Hacker attack leads Purdue to call for password changes

The Richmond Palladium-Item of Richmond, Ind., reports that hackers compromised network security at Purdue University, and university officials asked all students to change their passwords as a result. Purdue confirmed that passwords had been stolen from the system last Thursday.

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UNC system starts file-sharing pilot

Four schools in the University of North Carolina (UNC) system will participate in a pilot program that will allow students to download music, movies, and other copyrighted material on the internet for free.

Four digital content providers–iTunes, Ruckus, Cdigix, and Rhapsody–are participating in the test runs spearheaded by UNC system administrators, who for years have been searching for a solution to illegal file-sharing on campus.

The universities will be responsible for monitoring any computers hooked into their networks and are expected to remove copyrighted files that are shared illegally.

Several UNC system schools–including UNC-Chapel Hill–have been involved in legal battles over students’ use of campus networks to illegally download files.

Dozens of individual universities nationwide have launched legal file-sharing programs in response to the music industry’s push to stop illegal sharing. UNC reportedly is the first university system to do so.

“We lead a lot,” said Tom Warner, director of coordinated technology for the UNC system. “That’s one of the joys of being one of the largest university systems in the country.”

The pilot schools–North Carolina A&T State, Western Carolina, UNC-Wilmington, and the North Carolina School of the Arts–were chosen based on interest and technological capabilities, Warner said.

The state’s largest schools, UNC-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State, are slated to join in the spring. If the pilot program proves successful, the entire UNC system eventually would be brought online.

Campuses would be able to select among the providers based on student feedback. Students probably will have to pay a fee for the program once the testing phase ends.

Similar services nationwide charge students $2 to $5 a month, officials said.

The cost of the test run will be covered by a major music label, which Warner said was impressed with UNC’s ingenuity and agreed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for the project. Warner declined to release the label’s name or the cost of the pilot program.

The initiative was officially announced Oct. 14, but A&T had begun testing the Ruckus service about two weeks before that.

Ruckus offers about 500,000 songs from various labels, including Universal Music Group, Warner Music, and Sony. Three other U.S. universities use the service, company officials said.

About 40 people–at least half of whom are students–already have access to Ruckus at A&T, said Sam Harrison, associate vice chancellor for information technology and telecommunications.

Students will be brought on in increasing numbers, and the entire campus could have access as early as this spring.

“We’re just starting to get to the point where the rubber meets the road,” Harrison said. “We’ll start to ratchet it up, but we need to see how it goes.”

Other schools across the country have taken similar steps to curb illegal file sharing.

Besides the UNC system, at least 20 universities–including Pennsylvania State University, the University of Miami, and Northern Illinois University–have signed deals with Ruckus, Napster 2.0, RealNetworks Inc., and other licensed download services to provide students with discounted downloading or free music streaming, according to a report issued earlier this year by a committee of entertainment industry executives and university leaders. (See “Schools praised for piracy prevention,” http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStory.cfm?ArticleID=5228.)

Many universities also have made the anti-piracy message a fixture of student orientation sessions. Others, meanwhile, are using technology to filter or block illegal file-sharing activity on their networks.

“It’s quite clear that every university has gotten the message that this is a serious issue, and they’re all doing something,” said Cary Sherman, president of the Recording Industry Association of America. “There really has been a fundamental change.”

Links:

University of North Carolina system
http://www.northcarolina.edu

iTunes Music Store
http://www.apple.com/itunes/download

Ruckus Network
http://www.ruckusnetwork.com

Cdigix
http://www.cdigix.com/website/cdigix

Rhapsody
http://www.rhapsody.com

Recording Industry Association of America
http://www.riaa.org

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Ashcroft explains copyright law to high school students

The Washington Post reports that U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft recently lectured a group of about 100 Washington-area high school students about the dangers of illegally downloading copyrighted materials from the internet. The students were visiting the Justice Department for a special forum on intellectual property rights. (Note: This site requires registration.)

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GTECH delivers after-school technology to kids in Providence

The Providence Journal reports on a local Boys and Girls Club that is benefiting from GTECH’s After School Advantage program. GTECH, a lottery company, donates $15,000 in hardware and software to youth agencies in low-income areas. The program, in effect since 1999, has helped more than 10 after-school programs in the small state of Rhode Island alone. (Note: This site requires registration.)

