Ending the Era of Jobs

Posted August 27th, 2011 at 2:02 pm (UTC-4)

What Steve Jobs has Meant for Apple, for Silicon Valley, and for Global Tech

Steve jobs did not invent the portable stereo.  Long before the iPod, there was ‘Pressman’ – a creation of Kozo Ohsone, then general manager of the Tape Recorder division of Sony.  (‘Pressman’ became ‘Walkman in 1977.)

Jobs also didn’t invent the portable tablet – known these days among the Apple-scenti as the ‘iPad’.  Microsoft beat him to that punch at least 6 years with the ‘Tablet’  – long before the first iPad rolled off an assembly line.

It might seem at times that Steve Jobs invented the personal computer way back when.  But he didn’t, any more than Henry Ford invented the first automobile.  By the time Jobs and his new Apple firm released the ‘Apple II’ in 1977, already a half-dozen micro-firms – remember the Tandy TRS-80?  The Commodore PET? The Altair? – were already selling computer kits and continued to do so until IBM crushed nearly all the competition with the game-changing introduction of the “PC” in 1981.

That “GUI” – or “Graphic User Interface”  made up of computer screen icons you manipulate with a mouse?  Jobs didn’t invent either of those.  Think, instead, the work of little-known researcher Douglas Engelbart at Xerox’s PARC facility in the early 1970’s.

We could continue.  The mobile phone, the digital video editor, the online music store.   Steve Jobs didn’t invent a single one of these things.

But what he did create was something much more rare – and he’s done it pretty much his entire professional life.

Steve Jobs makes things you really, really wanted.  Now, with his departure as CEO of Apple, Inc., – his second – one wonders whether the shine on all of those iDevices may soon begin to fade.


End of an Era

“It it is the end of an era,” writes an admittedly tearful Om Malik on his blog at the news.  Calling his greatest gift the insight into “disruptive technologies, Malik says Jobs almost uniquely created societal change while earning a profit:

“Today, we are living in a world that’s about taking short-term decisions: CEOs who pray to at the altar of the devil called quarterly earnings, companies that react to rivals, politicians who are only worried about the coming election cycle and leaders who are in for the near-term gain.

“And then there are Steve and Apple: a leader and a company not afraid to take the long view, patiently building the way to the future envisioned for the company. Not afraid to invent the future and to be wrong. And almost always willing to do one small thing — cannibalize itself. Under Steve, Apple was happy to see the iPhone kill the iPod and iPad kill the MacBook. He understands that you don’t walk into the future by looking back. If you do, you trip over yourself and break your nose.”

Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs with an early Apple prototype

It has certainly been a long, and yes, convoluted path that Jobs has traveled professionally.   With tech colleagues Steve Wozniak and financier Mark Markkula, he incorporated the Apple Computer Company early in 1977, and within four months they had their first product – the “Apple II”.  It was different – color monitor, early floppy drives – and it was primitive (by today’s standards): it’s memory was a whopping 48 kilobites.  Jobs & Wozniak’s company churned along – the little kid to IBM and Microsoft’s Big Brothers – but even then Jobs’ emphasis on design, utility and what some have called industrial beauty were on display.

As the blog Engaget details, Jobs time at Apple was not universally smooth, and eventually he resigned in the mid-80’s.  For several years Apple floundered under confused product line, and poor market positioning, while Jobs was off pursuing new interests, among them the firms NeXT and Pixar.

“Apple’s fate hung in the balance,” said Microsoft founder Bill Gates at a 2007 forum with Steve Jobs.  “Apple just wasn’t differentiating itself from higher- volume platforms….especially Windows.”

“Apple was in very serious trouble,” agrees Jobs.

“If the game was a zero-sum game, where for Apple to win that Microsoft had to lose, then Apple was going to lose.  But a lot of people’s heads were still in that place… because Apple had invented a lot of this stuff and Microsoft was successsful and Apple wasn’t and there was a lot of jealosy, and this  and that.

