFolio and an RSS reader– can exist in parallel. Klips are intelligent agents, where the value lies in their ability to inform and alert users of complex data. Klips are very good at allowing personalization of content, and persenting users with alerts to critical data. Of-course Klips can do news feeds, but the differentiation there is less apparent, and in some cases, an RSS reader will do a better job.

 

You seem to have a lot of European users. is that right, and if so, any reason for that?

KlipFolio started to have sucess with a number of key German news outlets – Tagesschau, Heise, Spiegel Online etc … this started back in 2002, when RSS was not quite as hyped as it is today. I believe this gave us significant visibility among other content providers in Germany and Europe, and has led to a very large European userbase, and subsequently a good source of leads and customers. North America was hesitant to try new technologies and as RSS was adopted by more and more content providers in NA, Klips were caught in a difficult differentiation battle. With the features present in 3.0, wer are looking to overcome these challenges in NA.

 

You’ve been doing Klip for a while, and while as you know I’m a fan, it doesn’t seem to have caught on as I might have expected. I don’t see that many Klip buttons on websites. any thoughts on that?

When you compare the visibilty of Klips to RSS, you are quite right – it seems to be taking a back seat. It is important for us to continue to get the Klip buttons out there, as this is a major marketing program for us. Again, it is a question of differentiation, of added value over RSS. 3.0 will be addressing much of this, and we need to aggressively make sure we educate key content providers of the value – a trend we are seeing though is that the major content providers are contacting us not for simple Klip publishing, but more so for the development of branded desktop clients …

 

Related to the last one, where do you see the market for this? it seems to be different fields you’re playing to, from the RSS on a stick audience, to the secure corporate feeds…

Interesting question – our markets are (a) Content Providers (ie: CNET, Kluwer, Penton, Spiegel) for branded versions of KlipFolio (branded KlipFolio, downloadable from their sites, with their Klips bundled), (b) Enterprise (Wells Fargo, Advanded Telcom, Curtiss-Wright, NDR) who license KlipFolio Enterprise as an internal dashboard, and, (c) Application Vendors (Connotate, BizActions) who wish to OEM distribute KlipFolio as their own product, sublicensed to their customers (in other words a channel play). End users are not a market for us – they are a source of leads.

 

Critics might say that because its proprietary software, Klips are a step backwards, locking users and providers into something that’s Old Economy.. any thoughts on that?

It’s not proprietary. Anyone can build and publish Klips. We publish our APIs, and a full SDK free of charge, and with no need to register. We use XML and Javascript. Konfabulator, Apple dashboard, and Macromedia Central (or Adobe now …) are more like Flash (as a mini-application environment). I must say it’s very cool, and I have tried it a number of times, but the inconistency of the interfaces have ultimately gotten in the way. I do think it will attract a number of Content Providers due to it’s brandability.

 

Where do you see this space (Klips, but also RSS, Konfabulator etc) going? Do they at some point move off the desktop?

I see a clear short-term trend where RSS readers are going to be melded into browsers and email-clients. I see them as becoming more capable of rendering html (and soon video, and audio), where their value as an “alerting” tool become less apparent. I also would consider this a very dangerous time to be an RSS reader client company – even for the forerunners, I don’t see competitive advantage, or amongst themselves, competitive differentiation. Longer term, I believe RSS will become an important background technololgy — and enabler — much the same way html is today to the web. RSS will not be a house-hold name among the early majority and on. There will be readers and alerting tools on various platforms and form-factors (and likely powered by xml/rss/whatever), but people won’t be calling it rss.

 

What are the most exciting uses you’ve seen of Klips? How do you use them yourself?

On the consumer front, I find the email watchers (the hotmail, yahoo, gmail and pop3 mail) Klips to be very exciting – they are secure, access complex data and present users with dynamically generated setup options. One the enterprise front, two very interesting ones are a company that is using a Klip to alert their call-center agents of key data from their CRM system, and a bank who uses Klips as part of their work-flow system to increase productivity and review speed. Where the Bank’s internal processes saw documents, policies, forms, and client applications being worked on by many employees and managers, the current work-flow system put the onus of moving forward on the employees and manager’s shoulders and relied on email to notify them when a document was edited, or in need of approval. We improved on this process by working with their work-flow application where each individual user is now alerted to pending documents, policies and applications via KlipFolio – it’s relevant to what the manager or employee is responsible for, and a popup alert ensures they take action, and of-course with a single click from the Klip, they can jump right into the familiar work-flow system.

