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By JORDAN ROBERTSON, AP Technology Writer Wed Aug 27, 5:16 PM ET

SAN FRANCISCO – Intercepting Internet traffic, and spying on the communication between two computers, is a gold mine for hackers. Now Carnegie Mellon University researchers hope software they’ve built will make it harder for criminals to hit that jackpot.

The software, a free download for use with latest version of the Firefox Web browser, creates an additional way for people to verify whether the site they’re trying to visit is authentic.

Most browsers already alert users when a site appears bogus. One way is by warning that a site that claims to be equipped to handle confidential information securely hasn’t been verified by a third party, like VeriSign Inc. or GoDaddy.com Inc. Those are two of many companies that sell so-called Secure Sockets Layer certificates, which generate the padlock icon in the address bar.

The problem, the Carnegie Mellon researchers say, is that many people are perplexed about how to proceed once they get one of those warnings about a bad certificate.

Some click through, going on to malicious sites that steal their personal information, while others retreat, skipping over harmless sites that used less expensive, “self-signed” certificates.

So the researchers — David Andersen, Adrian Perrig and Dan Wendlandt — created a program that performs a novel extra step. It can tap into a network of publicly accessible servers that have been programmed to ping Web sites and record changes in the encryption keys they use to secure data.

Any discrepancy can be a sign that hackers are rerouting traffic through machines under their control, a pernicious type of attack known as a “man in the middle.”

As a result, the new program either overrides the security warning if a site is deemed legitimate, or throws up another warning if the subsequent probes reveal more red flags.

___

On the Net:

Carnegie Mellon researchers’ site:

http://tinyurl.com/6cblaz

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Wed Aug 27, 6:22 PM ET

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – NASA confirmed on Wednesday that a computer virus sneaked aboard the International Space Station only to be tossed into quarantine on July 25 by security software.

A “worm type” virus was found on laptop computers that astronauts use to send and receive email from the station by relaying messages through a mission control center in Texas, according to NASA spokesman Kelly Humphries.

The virus is reported to be malicious software that logs keystrokes in order to steal passwords or other sensitive data by sending the information to hackers via the Internet.

The laptop computers are not linked to any of the space station’s control systems or the Internet.

“The bottom line is it is a nuisance for us,” Humphries told AFP. “The crew is working with teams on the ground to eradicate the virus and look for actions to prevent that from happening in the future.”

The virus had no adverse effect on space station operations, according to Humphries.

The space station orbits Earth once every 90 minutes at an altitude of about 350 kilometers (217 miles).

NASA is reportedly looking into whether the virus got into the computers by hiding in a memory drive used to store music, video or other digital files.

Humphries said this is not the first computer virus stowaway on the Space Station.

“This is not a frequent occurrence but it has happened before,” Humphries said.

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NEW YORK – Coming to late-model Sony LCD flat panels: YouTube videos.

Sony Corp. on Thursday said YouTube and Wired.com have been added to the video providers for a $300 module it sells for its LCD flat panel TVs.

The Internet Video Link module is a small box that fits into the back of some 2007 and 2008 LCD TVs. It connects to the home broadband router and is controlled by the TV remote. Video service comes free with the module.

Yahoo, AOL, Sports Illustrated and Style.com are among existing video providers for the device.

Similarly, Apple Inc.‘s Apple TV set-top box streams YouTube videos to a TV set, but it works with any high-definition set.

Also Thursday, Sony introduced two high-end LCD TV models with backlighting produced by light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. The models are 46 inches and 55 inches diagonally. Prices were not announced, but will be lower than the cost of the only previously available Sony model with LED backlighting, a 70-inch model for $33,000.

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By LARRY NEUMEISTER, Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK – A $1 billion copyright infringement lawsuit challenging YouTube’s ability to keep copyrighted material off its popular video-sharing site threatens how hundreds of millions of people exchange all kinds of information on the Internet, YouTube owner Google Inc. said.

Google’s lawyers made the claim in papers filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan as the company responded to Viacom Inc.’s latest lawsuit alleging that the Internet has led to “an explosion of copyright infringement” by YouTube and others.

The back-and-forth between the companies has intensified since Viacom brought its lawsuit last year, saying it was owed damages for the unauthorized viewing of its programming from MTV, Comedy Central and other networks, including such hits as “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

In papers submitted to a judge late Friday, Google said YouTube “goes far beyond its legal obligations in assisting content owners to protect their works.”

