GT Spectrum

Reports from the IT horizon.

by , / January 2, 2006
Securing VoIP
In late October 2005, the voice over Internet protocol Security Alliance (VoIPSA) released a comprehensive description of security and threats in the VoIP field.

The VoIP Security Threat Taxonomy's goal is to provide the industry with a clear view of VoIP threats, the vulnerabilities and a context for balancing trade-offs. The project, launched in late March 2005, is the first completed project of VoIPSA, an organization formed in February 2005 with the purpose of improving public awareness of issues and best practices for securing VoIP.

Live portions of the VoIP Security Threat Taxonomy are now available for discussion by registering through links posted at the Web site. -- VoIPSA

Got Bots?
A 122-year-old dairy equipment company uses embedded Linux in a robotic cow-milking system. The Voluntary Milking System (VMS) gives cows the power to decide when they want to be milked, and gives dairy farmers a more independent lifestyle, free of regular milkings, the company said.

A single VMS can milk a herd of 60 cows three times per day, said the company. The VMS is powered by an Advantech PCM-5820, a 3.5-inch single-board computer with an AMD Geode GX1 processor clocked at 200 MHz. The board features 10/100 Ethernet, VGA and LVDS LCD ports, a CompactFlash socket and PC/104 expansion.

The VMS uses 64 MB of RAM and boots from a 40 GB hard drive -- only 1 percent of which is actually used, according to the company. -- DeLaval

E-Mail Turns 34
In October 1971, Ray Tomlinson -- often called the father of e-mail -- invented the software that allowed messages to be sent between computers.

He didn't invent e-mail itself. That had been around since 1965 when Fernando Corbato and colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed a program to let the individual users of the institution's Compatible Timesharing System swap messages.

But that program only let people using one machine communicate with each other. Tomlinson's program made it possible to swap messages between machines in different locations -- between universities, and across continents and oceans. -- BBC News

Bye-Bye Bulbs
An accidental discovery announced at the end of October 2005 might be the end of light bulbs as we know them. A graduate student at Vanderbilt University was trying to make really small quantum dots, which are crystals generally only a few nanometers big -- less than 1/1000th of the width of a human hair.

Quantum dots contain anywhere from 100 to 1,000 electrons, making the dots easily excited bundles of energy. The student accidentally shone a laser on his batch of dots, which emitted a warm, white glow. Then he and another student stirred the dots into polyurethane and coated a blue LED light bulb with the mix. The lumpy bulb produced white light that shines twice as bright and lasts 50 times longer than a standard 60-watt light bulb. --

VoIP Blocker
Narus, a seven-year-old Mountain View, Calif., company, devised a way for telephone companies to detect data packets belonging to voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) applications and block the calls -- and large telephone companies overseas are lining up to use the blocking software.

When someone in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, attempts to use VoIP, the software installed on Saudi Telecom's network analyzes the packets flowing across the network, notices what protocols they adhere to, and flags the call as VoIP. In most cases, it can even identify the specific software being used.

Company officials said there's nothing keeping U.S. telecommunications carriers from using the software to spot and degrade the quality of VoIP conversations. The goal is to persuade users to either pay for the carrier's VoIP application or pay the carrier for a premium service that allows use of noncarrier VoIP services to continue. -- IEEE Spectrum Online

Google Promotes Open Source
Google contributed $350,000 to a joint open source technology initiative between Oregon State University and Portland State University, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski announced in late October 2005.

The universities will use the grant to encourage open source software and hardware development, develop academic curricula, and provide computing infrastructure to open source projects worldwide. The colleges also will help provide a bridge between Oregon's universities and the state's growing open technology industry.

In summer 2005, Google funded a $2 million Summer of Code program, which gave grants of $4,500 to more than 400 students performing work on open source projects, including several hosted by the Oregon State University Open Source Lab.

DARPA's Grand Challenge
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) 2005 Grand Challenge was a series of races of autonomous vehicles across difficult terrain. After receiving the route waypoints just two hours prior to launch, each robot set out to navigate a 132-mile off-road course accurately while detecting and avoiding obstacles such as bumpy desert roads, dry lakebeds, freeway underpasses and narrow mountain passes. All this was done through GPS technology and while moving at military-relevant rates of speed. Stanford University's winning vehicle completed the course in about seven hours.

Web Explosion
The World Wide Web, as measured by the number of domain names, is growing faster now than at any time in its history. The Web is approaching 75 million sites, according to a Netcraft survey, which also reported an annual growth of 17.5 million sites.

Pain in the Password
The following percentage of respondents in an RSA Security survey of 1,685 people -- 70 percent of whom were CIOs, CSOs, IT directors, IT managers or IT administrators -- discovered the risky methods for managing passwords listed below.

  • Maintaining a spreadsheet or other document on a PC: 25 percent
  • Recording a list of passwords on a PDA or other handheld device: 22 percent
  • Keeping a paper record of passwords in an office or workspace: 15 percent
  • Keeping Post-It or other note paper with passwords affixed to PC: 4 percent

    Global WiMAX
    WiMAX, which provides wireless Web service to areas much larger than what Wi-Fi currently permits, will account for 3 percent to 4 percent of global broadband services revenues by 2010, IDATE predicts.

    IM Attacks
    There were an estimated 300 million consumer and enterprise instant messaging (IM) users in 2005, making it one of the fastest growing communications media of all time -- and an increasingly attractive target for attackers.

    Who's Usin'?
  • Used IM in 2005: 51 percent
  • Not using IM, but may do so: 23 percent
  • No plan to use IM: 17 percent
  • Not using IM, but will do so: 9 percent
    -- Source: Osterman Research

    Method of Attack
  • Worms: 87 percent
  • Viruses and Trojans: 12 percent
  • Client vulnerability: 1 percent
    -- Source: IMlogic Inc.

    Interrupted Delivery
    During the first half of 2005, 21 percent of permission-based e-mail -- e-mail sent to people who want it -- did not get delivered as intended, according to a report from Return Path. The rate improved slightly from 22 percent nondelivery in 2004.
    Shane Peterson Associate Editor