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Mass. district’s big plans might depend on size of IT staff

The Woburn Advocate of Woburn, Mass., reports on the lcal school district’s efforts to implement an “electronic report card system” in the next year. The newspaper writes that the school’s technology department says it’s already overworked and is hoping it will be able to add staff for any new projects.

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Google invades computers with new search function

Google Inc. has become the first tech heavyweight to tackle the daunting task of uncluttering computers, introducing a program that quickly scours hard drives for documents, eMail messages, instant messages, and past web searches.

With the free desktop program, Google hopes to build upon the popularity of its internet-leading search engine and become even more indispensable to the millions of people who trust the Mountain View, Calif.-based company to find virtually anything online.

The new product, available at http://desktop.google.com, ups the ante in Google’s intensifying battle with software giant Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc., which owns the world’s second most popular search engine.

Google’s desktop invasion heralds a momentous step into a crucial realm–the challenge of managing the information glut that has accumulated during the past decade, as society becomes more tethered to increasingly powerful computers.

Related story:
  • New PC search tool poses security risks

    “We think of this [program] as the photographic memory of your computer,” Marissa Mayer, Google’s director of consumer web products, said Oct. 14. “It’s pretty comprehensive. If there’s anything you once saw on your computer screen, we think you should be able to find it again quickly.”

    Although its desktop program can be used exclusively offline to probe hard drives, Google designed it to run in a browser so it will meld with its online search engine. Google.com visitors who have the new program installed on their computer will see a “desktop” tab above the search engine toolbar, and all their search results will include a section devoted to the hard drive in addition to the web.

    The desktop search program provides Google with a powerful magnet to lure traffic from its chief online search rivals, Microsoft’s MSN and Yahoo Inc., both of which have been improving their technology.

    “Other major search engines will undoubtedly launch similar offerings in the next few months, but they will have to match Google’s offering to keep their customers happy or best it to gain new converts,” Forrester Research analyst Charlene Li wrote in a report.

    A smattering of lesser-known companies, such as X1 Technologies of Pasadena, already offer desktop search programs. Google is the first company among high-tech’s household names to try to make it easier for people to sift through the information mishmash on computer hard drives. It dispenses with the confinement of Microsoft’s current model of files and folders.

    Google’s program trumps Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft, which plans to deliver its long-awaited desktop search tool by the end of the year. AOL and another search engine maker, Ask Jeeves, are reportedly close to entering the fray. Yahoo said that it “remains highly focused on evolving our products to empower users to manage all their digital content wherever it may reside.”

    Google is betting the program will expand its search engine audience and encourage even more online searches than it already processes–a pattern that would yield more advertising revenue, the company’s main moneymaker.

    Google began working on the program about a year ago, Mayer said, in response to a familiar refrain: “Why can’t I search my computer as easily as I can search the web?”

    Currently compatible only with the Windows operating system, Google’s 400-kilobyte desktop program takes some five or six hours to index the average computer’s hard drive.

    Each program user can select the types of information to be indexed and searched. The product can pore through the files using Microsoft Office applications and several types of eMail programs, including Microsoft’s Outlook and Hotmail and Yahoo.

    Google’s desktop search still doesn’t work with the company’s new eMail service, called Gmail. If desired, the program automatically saves all AOL instant message conversations and creates a cache of all web pages surfed by a computer.

    Google’s desktop search program is so powerful that analysts cautioned computer users to carefully consider what kind of material they want indexed, particularly if they’re sharing a computer with family, friends, or office colleagues.

    Google plans eventually to offer some kind of password-protection to restrict desktop searches for individual users.

    “People are going to have to think pretty carefully about this,’ Li said during an interview. “There are some things that you probably don’t want indexed on a computer.”

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    New PC search tool poses security risks

    People who use public or workplace computers for eMail, instant messaging, and web searching have a new privacy risk to worry about: Google’s free new tool that indexes a PC’s contents for quickly locating data.

    If it’s installed on computers at schools, libraries, and internet cafes, for example, users could unwittingly allow people who follow them on the PCs to see sensitive information in eMail messages they’ve exchanged. That could mean revealed passwords, conversations with parents about sensitive student information, or viewed web pages detailing online purchases.

    “It’s clearly a very powerful tool for locating information on the computer,” said Richard M. Smith, a privacy and security consultant in Cambridge, Mass. “On the flip side of things, it’s a perfect spy program.”

