Cyber Ramblings - Jan 16, 2001

16 January 2001
Compiled by Kevin Smith

Computer Company Challenges Hackers
Computer hacking contests have been popular among techies since the mid-1980s, but the latest version of eWeek magazine's annual contest has raised the stakes a great deal. OpenHack III is offering a $50,000 grand prize to anyone who can hack into a PitBull-protected site. PitBull is the latest security system produced by Argus Systems Group. The Illinois-based firm is helping foot the bill for the grand prize. During the contest, hackers will have two weeks to complete four tasks related to corrupting a website protected by PitBull. There are prizes for being the first to complete each task, and a grand prize of $50,000 for being the first to complete all four. Argus thought of giving a car away, but realized from past hacking contests that participants aren't always old enough to drive.

Cybercrime on the Rise in Japan
Reports of computer viruses tripled last year in Japan as the increasingly networked nation felt the effects of the Love Bug and other potent strains, a government study said. Authorities logged a total of 11,109 reports of viruses being sent to computers in Japan in 2000, the Yomiuri newspaper reported Saturday, citing a study by the government-affiliated Information Technology Promotion Agency. That was up from 3,645 reports the previous year and from just 14 in 1989, when such cases were first recorded.

Game Developer Forced to Improve Customer Privacy
A U.S. game developer has been forced to change its approach to customer privacy following legal proceedings by an attorney general over use of its website and downloadable games which contained a so-called "spyware" program. Michigan Attorney General Jennifer Granholm issued a notice of intended action under the Michigan Consumer Protection Act to Pennsylvania-based eGames in September 2000. The notice alleged that eGames had not adequately warned consumers that its games software also included a spyware program which enabled a third-party advertiser to secretly interact with eGames' customers' computers. The spyware program specifically enabled an advertising company called Conducent to make use of consumers' Internet connections to interact with consumers' computers. Granholm also alleged that eGames permitted third parties to monitor consumers' browsing behavior at eGames' web site without disclosing this fact to consumers. eGames has agreed to remove the undisclosed third-party advertising software from all future versions of its computer games

Hybris Could be Virus of the Year in 2001
Hybris, a computer worm that uses encrypted plug-ins to update itself, could be the sleeper hit of 2001, anti-virus experts say. "It's not a fast mailer or a mass mailer; it's slow and subtle," Roger Thompson, technical director of malicious-code research for security firm TruSecure told the Associated Press. The spread of most computer worms tends to spike quickly and just as quickly die out. But the three-month-old Hybris worm shows no sign of dying anytime soon, Thompson said. He compared the virus to Happy99.exe, also known as Win32/Ska, a malicious program that started spreading in January 1999 and remained a threat to the unwary for more than a year.

Wireless Inventor Al Gross Dies
Al Gross, inventor of the walkie-talkie and a father of wireless communication, once said he believed he was born 35 years too soon. He died Dec. 21 in Sun City Arizona at age 82. When Gross, who was born in Toronto and grew up in Cleveland, demonstrated his prototype pager at a medical conference in 1956, it flopped. Doctors told him they didn't want to be bothered during their golf games. Decades later, it delighted him to see such wide use of cellular phones and pagers, a technological offshoot from his first devices.