January 2, 2006

All Windows PCs Shipped Since 1990 Face “Huge” Virus Threat

Filed under: Economy,Privacy/ID Theft — Tom @ 9:23 pm

I’ll just relay it without comment, after which, if you use the Windows OS, you might be well-advised to stay off the Internet for a while:

Windows PCs face ‘huge’ virus threat

Computer security experts were grappling with the threat of a new weakness in Microsoft’s Windows operating system that could put hundreds of millions of PCs at risk of infection by spyware or viruses.

The news marks the latest security setback for Microsoft, the world’s biggest software company, whose Windows operating system is a favourite target for hackers.

“The potential [security threat] is huge,” said Mikko Hyppönen, chief research officer at F-Secure, an antivirus company. “It’s probably bigger than for any other vulnerability we’ve seen. Any version of Windows is vulnerable right now.”

The flaw, which allows hackers to infect computers using programs maliciously inserted into seemingly innocuous image files, was first discovered last week. But the potential for damaging attacks increased dramatically at the weekend after a group of computer hackers published the source code they used to exploit it. Unlike most attacks, which require victims to download or execute a suspect file, the new vulnerability makes it possible for users to infect their computers with spyware or a virus simply by viewing a web page, e-mail or instant message that contains a contaminated image.

“We haven’t seen anything that bad yet, but multiple individuals and groups are exploiting this vulnerability,” Mr Hyppönen said. He said that every Windows system shipped since 1990 contained the flaw.

Microsoft said in a security bulletin on its website that it was aware that the vulnerability was being actively exploited. But by early yesterday, it had not yet released an official patch to correct the flaw. “We are working closely with our antivirus partners and aiding law enforcement in its investigation,” the company said. In the meantime, Microsoft said it was urging customers to be careful opening e-mail or following web links from untrusted sources.

….. Microsoft routinely identifies or receives reports of security weaknesses but most such vulnerabilities are limited to a particular version of the Windows operating system or other piece of Microsoft software. In recent weeks, the company has been touting its progress in combating security threats.

The company could not be reached on Monday for comment.


UPDATE: I report, you decide — The Internet Storm Center is near apoplexy, while Larry Seitzer at Eweek is much calmer, and is in fact worried about overreacters removing important Windows functionality.

New York Times: Transparency for Thee, But Not For Me

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias — Tom @ 7:48 pm

Meet the New Year, same as the Old Year — The New York Times starts 2006 where it left off.

This time it stiffs its own Public Editor who wants to know more about a “woefully inadequate” decision to delay publication of its story about the National Security Agency eavesdropping domestically without court-approved warrant.

The Times response: a large stone wall (HT S.O.B. Alliance member Porkopolis).

This time, it may be Times lawyers, who have to be concerned about possible government prosecution, doing the masonry work.

No Kidding

Filed under: Consumer Outrage,Privacy/ID Theft — Tom @ 7:13 pm

In what was hopefully the last major data breach of 2005, Marriott International reported last week that its time-share division “is missing backup computer tapes containing credit card account information and the Social Security numbers of about 206,000 time-share owners and customers, as well as employees of the company.”

USA Today last week called 2005 “the worst year for breaches of computer security” and noted that “At least 130 reported breaches have exposed more than 55 million Americans to potential ID theft this year.”

Perhaps the most outrageous breach was this one — although the numbers of records involved was relatively small, the fact that it occurred at a company whose “product is used by law enforcement agencies, government investigators and Fortune 1000 companies to track down and investigate digital break-ins, as well as perform network and software audits,” plus the fact that most of the records stolen are of law-enforcement personnel, as the linked article notes, “puts an unsavory end to a year rife with database breaches.”

A lot of horses left the barn in 2005, so now it’s time to close the door — From Network Computing magazine:

Survivor’s Guide to 2006:
Priority No. 1:
Data Protection

Of course it’s better late than never, but where have y’all been during the past couple of years?

2005: A Hollywood Horror Story (or Was It?)

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy — Tom @ 4:55 pm

At the theaters, 2005 was a bust of epic proportions. In fact, Tinseltown’s past three years have been ones of steady decay at the box office to an extent well beyond what the gross revenue numbers reveal:


Whether this decline means long-term trouble for the film industry is debatable (though the theaters themselves have obviously taken quite a hit), and there is a noticeable lack of concern over the sustained three-year decline, the likes of which would drive other companies to totally reexamine what they are doing (see: Domestic auto industry). While commentators like Tammy Bruce and Mark Steyn point to how out-of-touch film-makers are with their audience, the industry, though acknowledging that 2005 was a rough year, appears to have adopted a “What Me, Worry?” attitude.