“But there were too many people at apple and in the apple ecosystem playing the game that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose. And it was clear that  you didn’t have to play that game.  Apple wasn’t going to beat Microsoft.  Apple didn’t have to beat Microsoft.  Apple had to remember who Apple was, because it had forgotten.”

In time, Jobs returned to Apple, Apple bought NeXT and the Walt Disney Company bought Pixar.  And that supposed rival hatred between Apple and Microsoft?  Both Gates and Jobs laugh, noting that from the earliest days of the Apple II, the two firms had worked together on a variety of projects…and would no doubt continue to do so in the future.

It was good timing.  As the cheeky bloggers of Gizmodo point out (in their inimitable manner), Wall Street was losing faith in an Apple without a Jobs.  Back in power, Jobs again returned to an emphasis on clean design, useful products, and ease of use.  And it was Jobs who put Apple products in hipster’s back pockets.


You Have To Be Best

Author Robert Scoble has watched Jobs for decades, through his ups and downs, his failed product launches and those that take off like a rocket.  Of the many ways Scoble describes Jobs, there was something else Scoble says Jobs had his eyes fixed upon: perfection.

“That actually explains why some people don’t like Steve Jobs. He is a dictator and is going to make sure you do things his way: i.e. to completion. When you pitch him an idea you better bring it in the box, and with the marketing you’ll use to sell it. You better have thought through everything. My brother-in-law worked at Apple and he has tons of stories about how Apple makes sure its suppliers give them the best equipment.”

And from the best equipment, Apple started again to make some of the best electronic devices yet.  The iMac, the iPod, the iPhone and now the iPad – each of them revolutionary in some way, even if they weren’t the first of their kind on the block.  You don’t have to be first, Jobs would say, you have to be best.

Microsoft continues to dominate globally at software that powers computers.  Apple has come to dominate the small mobile devices that make it easy to consume media and connect to the Internet.  Both firms are doing well, but who knows what the future holds?

This much, at least, can be said: the man replacing Steve Jobs is Tim Cook.  Longtime Apple manager and designer, Cook has been Jobs figurative right-hand man for years – a near match to Jobs in terms of workaholism and perfection.  Cook is also openly gay, making him one of the highest placed corporate leaders to be out and open about it.


Will He Be Missed?

Even from the early days, Jobs had a carefully crafted zen-like coolness – an unflappable leader who can see around the next mountain.  His departure marks the end of an era, and will no doubt come with some personal sadness for some on the inside.

For others?

“Apple isn’t going to die now that Steve Jobs has resigned as CEO,” writes Farhad Manjoo of Slate. “It’s not even going to stumble.”

Manjoo, like others, cites Jobs fanatical quality control, his NSA-like secrecy, and surrounding himself with the best quality he can afford.  But there’s something else Job’s Apple had:

“Apple has mastered this buzz-engineering technique in the last four years, when it introduced two new products—the iPhone and the iPad—that created two entirely new product categories. As a matter of marketing, neither of these devices was an obviously easy sell. A phone without buttons? A tablet computer that filled no clear need? But Apple worked the press, and barraged every corner of television and print with enough ads and product placements to make its new gizmos irresistible. By the time the iPhone and iPad hit the streets, folks were willing to plunk down hundreds of dollars, sight unseen. And this will keep happening after Jobs is gone.”

Now approaching an end to his first career, Jobs is the man who almost singularly saw how to take things that already existed and make them better, shinier, and just cooler.  Then he figured out how to sell them with just the right amount of showman’s flash and hipster cool, transforming Apple’s electronic gizmos into Must-Have technology.

Technology is marching fast, and mobile devices appear to be the new new thing.  But those mobiles will need software & apps (Microsoft) and function and design (Apple.)  And there’s more competition out there now than ever.  Whatever the future for these firms, they have already changed our lives.

