GT Spectrum

Reports from the IT horizon.

by / October 13, 2003 0
Watch This!
RICHARDSON, Texas -- This fall, three new watches from Fossil will allow wearers to receive and display customized Web content at the flick of a wrist.

The watches sport Microsoft's Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT), and will provide consumers with instant access to personalized Web information and services -- including news, weather, sports, stock quotes, instant messaging and more.

From a configuration Web page, users select content they desire. Once selected, the content is broadcast over a new radio receiver solution developed by Microsoft and beamed to the watch.

Bill Gates announced the watches in his keynote address at the 2003 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The watches will be low-power and low-cost, will perform core functions, such as auto-time adjustment based on location, and will have customizable watch faces with SPOT-enhanced software.

The watches will receive data from MSN Direct, a new wireless service that Microsoft said will be available in more than 100 of the largest population centers in North America, representing cities in all 50 states and the largest cities in Canada.

The watches will receive personal messages via MSN Messenger and calendar appointment reminders from Microsoft Outlook. Pricing for MSN Direct Customers is available in two options: a monthly subscription rate of $9.95 per month with the first month free, or an introductory offer of $59 for a full year of service.

Let "Honeytokens" Catch Attackers
Network administrators have long used "honeypots" to attract electronic attacks, which help them better understand network vulnerabilities. Typically a honeypot is an exposed computer or other information resource that draws attackers.

Now network administrators may consider using "honeytokens" to do the same thing. A honeytoken is smaller -- a credit card number, an Excel spreadsheet, a PowerPoint presentation, a database entry, or even a bogus login and password -- that has no use, so anybody accessing the honeytoken is up to no good.

Administrators can create a honeytoken of a false Social Security number in a database, and if the bogus number is accessed, the administrator knows an attacker is violating system security.

Alternatively, a Word document, PDF file, or Excel spreadsheet can be inserted into file, Web or e-mail servers embedded with unique names or tags. If administrators see those honeytokens traversing their networks, they'll know employees or someone on the internal network is accessing files without authorization to.

Honeytokens are not designed specifically to detect blackhats or prevent attacks, but are a flexible and simple tool with multiple security applications. When honeytokens are scattered throughout a network and someone accesses them, administrators know they have a security problem.

Perhaps the biggest advantage for network administrators is honeytokens' cost --practically zero. In tight budget times, honeytokens could offer a thrifty and effective way to watch for network attacks. -- Excerpted from "Honeytokens: The Other Honeypot," part of a series of papers by Lance Spitzner on SecurityFocus Online. For the complete paper, visit .

National Cancer Institute Creates Online Maps
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has created a series of Section 508-compliant maps showing cancer mortality rates for the United States.

The NCI maintains a massive database containing mortality information for 40 different cancers for all 50 states, more than 3,000 counties and Washington, D.C.

The NCI Cancer Mortality Maps and Graphs site allows visitors to view customized maps showing cancer mortality rates at the state, county or economic area level for any of the 40 listed cancers. Mortality rates also are tracked and sorted by age, gender, time period and race.

Information contained in the charts, graphs and maps is accessible to the blind and visually challenged through text files that are dynamically generated when the chart or map is created. These files are accessed through the link above, and below the graph or map.

The NCI worked with Corda Technologies to develop the maps. The company's other government customers include the Federal Aviation Administration, NASA, the Social Security Administration, the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, the Office of the Inspector General and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

"The National Cancer Institute came to us with a need for an interactive mapping solution that is fast, stable, able to handle high volumes of users and is compliant with Section 508 regulations," said Neal Williams, CEO for Corda Technologies.

Corda PopChart and OptiMap technology is the first of its kind to offer Section 508-compliant charts, graphs and maps, according to the company. The software is designed to provide organizations or individuals with a tool that allows them to quickly and dynamically visualize online data.

Networking Home Appliances
OSAKA, Japan -- Homeowners in Japan can soon use cell phones to tell their appliances what to do.

Matsushita Electric Industrial (MEI), probably best known worldwide for its Panasonic brand of consumer electronics and digital communications products, said in July it will begin marketing "Kurashi (Japanese for 'home life') Net," a networked home appliances/housekeeping system that homeowners control via cell phone.

Through Kurashi Net, networked home appliances -- such as air conditioners, refrigerators, washing machines and microwave ovens -- can be controlled wirelessly from a central terminal, named "Kurashi Station," or from a mobile phone.

The system allows users to remotely perform such operations as switching on the air conditioner or washing machine, and changing preset operating times. MEI said it also developed new functions and operating programs for the system's networked washing machine and microwave oven that can be downloaded from the Internet.

In addition, the system monitors security and other household conditions, alerting users by sounding an alarm linked to the "Watchdog Safety Sensor" in cases of emergency.

The system runs on specialized 429 MHz fractional-power wireless technology that complies with the Energy Conservation and Homecare Network (ECHONET) Standard. ECHONET is a technical specification established by a group of companies -- including Sharp, Tokyo Electric Power, Toshiba, Hitachi, MEI and Mitsubishi Electric -- seeking to develop energy-conscious home networking systems.

The system connects home appliances via the Kurashi Station, which controls the connected appliances. The Kurashi Station also can receive information services provided over the Internet by MEI.

Operational status of the connected appliances can be monitored at the Kurashi Station, and information -- such as the proper time to change the filters of air-conditioner units and refrigerators, equipment malfunction, temperature settings, and energy consumption -- can be monitored and used to conserve energy. -- Panasonic
Shane Peterson Associate Editor