Part of their lack of concern lies in the belief that DVD sales and rentals will make up for drops at the box office. But it looks like that didn’t happen in 2005 (and almost certainly didn’t, after considering inflation):

The sky might not have fallen on the fast-maturing DVD business in 2005, but the double-digit revenue growth studio home entertainment divisions have enjoyed almost since the format’s launch in 1997 did come to a grinding halt.

Final numbers on consumer spending won’t be available until the middle of next week, but the consensus among studio executives, analysts and other observers is that it might be hard to top the record $24.5 billion consumers spent on home video purchases and rentals in 2004.

The article goes on to say that unit sales are up and unit prices are down, which means all is not bleak if Hollywood moguls can firm up their pricing.

And, according to this Wall Street Journal column by Edward Jay Epstein (requires subscription), they are in a position to do just that, because the big studios have essentially cornered the market:

Although U.S. theaters took in 8% less money in the first nine months of 2005 than they did in the same period in 2004, the movies of the major Hollywood studios — Fox, Sony, Warner Bros., Disney, Paramount and Universal — taken together, were up, not down. From Jan. 1 to Sept. 30, 2005, the movies of the six majors took in $4.7 billion compared to $4.5 billion in the same period in 2004. They did so by increasing their slice of the total box-office pie from 68% in 2004 to 75% in 2005.

The losers were the independent studios that specialize in more grown-up movies, such as Lions Gate Entertainment and Newmarket Films, and the two so-called “studioless” studios, DreamWorks SKG and MGM. They suffered 40% box-office declines in 2005 and have now both sold themselves to major studios and their financial partners — MGM to Sony, DreamWorks SKG to Paramount — while Lions Gate Entertainment has dropped out of the business of opening movies in wide releases simultaneously on 3,000 or more screens.

If the Hollywood studios now have a virtual monopoly on such wide releases, it is not an accident. The Big Six can prudently afford to make the huge investment in audience-creation necessary to open a movie on thousands of screens because they, unlike wannabe studios, have the muscle to earn it back by leveraging their products across many licensing platforms — including those, such as the TV networks, that belong to their corporate parents. The Hollywood studios, with their repertory of successful amusement-park franchises, including “Star Wars,” “Spider-Man,” “Batman” and “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and the proliferation of new platforms, can look forward in 2006 to a very happy new year.

The big question mark in the whole equation is whether the “Big Six’s” skill at “audience-creation” will continue. In the meantime, anyone hoping that Hollywood will produce more movies in 2006 that reflect the values of the wider population appears to be in for a disappointment, as the folks who produce and deliver our entertainment seem to be quite content with themselves.

UPDATE: Dan Glickman, the head of the Motion Picture Association of America, does his best “What Me, Worry?” dance in an OpinionJournal.com column (link may require registration). The problem, Dan, is that the hits you cite are either remakes, sequels, prequels, or were written by British people who know how to tell a story. The 2005 Hollywood-originating content of most of these is very low. What if one or more of these wells runs dry?

Notes: Box office and ticket price figures were obtained from the Yearly Box Office page at BoxOfficeMojo.com. 2005′s total was revised upward by about $16 million on January 3, 2006 to reflect final changes made at BOM. Population data was obtained from the US Census Bureau by subtracting 40% of the population Ages in the 0-5 age group from the total population.

Previous related posts:

Beijing Paper’s Journalists Walk Out

Filed under: Economy,Privacy/ID Theft,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:01 pm

Among headlines I thought I’d never see:
Chinese Journalists Strike as Editor Is Sacked” (HT Ace)

Wouldn’t it be something if the struggle for personal and press freedoms in China becomes the one of 2006′s top stories?

If it is to happen, 2006 may have to be the year. The police state apparatus is getting ever stronger (thanks in part to the help of American technology–see previous posts below), and enough early pressure on the government ahead of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing may force leaders to open up society more to avoid embarrassing demonstrations while the eyes of the world are fixed in China’s direction.