And as for Mr. Job’s future?  We can’t wait for whatever comes next…and wish him all the very best.


A Hole in the Great Firewall

Posted August 24th, 2011 at 4:00 pm (UTC-4)

…And Working to Close the Digital Divide

It’s no surprise that as the Internet spreads, and mobile phones become more necessity rather than luxury, that coverage of these real life/digital world issues has been growing.  And why not?  Frankly, the stories have just been getting juicier – happily, for my colleagues just as elsewhere.

While I work as part of the VOA team, we and our sister broadcasters – Radio Free Asia and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – have among us thousands of journalists, writers, reporters and producers.  All of them curious; all producing top-notch stuff.

So we’re taking a quick review here of just a few of the most recently published stories – but it goes without saying that this is only a sampling.  Still, we’ll say it: for much more, come explore our websites for VOA, RFA and RFE/RL.

#1: New Holes in the ‘Great Firewall’: You may have heard about the new-new Internet – the one that’s exponentially larger than earlier versions.  For years now, web architects like ICANN have been warning that the world will soon run out of Internet addresses – those multi-digit codes that essentially identify your node on the web as unique, allowing traffic to be accurately routed across the net.

This overall Internet design is referred to as IPv4 – “Internet Protocol version 4” – and it’s the most current design in full use.  However there’s a new ‘net’ on the way, and this one is filled with a near-infinite number of Internet addresses.  It’s called “IPv6”, and address-hungry nations like China are strongly advocating for its adoption.

But IPv6 comes with an interesting complication: with it, users in China are, for the moment, able to circumvent the “Great Firewall” of China – the web barrier China uses to filter out anything it doesn’t like.  VOA’s Matt Hilburn takes and in-depth exploration of how IPv6 is being used in China, and also explores how the ways that governments respond may have profound impacts on all of our online privacy and security concerns.

Want to know more about IPv6?  You can listen to a chat I had with Matt Hilburn here:

and check out William Ide’s recent report on the first tests of IPv6 he filed for us here.

#2: Closing the ‘Digital Divide’: Just as in real-life, there are big divisions in the online world between the haves and have-nots.  That gap has often been called the “Digital Divide” – and it’s a serious matter between nations, or within them.

Take, for example, the area around the great American city Philadelphia.  As VOA stringer Matthew Petrillo notes, the U.N. may have declared unfettered access to the web to be a human right, but millions in the poorest parts of this city – notably children – enjoy no such benefit.

But that’s not stopping advocates for the poor who are working to expand all Philadelphian’s – rich, poor or anywhere in between – access to the World Wide Web.  Petrillo takes us on a tour of several hot-spots, if you will, in Philadelphia’s battle to expand web access.

#3: Monitoring the Iraqi Monitors: RFE/RL’s “Radio Free Iraq” service has an interesting item – largely overlooked in a lot of other media – on the recent agreement by U.S. officials to transfer web and phone monitoring equipment to the government of Iraq.  The equipment is said to be needed in the fight against terror cells and other insurgents.  But, as the story notes, there are concerns among those inside and outside of the Iraqi government that the equipment may be used for other purposes:

“Although the technology is important in fighting against frequent terror attacks in Iraq, several politicians are concerned the equipment could be used to monitor the phone calls and messages of Iraqi politicians for political reasons.  They are also worried by the fact that the technology will be controlled by the Interior Ministry.  Suhair al-Juburi, head of the Transport and Communications Committee of the supervisory entity Council of Baghdad, has warned against such practices.”

Of course, such equipment was no doubt employed for all sorts of purposes – legally and otherwise – in the days of the Saddam Hussein regime.  Still, it’s interesting to see how the government and civil organizations will adapt to these technologies in their new era of relative openness and sunshine.

