XBiz News: 06-26-03

Stephen Yagielowicz

Welcome to XBiz' weekly news wrap up, focusing on the issues and events that shape our industry and determine the opportunities, perils, and past-times that you need to be aware of in order to succeed in our competitive and ever-changing marketplace.

RIAA On the Home Front
This week’s first headline comes from ABC News Online, which featured an article entitled “Recording Industry to Sue Internet Song Swappers.” The article concerns this week’s announcement by The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), that they now plan “to sue hundreds of individuals who illegally distribute copyrighted songs over the Internet” and thereby expand their anti-piracy fight into millions of homes. The RIAA’s goal is “to curb online song-swapping by tracking down the heaviest users of popular "peer to peer" services like Kazaa and suing them for damages that could range up to $150,000 per violation.”

The RIAA, whose members include AOL Time Warner and Sony, was responsible for shutting down Napster and several similar peer-to-peer networks. They have also pressured universities and businesses to block file-trading activity on their computers, and even sued four college students for operating campus based file-trading networks, successfully claiming from $12,000 to $17,500 in settlements from each student.

While the recording industry was previously content to issue online warnings and clutter up file-trading networks with dummy or corrupted files, the estimated 14 per cent slide in revenues attributed to peer-to-peer traders exchanging more than 2.6 billion songs, movies and other files each month has demanded an increased level of response.

With a recent US court ruling easing the hunt for copyright violators by forcing Internet service providers to co-operate with investigators, the organization feels the time is right to go after individual home users, according to RIAA President Cary Sherman.

US Bullies Tiny Neighbors
From Reuters via CNet’s comes the headline “Caribbean Islands Fight Net Gambling Ban.” This story focuses on the sovereign states of Antigua and Barbuda, and their appeal to the World Trade Organization (WTO) over the United States’ unilateral ban against international Internet-based gambling. The tiny Caribbean islands have cultivated online gaming services as a new cash crop, and claim that the US-imposed mandate was in violation of established WTO rules on providing open markets for services.

For their part, the United States (which boasts a legal multibillion-dollar gaming industry), denies the claim that free-trade rules apply to gambling, asserting that their international ban is designed to protect citizens from the myriad perceived evils of gaming. According to U.S. envoy Linnet Deily, “We are surprised that another WTO member has chosen to challenge measures taken to address these concerns…” A decision by the WTO's dispute-settlement body could take months to be reached.

A Fortnight of Porn
From Infomatics Online comes the headline, “Fortnight F Worm Has Porn Payload.” This article discusses a malicious worm variant that is exploiting a three-year-old security hole to change registry keys and install new ‘favorites’ such as “Nude Nurses” on the victim’s browser. This new variant on the Fortnight worm is currently now spreading through Microsoft’s ‘Outlook’ e-mail client, using a combination of JavaScript and Java applets to launch a hidden Web page link from within an e-mail’s signature file. Once the e-mail is opened, the hidden link opens, downloading the worm by exploiting a flaw in Microsoft VM ActiveX.

While the software publisher released a security patch three years ago to prevent this exploit, anti-virus firms such as Sophos are now coming across new infections, and releasing virus identity files in hopes of combating the new strain. Neil Barratt, technical director of International Risk Management, said that “It's silly that this is still out there, three years on… It illustrates the change in mind-set needed over patching.

Some administrators are still treating their servers like cars and only budgeting the time and money needed for a major patching session once in a blue moon.”

There was of course another big story this week, involving the Supreme Court's reinstatement of mandated filters in public libraries, which you can read about here, in an article I wrote for XBiz ~ Stephen