It said that by seeking to make carriers and hosting providers liable for Internet communications, Viacom “threatens the way hundreds of millions of people legitimately exchange information, news, entertainment and political and artistic expression.”

Google said YouTube was faithful to the requirements of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, saying the federal law was intended to protect companies like YouTube as long as they responded properly to content owners’ claims of infringement.

On that score, Viacom says Google has set a terrible example.

In a rewritten lawsuit filed last month, Viacom said YouTube consistently allows unauthorized copies of popular television programming and movies to be posted on its Web site and viewed tens of thousands of times.

Viacom said it had identified more than 150,000 unauthorized clips of copyrighted programming — including “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “South Park” and “MTV Unplugged” episodes and the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” — that had been viewed “an astounding 1.5 billion times.”

The company said its count of unauthorized clips represents only a fraction of the content on YouTube that violates its copyrights.

It said Google and YouTube had done “little or nothing” to stop infringement.

“To the contrary, the availability on the YouTube site of a vast library of the copyrighted works of plaintiffs and others is the cornerstone of defendants’ business plan,” Viacom said.

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By PETER SVENSSON, AP Technology Writer Thu May 22, 3:14 PM ET

NEW YORK – The lack of high-speed Internet access in some areas of the U.S. has been hotly debated, even as that digital divide has narrowed. But a new, wider gap is being created by technology that will make today’s broadband feel as slow as a dial-up connection.

Much like broadband enabled downloads of music, video and work files that weren’t practical over dial-up, the next generation of Internet connections will allow for vivid, lifelike video conferencing and new kinds of interactive games.

But while access to cable and phone-line broadband has spread to cover perhaps 90 percent of the U.S. in the space of a decade, next-generation Internet access looks set to create a much smaller group of “haves” and a larger group of “have nots.”

The most promising route to superfast home broadband is to extend the fiber-optic lines that already form the Internet’s backbone all the way to homes. Existing fiber-to-the-home, or FTTH, connections are already 10 times faster than vanilla broadband provided over phone or cable lines. With relatively easy upgrades, the speeds could be a hundred times faster.

In the U.S., the buildout of FTTH is under way, but it’s highly concentrated in the 17-state service area of Verizon Communications Inc., which is the only major U.S. phone company that is replacing its copper lines with fiber. Its FiOS service accounts for more than 1.8 million of the 2.9 million U.S. homes that are connected to fiber according to RVA LLC, a research firm that specializes in the field.

FTTH is also offered by some small phone companies, cooperatives and municipalities, like Chattanooga, Tenn. The other major phone companies, like AT&T Inc. and Qwest Communications International Inc., are laying FTTH in “greenfield” developments, but aren’t pulling fiber to existing homes. Some cable companies are doing the same.

Graham Finnie, chief analyst for the telecom research firm Heavy Reading, believes 13 percent of U.S. households will be connected to fiber by 2012. Since Verizon is the major builder, the vast majority of those will be in Verizon territory on the East Coast, Texas and California.

“That does beg the question: What happens to everyone else? There’s going to be a huge community of people who are not getting FTTH in the next five years,” Finnie said.

“A quarter of the U.S. is going to get one of the best networks in the world,” said Dave Burstein, editor of the DSL Prime newsletter.

The rest of the country, he said, is going to be stuck with slow DSL or cable, though the latter is due for upgrades in the next few years that will boost top speeds fivefold.

Still, it’s not entirely clear that people on fiber connections are going to have a big advantage over slowpokes on regular broadband. Today, there is not much that can be done on a fast connection that can’t be done on a standard one. Fiber is already available to a third of South Korean homes, but that hasn’t revolutionized society there, at least not yet.

Increased used of video, particularly high-definition video, is seen as the future of the Internet, but most cable modems and high-end DSL are already capable of streaming HD video downloads. However, fiber connections support higher upload speeds, potentially making for better video conferencing from the home, which in turn creates opportunities for distance learning. Games also could get a jump in realism and online interactivity, Burstein said.

Not only are U.S. regions going to differ tremendously in how fast they get fiber, the differences between countries will also be huge. Apart from South Korea, Finnie cited Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Sweden as other front-runners. He estimates that almost half of all Swedish households would have fiber by 2012, for instance.

