Olongapo Telecom & Information Technology

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Germany mulls 'Trojan' IT viruses as anti-terror measure

Left-wing members of the ruling coalition have objected strongly to plans by the German interior ministry to enlist "Trojans", malicious programmes sent in electronic mail, to spy on terror suspects.

According to a proposed plank of new anti-terror legislation, which was confirmed by a ministry spokesman, special software would smuggle itself into a suspect's computer disguised as a harmless e-mail.

It would then feed information back to police servers whenever the computer was connected to the Internet.

The plans, which have circulated online and in the press in recent days, have met with sharp criticism both from the GdP police union and from Social Democrats (SPD), who are partners in the left-right ruling coalition.

Opponents argue that the plans would violate Germany's Basic Law and its privacy protections, particularly if the Trojan software was hidden in an official e-mail.

"The SPD will never lend a hand to changing the constitution simply to allow online searches," said Ralf Stegner, the interior minister of the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein.

The opposition Left Party said that such measures would destroy Germans' faith in the state.

"No one will trust e-mails from the authorities because they could be snoop attacks," said deputy Jan Korte, a member of the interior affairs committee in the Bundestag lower house of parliament.

GdP president Konrad Freiberg suggested passing the broader anti-terror legislation at least initially without the online search programme.

He did not want to hold up key crime-fighting measures because of the controversy over Trojan programmes.

Joerg Ziercke, director of the Federal Crime Office, defended the idea of Trojans in an interview with Stern magazine to be published Thursday.

He argued that so-called Remote Forensic Software could not be broadly used anyway because it would have to be tailored each time to the computer that had been targetted.

The anti-terror draft law also includes new powers for the federal police to involve itself in cases that poses a national threat even without a specific request from state police.

It would also allow them to launch probes based on suspect profiling if there was a specific threat of attacks and wiretap suspects' phones.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party and one of the most experienced members of her cabinet, raised hackles in July when he proposed more draconian measures.

In an interview with the weekly news magazine Der Spiegel, he suggested the indefinite detention and "targeted killing" of terror suspects and a ban on the use of the Internet and mobile phones by suspect foreigners living in Germany.

Germany has strict checks on its security forces in part due to the flagrant abuses committed during the Nazi era, and under the communists in what was East Germany

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Friday, August 31, 2007

DOTC ready to defend $329-M NBN project in any court

By Riza T. Olchondra - Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines -- The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) said it was ready to defend the national broadband network (NBN) project in any court.

“We welcome the filing of any charges as we believe that the NBN matter should be resolved in a proper forum, which is the courts, and not through PR (press releases) and other grandstanding venues,” Transportation Secretary Leandro R. Mendoza said in a statement.

Mendoza made the statement following reports that Nueva Viscaya Rep. Carlos Padilla filed charges against DOTC and Chinese officials. Padilla cited a case filed before the Supreme Court questioning the project

As for the case in the high court, Mendoza said, “We are now working with the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to finalize our comments on the case.”

The $329-million NBN project won by ZTE Corp. of China is one of the target beneficiaries of the $1.8-billion loan agreement between the Philippines and China.

Signed and sealed

The Philippine government and the Chinese Export-Import Bank signed the deal without fanfare on Saturday on the sidelines of the ASEAN Economic Ministers meeting at the Shangri-La Hotel in Makati.

The NBN project is envisioned to establish seamless connectivity of landline, cellular, and Internet services among all national government agencies or offices.

DOTC reckons the government will save P2.51 billion yearly from the NBN project set to be undertaken by ZTE, aside from enjoying a lower three-percent interest on the loan compared with a nine-percent interest on government bonds used to fund communications spending.

On Tuesday, Padilla lodged a complaint in the Office of the Ombudsman against Mendoza, Assistant Secretaries Lorenzo Formoso and Elmer Soneja, four officials of the Chinese state-run company ZTE Corp., and several others.

‘Grossly disadvantageous’

Padilla said in his charge that transportation officials violated the anti-graft law and the Government Procurement Reform Act when they entered into a “grossly disadvantageous” broadband deal between the Philippines and ZTE.

“The NBN matter is now considered sub-judice, which means that the case is now in the hands of the court,” Mendoza said.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Legarda urges IT industry to lobby for DICT bill

By Erwin Oliva - INQUIRER.net

MAKATI City, Philippines -- Opposition Senator Loren Legarda urged the Philippine information technology industry to help lobby for a bill she filed creating the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

Speaking before members of the Philippine Internet Commerce Society, Legarda said the bill aims to “give more focus” on ICT in government.