Security in 60 Seconds

Posted August 22nd, 2011 at 3:36 pm (UTC-4)
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How to Fight Back Against Hackers and Protect Yourself on the Web

Over the last few months we’ve discussed just a few of the many surfacing stories regarding breaches of computer or Internet security.  Whether the threats are from organized crime, shadowy  hacker groups like Anonymous or LulzSec, or coming with the alleged assistance of foreign governments, it seems that  security online is at an all-time low.

That’s probably something of an overstatement.  Arguably it’s more likely the web was significantly less secure even a decade ago, before corporations and governments began taking cyber-security seriously.

Still, threats to our online privacy and security are growing – and growing more sophisticated.  So it’s more important, now than ever, to take what steps we can to protect ourselves.  Below, some (hopefully) helpful suggestions.

#1: Surf “Secure”:  You can be forgiven for not knowing much about the Internet’s new security protocol, even though it’s probably right before your eyes.

Not that long ago that the new “https:” security protocol was officially approved and implemented by browsers like Explorer and Firefox.  You’ve no doubt seen that “http:” string in your web browser many times – it’s probably up there right now.  It stands for “Hyper Text Transfer Protocol”, and it’s basically an instruction to your computer that the data it’s about to see and exchange is in the web’s various “html” languages.

Without getting into the technical details, suffice it to say the new “s” at the end of the string stands for “Secure” and it creates a relatively secure connection between your computer and the Internet.  Using an encryption algorithm, the “https:” tool gives users a mostly private channel to surf the web and share private information.  While many websites do not support the new secure format yet, an expanding number do.  One example is Facebook, which advises all of its users when logging on to make sure they’re using the “https:” secure connection.

In short – use it when you can, and when you can’t, just remember that you might not be alone online.

#2: Just Say No:  That email a friend just sent you with the funny picture “you just have to see”, or the thumb drive someone gave you to transfer a file to your computer?  Be very careful before opening them.

One of the oldest and surest ways to spread a virus or bit of malware over the Internet is as a “document” given to you by a friend.  But don’t blame your friends – blame clever hackers.  For decades they been hiding bad bugs in small executable files masquerading as documents, like text or pictures, sent via email and accompanied by come-on messages like “You’ve got to see this!” or something similar.  Sent from a friend, it’s natural to think they’ve sent you something you’d like to see, but once you open the file, it launches the bug which then often infects your computer, seizes all your email contacts, and sends out copies of itself to all your friends with the same come-on – often without you ever knowing.

As a general rule, if someone sends you something you haven’t asked for, even a friend, think twice about opening it.  If you have any suspicions, drop your friend a note asking what they sent; if they don’t know what you’re talking about, delete the message immediately.  As for flash drives, viruses can just as easily hide there, installing themselves the moment you insert the drive into your computer.  Like before, when you open the drive, don’t open (or double-click) on anything you don’t specifically want.  And as for those hidden bugs you can’t even see…

#3: “Auntie Knows Best”: Auntie, in this case, being anti-virus.

You can only do so much to keep your computer safe and free of malware; many of the more modern viruses are fairly sophisticated and engineered to hide in the deepest corners of your computer.  To fight back, you need something just as technologically sophisticated, and that’s an anti-virus.

Just like their biological counterparts, computer anti-viruses are designed to protect you against a new infection.  But unlike the traditional shot, however, these digital anti-viruses also sweep your computer of older infections.  Better still, they also update themselves regularly, responding to new threats floating around the web.

Some anti-virus programs cost money;  others are free.  Not surprisingly, those that cost are generally much better at updating, sweeping and responding to new threats.  However any legitimate anti-virus program is better than none, as without anything it’s nearly certain your computer will become infected – if it hasn’t already.

The CNET blog provides a great list of free programs to download here; if you’re interested in something a little more robust and can afford a few dollars, shop around online for the best anti-virus package.