“This is not a market where there’s a smooth progression across countries and regions — it’s going to be extremely variable,” said Finnie.

Considered as a whole, the U.S. will be “middling” in the international comparison, trailing the pioneers but well ahead of other developed nations like Finnie’s home country, Britain, which he estimates will have 3 to 4 percent fiber-connected homes in 2012.

The fiber buildout is going to take more time and be more patchy than the introduction of broadband because it’s so much more expensive, Finnie said. Cable modem and DSL connections are retrofits to links originally laid down to provide video and phone service, respectively. Fiber-optic lines will be the first links that are built for data to reach U.S. homes.

The costs will remain high, because getting permits for the buildout and drawing the physical lines is “a hugely physical, human-type activity,” said Joe Savage, president of the FTTH Council North America. While the cost of the equipment keeps dropping rapidly, two-thirds of the cost of connecting a home are labor, he said

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By Darren Waters
Technology editor, BBC News website

Dr Leonid Ponomarenko, associate researcher

Dr Leonid Ponomarenko shows off a device with the transistor embedded

Researchers have built the world’s smallest transistor – one atom thick and 10 atoms wide – out of a material that could one day replace silicon.

The transistor, essentially an on/off switch, has been made using graphene, a two-dimensional material first discovered only four years ago.

Graphene is a single layer of graphite, which is found in the humble pencil.

The transistor is the key building block of microchips and the basis for almost all electronics.

Dr Kostya Novoselov and Professor Andre Geim from The School of Physics and Astronomy at The University of Manchester have been leading research into the potential application of graphene in electronics and were the first to separate a sheet of the material from graphite

Super material

Graphene has been hailed as a super material because it has many potential applications. It is a flat molecule, with only the thickness of an atom, and both very stable and robust.

The researchers are also looking at its use in display technology – because it is transparent.

The Manchester-based scientists have shown that graphene can be carved into tiny electronic circuits with individual transistors not much larger than a molecule.

Dr Novoselov told BBC News that graphene had many advantages over silicon because it could conduct electricity faster and further.

Silicon will be replaced by graphene
Dr Kostya Novoselov

“These transistors will work and work at ambient, room temperature conditions – just what is required for modern electronics,” he said.

Dr Novoselov said graphene was a “wonderful conductor”, making it a perfect material for chip applications.

“It is already superior to silicon by an order of magnitude and comparable to the best samples of other materials.

“We believe we can increase this mobility of electron flow 10-fold.”

Graphene is a hot topic among semiconductor researchers at the moment because it is an excellent conductor of electricity. Unlike silicon graphene transistors perform better the smaller they become.

Leak electricity

The global semiconductor business is currently built on sand; stamping out microchips from large silicon wafers.

Companies like Intel have a roadmap to reduce the size of circuits on the silicon wafer, down to about 10 nanometres – 10,000 times smaller than the width of a single human hair.

Many researchers believe that producing circuits smaller than 10 nanometres in silicon will be too difficult because they start to leak electricity at that size.

That current silicon roadmap is expected to end in 2020, making the race to find alternative materials potentially very lucrative.

Producing graphene sheets big enough to be used as wafers for chip production remained the biggest hurdle, said Dr Novoselov.

“We can control the cut down to 20 nanometres. And then when we have to scale down to one nanometre we use a bit of luck.

“The yield of the working devices is about 50%.”

Many researchers around the world are working on creating large wafers of graphene.

In order to produce microchips wafers would need to be several inches across. The biggest wafer produced so far is 100 microns across, just a tenth of a millimetre.

Electron microscope view of the graphene transistor

Short and narrow constrictions in graphene can act as high-quality transistors

“I do believe we will find the technology to do this. And when we do silicon will be replaced by graphene,” said Dr Novoselov.

Professor Bob Westervelt, in an assessment of the material and its future application in the journal Science, wrote: “Graphene is an exciting new material with unusual properties that are promising for nanoelectronics.

“The future should be very interesting.”

Dr Novoselov added: “Given the material was first obtained by us four years ago, we are making good progress.”

He said the process of using graphene to build circuits was very compatible with silicon technology.

“At the moment we use all the same steps to make a transistor as is done by the silicon industry. So once we have large wafers of graphene it should be straightforward to use the same process.”

