Export bill high on Silicon Valley's list
The heads of major tech companies have been putting pressure on lawmakers this year to complete an overhaul of the laws governing the export of high-end computer software and hardware. The industry says the Export Administration Act, which limits the foreign sale of technologies that could have military uses, is holding back high-tech firms from competing abroad. The Senate passed an industry-approved bill Sept. 6 that would rewrite the law and loosen restrictions on high-tech exports. As the bill awaits House action, the White House has stepped up its pressure on lawmakers to get it done, saying that the measure also would give the president more leeway in restricting specific exports in response to terrorist attacks. The tech bigwigs who have come to Washington to push for the bill include Dell Corp.'s Michael Dell, IBM Corp.'s Louis V. Gerstner Jr., Intel's Craig Barrett and Motorola's Christopher Galvin.
Military expects to increase tech spending
The Pentagon's top finance official says the military wants to boost spending on high-tech goods next year as part of a long-term plan to transform how U.S. troops fight. Dov Zakheim, an undersecretary of Defense and the Pentagon's chief financial officer, said the war in Afghanistan has driven home the point that Silicon Valley has ideas and products that can improve the military. Zakheim told the San Jose Mercury-News: "This war is a very different kind of war. It's being fought by people on horseback with satellite phones. We have to learn to conduct ourselves differently." President Bush is expected to ask for about $375 billion for defense in his fiscal 2003 budget, which he will submit to Congress on Feb. 4. That total includes a significant increase over past years, and some of the extra funding is expected to go toward new military technologies.
Online film sites encourage industry to catch up
Although the film industry is fighting Internet piracy at every turn, Hollywood should not ignore the potential benefits of distributing films online, say Web-site owners and industry analysts. Luke McDonough, co-founder of the online entertainment company IFILM, told a recent industry conference in Beverly Hills, Calif., that most new technologies can help Hollywood make money. "There will still be piracy, but the net effect is going to be incremental to your business as it was with VCR, as it was with DVD, as it was with pay-per-view," he said, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. "Every time they have made it easier for more people to consume it and more convenient in the way that they use it, it is so huge for their businesses." The studios remain leery, however. Mike Medavoy, co-founder of Phoenix Pictures, put it this way: "Film is a 19th century invention and now we're in the 21st. ... Movie studios built up their libraries and that is what makes these companies so valuable. The question is: Who controls the pipeline to this product? The studios have to protect their properties or be put out of business."
Hackers tweak Washington Post site
The Washington Post's tech news site was the victim of hackers Tuesday night, according to the newspaper. The mischief-makers attacked Washtech.com, "replacing content on the news site's home page with taunts to the site's administrators and greetings to fellow hackers," the Post said. "As soon as we learned about it, we took the site down," said Washtech.com publisher Valerie Voci. "We're still assessing what the security breach was." The attackers' message included references to the aCid fAlz Group, a collection of hackers who say on their Web site that they deface Web pages only as a means of exposing security holes in server software. The group says its target is usually a site's index file, according to the Post, That was the Washtech.com file that was altered Monday night.
'Wi-Fi' causes security concerns
A wireless format that allows a broad range of gizmos to talk to each other has been banned from some high-tech institutions because of security concerns, reports USA Today. The wireless fidelity format -- Wi-Fi or 802.11b for short -- is vulnerable to hackers once data is in the air, and only about 10 percent of Wi-Fi users install even basic protections, security experts say. USA Today said the Wi-Fi rejection club includes the government's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, which banned all wireless networks from its grounds. The airline industry has been using Wi-Fi in its curbside baggage check-in systems. The Department of Transportation in December started assessing security risks of using technologies such as Wi-Fi in airports, according to USA Today.
New worm offers party pictures
The latest ploy to get unsuspecting e-mail users to open a malicious file attachment is a message titled "new photos from my party!" Anti-virus experts have been saying for years that people should not open e-mail attachments from unknown or suspicious sources. But Internet pranksters always seem to find new ways to tempt the gullible. The new worm, which sends e-mail to everyone in a victim's address book with a copy of itself, has been labeled "My Party" by anti-virus experts. My Party is slightly more clever than some of its predecessors: The message says, "Hello! My party... It was absolutely amazing! I have attached my Web page with new photos! If you can please make color prints of my photos. Thanks!" The offending file attachment is called "myparty.yahoo.com," which looks like a Web link, but actually is an executable file. The .com file extension is one used by Windows for some operating system programs. Experts say the worm originated in Russia, and its code is written only to work through Wednesday.
(Compiled by Joe Warminsky in Washington.)