#4: No Pass Given: It’s the bane of digital life – the password.  Whether logging in online or dialing up a friend on your mobile, it’s likely your device first wants you to enter a password or code of some sort.  These codes are designed to make sure that you and only you have access to your personal equipment and accounts, so you would think people would take them more seriously.  In truth, many people regard these protections as little more than a bother – and those are the people most likely to get hacked.

Passwords vary greatly in complexity; some only want letters or digits while others demand a mix of upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and non-alphanumeric symbols such as # or &.  The more complex the password, the harder it is for hackers to crack.

Unfortunately, these complex strings are also harder to enter – or even remember.  Thus many people use the simplest codes they can, such as “passord1” or “12345” or such.  While easy to enter, passwords like these are so easy to break they can hardly be called passwords – they might as well be called please-break-into-my-computer-words.

Good advice: choose a password that’s complex – use a mix of digits, letters and symbols.  Better advice: don’t use the same password for all your online activities – if someone can hack into one of your accounts, they’ll have access to all of them.  Best advice: change your password often – preferably every 30 days.

This is especially true for mobile devices.  A shockingly large percentage of people never bother to change the factory-set pass codes on their mobile devices, leaving them wide open for a “spoofing” hack so easy even children are doing it.  As we noted in our most recent post, a few mobile phone providers are now requiring individuals to enter their pass codes when checking voice mail, but there’s no requirement to change the pre-set codes.   Before making your first call on a new phone, change your pass code, and then keep changing it, ideally once a month.

#5: Encrypt, Encrypt, Encrypt: While the “https:” protocol provides good, basic protection, these days it may not be enough.  Especially if you’re concerned about keeping your web activities private or want to hide your identity online.

For those, the solution is encryption.  We’ve discussed it here often before, but it’s worth repeating – a solid encryption program such as Tor, Freegate or Psiphon (just to name a few) will help you cover your tracks on the Internet, shield your identity, and keeping for private conversations private.  They also, sometimes, have the added benefit of some of the other precautions above, such as filtering out viruses or mandating secure pass codes, depending on the program.

Of course these are only a few of the many steps you can take to protect yourself online, but they’re a solid start.  If you’re interested in learning more about cyber-security, the U.S. Computer Emergency squad at the Department of Homeland Security has a great FAQ resource that’s worth exploring.


From the Newsdesk

Posted August 18th, 2011 at 1:38 pm (UTC-4)

Periodically we like to share a few of the stories and posts from across the web that caught our eye.  There are no editorial threads implied connecting these items together, other than being interesting.

#1: Tibetan Cyber Battles: VOA’s Kurt Achin posted a report from Dharamsala, India, this week, exploring the cat-and-mouse game being played between China and Tibetan exiles.  As we’ve frequently discussed, the Internet as a tool can be wielded by just about anyone for any purpose, and the conflict over Tibet is no different.  Achin documents just some of the ways Tibetan exiles are using the web to keep track of friends and relatives inside Tibet, and how Chinese authorities are trying to frustrate those same efforts.  Among those he spoke with is Internet researcher Greg Walton, who notes:

“What is intriguing is that often we’ll see that the same command-and-control servers which are going after the big defense contractors, and stealing details of stealth bombers, or going after the big financial houses in New York – the same command-and-control servers are going after monks in Dharamsala.”

It’s a great read, and also a reminder of how long-simmering conflicts are increasingly moving online. Read the rest of this entry »

The Night the Lights Went Off in Frisco

Posted August 15th, 2011 at 3:15 pm (UTC-4)

Black-Out Leads to Hack-Back

(Robin Weiner/AP)

It has not been a good month for municipal riders of the “Bay Area Rapid Transit” or BART system in San Francisco, California.

On July 3, at the Civic Center station, a BART police official shot dead a man who appeared “wobbly” and possibly a danger to others.  Locals immediately decried the shooting as massive overreaction; BART officials would say only that an investigation is underway.

