Olongapo Telecom & Information Technology

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Australia to give away porn-filtering software

Country's IT minister says $86 million allocated for free online downloads of a Web application, yet to be chosen.

The Australian government plans to spend about $86 million to provide all the country's families with free Internet pornography-blocking software.

Helen Coonan, the minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, announced the initiative Wednesday. A representative of Coonan told ZDNet Australia that the first free filters should be available for download from a government portal within six months.

Helen Coonan "It puts a safer Internet experience within the grasp of every Australian family, and it is a solution to the problem posed by Internet pornography that is simple, safe, effective and free," Coonan said in a statement.

"Every parent will be able to receive a free filter for their home computer, (and) there will be child-safe terminals in libraries across Australia."

It's likely that the Australian government will covet political mileage from the initiative, with the minister's release tipping a "comprehensive national community education campaign" designed to "ensure that all Australian families are aware of the benefits of regulating their children's Internet experience by using a safe and effective computer filter."

At this stage, no specific filtering software has been selected for the initiative. The minister's representative said an accreditation process will be put in place. Internet service provider-level filtering will also be an option for customers of providers that offer it.

"Under this scheme, families will be offered a filtered service or a free filter for their home computer, either for download from a dedicated Web site or delivered to them on CD-ROM," Coonan stated. "All ISPs will also be required to offer filters to new and existing customers at no additional cost."

ISPs will be rebated if they choose to offer filtering at a service provider level.

The government's Internet safety agency, NetAlert Limited, will receive a $3.68 million funding boost and become co-located with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

Of the total spending, $68.69 million will be spent on filtering software over three year. Coonan's representative says the program will be reviewed in its third year.

According to the representative, almost no ISPs currently offer any kind of content filtering, so the government will study the feasibility of ISP-level filtering for a fourth time.

Patrick Gray of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.
Related Articles

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, August 10, 2007

Giant 'pump-and-dump' spam scam hits computers

Spammers have unleashed one of the biggest online stock manipulation campaigns in history in the last 24 hours, increasing global spam levels by 30 percent, a leading IT security company claimed Wednesday.

Experts at SophosLabs have detected about 500 million emails containing advice to invest in Prime Time Stores Inc. -- an obscure US-listed group -- in a record-breaking example of the "pump-and-dump" spamming technique.

"Pump-and-dump" is when spammers buy shares, orchestrate a spam campaign promoting the company, then wait for a share price to rise before selling their stock for a profit.

"This particular campaign was first detected 24 hours ago in Germany and has caused a 30-percent rise in spam worldwide compared to typical levels," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Britain-based Sophos.

"This is staggering. It's one of the biggest spam campaigns we've ever seen," he told AFP in a telephone interview.

The email cites a company press release announcing the opening of shops by Prime Time Stores in Puerto Rico and goes on to say: "Imagine if you had the chance to buy a Wal-Mart franchise in Mexico right when it first opened its doors there and all you needed was a small stake to get in."

It adds: "Hurry, we see this stock starting to make the turn NOW. Big watch in effect for August 8, 2007!".

Prime Time Stores, which is the exclusive licensee for 7-Eleven convenience stores in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, did not return calls when contacted by AFP.

The diversified company also has oil and gas, automotive, and mobile phone activities, according to its website.

The stock rose 2.35 percent in morning trade in the United States on Wednesday to 0.087 dollars, but gained 30 percent on Monday and 14.8 percent on Tuesday in the days running up to the detection of the campaign.

"It turns out that it's one of the kinds of spam that actually works," said John Levine, chair of US-based Anti-Spam Research Group.

"There are at least two academic studies that show that the share does go up and the bad guys make money."

Sophos estimates that "pump-and-dump" stock campaigns account for about 25 percent of all spam nowadays, up from less than 1.0 percent in January 2005.

Levine, who is also the author of hit book "Internet for Dummies," says the perpetrators are extremely difficult to catch despite efforts by stock market regulators and police.

"Spamming used to be about guys selling fake viagra from their basements," he said. "Now it's likely to be international crime gangs."

Cluley from Sophos said the share-ramping scams target small stocks, often worth a fraction of a cent, which require only a small increase to deliver big gains.

"They send out fake news about a tiny stock and there are so many day-traders out there that are ready to jump on the bandwagon," he said, referring to amateur investors who play the stock market from home.

The emails promoting Prime Time Stores stock, which are being propagated by thousands of virus-infected home computers whose owners are unaware, has a PDF attachment that contains the investment advice.

The use of a PDF file, a special document-friendly format, makes it easier for the email to slip through spam filters, Cluley said.

Levine has clear advice for anyone tempted to act on unsolicited investment advice sent via email.

