Locking down your home wi-fi network with a password is like making sure you eat your broccoli. It's probably good for you, but you probably think it's not much of a priority or a big deal. Well, it's time to make an attitude adjustment. It turns out that you can cause yourself a good deal of trouble by leaving that door to your system unlocked.
Stories by Bill Snyder
Most of the time I only hear from my credit card companies when I owe them money or when they want to sell me a new service. That's changed; now I'm being bombarded with notes telling me that a company I never heard of has been successfully hacked and these still unknown bad guys now have my name and e-mail address -- and maybe more.
As poet Robert Burns famously put it, the best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft a-gley, that is, they often go awry. Im thinking of those lines as I struggle to clean up a backup and subsequent hard drive replacement that went seriously wrong.
I like to think that most of us who use computers are reasonably bright and responsible. So I get really irritated by the mindset of some technology vendors who insist that treating us like children is not only okay, but also the responsible thing for them to do.
Is Microsoft trying to kill Google's Android OS by blasting lawsuits at device sellers like Barnes & Noble and device makers like Foxconn and Inventec? I don't think so. The software giant is more likely trying to make a buck through licensing deals. That's not to say winning business at gunpoint is a tactic I admire, but that's very different than assuming that Redmond sees Android as a deadly threat and wants to fit it with a pair of cement shoes.
However, Android is in deep legal trouble. This week's suit against the Nook crowd is just one of 37 — count 'em — Android-related lawsuits filed during the operating system's short life, according to open source activist and patent watcher Florian Mueller.
Why so many? "It's a combination of Google's arrogant and reckless approach to other companies' intellectual property rights, Google's gambling at the expense of its partners who bear the brunt of this, and the weakness of Google's own patent portfolio, which is small and not sufficiently diversified to solve Android's [intellectual property] problems with cross-licences," Mueller says.
Watching patent suits generally matches paint-drying festivals for excitement, but this bunch is different. It touches on the biggest names in techdom, including Apple, Oracle, Microsoft, Google, and Motorola; it exposes yet another flaw in the Google/Android business model; and it shows once again how badly the US patent system is broken.
Why Microsoft went to war
I was sitting in the middle of one of the most security conscious crowds you'd ever come across--about 200 computer security professionals listening to a high-powered panel on mobile security threats at the RSA Conference in San Francisco last week.
Paul Revere galloped from Charlestown to Lexington on that famous night in 1775. He couldn't have done it without his horse, so did that mean the American Revolution was really the "horse revolution"? That's silly, of course. But calling the Egyptian revolution the "Facebook (or Twitter) revolution" is just as misguided, and it's a symptom of our ethnocentric habit of viewing the world through the prism of the American experience or — in the case of Egypt — American technology.
There's no doubt that Twitter and Facebook were tools the mostly young Egyptian rebels used to good effect. But that's all they were: tools. After all, the revolution continued — and intensified — when those tools were disabled by the Egyptian govenment's shutdown of the Internet. Yet we in the media and the technology industry are absolutely convinced that it couldn't have happened without social networking. As New Yorker magazine author Malcolm Gladwell puts it: "Where activists were once defined by their causes, they are now defined by their tools." Exactly.
The blind spot that puts the American tech industry at risk
It's almost March and that means tax day is marching relentlessly closer. As always, the major providers of tax prep software have tweaked their offerings and are competing for your business.
Maybe you're tired of paying the cable company and want to get your movies and other entertainment from the Web. Naturally you'll want to watch those shows on your TV with the aid of a Roku box or similar device. More and more people are doing that, and if you want to join the crowd, you've got to be sure you're home Internet network is up to the challenge.
Happy anniversary Basit and Amjad! Twenty-five years ago this month, the Alvi brothers of Lahore, Pakistan, gave the world the Brain Virus, the first bit of malware capable of infecting a DOS-based PC. Back in those relatively innocent times, the brothers actually embedded their real names and business address in the code and later told Time magazine they had written the virus to protect their medical software from piracy.
The iPod is certainly one of the best consumer electronics products of the last 10 years. iTunes, though, not so much. Apple's software isn't nearly as flexible as it should be, especially when collections get large. Some of the problems result from digital copyright issues, others from Apple's unwillingness to play nice with other formats and devices.
Here is a scenario we have seen before: Microsoft leverages its domination of the operating system to muscle its way into an adjacent space. Most of the time, that is a bad thing, leading to the disappearance of smaller, more innovative competitors. The company has been rightfully slapped around for that sort of monopolistic behaviour by both US and European regulators.
But when it comes to desktop security — where Microsoft recently began offering free antimalware software via Microsoft Update — Microsoft deserves kudos, not slaps. Ironically, Microsoft may be doing consumers and IT a favour by taking on Symantec and its lumbering, customer-unfriendly line of Norton security products.
Symantec, which has huge market share and is often the default security program placed on PCs by manufacturers, has taken its customers for granted for years. Shocking as it may seem, Microsoft may be coming to the rescue.
Microsoft's automatic security download
Your old PC is ready for the recyclers and it's time to buy a new one. Or is it? These days, we're fortunate to have a plethora of computing devices that can handle everything from sending an e-mail to watching a movie or writing a thesis. A PC (or Mac, for that matter) is no longer the only choice.
Here's a distinction no software company craves: For two quarters running, Adobe's popular Acrobat and Reader software have been the favorite target of hackers around the globe. According to Symantec's quarterly threat assessment, attacks related to PDF usage accounted for 36 per cent of malicious activity in the most recent quarter and 57 per cent in the preceding three months.
The FCC is now <a href="http://www.cio.com/article/603672">criticizing broadband providers</a> for a situation well-known to most of us: Sometimes, speed stinks. But what can you do about it? Here are some tools, tips and tricks to self-heal your sluggish net connection.