Daily Archives: March 18, 2010

Those innocuous-looking  ‘wall warts’ that plug into the mains to recharge the batteries in most portable electronic devices including mobile phones, laptops and digital music players have a dark side.

If you leave them plugged in after removing the portable device they continue to consume a small amount of power or ‘vampire energy.’ While the amount of energy wasted by a single wall charger is fairly insignificant, it quickly adds up if everyone does it. Read more

As a new cybersecurity bill paves the way for the US government to share classified information with private sector operators of ‘critical infrastructure’, author Misha Glenny (pictured) writes in the FT that the internet’s uncharted territory is being rapidly nationalised.

While there is clearly a pressing need to define rules that apply in cyberspace, they are emerging at speed with little coherent strategy behind them. Nobody knows where this process will lead for two central reasons. The speed of technological change means that the traditional tools of state used to carve up the world in the 19th century, such as laws and treaties, are often inadequate, if not entirely irrelevant, when applied to this new domain.

 Read more

It’s been a tough seven days for Facebook in the UK. Last week the social network was splashed on the front page of most newspapers after “Facebook killer” Peter Chapman murdered a 17-year-old girl he met through the site.

The Daily Mail in particular went to town on the story, even risking legal action with a piece by an “expert” claiming that within 90 seconds of logging into Facebook, “a middle-aged man wanted to perform a sex act in front of me”. The Mail had to apologise when it emerged the site in question wasn’t Facebook after all but a (still-unnamed) “different social networking website”.

It didn’t take long for politicians to jump on the bandwagon in this election year. Read more

HTC, the Taiwan smartphone maker sued earlier this month by Apple for alleged patent infringement, said on Thursday that it “disagrees with Apple’s legal actions and will fully defend itself”.

The statement is HTC’s first official response to the lawsuit, but HTC’s statement reveals relatively little about the company’s planned legal strategy. HTC did not say how and when it would make a formal legal response to Apple’s suit.

The statement, however, did emphasise a long list of HTC’s technological ’firsts’ that predate the iPhone. Read more

With Facebook overtaking Google among US internet users last week, the FT’s editorial page reflects on “the rapid growth of a site whose 400m-plus users outnumber the population of any single country except India and China.”

The high-growth phase means that Facebook can take its time developing ways to increase revenues. The key must be to find ways that bring practical benefits to those who visit the site. There is an intrinsic stickiness about a site where users have assembled their own material, but if people stop updating their pages and social networking takes a new form, then winning users back is a hard task.

 Read more

The US Department of Defense has backed off its tough stance on social networking.

Last year the Marine Corps banned employees and service members from accessing sites such as Facebook and Twitter from Department computers, citing concerns that lax protection on social networks might allow malicious code to infiltrate government computers. The move was part of a broad reassessment of how the Pentagon and troops were engaging with an increasingly open web.

Now the Department has released a new policy that allows service members to access social media sites “from nonclassified government computers, as long as it doesn’t compromise operational security or involved prohibited actives or Web sites.” Read more

EU flagFrankly, I am becoming less convinced that Europe is capable of winning the war against cyber-attacks. Ever since a series of online attacks paralysed Estonia in 2007, protection against internet crime and terrorism has moved up the agenda for the European Commission, NATO and individual European countries. But it is unclear whether any real progress has been made in the last three years.  

The UK’s House of Lords will on Thursday publish its study into how well Europe protects itself online. The conclusion is that there are serious concerns about co-ordination between different member states and a real risk that less well prepared countries could compromise those, like the UK, which are relatively advanced in their cyber protection measures. Not very surprising conclusions perhaps.

But the detail of the report highlights some farcical aspects. Read more