Cyber Ramblings - Apr 10, 2001

10 April 2001
Compiled by Kevin Smith

Congress Holds TLD Hearings
The House of Representatives has begun hearings regarding the distribution of top level domain (TLD) names, the lifeblood to Internet addresses. The hearings are centered on the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the body charged with dispersing URLs and settle disputes. Last year, ICANN asked businesses worldwide to submit their applications, and a non-refundable $50,000 fee, for the next crop of Internet top-level domain (TLD) names to ease the naming burden on existing domains like .com and .net. The end result was ICANN's November selection of seven new TLDs: .aero, .biz, .coop, .info, .museum, .name and .pro. The decision outraged small business leaders, who say big business interests bought out ICANN. They immediately began pressuring legislators to look at the nomination process.

Disney Puts SoccerNet on Block
The popular football site,, is reportedly being put up for sale by its owner, Disney. Disney acquired the final stake in the six-year-old site last summer from Associated Newspapers, publishers of the Daily Mail. In more promising times, Disney had hoped to use the site to build its brand and sports programming in Europe. But because of the decline in the overall technology sector and Disney's lack of appetite for absorbing Internet-related losses, the company is said to be shopping around its biggest European Net asset. Sources said Disney has not yet hired a bank to handle any deal. But it has begun to make inquiries to other sports sites and portals to determine their interest. The price tag is believed to be about £10 million ($14.4 million), the same sources said.

Death Threats Sent to eBay Workers
Employees at online auction company eBay received an anonymous message warning them that assailants with shotguns planned to enter the building and shoot as many employees as possible. The San Jose, California, police department responded and began investigating immediately. "There’ve been many things over the United States that have happened very similar to that, and we want to make sure that this doesn't happen (here)," said Don Brister, who is in charge of the San Jose police department's high-tech crime unit. "So it was something that we took seriously and acted on very quickly." Brister isn't exaggerating. As email and the Internet become increasingly entwined in our lives, law enforcement officers around the country are seeing a growing number of threat and harassment cases that involve electronic communications.

Marconi PLC Cuts 3,000 Jobs
British telecommunications equipment maker Marconi PLC plans to cut 3,000 jobs, or 5 percent of its global work force, as part of company-wide reorganization. The announcement came amid a slowdown in Marconi's sales in the United States, where it generates about 40 percent of its business. Other telecommunications equipment makers such as Lucent Technologies, Motorola and LM Ericsson have already announced plans to cut thousands of jobs as weaker economic conditions have depressed demand for their products. Marconi refused to specify where it would eliminate the jobs, other than to say about 1,500 cuts would be in Britain. It employs 55,000 people, about 20,000 of them in Britain. Inc. Inks Deals with Software Firms
An Internet startup that sells unsanctioned domain names has reached deals with five software companies to promote the use of such suffixes as .kids and .travel. Inc. expects the deals will let more than 20 million additional Internet users reach sites using those names. Currently, the company said, about 16 million users could view those sites through EarthLink Inc. and other service providers. The new deals involve the software companies packaging their products with a browser plug-in that could recognize the unsanctioned sites. Without the plug-in or a service provider that has activated the names, Web users would get an error message when they try to reach a site like

EU Ministers Adopt Copyright Directive
Ministers from the 15 European Union nations adopted a directive Monday that updates copyright laws to cover Internet song-swapping and other types of digital copying. The pan-European rules, approved by the European Parliament in February, were adopted by consensus by the ministers. They now go to the individual member states for incorporation into national law over the next 18 months. The new EU rules tighten the definition of "private copy" and ban commercial use of copied material taken from the Internet.

NBC Closing Down Internet Division
NBC is shutting down its loss-ridden Internet subsidiary, acknowledging that any hopes of it becoming profitable had vaporized along with the online advertising market. Many of the 300 jobs there will be eliminated as the unit’s assets are integrated into NBC. The announcement Monday marks the latest move by a major media company to drastically scale back its Internet ambitions. The Walt Disney Co. and News Corp. have also absorbed their online units, and other media players have pulled plans to sell shares in their online operations to the public. Senior executives at NBC and NBC Internet told the Associated Press that they had been weighing alternatives for the subsidiary since the beginning of the year, including a sale, a merger with another company or liquidation. Holder Gets $65 Million
A battle that looked at times like it would never end has finally come to a close. What is arguably the Internet's most valued domain name,, has garnered a settlement of $65 million for its owner. That is the amount a cyber squatter was ordered to pay after he swiped the domain name. Collecting the money, however, may be as unlikely as a porn star's measurements. Defendant Stephen Cohen reportedly has stashed his assets offshore and is laying low in Tijuana. He skipped the March trial that found him guilty, supposedly because Mexican officials had him under house arrest. Early attempts to make Cohen pay have failed, said Wired News, since Cohen was supposed to put $25 million under court supervision in November.

New South Wales Parliament Getting Tough on Hackers
Online hackers and computer vandals who spread viruses face up to 10 years jail under new cyber crime laws introduced in the New South Wales parliament today. Attorney-General Bob Debus said the NSW government would update its Crimes Act to ensure it covered cyber offenses such as hacking into computers to destroy data. Those convicted of cyber crime face up to 10 years in jail. A new offense of "unauthorized impairment of electronic communication to or from computer" will carry a maximum 10-year jail term. "Unauthorized modification of data to cause impairment" will also carry a 10-year jail sentence. Existing fraud penalties will be expanded to include online fraud offences, Debus said.