 

So far there are only a few 3.0 feeds. what else is in the pipeline, feed-wise?

We will be updating all of the email Klips, the stock tracker, eBay monitor Klips and as with Betanews, we are working with a handful of key content providers globally to update their Klips. In general we will be focusing our efforts on more service oriented Klips, and encouraging our community of developers to do the same – part of our efforts to differentiate.

 

How do you make your money from this? And how would you characterise the journey so far? I first wrote about Klips more than 3 years ago, and a lot has happened on the internet since then. Are Klips struggling to keep up with these changes?

The hype of RSS has both helped and distracted our progress. On the one hand, RSS has educated the markets, and generated interest in desktop alerting. On the other, RSS has made our position more difficult to define – educating the market that we are not an RSS reader, but rather an alerting dashboard targeted for commercial purposes. The markets are more conductive – more educated, more financially willing, and more competitively driven. Also, I truly believe that in our space – alerting dashboards – we are positioned as one of the best players.

I’m not sure it’s a matter of keeping up with RSS – we support RSS among other standards. One thing we have found is that real-customer deals are hard to find the closer you get to RSS – it’s a very early adopter marketplace – lots of hype, not much real value or money yet. As we distance ourselves from RSS we find the client conversation is more focused on solving real business needs.

As mentioned in an earlier answer, we target content providers, online retailers and premium content providers as our KlipFolio Branded customers; application vendors, service providers, ISPs as our OEM customers; and corporations as our KlipFolio enterprise customers. We have a solid base of customers in all three areas and (with out venture funding I might add) are profitable.

You are right – lots has happened, but I think the interesting stuff is yet to happen. Same goes for Serence …

 

 

Thanks, Allan.

Media Coverage As Sparklines

Here’s another effort to use sparklines to try to illustrate some of the trends I wrote about in today’s Asian Wall Street Journal/WSJ.com column (subscription only; apologies). I’ve used another excellent tool called SparkMaker, a Word plugin by Bissantz to try to show how the mainstream print media has covered some technology issues since the early 1980s (these charts cover 1984–2004 because the numbers prior to then are too small to be useful.) I’d be grateful for any thoughts you may have, on either the sparklines or what the data may say to you. Of course, it might say nothing at all….

Here’s the first one: media mentions of certain terms in order of the year the term was most often used (they’re done as screenshots, apologies for the low quality):

Spark year

‘Information superhighway’ as a term reached a peak in its first big year of usage, and then fell off rapidly. Electronic mail wasn’t ever as popular and is still in use (who still says that rather than e-mail?) Cyberspace had its heyday in 2000, as did MP3, surprisingly. Notice how SMS never really got that much coverage, I guess perhaps because Factiva is so slanted towards North America. Spam is a big topic, as is VoIP. The bars are too small to show it but Blogging has been covered since the early 1990s, albeit in small numbers. Wi-Fi and RFID, too, are now major topics. Bluetooth has never quite captured the same attention.

Here’s another way of looking at the same data, sorted by the largest total coverage in a single year:

Spark popular

Allowing for distortions caused by the growth of media outlets, VoIP has in one year outdone all others. Wi-Fi too, seems to be catching attention.

The Wi-Fi Revolution And Smart Homes

It always amazes me how many home Wi-Fi networks there are. I don’t do a lot of sniffing, but wherever I am I take a look and there they are, whether it’s a Jakarta towerblock or rural England. Wi-Fi, it seems, is as commonplace as any other kind of connection. And now market research company Park Associates seems to have confirmed it: More households, at least in the U.S., have set up wireless networks than cable, or Ethernet, ones:

This study, which surveyed consumers in Europe and North America on technology adoption and use, found 52% of U.S. households with a home network use Wi-Fi and 50% use Ethernet. By comparison, only 32% of Canadian households with a home network use Wi-Fi, 43% use Ethernet, and 26% were unsure which technology they were using.

