Data mining not an effective counterterrorism tool

Data mining isn’t an effective tool for counterterrorism, and government programs that use such methods should provide extra oversight to prevent invasions of privacy and “false positives,” the National Research Council said in a report sponsored partly by the US Department of Homeland Security. The research organization concluded that data mining can be useful for tracking specific subjects, but automated techniques that look for unusual patterns would yield lots of erroneous data. (CNET)

Microsoft thinks big for business intelligence

Microsoft plans to upgrade its SQL Server 2008 with technology for the large data warehousing market and provide “managed self-service analysis” that will be easier to use. The company made the announcement at its second annual Business Intelligence Conference in Seattle on Monday, unveiling its plans to integrate recently acquired DATAllegro. SQL Server will now be able to handle data spanning hundreds of terabytes and thousands of concurrent users. Microsoft also wants to “democratize” business intelligence for the average worker. “If you know how to use Word and Excel, then you’ll be able to use our BI — that’s our commitment to customers,” said Stephen Elop, president of the Microsoft Business Division. (Computerworld).

Wi-Fi growth expected to reach one billion

Wi-Fi chips will be installed in one billion consumer electronic CE devices by 2012, according to a study by high-tech market research firm, InStat. Digital televisions are expected to account for most of the growth in the Wi-Fi market, the result of a 26 percent annual growth rate. “The sheer volume of digital TV shipments will make it a strong market, despite a relatively low Wi-Fi attach rate,” InStat analyst Victoria Fodale said.
The report also predicts that cellular handsets will surpass mobile PCs as the primary Wi-Fi devices by 2011. (Cnet)

New PCI Standard Released


The PCI Security Standards Council has released new security guidelines for unattended payment terminals (UPT) that accept personal identification numbers (PINs) at places such as kiosks, self-service ticketing machines, and fuel pumps. The PIN Entry Device (PED) security standards will require more rigorous testing by approved labs on encrypted PIN pads. The council has yet to release a date for compliance by retailers. (Dark Reading)

Study Finds Large Number of Security Incidents Go Unreported


A survey of roughly 300 attendees at the RSA Conference in 2008 found that more than 89 percent of security incidents went unreported in 2007. The survey identified security incidents as “unexpected activity that brought sudden risk to the organization and took one or more security personnel to address.” The survey respondents identified lost or stolen devices as the number one security challenge to combat (49 percent), followed by nonmalicious employee error (47 percent) budget constraints (44 percent), external hacking (38 percent), executive buy-in (26 percent), and insider threat (22 percent). (InformationWeek)

Privacy Advocate Doesn't Have to Remove Social Security Numbers from Web site


A federal judge in Virginia has ruled that a privacy advocate doesn’t have to remove from her Web site the social security numbers (SSNs) she legally obtained off of government Web sites. The privacy advocate, Betty Ostergren, has been trying to force county governments in Virginia to redact SSNs and other personal data from their Web sites by regularly posting unredacted public documents on her site. Ostergren has posted the SSNs of high-profile individuals such as former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Colin Powell, and several county clerks in Virginia. With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Ostergren challenged an amendment to Virginia’s Personal Information Act, which forbids anyone from disseminating SSNs no matter how they were obtained. Ostergren claimed the amendment would force her from posting the SSNs while doing nothing to stop Virginia’s county governments from posting the same data. (Computerworld)

YouTube Updates Community Guidelines


YouTube updated its community guidelines to allow it to ban videos that could incite violence. The updated guidelines now include a reference to “inciting others to commit violent acts or to violate the terms of use are taken very seriously.” The update comes after US Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) requested that the video-sharing site remove videos sponsored by terrorist organizations last spring. At the time, YouTube said it couldn’t remove the videos because they didn’t violate its community standards. (USA Today)

New Algorithm Breathes New Life into Old Browsers


Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, have developed Approximate Link State (XL), a new algorithm that makes routers more efficient by automatically sending network updates only to the routers that need them. In a typical corporate environment, routers flood the network with updates that every router receives. For older routers, the vast amounts of updates they receive can bring them to a halt and slow down the network while they process the updates and recalculate their path tables. To combat the problem, IT staff can manually isolate router groups and configure them to receive and process only those network updates within their group. The XL algorithm eliminates the need for manual configuration of these groups by withholding or forwarding updates it determines are necessary to its group. The trade-off is that routers don’t have precise information on the actual state of the network. The XL algorithm works with Intermediate System-to-Intermediate System and Open Shortest Path First link-state routing, allowing for interoperability with existing router protocols. For use, router manufacturers will have to integrate the algorithm into their software. The researchers presented their research at SIGCOMM 2008 in August; the paper is available here. (Computerworld)

F# Brings the Functional Programming


In a community technology preview (CTP) released in August, Microsoft is showcasing the F# language’s improved integration, libraries, and scripting. F# is a functional programming language for the .NET platform that also supports object-oriented programming. Functional programming languages emphasize the application of functions rather than changes in state like in imperative programming. The CTP includes better integration with Visual Studio and allows for improved large-scale software development. Additionally, a new feature called Units of Measure extends F#’s inference and strong typing to floating-point data. Along with the CTP, Microsoft has launched the F# Developer Center ( to provide developers with F# resources and user communities. The CTP is available for download here. (Microsoft)

Solid-State Drives Offer Faster Data Access but Raise Security Concerns


Because they offer low access times and latency, solid-state drives (SSDs) are becoming more popular, especially with laptop users. However, SSDs present their own special security concerns, including physical hacks. Some SSDs use NAND flash chips, which don’t have security hooks to keep the chips from being removed from their enclosures. Attackers could remove the chips, read the data with a flash chip programmer, and reassemble the data with data-recovery software. To slow down hackers, drive makers could integrate encryption keys inside SSD controller devices. Although attackers can hack encryption keys, it will add a barrier and slow down the attackers. (Computerworld)

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