But it might be another 10 years before the first integrated circuits on graphene chips appear, he said.

Shorter term

In the shorter term graphene could be used in LCD displays to replace materials used to create transparent conductive coatings.

“The computer screen relies on good transparent conductors. But current materials are expensive and hard to produce.

“Graphene is only one atom thin so is absolutely transparent – it’s a really wonderful conductor.

“We propose to use it as a transparent conductor, using small interconnecting graphene sheets all together.”

The material is also being touted for use in solar panels, transparent window coatings and also for sensing technologies.

Dr Kostya Novoselov and Professor Andre Geim from The School of Physics and Astronomy at The University of Manchester presented their findings in the 17 April issue of Science.

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Internet law professor Michael Geist looks at the way that cable firms are starting to shackle the net access they offer.

Ethernet cable, Eyewire

Some cable firms are treating net access like they do TV scheduling

When cable companies began promoting high-speed internet services nearly a decade ago, many branded them “the internet on cable”.

Years later, those services are gradually morphing into “the internet as cable” as broadcasters and service providers steadily move toward the delivery of content online that bears a striking resemblance to the conventional cable model.

Cable television has its virtues – some consumer choice, the ability to time shift programs by recording them with a VCR or PVR, and video on-demand – but it is largely built around limiting consumer control.

Cable distributors determine channel choices, geographic distribution, and commercial substitution (typically with input from a broadcast regulator), offer only limited interactivity, and quietly even possess the ability to stop consumers from recording some programs.

Until recently, the internet was precisely the opposite, offering unlimited user choice, continuous interactivity, and technological capabilities to copy and remix content.

That is gradually changing as broadcasters seek to re-assert greater geographic control over their content and service providers experiment with cable-like models for prioritised content delivery.

Prof Michael Geist (Michael Geist)
…if broadcasters and service providers are left to their own devices, it appears that they are increasingly ready to redefine the internet on cable to the internet as cable.
Michael Geist

The re-emergence of geographic borders on the internet coincides with broadcasters finally jumping on the internet bandwagon, as they race to make their content freely available online.

Some US broadcasters are selling downloads through services such as Apple iTunes or Amazon.com, yet the unmistakable trend is toward free, ad-supported streaming of content mere hours after it first appears on commercial television.

Each major US broadcaster already offers a handful of shows in this manner with ambitious plans to expand their services in the months ahead.

NBC and Fox recently unveiled Hulu.com to some critical acclaim, while Comedy Central created a new site for the popular Daily Show that features a complete archive of eight years of programming.

Non-Americans, alas, are generally locked out of these sites due to licensing restrictions.

Foreign broadcasters have been scrambling to buy the internet rights to US programming, both to protect their local broadcasts and to beef up their online presence.

US broadcasters may eventually decide it is more profitable to stream their content on a worldwide basis and to remove longstanding geographic restrictions, however, for the moment they are parceling up the internet as they would a broadcast destined for multiple cable markets.

Jon Stewart, AP

The Daily Show has proved popular on net video sites

This geographic bordering extends beyond just blocking streamed content. For example, the new Daily Show site is off-limits for Canadians since the US-based Comedy Central recently took the unprecedented step of redirecting Canadian visitors to the Canadian-owned Comedy Network site.

Broadcasters are not alone in working to bring the cable model of control to the internet.

Large net service firms are engaged in similar activities, with a history of blocking access to contentious content, limiting bandwidth for alternative content delivery channels, and raising the prospect of levying fees for priority content delivery.

While these issues had been perceived to be predominantly North American concerns, they are beginning to surface elsewhere.

For example, when earlier this year the BBC launched its internet-based iPlayer, several broadband providers floated the prospect of charging the BBC for delivering its content on their networks.

These issues may ultimately sort themselves out.

Users have many easily-obtainable tools to defeat geographic blocking and net firms may find themselves subject to net neutrality legislation if they continue to abuse the public’s trust by failing to maintain their networks in a transparent, neutral fashion.

Yet if broadcasters and service providers are left to their own devices, it appears that they are increasingly ready to redefine the internet on cable to the internet as cable.


Michael Geist holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. He can be reached at mgeist@uottawa.ca or online at http://www.michaelgeist.ca.

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