Previous Posts:
Dec. 11, 2005 — Chinese Officials Attempting to Pay Hush Money to Families of Murdered Protesters
Nov. 7 — Our Friends the Chinese
Oct. 22 — Chinese Censorship: Bad News and Good News
Oct. 20 — “I Do NOT Yahoo!” Update: A Chinese Dissident Speaks Out
Oct. 8 — Is There Anything American Tech Companies Won’t Do to Kowtow to China?
Oct. 1 — More on China Repression and Yahoo! Enablers
Sept. 30 — UPDATE: China Repression with American Technology–On Smart Mobs, BBS, and SMS
Sept. 26 — China Crackdown Continues: First Blogs, Now Internet News and Web Sites
Sept. 18 — I Do Not “Yahoo!” Update: WaPo Weighs In
Sept. 14 — I Do Not “Yahoo!” Follow-up
Sept. 11 — I Do Not (and Will Not) “Yahoo!”
Aug. 16 — Biz Weak Inadvertently Tells Us Why CNOOC-Unocal Was a Bad Idea
Aug. 5 — Chinese Company Ends Attempt to Buy Unocal–PRC, WSJ Whine in Unison
July 4 — The Bull in Oppressive China’s Shopping

Happy New Year: Fox Rocks

This is quite a contrast from the previous post about a newspaper, The Los Angeles Times, that seems bound and determined to turn away readers. Fox News, by contrast, does the exact opposite, and it shows.

From a PDF at Media Bistro (HT Opinipundit):


11 out of the top 12 shows. Wow. It was only in 2001 that O’Reilly’s became the first Fox program to pass Larry King. Now he’s within striking distance of doubling King.

One can only hope that Prince Alwaleed’s money doesn’t ruin it for Fox, and that the incident described at the link was a one-timer.

As to the other cable nets (and the non-Fox major nets, and the non-WSJ major newspapers, and the Associated Press, Reuters, et al — you know, the Worn-Out Reactionary Media [WORMs], known to most as The Mainstream Media) — Rush predicted years ago that if their market share and newsroom business models collapsed, as is occurring now (along with their stock prices), they wouldn’t change what they’re doing or how they’re doing it, and would NEVER ask themselves if their deeply-ingrained institutional biases might be the cause of their decline. So far, he’s right.

Magnificent Obsession:
Patterico Chronicles a Year of LA Times Bias

Patterico, The Pit Bull of the West, and the LA Dog Trainer’s, er, Times’ worst enemy, has a VERY comprehensive post on the paper’s liberally-biased sins of omission and commission during 2005.

If you don’t have time to go through the whole thing, at least scroll through the topic areas. Other than sports, you’ll see that there’s almost no topic in the paper that wasn’t affected.

It reflects another year of what Hugh Hewitt co-blogger Mary Katharine Ham, who really needs a blog of her own, identifies as the four ways Old Media outlets are working to make themselves irrelevant:

  1. Display utter ignorance of the free-market system the rest of us work in, which is competitive and requires us to work hard to fend off competitors.
  2. Have obvious contempt for your readers.
  3. Save the most contempt for your most engaged readers.
  4. When in doubt, throw up your hands and blame someone else.

The strategy has been working at the LA Times. As I noted back in July, “Daily circ slid 11.5% and Sunday circ fell 13.7% in the 12 months ended March 2005.”

I don’t see any reason not to expect yet more of the same in 2006 both for the LA Times and the WORMs (Worn-Out Reactionary Media, known to most as the Mainstream Media) in general, especially if an election where “conventional wisdom” sees off-year net gains across the board for Democrats goes in the other direction, which I believe to be the more likely scenario.

UPDATE: Links to Patterico’s prior LA Times bias reviews–
- 2004 Part 1 (Presidential Election)
- 2004 Part 2 (the rest of the year’s events)
- 2003

UPDATE 2, Jan. 6: Whew — Michael Hiltzik at the LA Times’ Golden State Blog really didn’t like Patterico’s LAT Year in Review, and let loose what can only be described as an unhinged (“Stalinist show trials”?) twopart response. Big mistake: Patterico fires back, and supplements it. It’s an unfair fight — Patterico in a knockout. No need for judges, Tom Maguire and Catherine Seipp get their evaluations in. Seipp also hopes The Times can right itself. Now for my judgment — It’s probably too late.

And a big whoa — Hiltzik ends up being Exhibit A in my observation that political leftists replaced specialists in covering business news during the 1980s and 1990s, as Seipp describes about half way through her column:

As it happens, Hiltzik, whom I’ve heard described as “brilliant” and “notorious a**hole” in the same breath, has an interesting history at the Times. He lost his position there as Moscow correspondent a dozen years ago, after he was discovered hacking into co-workers’ e-mail. But instead of being fired or suspended without pay, he was ordered back to Spring Street and reassigned to the business section, where he’s since won a Pulitzer.