This being San Francisco, it didn’t take long for anger to turn into street protests…and, as is the style these days from Cairo to Homs to London, much of that organizing was occurring online via the Internet and social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

The activist’s plan had been for a massive protest to flood all the BART stations and other Municipal Transportation Agency (or MUNI) properties, such as buses and trams on Thursday, July 11.  Activists would coordinate actions via instant messaging, even sharing pictures and counts of the police force in presence on various MUNI buses, rail cars and trolleys for protest purposes.

But then…someone pulled the plug.   Literally. Read the rest of this entry »

The Fight to Free the Net

Posted August 12th, 2011 at 3:03 pm (UTC-4)
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Who’s Best Equipped for the Battle?

Max Shulman over at the New Republic starts his most recent magazine article with something of a window-rattler: “The State Department’s Shameful Record on Internet Freedom.”

For some time now, under the leadership of  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the U.S. State Department has made access to a free and uncensored Internet comparable to a basic human right.  In her first major address on the topic, early in 2010, Secretary Clinton compared government efforts to limit or restrict the web to “a new iron curtain” shutting out untold millions of people.  Again, nearly a year later in Febrary 2011, she delivered a significant address, referring to the Internet, and social media in particular, as “an accelerant” for social change.  “For the United States, the choice is clear,” she said.  “On the spectrum of Internet freedom, we place ourselves on the side of openness.”

As we’ve noted before, Internet freedom may sound like an easy thing to support, but it’s a sword that can cut in unexpected ways.  For example, the U.S. loudly decried recent efforts by Syrian and Bahraini authorities to limit digital access and thus potentially thwart democracy advocates, but has been silent when British authorities recently requested, unsuccessfully, that Twitter and other micro-blogging platforms limit service to prevent the spread of riots in England.  (UPDATE: Authorities in London say they are considering another bite at that apple.) Read the rest of this entry »

Home In A Phone

Posted August 1st, 2011 at 2:00 pm (UTC-4)
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Teleconferencing In the Hmong Diaspora

Anna Boiko-Weyrauch | Seattle, Washington


How do you interact with members of your community if they’re stretched across the world?

Many people rely on the Internet, email and social media to communicate across borders.  But for many Hmong people – far from their ancestral home in Asia – teleconferencing is the most popular way to share news and information.

Cher Vang stays connected with the far-flung Hmong community via teleconferencing programming. (Photo: VOA - A. Boiko-Weyrauch)

Call-in radio

Each day around the world, thousands of Hmong – one of several ethnic Southeast Asian ethnic groups – pick up their telephones to listen to the radio.

They tune in to one of at least 20 different teleconferences, which broadcast programming similar to traditional radio stations.  But instead of flipping a switch to pick up the signal, they make a call. Read the rest of this entry »

Back For More Lulz?

Posted July 22nd, 2011 at 8:02 pm (UTC-4)
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And Spreading Malware Hits Big and Small Alike

Periodically we like to share a few of the stories and posts from across the web that caught our eye.  There are no editorial threads implied connecting these items together, other than being interesting.

#1: LulzSec vs. NewsCorp: After very publicly disbanding just a few weeks ago, it seems the LulzSec hackers have come out of retirement and have a new target – Rupert Murdoch.

The “lulz” began early this week with a hack of The Sun, one of News Corporation’s many newspapers and sister publication to the recently shuttered News of the World.  “Media moguls body discovered” yelled the headline of a phony story, mocking Mr. Murdoch and the recent troubles of his News Corporation.

The bogus article was quickly erased, but the hackers warned of more serious problems to come.  Specifically, the LulzSec Twitter feed claimed the group has up to 4 gigabytes of private emails from the Sun’s servers – which they may, or may not, begin releasing, depending on which Twitter claim you believe.

@AnonymousSabu, thought to be one of LulzSec’s founders, tweeted that “We’re releasing something we found in The Sun’s mail server, shortly. Ouch. Ready for the media storm?”  But when that release failed to occur, @AnonymousIRC, associated with a hybrid LulzSec/Anonymous offshoot, tweeted this: “We think, actually we may not release emails from The Sun, simply because it may compromise the court case.”  That was quickly followed by this tweet from @LulzSec: “We’re currently working with certain media outlets who have been granted exclusive access to some of the News of the World emails we have.”

