Cyber Ramblings - June 12, 2001

12 June 2001
E-mail Server Problems for EarthLink

EarthLink Corp. said some customers lost e-mail access Monday after a computer server had trouble verifying users' account information. The error with the Atlanta-based ISP's authentication servers affected users of e-mail with mindspring.com and onemain.com addresses, EarthLink spokeswoman Carla Shaw said. It was not immediately clear what caused the outage or how many accounts were affected, she said. The server error affected dial-up and high-speed access. The problem was discovered about 11:30 a.m. EDT and corrected about three hours later, Shaw said. A company-operated bulletin board warned that some users would have slow access to mail. EarthLink, the nation's third-largest Internet service provider, said no mail would be lost because of the problem. The company has about 4.8 million paid subscribers.

Cisco Systems Selling RealNetworks Software

Cisco Systems plans to sell RealNetworks' Internet broadcasting software as part of a product line aimed at businesses, RealNetworks announced Monday. Financial details were not disclosed. Under the agreement, San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco, one of the largest retailers of Internet networking equipment, will market RealSystem iQ, a set of products for streaming audio and video content over the Internet, to its corporate clients. The system could be used for internal purposes such as broadcasting corporate meetings or distributing training materials, said Ben Rotholz, general manager of products and systems for RealNetworks.

CSU Student Indicted For Blackmail

A former Colorado State University graduate student was indicted Friday for allegedly using e-mail in an attempt to blackmail a New Jersey company that sells digital books over the Internet. The six-count indictment against Nelson Robert Holcomb contends that he threatened to tell a reporter about a security flaw in the company's website that could allow free downloads of its inventory. Court papers did not name the company. Holcomb told the company that its stock would plummet if the MSNBC reporter learned of the flaw and "there isn't going to be much profit in distributing free content to the masses,'' the indictment said. The indictment also disclosed that in March and April 2000 Holcomb exploited a flaw by downloading about 435 spoken word audio works worth more than $2,500 for free. For his silence, Holcomb demanded an "amount equal to the retail value of the content'' on the company's website or a "loaded'' 2001 Volvo T5 Wagon, two Diamond Rio 500 Digital Audio Players and unlimited free downloads of the company's content, the indictment said. Holcomb, 37, was arrested May 24, 2000, and freed two days later on a personal recognizance bond. No charges were filed for demanding a Volvo station wagon instead of a sportier, hipper car.

Microsoft Slow to Remove Porn

Software giant Microsoft was criticized this week for failing to remove a hardcore pornographic link from its website. The Microsoft customer support team was accused of ignoring an offensive link on the gaming section of its website, which takes fans of Starlancer, a PC space combat simulation game, through to a pop-up adult porn channel. A ZDNet reader complained to Microsoft earlier this week about the link, where users would expect to find information on the popular game. Microsoft issued an unhelpful email response to the complaint, saying: "We appreciate your report on this issue, but we are unable to reproduce this error. The site appears to be working now." However, the link remained for several days and was only removed late on Thursday after Microsoft was contacted by ZDNet.

Russian Parliament Addresses Money Laundering

Russian deputies last week passed the first reading of an anti-money laundering bill which is targeting billions of dollars a year that is lost as money leaves the country. Two hundred fifty-eight deputies in the State Duma, the lower house of the parliament, approved the bill, with three abstaining and 25 voting against the proposal. It requires the investigation of all financial transactions above 500,000 rubles (US$17,200) and property deals worth more than 2.5 million rubles ($86,000). The bill will create a financial information service that will carry out systematic inquiries into all large financial transactions. It also bans banks and other financial bodies from "opening anonymous accounts." The second reading in parliament is due to take place in late June.

AOL Reaches Agreement with Chinese Company

In a move that marks an important entry into China for AOL Time Warner, chief executive Gerald Levin was in Beijing on Monday to formally announce a $200 million joint venture to develop interactive services with Legend, China's top computer maker. Legend and AOL will each invest $100 million, but to get around China's laws barring foreign ownership of content providers, Legend will own 51 percent of the new venture and AOL the remaining 49 percent. As China integrates with the global trading community--it is vying for membership in the World Trade Organization--and such rules eventually relax, the venture could expand its activities beyond consulting and technical support services, the companies said.

White House Rethinking Money Laundering Rules

While the Russian Parliament is busy trying to pass stiffer money laundering laws, the U.S. government is thinking about loosening the reigns on its laws. The Bush administration feels that some rules designed to fight money laundering may be burdensome for U.S. banks. Democratic lawmakers are pushing legislation to give the government new authority over U.S. banks that do business with foreign banks and customers. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill has ordered the major review of anti-money-laundering regulations as part of a study of all department functions aimed at finding out whether taxpayers get value for the money being spent. In congressional testimony last month, O'Neill questioned whether the $700 million spent annually in efforts to crack down on money laundering was being expended wisely. He said current law requiring banks to report all cash transactions exceeding $10,000 "imposes a significant cost on society" and questioned whether that much information was needed. Combating laundering of illicit money became a major priority in the Clinton administration, particularly after revelations in 1999 that the Bank of New York, one of the nation's largest financial institutions, had served as a conduit for $7 billion in Russian money--some of it believed to be from criminal activity. The banking industry has opposed new legislation, and conservative Republicans have sharply criticized the Clinton policies.

Well-Known Online Publications Shutting Down

Feed and Suck, two of the Web's earliest online and best known magazines, are shutting down after running out of money. In a message posted on their site Friday, the editors of Feed said the magazine was in "suspended animation, cooled to a temperature at which our metabolic rate is near zero. We'll be posting some reruns this summer and looking for a new home.'' Stefanie Syman, the editor of Feed, said Monday the two magazines were still in discussions with potential buyers. Plastic, a reader community site that used material from both magazines as well as other sites, will continue to be operated by volunteers. Feed and Suck were founded separately six years ago, in the early days of the Web's growth. Both quirky, irreverent sites bypassed the frenetic fund-raising activities of so many of their dot-com peers in the late 1990s, but last year they banded together to share their dwindling resources in an effort to ride out the Internet downturn.