He and Chuck Philips won their Pulitzer in 1999 for Beat Reporting “for their stories on corruption in the entertainment industry, including a charity sham sponsored by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, illegal detoxification programs for wealthy celebrities, and a resurgence of radio payola.” Legitimate stories, but they do fit neatly into the the leftist notion that all business is corrupt.

UPDATE 3, Jan. 6: Dean is more optimistic (scroll to his update) — “The old media people are really making jackasses of themselves. They ought to be embracing things like this and glad for the opportunity to improve their reporting skills and respond to reader input. But that would require ego readjustments that some of them apparently aren’t quite able to bring themselves to just yet. Hopefully, with time….”

Positivity: Two Men Survive 11-Day Ordeal

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:15 am

No food, no water, adrift at sea:

ailor back from hell


Steven Freeman, formerly of Nelson, has returned to New Zealand after surviving 11 days adrift at sea off Vietnam in a liferaft with no food or water. He tells his story of survival to Mike Steere.

It could have been any greeting at any airport, except Steven Freeman’s trip home to New Zealand was anything but ordinary.

Freeman, 30, was rescued a fortnight ago today by fishermen after the yacht he and Australian skipper Mark Smith, 49, were delivering to Australia sank off the Vietnamese coast.

The pair clung to a liferaft for 11 terrifying days without food or water, forced to lick rainwater from the liferaft and drink their own urine.

Now, after a much longer and more dramatic journey than anyone could have imagined, Freeman and his family have been reunited.

A thin and well-tanned Freeman sauntered into the arrivals lounge at Christchurch International Airport on Thursday night with a huge grin and embraced his sister and brother- in-law, John and Karen Scowen.

“It’s excellent to be home; really great,” he said.

Freeman lost 12kg while adrift with Smith.

“Twelve kilos in 11 days – Jenny Craig, eat your heart out. I’m in pretty good health now.

“I have had 10 or 12 days to recover, so came home and have New Year’s and get on it, I reckon.”

Karen Scowen said that when she heard her brother for the first time on the phone from Vietnam, she knew he had been through hell. “That’s the weakest I’ve ever heard him.”

Freeman, who lives in Queensland, was relaxed as he spoke about the ordeal that tested his endurance.

“Oh, yeah, mate, we feared for our lives. It was pretty scary sometimes,” he said.

The pair left Hong Kong on December 5 headed to Australia to deliver a 20m motor-yacht to its Australian owner.

Less than a day into the voyage, they hit huge seas and tried to turn the yacht around about 200km off the coast of Hong Kong.

However, a “monster wave” hit the vessel and they were forced to abandon the yacht and take to the liferaft.

Freeman said the boat disappeared quickly.

“In about 60 seconds, the yacht went down.

“It was a bit of a shame because it was a nice flash yacht,” he said.

The sailors managed to get into the liferaft but not long after were hit by another giant wave, resulting in the pair’s spirit almost being broken, Freeman said.

“We lost all of our supplies and everything – that was within the first half an hour of being in the raft,” he said.

“So, yeah, that was a shame because we had plenty of water and food for 10 to15 days, but once that had been tipped out, that was it. Nothing.”

The two then endured 11 days without food or water.

“It kept us pretty busy because there were sort of 25 to 35-knot winds … rocking and rolling and getting biffed out of the raft every couple of days. There was nothing pleasurable about it.”

Freeman and Smith drank their own urine as they became desperate for fluids, and were delighted to get rainwater on day seven.

Smith has said it was “sheer willpower” that kept the two alive. Their biggest fear was being swept away from each other.

Freeman said that in the end luck saved them from an otherwise certain death as there were no rescue teams looking for them.

“It was good getting washed up near that island – that was the saviour.

“If we had missed that island, I don’t think we would have lived,” he said.

He said it was hard to describe the feeling when they saw a fishing boat and realised they would survive.

“When we saw that fishing boat, it was unbelievable.

“We were rapt. That was the best part of the trip.”

The Vietnamese fishermen took the pair to nearby Ly Son island, 30km off the coast of Vietnam.

They received medical treatment in a clinic on the small island of about 20,000 people, where they remained for several days.

They then spent Christmas in Vietnam arranging visas before heading to Australia.