Tool looks for porn on computers

Australians law enforcement officials are beta-testing a tool to help find out immediately whether a computer contains illegal images such as child pornography, according to reports. Simple Image Preview Live Environment (SImPLE) is a Linux-based application that runs off a CD, launching its own desktop environment that copies potentially illegal images onto a DVD. Developed at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia, the tool’s designers say officers can use it regardless of their computer training backgrounds. (The Register)

USB device avoids man-in-the-middle attacks

IBM is trying a different tactic to deter man-in-the-middle attacks on banking transactions. Last week the company introduced a device it said acts as “security on a stick,” called the Zone Trusted Information Channel (ZTIC). The device plugs into a USB port and creates a direct SSL channel to a bank’s transaction server, bypassing the computer’s software with a pass-through proxy. “This solution effectively moves all the cryptographic and critical user-interface processes away from a consumer’s PC onto the ZTIC device, creating a trusted communication endpoint between the banking server and the user,” IBM said in a statement. (Ars Technica)

Microsoft ends support for 15-year-old OS

As of 1 November, Microsoft has stopped issuing embedded licenses for Windows  3.1.1, ending the system’s lifespan at 15 years. According to Ars Technica, the antiquated operating system still saw use in embedded systems such as cash registers and airline entertainment systems. Devices running the old system didn’t have much security risks because current malware is designed for much faster systems. (Ars Technica)


FCC approves use of white spaces

The US Federal Communications Commission went ahead with plans to make white spaces available for broadband communications, as its board voted unanimously to allow handhand devices to communicate within unused portions of the spectrum devoted to television. According to reports, board members praised the technology – referred to as “WiFi on steroids” – but said that all devices would have to be approved by the FCC to avoid interference with regular broadcast signals. The approval included unlicensed fixed-band devices and those that combined geolocation with spectrum sensing technology. The use of white spaces was heavily opposed by television networks and recording artists who said the devices could interfere with performances. (Fierce Wireless)

Committee formed to set ODF standards

The Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) has formed a committee to promote standards for the Open Document Format, an open source XML format for office software such as spreadsheets and word processors. The committee, made up of representatives from companies such as IBM, Oracle, and Google, will make sure that applications that use the increasingly popular ODF are compatible. (ZDNet)

Security flaw found in Adobe’s PDF software

Adobe has patched eight vulnerabilites in older versions of its Acrobat and Reader software, including one that could let attackers take control of users’ systems. Researchers at Core Security Technologies found the flaw in version 8.1.2 of the programs, but said earlier versions could also be affected. Acrobat and Reader 9 aren’t affected by the problem. According to reports, the flaw is in the way Reader handles the JavaScript util.printf() function, and attackers can exploit systems by using a PDF containing malicious JavaScript. Users can avoid the problem by disabling JavaScript, but that workaround is likely to be disruptive for many users. (Computerworld)

Radical changes sought for cybersecurity

US government and military agencies are fed up with security holes in cyberspace and hope to do something about it. The Department of Defense and the Air Force are independently seeking ideas from the public to alter the cyberspace landscape, preventing attacks by changing the way the Internet works. The first initiative, dubbed “Cyber Leap Year” to show the need for leap-ahead technologies, is sponsored by the National Coordination Office for Networking Information Technology Research and Development. Its backers hope to avoid slow and progressive research in favor of “game-changing ideas” that can have a revolutionary impact. “We believe very strongly that the answers are out there in the community,” said Susan Alexander, the agency’s chief technology officer. “If we ask the right questions in the right way, the community would give us some answers.” Submissions are due by 15 December. The Air Force is sponsoring a separate initiative, which aims to prevent cyberattacks by rewriting the laws of cyberspace. The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is soliciting white papers to locate and identify attackers, operate systemless architectures, and let networks hop frequencies, among other ideas. “Can we create a cyberspace with different rules?” Paul Ratazzi, an AFRL technical advisor, asked Wired. “Let’s challenge those fundamental assumptions on how these things work, and see if there’s a better way.” The Air Force’s first deadline is 1 December, with additional deadlines on 1 January of every year. (FCW, Wired)

Piracy making money for original owners

Advertising on pirated videos posted online instead of blocking them is becoming a trend. According to the Hollywood Reporter, MySpace and MTV Networks are testing a video-fingerprinting system that identifies MTV-copyrighted material such as “Punk’d” and adds advertising to offending videos uploaded to MySpace. A third party, Auditude, provides the technology for the ads, which show up as an “attribution overlay,” a semitransparent strip on the lower third of the video player. Similar to YouTube’s Video ID technology, MTV has the option to take down the video. YouTube parent Google reported in August that most of its content owners opt for advertising. (Hollywood Reporter)

France close to passing “three strikes” law against file sharers

The French Senate overwhelmingly approved “three strikes” legislation for P2P file-sharing pirates, leaving only approval by the National Assembly for the proposal to become law, according to reports. Called a “graduated response,” offenders would first get a warning e-mail from their ISP. A second offense would elicit a written notice by mail, and a third offense would result in the user’s Internet access being cut off for a year. (Ars Technica)

Researchers crack McEliece cryptosystem

Researchers at the Eindhoven University of Technology in The Netherlands say they have cracked the McEliece encryption system, a scarcely used algorithm that could be more useful in the future with quantum computing. Professor Tanja Lange announced last week that her team discovered a way to speed up attacks against the system using a cluster of over 100 computers, and developed software that cracked the code in 14 days. The researchers also said that the McEliece system can be scaled to larger key sizes and would still be useful in a post-quantum era. (Science Daily)

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