MediaFile

Care and feeding of your computer hacker

By Misha Glenny
The opinions expressed are his own.

Under a proposed new law, the Obama Administration is planning to throw the book at hackers convicted of organized criminal activity or endangering national security.

The maximum sentence for these crimes will be raised to 20 years to reflect how hackers have become “a key tool of organized crime,” with many hackers “tied to traditional Asian and Eastern European organized crime organizations.”

But while law enforcement and the criminal justice system seek to impose ever longer sentences on hackers, they are missing a trick – we need hackers. They are an invaluable asset in the fight against cyber crime and cyber espionage at a time when there is a dearth of IT Security professionals able to deal with this threat.

For the last three years, I have been interviewing and getting to know a variety of cyber criminals – some have been convicted of major crimes, some have got away with it and gone straight, and some are still actively involved in criminal activity. Others, like those associated with groups like Anonymous and LulzSec, are explicated politically motivated.

Most learn to hack in their early teens before they have a fully developed moral compass. Often with exceptional ability in Math and sciences (usually Physics), they hack out of a need to satisfy their boundless curiosity. By the time they reach their late teens, they are too deeply involved in the underworld to extricate themselves.

Tech wrap: A page from Larry’s book

Google co-founder Larry Page is seen at the Sun Valley Inn in Sun Valley, Idaho in this July 8, 2010 file photograph. Reuters/Mario Anzuoni/FilesGoogle’s Larry Page took the reins after a decade of “adult supervision” for Google under Eric Schmidt, as the outgoing CEO called it. The switch comes as mobile gadgets are redefining the way people use the Internet and Google’s main ad business is under threat from fast-growing upstarts such as Facebook and Groupon. Page has yet to make his battle plan public, but industry insiders and analysts expect he will try to shore up Google’s strength in search and mobile while breaking into a red-hot social networking market that has eluded his company.

Google bid $900 million in a “stalking horse” auction for the acquisition of bankrupt Nortel Network’s patent portfolio, in an effort to fight a growing wireless patent war against well-armed mobile superpowers. The company has pushed its Android mobile phone software to the top of the wireless heap, attracting litigation in the process.

Hackers fully cracked Apple’s latest iPhone OS update, according to Redmond Pie. The iOS 4.3.1 jailbreak supports all iOS devices except the iPad 2. Jailbreaking allows users to run apps unsanctioned by Apple and tweak their iPhones, but voids the devices’ warranty.

from Russell Boyce:

The politics of bowing in Japan – How low do you go?

By Michael Caronna, Chief Photographer Japan

In Japan nothing says I'm sorry like a nice, deep bow, and lately there's been a whole lot to be sorry for. Ideally the depth of the bow should match the level of regret, allowing observers to make judgements about how sincere the apology really is. Facing massive recalls Toyota President Akio Toyoda and Toyota Motor Corp's managing director Yuji Yokoyama faced journalists at separate news conferences.

TOYOTA/

Toyota Motor Corp's managing director Yuji Yokoyama (R) bows after submitting a document of a recall to an official of the Transport Ministry Ryuji Masuno (2nd R) at the Transport Ministry in Tokyo February 9, 2010. Toyota Motor Corp is recalling nearly half a million of its flagship Prius and other hybrid cars for braking problems, a third major recall since September and a further blow to the reputation of the world's largest automaker.      REUTERS/Toru Hanai

TOYOTA/

Toyota Motor Corp President Akio Toyoda bows at the start of a news conference in Nagoya, central Japan February 5, 2010. Toyota Motor Corp President Toyoda apologised on Friday for a massive global recall that has tarnished the reputation of the world's largest car maker. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Obama’s Googler draws fire