No mention is made of European homes, but from what I can see, the rest of the world is not far behind. Interestingly, Park Associates credits the bundling of Wi-Fi kits by cable and telephone companies selling broadband service for the surge. Their hope: to bundle other ‘next-generation’ services using these networks, since they are supposedly easier to distribute via Wi-Fi than Ethernet. In short, the Wi-Fi explosion could bring the smart home a step closer to reality.

OneNote’s Price Drop

I’m a fan of Microsoft’s OneNote, but a critical one, and one of my gripes has been the price. Now that’s all changed, according to Microsoft’s Asian PR:

Effective August, Microsoft has announced a price adjustment world wide for OneNote 2003 from US$199 to $99. The price adjustment will begin rolling out today with various retailers offering the new price at different points throughout the month. Volume license customers will also see a discount based on their licensing agreement with Microsoft. Academic pricing thru college bookstores ($49 ERP) and volume license programs will remain the same.

Microsoft is committed to providing the best software for the price. In response to positive customer feedback to the product being offered at $99 in Japan and $99 after $100 mail-in rebate in North America, Microsoft wanted to extend customers worldwide with the opportunity to take advantage of the lower price point.

Too late for my column on OneNote, but good news nonetheless. I felt $200 was just a bit too much for what was effectively a note-taking application.

Belkin’s New iPod Microphone Adapter

In an earlier column I mentioned the excellent Belklin Voice Recorder microphone that plugs into an iPod. Now they’ve gone one step better: The Universal Microphone Adapter, that connects to your iPod and to any audio microphone with a 3.5mm plug.

You can use the iPod player’s abundant storage capacity to store hundreds of hours of audio, and easily review your audio notes using the built-in 3.5mm jack with headphones or your computer. Copy recordings to your computer for easy storage, editing, or to send in e-mail.

The Universal Microphone Adapter, iPoding reports, costs $40 and is expected to begin shipping on March 17th in North America. It

•  Attaches securely to your iPod with remote/headphone connector
•  Records 16-bit audio at 8kHz
•  Includes real-time recording-level LED indicator
•  Adjusts microphone sensitivity easily with 3-level gain switch
•  Works with iPod software version 2.1 or later

(Thanks to Buzz Bruggeman of ActiveWords for pointing this out)

News: Say Goodbye To Popups

 Pop Up ads are doomed, now that Microsoft will make blocking them part of its browser, Internet Explorer. Explorer, ZDNet says, joins other web browsers by doing it, but because of its huge market share, it’s likely to kill off the concept entirely. No bad thing, you may say, but it will also hit advertising revenues and may kill off more than a few ventures that depend on ads.
 
The moves by Microsoft and others are the result of deep consumer loathing of pop-ups. About 88 percent of broadband users and 87 percent of dial-up users in North America find that pop-ups interfere with their Web surfing experience, according to Forrester Research.

News: The Sim Franchise Rolls On

 I don’t know whether to be excited or appalled at how Electronic Arts have turned the Sim thing into such a money-making business. Purists weren’t that enamored of Sim City 4, and my computer is not really powerful enough for it to be fun, and The Sims Online has not been the great follow-up to The Sims that it was expected to be, but you’ve got to admit EA know how to keep the buzz going. Here’s their latest announcement (and note this is an announcement about something that’s going to happen two or three months down the track…)
 
 
Electronic Arts have announced plans to release this September the SimCity 4 Deluxe Edition in North America. Players can now make the biggest cities with the most comprehensive and exciting SimCity ever. SimCity 4 Deluxe Edition includes SimCity 4 and the franchise’s first expansion pack, SimCity 4 Rush Hour, that focuses on the no.1 most requested feature among fans, transportation. SimCity 4 Rush Hour also is scheduled for release September 2003. The SimCity 4 Deluxe Edition will be available for a suggested retail price of $39.99.
 
This follows on the heels of an announcement yesterday that said Electronic Arts plans to release this October The Sims Makin’ Magic, a new expansion pack to The Sims, where “Sims are granted magical powers with the ability to cast spells that are playful or deviant”. Oh my God. And if that’s not enough: The Sims Makin’ Magic will be the final edition to The Sims original series and prelude to the highly anticipated launch of The Sims 2.  The expansion pack will be available for the Halloween season and has a suggested retail price of US$29.95.