Virtual Earth, Frangible 'net, Telecom profits

For most people, internet dangers means attacks on the endpoints or their client systems. However, the internet infrastructure is also under constant threat. Attackers who control traffic flow or domain name resolution gain a huge amount of leverage compared to just taking over end-user systems, thanks to the hierarchical nature of the internet.

Top Stories

- The virtual battle for Earth has begun

- A frangible ‘net

- Telecom’s upwardly mobile profits

The virtual battle for Earth has begun

Take 198 to Visalia, then 63 North, J40 east at Orosi, down El Monte Way; continue north until J40 turns into Boyd Drive and follow that until it meets 245 … stay north on that road and you’ll hit Auckland. Hmm. I’m lost again. Microsoft’s response to Google Earth is quick, business-oriented and less boffinesque than Google Earth but hasn’t quite got the wow-factor — or the rest of the world outside the US, for that matter. Also, I’m not sure if the Location Finder is a great feature or just plain creepy.

The quick appearance of the MSN Virtual Earth beta shows that Microsoft ph34rZ Google though and has woken up to the threat the way it usually does, by creating a similar concept to nibble away at the competitor’s mind and market share.

- MSN Virtual Earth beta

A frangible ‘net

For most people, internet dangers means attacks on the endpoints or their client systems. However, the internet infrastructure is also under constant threat. Attackers who control traffic flow or domain name resolution gain a huge amount of leverage compared to just taking over end-user systems, thanks to the hierarchical nature of the internet.

Last week, Cisco’s security reputation took a dent when a researcher, Michael Lynn, showed a conference that it was possible to break into unpatched Cisco routers. As Cisco gear routes a huge amount of internet traffic, the security flaw has tremendous ramifications. Perhaps because of that, Cisco panicked, went ballistic and machine-gunned Lynn legally. Not the right thing to do by Cisco, because who will now dare to warn of security issues if they’re going to be raided by the FBI for doing so?

This week, security bod Dan Kaminsky reported that around 230,000 Domain Name System servers could be coaxed into dishing out bogus information to requestors. What it means is that while you think you’re going to say a bank or a commerce website, the DNS server actually points your browser to a system under a miscreant’s control. You can easily guess what might happen next.

Unlike Cisco, the Internet Software Consortium, which develops the domain name servers, has confronted the issue. It’s not an easy one, as it entails switching from an older version of ISC’s Berkeley Internet Domain System (BIND) server to a newer one that behaves differently in many ways, but admins should consider swapping nevertheless.

- Internet domain system wide open to fraudulent attack

- Cisco, ISS, Lynn, Black Hat sign legal accord

- Cisco Security page

- Internet Software Consortium

Telecom’s upwardly mobile profits

It probably doesn’t surprise anyone that Telecom’s latest financial figures show yet another round of fabulous profits on the back of growth in mobile, data and IT services. Revenues from traditional, non-mobile calls are still dropping, following a worldwide trend that was established years ago.

Very few telcos enjoy the sort of profitability that Telecom does. In the more competitive Australian market, Optus and Telstra are looking a little ragged compared a sparkling Telecom. That is, if you don’t look too closely at Telecom’s AAPT subsidiary across the pond, of course, which still isn’t in good shape.

Likewise, the large TeliaSonera telco in Sweden and Finland reported a massive drop in earnings for the second quarter and will now shed thousands of jobs. Why? The telecommunications market in the Nordic and other countries where TeliaSonera operates is very competitive.

In other words, the circumstances in which Telecom operates in are as important as the raw figures, as Chris Barton at the Herald mentions in his column today. Would Telecom be rolling in it the way it is without a protected market position? I doubt it.

Where it does get even more galling is that while we have given Telecom an environment with only token competition to operate in, we’re not getting much value out of it. I won’t go on about the dismal broadband again, but where for instance are Telecom’s flagship projects that show some vision of the future and world leadership? Telecom has the money to produce such things, and with Alcatel’s expertise behind it, it could ignite a dormant tech sector.

Like Barton, I don’t see that the Government will have the gumption to ditch Telecom’s monopoly any time soon. However, as we are effectively subsidising a private company through high call and data charges, not to mention taxpayers’ money through projects like PROBE, we shouldn’t be shy to ask Telecom to deliver technology value and not just market-milking. And it should deliver it now, not in ten years’ time.

- Telecom annual profit approaches $1 billion

- Telecom New Zealand full year results

- TeliaSonera posts grim second quarter results — 3,000 jobs to go in Sweden

- Chris Barton: How to win the hearts of geeks

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