    Google Desktop Search, publicly released Oct. 14 in a “beta” test phase for computers running the latest Windows operating systems, automatically records eMail you read through Outlook, Outlook Express, or the Internet Explorer (IE) browser. It also saves copies of web pages you view through IE and chat conversations using America Online Inc.’s instant-messaging software. And it finds Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files stored on the computer. (For more on this free new search tool, see related story.)

    If you’re the computer’s only user, the software is helpful “as a photographic memory of everything you’ve seen on the computer,” said Marissa Mayer, director of consumer web products at Google Inc.

    The giant index remains on the computer and isn’t shared with Google. The company can’t access it remotely even if it gets a subpoena ordering it to do so, Mayer said.

    Google invades
    computers with
    new search function

    Google Inc. has become the first tech heavyweight to tackle the daunting task of uncluttering computers, introducing a program that quickly scours hard drives for documents, eMail messages, instant messages, and past web searches. The desktop invasion heralds a momentous step into a crucial realm–the challenge of managing the information glut that has accumulated during the past decade, as society becomes more tethered to increasingly powerful computers….

  • FULL STORY
  • Where the privacy and security concerns arise is when the computer is shared.

    Type in “hotmail.com” and you’ll get copies, or stored caches, of messages that previous users have seen. Enter an eMail address and you can read all the messages sent to and from that address. Type “password” and get password reminders that were sent back via eMail.

    Acknowledging the concerns, Mayer said managers of shared computers should think twice about installing the software until Google develops advanced features like password protection and multi-user support.

    In the meantime, users of shared PCs can look for telltale signs.

    A multicolored swirl in the system tray at the lower right corner of the computer desktop means the software is running. A user can right-click on that to exit the program–thereby preventing it from recording web surfing, eMail, and chat sessions.

    Users also can surf on non-IE browsers like Opera and Mozilla, although the software might index web pages already stored before it gets installed.

    Managers of public-access terminals can install software or deny users administrative privileges so they can’t install unauthorized programs, such as Google’s. In fact, many schools, libraries, and cybercafes already do so.

    Herb Jones, owner of Herb’s Cyber Cafe in Oblong, Ill., tried out the desktop search program on his computer and likes it–but he won’t install it on his two public terminals. In fact, he’s written software to prevent customers from installing programs like it.

    The FedEx Kinko’s chain is also taking preventive measures. It’s deploying software designed to refresh its public-access terminals to a virgin state for each new customer automatically. So any errant software would disappear, as would any personal settings, files, or web caches, said Maggie Thill, a spokeswoman with FedEx Kinko’s.

    But policies do vary, and no precaution is foolproof, warned Carol Brey-Casiano, president of the American Library Association and director of public libraries in El Paso, Texas. “We do our best to protect our patrons and computers and network, but as you can imagine, thousands of people can use public computers in a given week,” she said.

    The new Google tool would not only aid people in spying on past patrons on public PCs. At home, users could record their kids’ instant-messaging conversations or view a spouse’s eMail. In the office, employers could index what their workers are up to.

    If each user has a separate logon to Windows, Google Desktop Search will be stymied, however. That’s because only one person can install and use the software on a given computer.

    The power of Google’s software relies on centralizing what’s already saved on computers; most browsers, for instance, have a built-in cache that keeps copies of web pages recently visited. The difference is that Google’s index is permanent, though users can delete items individually. And the software makes all the items easier to find.

    The software can also betray users, said Annalee Newitz, policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Delete an eMail message or file, yet a copy remains on Google’s index.

    Neel Mehta, leader of the X-Force research and development team at Internet Security Systems Inc., said the threats are real, though there are plenty of other products available for spying–ones better at doing the recording secretly.

    “It’s not designed to be an [illicit] tool,” Mehta said of the Google software. “It’s designed to be a search engine.”

    Related Story:

    Google invades computers with new search function

    Links:

    Google Desktop Search

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    Idaho charter school says no thanks to state lottery money

    CNN reports on the decision of the North Star Public Charter School in Idaho to turn down $10,000 in funding because the money came from state lottery proceeds. The school’s co-founder said the money was rejected because “it’s the less fortunate and the poor in the communities who are buying these [lottery] tickets, and children are the ones who will pay for it.”

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    Computer lab on wheels very valuable for California district

    The Lodi News-Sentinel of Lodi, Calif., reports that local students are benefiting from the district’s Urban Technology Vehicle. The district converted a large RV into a computer lab on wheels, and this has allowed many of its students to access technology for the first time.

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