So far, no media organization has admitted to any partnerships with LulzSec, AnonOps, AntiSec or any of the other heads of the larger Anonymous hydra.  But  in an interview with British newspaper The Independent this weeek, Sabu warns that The Sun hack was “simply phase 1” of a larger operation that hackers intend to launch against other News Corporation’s properties – and Murdoch himself.  Not content to stop there, Sabu then suggested additional targets, warning: “New York Times, Forbes, LA Times, we’re going in.” Read the rest of this entry »

Journalism’s ‘Dark Arts’

Posted July 20th, 2011 at 3:20 pm (UTC-4)
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Hacking, Blagging, and Why the Murdoch Hacking Scandal is Nothing New

AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

There’s an unofficial rule among British journalists: dog doesn’t bite dog.  In other words, reporters working at one Fleet Street tabloid should not expose the wrong doings of reporters at other Fleet Street tabloids, as there are plenty of wrong doings to go around.

That rule is just one of the many casualties of the burgeoning phone hacking scandal involving media mogul Rupert Murdoch and his now shuttered News of the World tabloid.  Murdoch may become another.

As CEO and founder of News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch spent decades building the world’s second largest media conglomerate, measured by revenue, behind only the Walt Disney Company.  He is not a man known for his modesty, nor are the newsrooms of his nearly 200 newspapers, radio stations and global TV networks.

For decades, politicians in Australia, Britain, the United States and other nations have sought the endorsements of Murdoch’s newspapers, and scorned the wrath of his broadcasters.  As the New York TimesDavid Carr recently wrote:  “The News Corporation has historically used its four newspapers — it also owns The Sun, the Times of London, and the Sunday Times — to shape and quash public debate, routinely helping to elect prime ministers with timely endorsements while punishing enemies at every turn.”

It’s also been an open secret for years that some of his English papers – notably The Sun and News of the World – along with other British tabloids, have engaged in a variety of questionable activities collectively known among journalists as the “Dark Arts.”  Those arts allegedly include, but aren’t limited to, bribing civil servants and police, wiretapping the phones of public officials, using private investigators to obtain personal information, hacking mobile phones and something the Brits call “blagging” – the art of obtaining powerful information.   At times those actions have lead to prosecutions, more rarely convictions, but nothing in the past has hit News Corp – or journalism more generally – than this summer’s hacking scandal.

Read the rest of this entry »

From Russia With Malice

Posted July 18th, 2011 at 3:47 pm (UTC-4)
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The Dangers of Russian Hacking

The attack began on April 27, 2007.   Friction between Russia and Estonia had been on the rise ever since Tallinn announced its intention to remove a Soviet-era war memorial from its capital square.  With nationalist feelings at play on both sides, tensions were high.  As the massive bronze statue was carted away, Estonians wondered: how would Russia respond?

They soon got their answer.  A series of massive cyber attacks, launched from Russian ISPs, targeted Estonian government, media and private businesses on the web.  Bank websites were hacked, government Internet services became inoperable, and several times, under the weight of the distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, the entire Estonian Internet was effectively shut down.  Urmas Paet, Estonia’s Foreign Minister, accused the Kremlin of direct involvement and warned “Russia is clearly testing NATO and the West”  (but Moscow denied involvement).   The barrage lasted for weeks, and even when it stopped, it took months for Estonia to fully recover. Read the rest of this entry »

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What’s Digital Frontiers?

The Internet, mobile phones, tablet computers and other digital devices are transforming our lives in fundamental and often unpredictable ways. “Digital Frontiers” investigates how real world concepts like privacy, identity, security and freedom are evolving in the virtual world.

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