Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Gone Phishing on the iPhone

Cybersecurity Shmybersecurity

There was a pretty good amount of security news last week but not much of anything else. Given that I'm kind of tired from yesterday (worked all day and night), I'm going to keep this kind of short since it was a slow news week anyway.

Network World kind of informally posted what they think the 10 best IT jobs will be in 2010. I don't know that they had hard evidence to back their list, but it's actually a pretty good list. Guess what's at the top of that list? No, not a shmybersecurity expert but a security specialist. The list has some other cool choices, like open source evangelist and service assurance manager (super important), but let's stick with security specialist.

Almost every week for the past several months I've had at least one security issue a week to talk about. Sometimes I don't cover them just because they get repetitive. Last week alone there were two biggies. Google was at the center of a corporate espionage attack a couple of weeks ago and so last week they teamed up with the NSA to get to the bottom of the attack, which is believed to have originated in China. It was so serious that Google decided that they're not going to filter search results in China anymore. I'm not sure if they've stuck with this policy or not since then, but they were clearly frazzled by this. Given that the accounts violated were active human rights supporters in China, it's very likely that the attacks originated within the Chinese government.

More recent than that was that a security flaw was discovered in the iPhone opening the door to phishing attacks. I wonder if this will make security on the iPhone a big deal like it is for Internet Explorer on PCs? It basically allows someone to easily modify your mobile configuration files over the air and make it look like it came from Apple. Someone who didn't know about this exploit could do something like connect to a malicious server instead of a VPN and have all their transmissions compromised.

With all these stories cropping up, it's not surprising that a security specialist would be in demand. Coming full circle back to this section header, a lot of people don't understand cybersecurity at all. However, it's not easy to understand if you want to be safe from every kind of attack you're likely to come across. Even the tech savvy get tricked. It's an arms race because the bad guys get more and more clever as we figure them out - like a polymorphic virus. I don't know if it will pan out since often things don't in a government as complicated as ours, but the House has approved legislation to authorize the NIST to develop a cybersecurity education program. This would be not only for the government but also for businesses and consumers to make our economy stronger against security scares. I hope that it ends up leading to real results, because it's something that we've needed for a long time now.

Superbowl Ads

Internet video has gotten really big. It's exciting. I remember blogging about IP TV a few years back and looking forward to a future where people control what they watch and have a much larger platform of content in the Internet. We're not quite there yet, but it's promising that 178 million US Internet users watched 33 billion online videos in December. It's crazy that 40% of those videos were on YouTube and 3% was on Hulu, which was the next highest percentage. The times have really changed from a world where the Internet wasn't a big deal and no one was using much of their bandwidth unless they were pirating stuff.

Anyway, it's cool that I could turn to Hulu for Superbowl ads since I missed the game. A couple of my friends had planned on doing that since they don't like football (I know, blasphemy). Hulu did this last year, too, but I think they improved this year with showing you how much people liked each video (at least I think that's new). I had the game on in the background and actually managed to catch the really good ads live because they happened to catch my attention. My favorites were definitely the eTrade one, the Doritos House Rules one, and the Megan Fox one. Honorable mentions though to Snickers and the Doritos Underdog one. Jeers to Prince of Persia (stop embarrassing good video game franchises, please) and The Backup Plan. Am I crazy or were the movie trailers last Superbowl much better? This year also saw Google's first Superbowl ad, and it was creative.

Let eBooks Grow

I don't want to talk to this too much since I have a vested interest in Amazon (I assure you that I have 0 insider knowledge on this thing), but I have something to say.

A part of me is stupefied by how book publishers are dealing with eBooks, but a part of me is glad because it's exposing them for the inane people they are. Amazon is selling eBooks from HarperCollins, for example, for less they pay HarperCollins and now Rupert Murdoch is bemoaning the death of paper books and wants to force prices of eBooks up like Macmillan does. When is this guy going to retire? He's so out-of-date he probably etches his notes on stone tablets. This is the same guy who didn't want Google indexing his news articles, mind you, because he can't see the writing on the wall. Book publishers have gotten away with over-charging people for books and under-paying authors for too long and these arguments with Amazon are only surfacing how shady they can be. I don't understand what's so wrong with trying to sell eBooks for less money than a physical version. It's all profit as a digital copy! First they didn't want a computerized voice reading their books on the Kindle, and now Amazon is offering them a better revenue split at the $10 price point but they're still recalcitrant! Whether they like it or not, paper books as we know them aren't going to last forever. I know you're clutching your copy of Catcher in the Rye and staring blankly at the screen but it's true! We don't even live in a world anymore where everyone reads newspapers on paper.

Ok, stepping off my soapbox. Thanks for indulging me.

Last Notes

Just a couple of items before I sign off here.

This is a really fun article about 18 gadgets that used to be high-tech. It's so enlightening sometimes to think about the past and how far we've come and how we got here.

The CEO of Sun resigned following the heels of their acquisition by Oracle. Kind of sad that Sun has fallen so far from grace, but it happens. At least he resigned in style via haiku.

Are relational databases dying? Very interesting thoughts from Computer World.

Enjoy the sunny weather outside while you can! I'll see you next week. Same bat time, same bat channel.


Jose A. said...

My understanding about the issue between publishers and Amazon is that they are set on avoiding the Apple scenario with music, in which the distributor carries control over pricing. Chances are they will get with the program at some point and realize that maintaining traditional prices is just asking for e-book piracy.

I can see their desire to maintain control over pricing, even if they don't exactly understand what to do with that control at the moment. Nobody wants someone else dictating what they can charge for their product. It's just economics: before you had a group of publishers and really a single 'buyer' (monopsony), giving Amazon huge leverage. Now that Apple is entering the picture, intent on disrupting Amazon's control, the power has shifted back to the publishers a bit. Query whether Apple will be as friendly long-term to the publishers as they expect.

Elton said...

That is definitely what's happening here. They want control over pricing because they're tied so strongly to the traditional media business model. Some people are vilifying Amazon in this situation for wanting to keep the price so low, but Amazon is ultimately trying to do what's best for their customers. If you have happy customers then they will return, and if you give customers prices that make sense then they'll definitely keep coming back.

Book publishers believe that their model can outlast eBooks, but they don't understand that there's no turning back and that raising eBook prices is going to cost them more than it saves them.

It's funny how when people buy mobile apps there's such a big difference between a $1 app and a $5 app even though it's only a few bucks. And I think the same applies to the psychology of buying an eBook.

Amazon still has big leverage and I think the guys in Books know it. The iPad and the Nook are out there, but none of them are proven devices like the Kindle. The Kindle isn't compared to the iPad, the iPad is compared to the Kindle. Same with the Nook.

I think Apple will make any deal that helps them undercut Amazon in the short term but you're right, in the long-term MacMillan will have to cave.