The Switchboard: Five tech policy stories you need to read today


Google Inc. signage is displayed in front of the company's headquarters in Mountain View, California, U.S., on Friday, Sept. 27, 2013.(David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

AT&T attempts to out-Google Google in Austin fiber race. AT&T has said its new fiber competitor in Austin will debut on Dec. 1, offering speeds of 300 megabits per second (with plans to bump that rate up to 1 gigabit per second next year). The idea is to preempt Google Fiber, CNET reports. "By moving first with its offering, AT&T is attempting to quell the Google buzz and drum up a little hype for itself." Google, for its part, says it's on track to roll out fiber service to Provo, Utah, this month.

How Dave Eggers gets Silicon Valley wrong. With his new book on Silicon Valley, Eggers has penned a caricature of the tech industry that ignores companies' actual incentives and attributes ulterior motives to fundamentally honest people, according to Reuters' Felix Salmon. "The Circle is a malign organization; you can almost see its CEO, Eamon Bailey, stroking a white cat in his suburban Palo Alto lair, dreaming of Global Domination. In reality, however, the open protocols of the World Wide Web led naturally and ineluctably to our current loss of privacy."

Symantec seizes part of massive peer-to-peer botnet ZeroAccess. Researchers from the Internet security firm have isolated some 500,000 malware-infected computers, cutting them off from a 1.9 million-strong botnet known as ZeroAccess. "ZeroAccess has a peer-to-peer architecture where every infected computer can relay files, instructions and information to other computers -- peers -- in the botnet," according to Computerworld. "Earlier this year, security researchers from Symantec found a practical way to liberate ZeroAccess bots from the botmasters by leveraging a known design weakness in the peer-to-peer mechanism."

Serious Yahoo bug discovered. Researchers rewarded with $12.50 voucher to buy corporate T-shirt. Yahoo's bug bounty program offers money to researchers who discover security flaws in their products. But one team that found a gap in Yahoo's email service was offered a paltry sum, according to Graham Cluley. The reward could only be spent in Yahoo's own merchandise store.

BitTorrent experiments with secure chat. The file-sharing service BitTorrent is developing a secure chat application that will let users send encrypted messages to one another. The program is in alpha now. "Eventually," CNET reports, "the service is expected to work with other instant-messaging accounts and be interoperable with SIP standards, but for now it requires a BitTorrent account."

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on telecommunications and the Internet. Before joining the Post, he was the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic.

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Brian Fung · October 1, 2013