GT Spectrum

Reports from the IT horizon.

by , / August 31, 2005
Tricking Cancer Cells
University of Michigan scientists created the nanotechnology equivalent of a Trojan horse to smuggle a powerful drug inside tumor cells.

The scientists use a man-made molecule called a dendrimer, which is small enough to slip through tiny openings in cell membranes. Dendrimers have a treelike structure with many branches where a variety of other molecules, including cancer-fighting drugs, can be attached.

Scientists attached a powerful anti-cancer drug to some of the dendrimer's branches, and fluorescent imaging agents and folic acid to other branches. By taking advantage of cancer cells' appetite for folate, a B vitamin, researchers used the folic acid, the synthetic form of folate, as a "treat" to sneak the cancer drug past the cancer cells' membranes. -- University of Michigan

Critical Targets
Parts of the UK's Critical National Infrastructure were targeted by an ongoing series of e-mail-borne electronic attacks during late spring. Though the majority of observed attacks have been against the central government, other UK organizations, companies and individuals also appear to be at risk.

The attackers seem to be covertly gathering and transmitting of commercially or economically valuable information through Trojan programs delivered either in e-mail attachments or through links to a malicious Web site. The e-mails employ social engineering, including a spoofed sender address and information relevant to recipients' jobs or interests, to entice victims to open the documents.

Once installed on a machine, Trojans may be used to obtain passwords, scan networks, steal information and launch further attacks. -- National Infrastructure Security Co-ordination Centre

In Coral Gables, Fla., drivers can now use cell phones to pay for parking in all on-street and off-street locations operated by the city. This may be the first of such systems in the United States.

Drivers opting to use the new pay-by-cellular-phone program must first activate an account by registering a credit card number, license plate number, cellular phone number and e-mail information. A confidential password is provided to each user.

When a car is parked on the street or in a lot that offers the wireless payment option, customers call the posted telephone number on the meter from a mobile phone to log in and start the parking session. When customers leave the parking spot, the number must again be called to log out and end the parking session.

Customers choose between two parking payment packages -- 25 cents per parking transaction or $7 a month for unlimited parking transactions. This is in addition to the usual applicable parking fees, which are automatically charged to the user's credit card. -- Coral Gables, Fla.

Giving Up GIS
Governments must release GIS-enabled maps in electronic form to those requesting them under open records laws in Connecticut, the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously in mid-June.

Greenwich, Conn., citizen Stephen Whitaker requested electronic access to the city's GIS maps in December 2001 under the state's open records law. Officials refused to give Whitaker access to the city's GIS system, arguing the records qualified for public safety and trade secret exemptions to the state's public records law.

Whitaker sued, and the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission ruled in his favor in 2002. In 2004, the Connecticut Superior Court agreed. Greenwich appealed to the Connecticut Appellate Court, but the Supreme Court stepped in and transferred the case onto its own docket before the intermediate appellate court could rule. -- The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Smart Suburb
The Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) named Mitaka, Japan, the 2005 Intelligent Community of the Year. The Tokyo suburb has a population of 173,000, and was cited by the ICF for having developed a social and political culture that prizes technology and considers research and development highly important.

Mitaka was the first city in Japan to host a field test of fiber-to-the-home networking, served as a test bed for Japan's first ISDN service, and in 1996, Musashin-Mitaka Cable Television became the first ISP in Japan to offer broadband.

Among the achievements that led to Mitaka's selection is the founding of the Mitaka Town Management Organization (MTMO). Since its creation, the MTMO's seven facilities have become home to 100 technology businesses. The MTMO also provides business-matching programs and venture investment, as well as other financial services, to encourage business startup and growth. -- Intelligent Community Forum

Libraries Online
Nearly 100 percent of public libraries offer technology services, according to a report by Florida State University. On the other hand, libraries struggle to upgrade technology regularly, maintain quality Internet connections, provide training and create enough workstations to meet demand, according to the report sponsored by the American Library Association and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Wi-Fi Worldwide
Wi-Fi hotspots can now be found in 100 countries around the world, according to recent data released by JiWire. The United States tops JiWire's list of Wi-Fi friendly countries for having the greatest number of hotspot locations, followed by the United Kingdom, Germany and France.

Hostile Environment
In 2004, Counterpane monitored 523 billion network events worldwide, and the company's analysts investigated 648,000 security "tickets." The company reports that of all hostile security events:

  • 41 percent were unauthorized activity of some kind;
  • 26 percent were unauthorized access;
  • 21 percent were scanning;
  • 9 percent were denial of service attacks; and
  • 3 percent were misuse of applications.

    Triple Time
    A new survey found that 82 percent of broadband users are interested in receiving "triple play" services -- voice, video and high-speed data -- from a single provider. --InsightExpress on behalf of SupportSoft.

    Online Learning
    People considering online education don't see much difference between learning online versus in person, and some educators agree, according to a study of U.S. online education site visitors by Feedback Research. Site visitors said the following attributes of online schools are no different than traditional schools (shown here as a percentage of respondents).

  • Starting salary after graduation -- 72 percent
  • Quality of likely job after graduation -- 69 percent
  • Quality of degree -- 68 percent
  • Overall quality of education -- 67 percent

    Leading E-Government
    The nation's leading e-government Web sites based on customer satisfaction, according to the latest survey by the American Satisfaction Index and Foresee Results, are ranked as follows:

    1. MedlinePlus
    2. MedlinePlus en espa
    Jessica Mulholland Former Web Editor/Photographer

    Jessica Mulholland served as the Web editor of Government Technology magazine from October 2012 through September 2017. She worked for the Government Technology editorial team for nearly 10 years.

    Shane Peterson Associate Editor