“I encourage you to write 23 members of the Senate urging them to support this bill,” she said in a speech.

Legarda filed the DICT bill at the opening of the 14th Congress, but she said the bill has not yet been referred to any Senate committee.

In an interview with reporters, she said the country needs a department on ICT because this is a “need of the future.”

She said the country is lagging in the development of the IT industry due to lack of a department solely focused on this booming industry.

The DICT is seen to set government policies and oversee government IT projects.

The House committee on information and communications technology is also planning to push a similar bill.

“Any forward-looking Filipino would support this bill. Only those living in the Stone Age would likely be against it,” Legarda added.

She said that previous bills filed in Congress need to be refined and re-filed in Congress.

“A bill is never perfect. We welcome inputs,” she said.

Legarda said she has also filed an anti-computer fraud and privacy bill and an anti-porn bill, which also covers pornography on the Internet. She was, however, against any form of regulation on the Internet.

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Internet reaching wider market of Filipinos abroad--Century

By Erwin Oliva - INQUIRER.net

MAKATI CITY, Philippines -- A local real estate developer said its Internet marketing strategy has helped them reach a "broader" market of Filipino expatriates most likely thinking of investing in property, an executive said Tuesday.

"The Internet is allowing us to reach a broader market of Filipinos abroad who have the spending power," said Jay Estaris, director of information technology of the Century Properties Group., in an interview.

About 80 percent of inquiries have come from the Internet, added Estaris.

During the launch of its P5-billion private residential project called Gramercy, Jose Eduardo Antonio, chairman of the Century Properties Group., acknowledged that retiring Filipino expatriates are now buying more prime properties in the country.

Despite the US economic crunch that has sent ripples throughout the world, the executive said he has not seen a decrease in the demand for its properties. He stressed that today's buyers are mostly "users" and not "speculators" who buy property with the objective of selling it when prices go up.

In an interview, Jose Marco Antonio, managing director of Centuries Properties Group, added the company has used both traditional and newer strategies to reach out to potential buyers abroad.

"But it is really best to target [Filipino expats] on the Internet," he added, noting that the company has used more creative ways to effectively engage potential clients using today's technology and the Internet.

Apart from its presence in at least 22 countries, Antonio said the company has established a real estate academy that trains sales people on various aspects of its business, including Internet marketing. It currently maintains two websites that promote and accept sales inquiries on the Internet.

But Estaris noted that the developer has been investing a lot on Internet marketing through online advertising and other "push technologies" such as e-mail campaigns. He declined to disclose how much the developer is investing on online advertising.

"The boom in the real estate property is now different because a lot of the buyers then were speculators. We now have a new set of buyers," Antonio said.

Third-party studies show that at least 30 percent of $14 billion worth of remittances of overseas Filipino workers now go to real estate-related spending, the executive added.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Yahoo offers free texting service for Pinoy users

INTERNET giant Yahoo Inc. will introduce new features today for its free Web-based e-mail service, including the ability to send text messages directly to cell phones.

The service, which will take up to six weeks to roll out, will initially be available in the Philippines, the United States, Canada and India, the company said.

“We’re giving you the right way to connect at the right time with right person,” said Yahoo vice president John Kremer, whose two preteen sons vastly prefer text and instant messages to e-mail.

Yahoo doesn’t charge for sending and receiving text messages, but mobile phone users may be charged fees by carriers that provide their services.

Yahoo’s PC-to-text service seems to compete directly with the services provided by Philippines-based Chikka.com, but it was not immediately clear what impact it would have on the local company.

The changes to Yahoo Mail come amid fierce competition among providers of free, Web-based e-mail services. Yahoo and Microsoft Corp.’s Hotmail have long dominated the niche, but Google Inc.’s Gmail has grown quickly since its introduction in April 2004.

In February, Yahoo announced that it would provide unlimited storage space, and earlier this month Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft said Hotmail would increase free storage from two to five gigabytes. Time Warner Inc.’s AOL, the fourth largest e-mail provider, began offering unlimited storage last summer. Google provides nearly three gigabytes.

Sunnyvale-based Yahoo bills the changes as the most significant overhaul of Yahoo Mail since its launch in 1997. The new version replaces a one-year-old beta program and adds new features, including text messaging, a more comprehensive e-mail search engine and an easier to read and edit contacts database.