Forget about the Supreme Court nomination battle. President Barack Obama’s reported pick for the seemingly uncontroversial job of deputy chief technology officer is drawing fire.******A pair of consumer advocacy groups sent the White House a letter on Wednesday urging the administration not to appoint Google’s Andrew McLaughlin to the post, a move reported to be in works by several media outlets.******McLaughlin is Google’s director of global public policy. That means he has been “responsible for Google’s worldwide lobbying efforts,” said the letter from Consumer Watchdog and Center for Digital Democracy.******Obama has issued an executive order barring anyone who has worked as a lobbyist in the past two years from serving in a federal agency that they lobbied.******McLaughlin was last registered as a lobbyist in 2007, the groups said — that might soon avoid the two year ban on technical grounds, but it violates the intent of the ban. And the groups note that the statement of organization for Google’s political action committee from March 2009 lists McLaughlin as its assistant treasurer and its designated agent.******A Google spokesman said that McLaughlin was mistakenly listed as a lobbyist in 2007 and that Google filed an amended disclosure form in 2008 correcting the filing when the company realized that he did not meet the threshold for lobbyist, which includes spending 20 percent of an individual’s time in direct contact with members of Congress.******Google has proven to be a bit of a feeder to the Obama White House. Katie Stanton, the White House director of citizen participation, is a former Google project manager. Sonal Shah, the erstwhile head of global development at Google.org, now heads White House Office of Social Innovation.******And of course, Google CEO Eric Schmidt serves on Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.******Meanwhile, Google is the subject of various federal inquiries and investigations. The latest involves hiring practices among various Silicon Valley firms. ******There have been reports that some of the noise about Google’s ties to the White House bears the fingerprints of Google competitors, like Microsoft.******Consumer Watchdog and Center for Digital Democracy officials both said they have no affiliation or financing from Microsoft, or any other corporation.******CDD Executive Director Jeffrey Chester said he first learned of the potential McLaughlin appointment after receiving an unsolicited e-mail with a news article on the subject from a Microsoft “political person.” He said he would have seen the article anyway and has had no subsequent communication with the person.******The consumer groups say their beef with McLaughlin has nothing to do with the fact that he is a Googler.******”The problem is that he has been a lobbyist for the biggest digital marketing company in the world, and we believe no special-interest connected person should assume a position of vital important to the country’s future,” reads the letter.******”It would be just as inappropriate for a lobbyist from Microsoft, Yahoo or any other similar technology company to be appointed Deputy Chief Technology Officer.”******(Photo: Reuters)

Media is dizzy for inauguration

It’s inauguration day – and that means media will be going all out. From wires to newspapers to TV and radio, correspondents will be covering every possible angle of the event. And they won’t have a problem finding an audience.

The Hollywood Reporter writes that this could be the most widely viewed inauguration in U.S. history, surpassing the 42 million who watched Ronald Reagan’s first swearing in.

Like everything surrounding the 2008 presidential campaign, the inauguration of Barack Obama dawns with broadcast media swinging for the fences. Not only are the usual suspects bringing their A teams, but cablers as diverse as BET, TV One, Al Jazeera and ESPN are offering live coverage of Obama’s swearing-in. MTV will focus on inaugural coverage in the evening.

from Photographers' Blog:

Iconic Obama poster based on Reuters photo — or was it?

Shepard Fairey's posters of Barack Obama became the iconic image of a historic campaign. After a bit of digging by a photographer and a blogger, it turns out that Fairey's source material was a photo by Reuters' veteran photographer Jim Young.

UPDATE, Jan 21: Or perhaps not. A flurry of online interest has resulted in the discovery of another photo from the Associated Press that may be a better match. Read about it at the blog run by Tom Gralish of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who has covered this story extensively.

Our original blog post continues below.

Blogger Michael Cramer created the composite photo above after sifting through countless images to find a match. The poster has Obama facing the opposite direction; Cramer flipped it to correspond with the original source photo.

US media gets a new guardian at FCC

After much speculation and guess-work, President-elect Barack Obama has chosen his former Harvard Law classmate Julian Genachoswski as nominee for chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

Genachowski, who has been Obama’s technology advisor, had been on most people’s guess-list for a new “chief technology officer” post with the incoming administration — though some outlets had called it last week on his FCC appointment.

So who is Genachowski? Well, most outlets believe he should understand the future of media as he’s held several posts at Barry Diller’s Internet media business IACI and he’s previously been a chief counsel for former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt, the chairman under former President Bill Clinton.

Obama fesses up in comic book: I’m a Spider-Man fan

The superhero finally gets to meet his humble fan thanks to the magic of Marvel Comics.

The comic book setting is inauguration day 2009. And it is the president-elect who is the superhero and none other than the irrepressible Spider-Man who’s the fan.

“…This is your day, after all, and I know it wouldn’t look good to be seen palling around with me,” Spider-Man says as he tries to leave Obama to the limelight.