"No stranger would ever give you a stock tip for your own good. It was true in the 1920s and it's just as true now," he said.

Labels: ,

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Mobile TV service can't go commercial yet, says NTC

By Riza T. Olchondra - Inquirer

THE FIRST commercial mobile TV service in the Philippines, myTV, may run into trouble with regulators.

Officials of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) said companies planning to broadcast digital programs to TV sets or mobile devices cannot yet go commercial because the commission has yet to issue guidelines on digital TV programming.

"Our TWG (technical working group) has formulated its initial recommendations. What triggered the review were the industry inputs we got during a public hearing," Deputy Commissioner Jorge Sarmiento said.

NTC Commissioner Abraham Abesamis added that the TWG will start the review within the month and deputy commissioner Jaime Fortes said the group will try to draft the final rules quickly so that the NTC's 2015 deadline for the phaseout of analog TV programming will be followed.

Sarmiento added: "As for mobile TV broadcasts, there are test services now, and some may have the impression that these are already commercial, but they are not. They are just demos."

He was alluding to the myTV broadcasts offered by Smart Communications Inc. and sister company MediaQuest.

Subscribers are not yet being billed for the service, which has 10 test channels: CNN, MTV Philippines, Cartoon Network, National Geographic Channel, Pinoy Box Office, History Channel, Solar Sports, Basketball TV, ETC and Jack TV. Philippine Basketball Association games will also be broadcast live starting next season.

The commercial offering will be billed starting Sept. 1. Prepaid and postpaid subscribers will be charged P488 a month.

The service, dubbed myTV, will be available in "Mega Manila," Cebu, Davao, Tagaytay, Batangas and Baguio City. It will be rolled out soon in Cagayan de Oro and Boracay.

But MediaQuest president Orlando Vea said there should be no problem because the company was using the franchise of 360media to broadcast satellite services straight to the user.

"This is a direct-to-user satellite service, for which 360media has a license. There should be no problem," he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of INQUIRER.net.

360media alone will be investing $50 million in the next three years.

About 60,000 to 70,000 subscribers are expected to try the service in the next few months.

"We expect a technology-neutral set of guidelines for digital TV," said Ray Espinosa, ePLDT president and board member of MediaQuest.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

E-load phenomenon gets new boost with top-up machines

By MELVIN G. CALIMAG - Manila Bulletin

Since its introduction, Smart’s innovative e-load pre-paid system has spun off a virtual cottage industry that feeds on the entrepreneurial spirit of the Filipinos, especially in the countryside.

With this realization, the PLDT-owned mobile operator is bent on propagating what is arguably a money-making scheme for both the company and the small entrepreneurs who are using it. Thus, it is investing around R22.5 million to buy electronic equipment to make it easier for retailers to exploit the "tingi" mentality of the Filipinos.

Dubbed as "Load Connect," the project is a tie-up with IBM Philippines who provided the ATM-like machines that it manufactured together with Japanese firm Hitachi.

Smart said the new offering is aimed at Smart e-load retailers and dealers whose volume requirements for the electronic prepaid reloading business dictate that they top up their load wallets at the nearest Smart wireless center. With the new machines, they will no longer have to line up at the cashier.

Apart from real-time reloading of airtime, Load Connect also allow users to load credits to their Smart Money card.

Subscribers can use Load Connect to purchase airtime in R30, R60, R300, R500 and R1,000 denominations as well as reload their Smart Money accounts.

The new machines are initially available in 15 Smart wireless centers nationwide: Smart Tower along Ayala Avenue, Makati City; SM Manila; Robinsons Place Ermita; SM North EDSA; SM Fairview; SM Bicutan; SM Southmall in Las Piñas; Araneta Square Caloocan; Sta. Lucia East in Cainta, Rizal; Festival Mall, SM Dasmariñas, Nepo Mall Dagupan; Elizabeth Mall in Cebu City, and Limketkai Mall in Cagayan de Oro City.

According to Smart, Load Connect is the first service in Asia that allows mobile users to load airtime and money via a machine that accepts and recycles multiple bills.

"The investment that we’re making with Load Connect and other Smart Connect initiatives shows how serious we are about enhancing the subscriber experience at our wireless centers," said Joy Sanchez, Smart customer care head, during the launch at Smart’s Wireless Center in Ayala Avenue in Makati City.

The number of transactions on airtime reloading ranges from 220,000 to 670,000 a month, depending on the wireless center. The bulk of transactions is made by Smart Load retailers and agents, which number about 800,000 nationwide, Sanchez said.

The self-service reloading machine is one of several initiatives under Smart Connect, which include SIM Connect, Web Connect, SagotAgad, and Zone Connect.