Yahoo is making its upgraded service available to the 254 million users of its e-mail service as it competes with rivals Google and Microsoft for “eye balls” that can be parlayed into advertising revenues.

Improvements include making the service faster and enabling users to have instant message conversations with people using Microsoft’s Windows Live Messenger service.

The new version allows users to click on a contact and then select whether to send that person an e-mail, instant message or text message. You could send an e-mail or instant message if you know the recipient is at the computer—or a text message if the recipient is on the road with a cell phone.

“This gives people the ability to reach anybody in their contact database anytime,” said Michael McGuire, vice president of research at industry analysis firm Gartner Inc. “For good or evil, it’s going to be much easier for anybody to get a hold of you.”

Users who do not want the upgrades—or whose computers are too slow to handle them—can opt to remain with the current version, which Yahoo will call “Classic.”

“Consumer inertia is a powerful force,” McGuire said. “You are not going to get everybody wanting to learn the new one.”

McGuire said the enhancements add value to Yahoo’s e-mail.

“These are all important features they have to keep adding to the platform in the face of Hotmail, Gmail, or whatever,” McGuire said.

“But this is more than keeping up with competitors. They have added value.” AP and AFP

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Bill imposes heavy penalties on identity thieves

By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr. - Inquirer

MANILA--The Senate is moving to crack down on identity thieves by imposing harsher penalties against violators, and pressing banks, credit card firms and government institutions to be more stringent in protecting the privacy of their data bases.

Sen. Loren Legarda has filed Senate Bill 1371 bill which seeks to penalize the rapidly emerging crime of identity theft where an individual’s personal information is stolen and used without his or her knowledge to commit fraud.

Legarda’s bill aims to compel firms that handle a great deal of restricted personal information, such as banks and credit card issuers, to build in more adequate precautions to parry identity thieves.

"Based on the zones of privacy established by the Bill of Rights, every person clearly enjoys the right to be let alone, or the right to determine what, how much, to whom and when information about himself/herself may be disclosed," Legarda stressed.

"Congress must now safeguard the right to privacy, which has become vulnerable to invasion and manipulation by corrupt individuals and entities that take advantage of new technology, including the spread of electronic databases," she said.

The bill has classified as "sensitive personal information" an individual's first name and surname in combination with other details, such as those that relate to, but not limited to, an individual's financial account, credit standing, health condition, and family tree.

The most common kinds of identity theft are diversion of pension checks; getting credit from card issuers; and making false insurance claims.

Under Legarda's bill, identity thieves would be punished with up to 10 years in prison, or a fine of as much as P500,000, or both. The same penalty would apply to persons or the officers and directors of firms that "misappropriate" sensitive personal information.

The bill does not only cover private firms, but also public institutions with large repositories of personal data, such as the Social Security System, Government Service Insurance System, the Passport Office and the Land Transportation Office.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

TESDA, Microsoft to offer new IT certification project

By Alexander Villafania

MANILA, Philippines -- The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) will pursue a new IT certification project with Microsoft Philippines.

Called HEdStart Lite (HE referring to Higher Education), the project aims to provide fundamental training on Microsoft applications, particularly .Net, ASP and C#, totaling six units.

HEdStart Lite is a modular version of Microsoft's previous HEdStart program with the Commission on Higher Education last year.

The one with CHED is more expansive with 12 units of .Net training. It was pilot tested just last year with Mapua Institute of Technology, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, and the College of Saint Benilde.

CHED and TESDA have an existing joint technical and vocational modular program that allows students to continue taking undergraduate degree courses from TESDA-accredited tech-voc courses.

In an interview, Microsoft Philippines Academic Programs Manager Michelle Casio said HEdStart Lite will be pilot tested at the Asian Institute of Maritime Studies, CAP College and Info Tech Institute of Arts and Sciences. In each of the pilot schools, Microsoft Philippines will train two faculty members.

Recipients of HEdStart and HEdStart Lite will also be introduced to Microsoft IT Academy, a worldwide academic institution training program that provides member schools with software licenses, training modules and textbooks on Microsoft products.

Casio said the recipients of their program will be given the HEdStart materials for free for one year.

"Demand for .Net programmers is increasing both locally and worldwide and this is one way to contribute to the talent pool," she said.

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