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Wireless Networking

Submission + - Wi-Fi routers are vulnerable to viruses

njdube writes: The viral infection that began in Cambridge, Massachusetts, somewhere between MIT and Harvard University, failed to cross the Charles River into Boston; in California, the San Francisco Bay stymied a similar attack.

This was not a biological infection, but the first simulation of an airborne computer virus. It spread by hopping between wireless routers, which are more susceptible to viruses than computers, says Steven Myers of Indiana University in Bloomington. "We forget that routers are mini-computers. They have memory, they are networked and they are programmable." And since they aren't scanned for viruses, or protected by existing firewalls, they are easy targets. Myers knows of no actual router viruses, but says such a virus could steal credit-card numbers, make the router send out spam and block incoming security patches.

Submission + - Are Cell Phones Replacing Landlines?

njdube writes: It's not uncommon for a household to bypass landline phones and use cell phones as the primary means of communication inside and outside the home. In fact, U.S. households are forecasted to have spent more on cell phone services than landline services this year.

According to recent statistics released by the U.S. Labor Department, the average annual household cell phone spending was $524 in 2006, compared with the $542 that the average family spent on landline phones.

This year's numbers indicate that consumers spent more on their cell phone services than landline services. Analyst estimates show that there are about 170 million landlines in use nationwide, while there are nearly 250 million cell phones in use. This includes both business and residential users.
The Courts

Submission + - Microsoft sued over Halo 3's consistenet crashes

Stony Stevenson writes: A San Diego resident who recently purchased Halo 3 has filed a lawsuit against Microsoft — alleging that the company released a faulty product that frequently crashes when played on the Xbox 360. In court papers filed this week, Randy Nunez charges that Halo 3 "consistently causes the Xbox 360 to crash, freeze, or lock up while the game is being played." Along with Microsoft, Nunez also is suing Bungie. The lawsuit contends that the problem is widespread, and that Microsoft and Bungie haven't taken any steps to fix it.

Submission + - SETI: Is It Worth It? 1

njdube writes: It's a risky long shot that burns up money and might never, ever pay off. So is searching for intelligent creatures on unseen worlds worth the candle? After all, aren't there better ways to use our monies and technical talents than trying to find something that's only posited to exist: sentient beings in the dark depths of space?

Submission + - OpenOffice worm hits Mac, Linux and Windows

njdube writes: Malware targeting OpenOffice documents is spreading through multiple operating systems including Mac OS, Windows and Linux, according to Symantec.

According to the Symantec Security Response website, the worm is capable of infecting multiple operating system platforms and is spreading.

Submission + - Earth/Terran Confederation?

njdube writes: There are a lot of smart people in the open source community. Always coming up with innovative and non forceful alternatives that bring challenges to the status-quo, what ever that may be. There is a whole philosophy behind the open source movement with awesome principles that involve voluntary contribution and cooperation to improve the human race.

My question is, why can't we apply the same principles to every day things in life. For example, create alternatives to the monopoly and force that we call government? I have an idea that some may like, some may not. The idea, is to create an organization (not "government", because "government" by definition implies involuntary force) that could be a competitor to the United Nations. Many of the "powers that be" in the United Nations pretty much want a one world government. Which in a way would be a world federation.

What I propose, is forming a "Earth Confederation". This would not be a government, but a "organization" that sovereign nations could become members of that agree on certain principles. These principles would be written in what I would call "The Articles of the Confederation". My reason for picking these names is well, they sound cool. ;-) I'm still working out most of the details in my head. So far these are the only principles I have set in these articles...

1) Open Trade and Travel: Any member nation of the confederation can not restrict it's citizens from freely traveling to another confederation member nation. What this means is you would no longer need a passport or show ID at borders. The only time you would need to do so is if you're required by a nation to enter their borders if that nation is not a member of the confederation. And there would be no tariffs or taxes on trade between nations of the confederation.

2) Entangling Alliances with none: For a nation to part of the confederation they most first pull all troops/armies out of other nations as well as close down any military bases they have in other nations. They also most no longer get involved or interfere in the affairs of other nations.

I'm still working on some the principles. The founding principles behind this confederation is meant to give people a bit more liberty to go where they want and trade with who they want and still give nations the ability of be sovereign and make their own laws as they do now. So long as those laws don't conflict with the Articles of the Confederation.

I also have a few ideas for confederation money. This money would not be printed or created or controlled by a central authority. It would be backed by gold and not be based like fiat currency with no value. Some of the principles on the money would be like the American Liberty Dollar. Though I would do some things different, because of what the America Liberty Dollar has been criticized for. Such as putting numbers on them like US dollars, which I never understood as well as others things I don't feel like mentioning here.

In the open source community we decide on open standards like the ODT file format for example. I'm sure the same line of thinking can be applied to the money, such as it's physical shape and size. This money would be a voluntary form of currency. Meaning nations wishing to be part of the confederation would not be forced to change their currency or adopt confederation currency. The whole point here is the freedom to choose.

The idea here is to allow any kind of government to coexist with another while allowing their people to come and go with out restriction. Basically I want the "freedom" to go where I want when I want with out any government looking over my shoulder. And I want to trade with who I want, what ever I want with out the government sticking their dirty hands in my pockets. If I want to live in the US and go across the border and have a job in Canada I should be able to do that with out the government showing their ugly face.