Labels: , , ,

No go for broadband deal--Palace adviser

Apostol: Where's copy of contract?

By Michael Lim Ubac, Riza T. Olchondra, Jeannette Andrade - Inquirer

THE CONTROVERSY over the $329-million national broadband network (NBN) contract that went to ZTE Corp. of China was reduced Monday to a paper chase.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's legal adviser, Sergio Apostol, said the project could not be implemented because the contract was nonexistent.

"How can we implement? There are no papers. Show me the contract," Apostol said when asked about the status of the ZTE contract.

The Philippine government's copy of the contract was stolen shortly after Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza and Yu Yong, ZTE vice president, signed it on April 21 in the presence of Arroyo.

Also stolen was the Philippine copy of the $460-million contract to build a satellite-based backbone for the Department of Education's Cyber Education Program (CEP).

Both the NBN and CEP contracts were signed in Boao, China, on the same day. The projects were to be financed by a concessional loan from China.

Two professors at the University of the Philippines' School of Economics said there was no need for the NBN and CEP deals.

Economics professors Raul V. Fabella and Emmanuel S. de Dios said the two projects were likely to end up being a waste of funds partly because it was not in the government's "core competence" to own, maintain and use an information technology infrastructure separate from two existing ones owned by private telecommunication firms.

Moral backbone
They said government should address "last-mile connectivity" to government agencies and public school computers instead of building another network.

"The only backbone that the government needs today is a moral one," Fabella and De Dios said in a paper titled "Lacking a backbone: The controversy over the National Broadband Network and Cyber-education projects."

Apostol said before Malacañang would answer the criticisms heaped on the project, there should be proof that the contract ever existed.

Details of the NBN project remain hazy at this time although the Department of Justice has ruled that the contract is legal.

In broad strokes, the NBN will exclusively cater to the telecommunication needs of the national government and local government agencies. It is also aimed at reducing the telecommunications spending of the government.

Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. said the NBN project, to be funded through a loan by China's Eximbank, carried a sovereign guarantee, which means that the government will have to pay for every yuan spent for the project.

Andaya, however, said the ZTE deal was not covered by the Government Procurement Act, which requires a transparent bidding process.

"There are exceptions under that law, and if it's a government-to-government (contract), then there's no need for it to go through that," he said.

Contract didn't reach Palace
But Apostol pointed out that legally speaking, the contract was nonexistent because there were no documents to speak of.

"Somebody has stolen it--(all) two copies. So there's no contract. We don't know what kind of contract it is," the President's legal adviser said.

He noted that the ZTE contract did not pass through his office for scrutiny.

"It did not pass through Malacañang because it was lost. How can it pass through me when the documents were gone? I haven't seen the contract," he said.

Never impartial
Apostol described Fabella and De Dios as "never impartial." He said the UP professors "have not even seen the contract, (yet) they made conclusions already."

The Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) disagreed with Fabella and De Dios' claim that the country does not need another broadband network.

"This is one of the few cases in which outsourcing does not make sense," said Lorenzo Formoso, assistant secretary for telecommunications.

"Using existing telco services is costing us almost P4 billion a year. If we make last-mile connections by buying more airtime from them, we will have to budget this again. In contrast, if government has its own network, the savings will actually pay for the loan," Formoso said.

DOTC data show that government can save P2.51 billion from the NBN project set to be undertaken by ZTE. At present, the cost of all telecommunications for government is P3.5 billion.

With the loan-backed contract, government is set to pay P990 million in annual amortization, giving the government P2.51 billion in savings that can be used for other purposes, according to the DOTC.

But the savings would exclude those for mobile communications because the NBN does not have a mobile component.

The DOTC said the offer of Amsterdam Holdings Inc. (AHI), the company that submitted an unsolicited to build a broadband network, and that of another bidder, US-based Arescom, would be more expensive than that of ZTE's.

This is because AHI is offering a $240-million satellite-based network with 87 stations but the government must buy its own Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP service.

Arescom has offered a bid-price of $135 million but can only provide 21 base stations. "So, in reality, they are more expensive," Formoso said.

House probe
In the House of Representatives, the chair of the committee on information and communication technology wants to grill executives of the National Economic and Development Authority, DOTC and Commission on Information and Communications Technology on the NBN deal.

Catanduanes Rep. Joseph Santiago said representatives of ZTE, AHI and Arescom, along with Fabella and De Dios, would also be invited to the public hearing.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) asked the government to sober up on its "Cyber Education" program, calling it a white elephant that has nothing to do with cutting-edge technology.

ACT chair Antonio Tinio said the money to fund the project could be better spent on building classrooms, subsidizing the education of children who cannot afford to go to school, hiring more teachers, and producing quality teachers.

