November 19 – 25, 2012


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This week’s headline story: Lessons From Petraeus

By now you’ve probably heard about General David Petraeus resigning from his position as Director of the CIA due to a scandalous extra-marital affair. The Petraeus scandal has opened many eyes to the vulnerability of supposedly private email communications. In a Computerworld article titled “Why smart people do dumb things online,” columnist Mike Elgan outlines how intelligent people like Petraeus, who graduated in the top 5% of his class at West Point, went on to earn a Ph.D., and became a four-star general, and the director of the CIA, sometimes make bad decisions regarding online communications. Elgan points out that a fundamental flaw in human nature, is that “we think our potential audience is the same as our intended audience.”

In the Petraeus case, the use of the cloud-based email service, gmail, led to the downfall of one of the most important men in the country. The scandal began with an FBI investigation of complaints involving email harassment by associates of Petraeus. Utilizing the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to legitimize its investigations, the FBI began tracing the emails back to their source. In so doing, it uncovered a secret gmail account shared by Petraeus and his lover, along with a boatload of incriminating email. Ultimately, the investigation unearthed what Elgan calls a “sordid and tawdry ‘love pentagon’ with five very high-level professionals flirting, harassing, investigating, gossiping, sexting and more. It also unveiled “issues of national security, inter-agency rivalry, legal boundaries around surveillance and more.”

The Petraeus scandal serves to reinforce what many of us know, but often forget. Nothing you do online is private, especially when law enforcement is involved. Even anonymous accounts accessed only from public wi-fi networks, can be backtracked to uncover users who think they are anonymous.

and elsewhere in Tech News.

  • The World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) will take place beginning December 3 in Dubai. The leader of the US delegation says that the delegation will not budge on its positions advocating free speech online and opposing broad new regulations for the Internet sought by several Eastern countries.Internet freedom remains US priority at UN conference [PCWorld
  • Boxes of Nintendo’s new Wii U have hit store shelves and were abruptly gobbled up by consumers. Units of the sold-out $300 game device are currently selling on eBay for $600. The Wii U utilizes a tablet-like controller to operate game figures on TV. It is likely to launch competition from rivals who will begin connecting their tablets to TV set-top boxes for entertainment and Internet applications.Nintendo’s Wii U, Tablets, and Gaming[MIT Technology Review]Nintendo’s New Wii U Flies Off Store Shelves [NewsFactor]
  • Online education is becoming increasingly popular for both formal and informal learning. One of the challenges of offering online courses for college credit is providing secure exams for students located at remote locations. One solution that is being embraced by some schools is webcam proctoring where Instructors or their assistants observe students taking exams through the student’s webcam. Companies like ProctorU and Tegrity have begun profiting from webcam proctoring, and a new job title has emerged for “webcam proctors” – individuals hired to watch students take exams.In Online Exams, Big Brother Will Be Watching [Technology Review]

and in Information Security news this week…

  • Scientists at Toshiba and Cambridge University have perfected a technique to ensure security of data on high-speed fiber optic cables. The technique uses a device called an advanced photodetector to encode and decode secret keys in weak photons that travel along with data as light pulses over fiber optic networks. The technology will most likely be utilized for high-level security in government networks first.Scientists Find Cheaper Way to Ensure Internet Security [NYTimes]

and in Tech Industry news…

  • Paul Otellini will soon be retiring as CEO of Intel after his eight-year reign. Analysts are speculating on who will take his place, and how new blood could impact the world’s most influential processor manufacturer.Otellini’s Departure Opens Door for Intel Outsiders [Ecommerce Times]
  • Windows 8 has been out for several weeks now, and analysts and users are weighing in on their experience with the new OS. Unfortunately, some influential voices are expressing dissatisfaction. An article in Ecommerce Times claims that “Windows 8 is Too Much, Too Soon for Many Users.” Jakob Nielsen, a well-known usability expert, says that by providing two user interface options inside Windows 8, Microsoft has has created a system that is “weak on tablets and terrible on PCs.” Shipping of products running Windows 8 have so far been disappointingly low. Perhaps the public just needs time to adjust.Windows 8 Is Too Much, Too Soon for Many Users[Ecommerce Times]Windows 8 PC orders weak, says analyst[Computerworld]Windows 8 UI ‘strategic mistake,’ argues design guru [Computerworld]
  • Facebook has announced that it is retiring its system that allowed its users to weigh in on privacy policy changes. “We’re proposing to end the voting component of the process in favor of a system that leads to more meaningful feedback and engagement,” Facebook said in a post detailing the proposed changes.Facebook to revoke users’ right to vote on policy changes [Computerworld]
  • Google has added indoor floor plans to the Web version of its Maps service. Now users can zoom in to see floor plans of some 10,000 airports, malls, and public buildings around the world.Google adds indoor maps for iPhone, iPad and other Web users [Computerworld]

and finally….

  • For the second week now, software company founder John McAfee is on the lamb hiding from Belize police who wish to speak to him in regards to the murder of his neighbor. McAffee now has a blog which documents his days in hiding, his life in Belize, and corruption in the government. Not surprisingly, he is also promoting a book which documents his life and is soon to be released.McAfee Blogs About Police Hunt in Belize [NewsFactor]

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