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New Year's Hacks

The Wall Street Journal quoted extensively from the AP: "According to the Associated Press, the hacker obtained an internal Secret Service memorandum and part of a mutual assistance legal treaty from Russia. The documents contained 'highly sensitive information pertaining to ongoing ... criminal cases,' according to court records reviewed by the AP. The hacker also accessed e-mails and computer files. The break-in was discovered during a broad Secret Service investigation, called 'Operation Firewall,' that targeted underground hacker organizations. Nicolas Lee Jacobsen, a 21-year-old computer engineer of Santa Ana, Calif., was charged with the break-in in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles." He was arrested in October, the AP said.
The Wall Street Journal: Hacker Breaks Into T-Mobile Network (Subscription required)

The security site SecurityFocus.com first reported the news, CNET's News.com said. "While the mobile-phone service claimed to have locked out the intruder in late 2003, the indictment states that the network trespass for which Jacobsen is being charged happened between March 15, 2004, and Oct. 26, 2004. The SecurityFocus report also points to several pictures that have appeared on the Internet, which apparently were stolen from the accounts of celebrities."
CNET's News.com: T-Mobile: Hacker Had Limited Access

_____Filter Archive_____
A Failing Upgrade for the FBI (washingtonpost.com, Jan 14, 2005)
Apple Goes Budget Friendly (washingtonpost.com, Jan 12, 2005)
Big Blue Opens the Patent Vault (washingtonpost.com, Jan 11, 2005)
An Apple a Day (washingtonpost.com, Jan 10, 2005)
Microsoft Spies a Whole New Market (washingtonpost.com, Jan 7, 2005)
More Past Issues

The Los Angeles Times has more details on the extent of the hacking. "Jacobsen read the e-mail of a Secret Service agent, perused photos snapped on cellphones, listened to private voice mails and even offered to retrieve Social Security numbers and other personal information for fellow hackers, according to interviews and documents filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. The case ... highlights the vulnerability of personal data in an age when virtually every aspect of life is digitized and networked."
The Los Angeles Times: Hacker May Have Infiltrated Cell Phone Data (Registration required)
BBC News Online: US Hacker Breaks Into T-Mobile

A Google Glitch

Google's Gmail e-mail service had a glitch that could have left e-mails open to the preying eyes of unauthorized outsiders. Google fixed the problem, but it is another case that points to the importance of securing online information. The problem "let any user query the company's servers for information on the last message sent, two hackers announced on Wednesday. The programmers, part of a community site dedicated to the Unix-like FreeBSD operating system, found that an improperly formatted address allowed Gmail users to retrieve the message body of the last HTML-formatted e-mail processed by the server," CNET's News.com reported. "The result is a compromise of the privacy of communications over Gmail," the programmers wrote. "Message content and address information are easily--if somewhat randomly--available to unintended recipients."
CNET's News.com: Gmail Glitch Yields Access To Messages

In other Google news, the Wall Street Journal reported that Google's rank as search-engine king is losing some ground to rivals Microsoft and Yahoo. The two companies "successfully narrowed Google's lead in user satisfaction during 2004, according to a survey of 2,000 Web users. Survey respondents said they were happier with search results from Yahoo and Microsoft than in a similar survey last spring, and more likely to use those sites regularly," the paper said. "The study is the first evidence that changes by Google's rivals are influencing how consumers perceive and use search sites. It is further proof that, despite the hype around Google's August initial public offering and its soaring share price, the search battle is far from won. Over time, some analysts believe, improvements by Google's rivals will help them gain market share and ad revenue, putting them in a better position to compete with the search leader."
The Wall Street Journal: Google's Rivals Narrow Search Gap (Subscription required)

Google's Mini-Me Moment

Apple has the Mac mini and iPod mini. Not to be outdone, Google has its own "mini" product. Today, the company will start selling a $4,9995 Google Mini server and software package geared to help businesses search for data. "The $5,000 computer is a less powerful version of the Google Search Appliance, which can cost more than 100 times as much. So the Mountain View, Calif., company chose an appropriate moniker: Google Mini. Google was just the latest to decide that, for style-conscious consumers, less sometimes signals more. BMW recently brought back the Mini Cooper. Mini skirts have returned to fashion runways. Apple Computer Inc. slimmed down its popular music player and called it the iPod mini," the Los Angeles Times reported.
The Los Angeles Times: Google Joins 'Mini' Mania With Server (Registration required)

Speaking of Apple ...

As expected, Apple reported stellar profits yesterday, thanks to whopping iPod sales. But the numbers surprised even Wall Street for being so strong. The company said profit for its first quarter hit $295 million (70 cents a share), compared with $63 million (17 cents) a year ago. First-quarter revenue was $3.49 billion, up 74 percent from the year-ago quarter. The company's "earnings more than quadrupled, dramatically exceeding Wall Street expectations, based on strong holiday sales of laptop computers and its wildly popular iPod music players," the AP said.
The Associated Press via washingtonpost.com: Apple Profits Quadruple As iPod Sales Surge (Registration required)

The San Jose Mercury News noted Apple "reported an unprecedented fivefold increase in shipments of its iconic iPod, which has been hailed as the Walkman of the digital music era. It shipped nearly 4.6 million iPods during its first quarter of fiscal 2005, more than the total for all of 2004. IPod sales were buoyed by Apple's fall addition of two new players to the line, the photo iPod and the limited-edition U2 iPod, together with better availability of components. Nonetheless, Apple still experienced backlogs with some iPods."
The San Jose Mercury News: Apple's Allure Propels iPod To Record Profit (Registration required)

Apple isn't just making money off of iPods. "The company shipped more than a million Macintosh computers in the quarter, a 26 percent increase over last year. Of those, the greatest demand was for the iMac, with its sales nearly tripling. 'This is the first proof positive that the halo effect is real,' said Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, referring to the notion that customers interested in buying an iPod sometimes buy a Macintosh as well," the New York Times reported.
The New York Times: Apple's Profit Quadruples, Thanks To iPod (Registration required)

Filter launched in Aug. 2002. The column is ending its run on Jan. 21. Send feedback, praise and darts alike to cindyDOTwebbATwashingtonpost.com. (Spammers still love to blast my e-mail address.)

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