This would be an organization we can all put input into with out the middleman (politician). I'm just one person with some ideas. I'm sure if every one in the open source community put their heads together we could "fine tune" and better what I'm trying to create. What I'm looking to create is a transparent, open, competing alternative to the United Nations based around the same open source and pro-liberty principles.

So, ideas? Lets hear them.
United States

Submission + - H.R. 964: Another Misguided Spyware Bill

njdube writes: Last week a subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce reported out H.R. 964, a.k.a. the "Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass Act" or "SPY Act." This bill is the latest incarnation of misguided legislative language that has been resurfacing since 2003 (in 2005, it passed the House as H.R. 29).

Although badware (i.e., spyware, malware, and deceptive adware) is a serious problem for computer users, H.R. 964 is not likely to help. In fact, having been massaged by lobbyists for the software and adware industries, the bill would actually make things worse, insulating adware vendors from more stringent state laws and private lawsuits.

H.R. 964 combines a variety of redundant prohibitions on deceptive practices (Section 2) and ambiguous "notice" requirements (Section 3) with broad federal preemption of state laws (Section 6). In fact, you can essentially skip the first 15 pages of the bill — the FTC already has the authority to police many, if not all, of the "unfair or deceptive acts or practices" prohibited therein. If anything, by creating a heightened intent requirement (Section 4(c)), this law could constrain the authority the FTC already possesses against badware vendors.

So these provisions are pure window dressing. Both the FTC and Department of Justice have said (see p. 21 of this 2005 FTC report) that they already have the enforcement authority they need. In just the last two years, the FTC has commenced 11 spyware enforcement actions, demonstrating that they've got the authority they need. Of course, more enforcement would be a good thing, but H.R. 964 allocates no new money for it. (There is one improvement tucked in Section 4 of the bill — granting the FTC the power to seek civil penalties against those who violate the law.)

The federal preemption provisions (Section 6), meanwhile, trump most of the stricter state laws that might have been used to go after badware vendors. This is particularly disappointing, as state laws have opened a new front in the war on badware. A few categories of state laws are preserved, including trespass, contract, tort, and fraud laws. And, in an interesting twist, H.R. 964 preserves state consumer protection statutes, but only if the state's Attorney General is bringing the enforcement action.

Reading between the lines in Section 6, one thing becomes clear: this section is intended primarily to block the ability of private citizens to sue badware vendors under state laws. By consolidating all the enforcement authority against badware in the hands of the FTC and state Attorneys Generals, software and adware vendors are trying to quietly block consumer class actions that could target their misbehavior. For example, H.R. 964 would have made it impossible for EFF to use California's Business and Professions Code 17200 (which allows private citizens to sue for unfair and unlawful business practices) against Sony-BMG for its spyware-laden copy-protection software.

This is a terrible move. If Congress is serious about enacting tough anti-spyware laws, it should create incentives that would encourage private citizens to pursue the bad guys. The FTC and state AGs can't possibly take on the entire job alone.

And, perhaps most disappointingly, Congress dropped the ball on the most promising section of the statute, the "Good Samaritan" provision (Section 5(c)). The consumer's most important allies in the war on badware are the companies that make badware-removal tools. If Congress really wanted to do some good, it would protect these companies from legal harassment at the hands of the badware vendors. For example, Congress could give the good guys a legal shield with which to ward off bogus defamation, interference with contract, and DMCA claims brought by badware companies (something like the immunities that CDA 230 provides for companies that host the speech of others).

Instead, Congress crafted a "Good Samaritan" clause that only protects badware-removal tools from liability under the Spy Act itself — something that these vendors likely don't need (it's hard to imagine the FTC going after Lavasoft, isn't it?).

Frankly, I think the testimony of Zango (formerly 180Solutions, a notorious adware vendor) before Congress tells you everything you need to know about H.R. 964: "Zango supports all provisions of H.R. 964 with the exception of subsection 5(c) [the Good Samaritan provision]."

Complete Story

Submission + - The Great Firewall of Utah (and Banning Open Wi-Fi

njdube writes: The Utah legislature has been considering a proposal that would require the state's ISPs to ensure that minors are unable to access explicit material on the Internet [1] [2]. The scheme would also make open wireless networks illegal (!) unless they are restricted to only allow connections on certain, censored, "community ports".

Giving ISPs the responsibility and incentives to censor a paricular subset of the web is precisely the same architecture that the Chinese Communist Party uses for their "Great Fireall of China". The communists use it to filter news and political information as well as porn — but in neither case is it particularly effective. Users who are either knowledgeable or motivated quickly learn that there are easy ways around these filters.

The absurd Utah proposal has been pushed by the CP80 Foundation, which pedals fanatasies of a world where certain TCP ports (80, for instance) are free of any material that they consider "indecent". The group is fronted by SCO Chairman Ralph Yarro. Yes, that SCO.

The chance that a state or even federal statute could (practically or constitutionally) prevent sexually explicit content from being transmitted through port 80 is approximately zero point zero zero zero percent. The chance that politicians could pass foolish laws that cause needless headaches and court battles for ISPs and users, however, is significantly higher.

Complete Story

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