Simply broadcasting
"The project is very expensive with little or no proven benefits to the students. It is simply broadcasting a 20-minute lecture to selected schools via satellite. If that is the only thing the Department of Education (DepEd) wants to do, it might as well tape the lectures, place them in compact disks and distribute them to the schools for viewing,"
Tinio said.

The project aims to set up television production and satellite broadcasting facilities at DepEd's central office and satellite-based facilities in 26,618 schools nationwide, each of which will be provided with a multimedia classroom equipped with four television sets, two desktop computers and a printer.

Fifteen- to 20-minute lectures conducted by education experts in all subjects for all grade or year levels will be aired live via satellite to all schools on 12 television channels.

Tinio said the project would not provide students with computer-based learning as the name connotes.

With reports from Norman Bordadora

Labels: , ,

House ICT committee to probe NBN deal

By Erwin Oliva - INQUIRER.net
MANILA, Philippines – The committee on information and communications technology of the House of Representatives has said it will investigate the controversial national broadband network project.

The new committee chairman, Catanduanes Representative Joseph Santiago, said in a statement Monday that he would start the investigation once the committee is fully organized.

The committee would focus on whether the government really needed to establish the proposed network or whether it was better off obtaining services and equipment from the private sector, Santiago said in his statement.

He was not available for further comment at this writing.

The Department of Transportation and Communication is the lead agency of the National Broadband Network project.

The agency is implementing the project through a Chinese government loan and with Chinese company ZTE as supplier.

"The government's lack of core competency is definitely an issue. But this is not the only issue. Cost-efficiency is another issue. Unlike private enterprise, state agencies are inherently inefficient," Santiago said, as he referred to a University of the Philippines' School of Economics (UPSE) study, which warned that the government lacked the "core competency" to own, maintain and use an IT backbone.

Santiago reiterated that one of the strongest arguments against a government broadband system "is the fact that even the highly advanced governments of other countries do not have state-owned (broadband) networks."

"In many countries, governments agencies simply rely on existing, more efficient and highly reliable privately owned networks that provide universal access and connectivity," he added.

The House probe will invite officials of the National Economic and Development Authority, Department of Transportation and Communications, National Telecommunications Commission and the Commission on Information and Communications Technology, the lawmaker said.

He also said that representatives of ZTE Corp. and rivals Amsterdam Holdings Inc. and Arescom Inc. will be invited to the public hearing, along with the authors of the UP School of Economics study.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, August 05, 2007

RP cyber athletes seek strong finish in upcoming World Cyber Games

By JOEL D. PINAROC - Manila Bulletin

The Philippine representatives to the upcoming World Cyber Games (WCG) in Seattle, Washington, in October have been named, and will try to improve their showing in the annual event dubbed the Olympics of computer gaming.

Organizers of the World Cyber Games in the Philippines last week bared the eight Filipino players who will vie for honors and substantial prizes offered in this year’s WCG.

The winners have been named following a nationwide competition, culminating in the national finals held two weeks ago in Metro Manila.

Most of the participants are virtual veterans, particularly players in CounterStrike and Need for Speed.

The following players who survived the three-day national finals include Kristofer Romillo, Arvin Agbisit, Gary Gueverras, EJ Clores and Jupiter Gaboy (Team Horsemen of the Apocalypse) for CounterStrike; Tristan Solee for Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne; Byron Bongon for Starcraft; and Israel Magante for Need for Speed: Carbon.

The national champions each received cash prizes from sponsor Samsung, as well as prizes from other sponsors.

The RP team will compete against gamers from seven continents.

Helping the Philippine gamers prepare for the main event are major supporters like Samsung Electronics Philippines Corporation and the Philippine E-Sports Entertainment Network, Inc.

"We are proud to give these fine cyber athletes the opportunity to strut their stuff in the global arena," says Jerry Lacson, Samsung general manager for marketing. "Seeing how they have competed these past weeks, we look forward to how they will fare in this year’s competition."

Samsung, which has been supporting WCG steadily in the Philippines, recognizes the relevance of video gaming in the country.

The company has participated in the WCG as a worldwide sponsor for the last six years.

After nearly 10 weeks of intense and competitive cyber sports, 64 finalists emerged from Davao, Baguio, Cebu and Metro Manila.

WCG Philippines chief Tjader Regis meanwhile said a medal for the Philippines is very significant, and will surely pave the way for the mainstream acceptance of computer gaming as a legitimate sporting event.

"More support is needed for the local gaming scene," Regis said, adding that a medal win however, remains very elusive, considering the kind of competition that the Philippine players face.

"Our Philippine team will face players that are actually professional gamers," Regis further said, adding that South Korean and European players are expected to again dominate the annual tournament.

Labels: , , , ,