debilitating worm originate in Asia?
The worm that’s slowed internet traffic all over the world the past few days may have originated in the Asia, several security experts said Monday. The so-called Sapphire worm, also referred to as Slammer and SQLExp, began spreading at 12:30 a.m. EST Saturday. The attack was the largest since 2001 worms Code Red and Nimda, and exploited vulnerabilities in Microsoft SQL 2000 Web servers. CNET.com reports that the Hong Kong Computer Emergency Response Team saw heavy internet traffic in Asia before anyone else had reported it, leading to speculation that the worm began there. The Washington Post quotes experts who claim the worm’s code refers to Honkers Union of China, a Chinese hacking group that attacked more than 75 sites in April 2001, including those of the Navy and Labor Department. Sapphire certainly seemed to do the most damage in Asia. South Korea was crippled by loss of service to the country’s biggest ISP. In China, web sites such as China Telecom and the Education and Research Network were paralyzed, while Japanese internet companies also reported severe problems.
Gulp! Big MSN marketing push was for naught
It has not been a good week for Microsoft. Amidst the PR nightmare of the Microsoft system-enabled Sapphire worm, the company also revealed that its MSN 8 internet service, launched last year, has not made any inroads against competitor America Online. In fact, Microsoft may reconfigure its $300 million advertising strategy just months after it debuted. For the first three months of the new program’s availability, MSN has been stuck at 9 million subscribers. AOL currently has 35 million. The company blames some of the stagnation on an offsetting cluster of MSN defections, which occurred after multi-year discount deals ended. The new marketing plan will emphasize the “bring your own access” plan, also revealed in October, that’s less than half the price of MSN’s $21.95 dial-up service. BYOA allows users from other ISPs to use MSN’s instant messenger and enhanced email package.
Advertisers salivate as more Hispanics get wired
Hispanics are the fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States. They’re also the fastest-growing group of internet adopters, according to a new study by America Online and market research company RoperASW. The study finds that nearly half of respondents, twice the national average, had gone online for the first time since 2000. Hispanics spend more time at work and at home on the web, too, compared to the average user, the study found. The University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth predicts that Hispanic buying power will balloon to $1 trillion by 2007. Since they’re one of the only groups that can still be targeted as new online users (growth has slowed after a steep increase in the early years), that makes Hispanics all the more attractive to advertisers and internet service providers. AOL, for example, recently hired its first Hispanic ad agency and provides a keyword to turn user screens to Spanish in its most recent version. And Microsoft MSN has paired with uDate.com for a February launch of a Spanish-language personals site.
Panicked music retailers form online trinity
Several major music retailers have banded together to start a new paid service to deliver songs to consumers via the internet. The group, which includes Tower Records, Virgin Entertainment Group and Best Buy Co., among others, hopes to combat not only the free online music swapping that has blossomed the past few years, but also the discount chains such as Wal-Mart luring the remaining CD buyers. Some of the companies need desperate measures. Wherehouse Entertainment, for instance, filed for bankruptcy protection last week, its second filing in 10 years, and braced for more than 100 store closings. Best Buy closed 107 stores this month. In a statement, the group explained that the new service will help them “effectively compete in the digital music market place and to launch a new era of consumer-focused digital music offerings.” The deal will rely on heavy in-store marketing. CD sales are projected to drop another 6 or so percent this year, after a decrease of 9 percent in 2002. Industry analysts have predicted that 500 music stores may close as a result. Of course, the stores can also be their own worst enemy – Best Buy actually sells the MP3 devices and CD burners that enable music piracy, the very trend it hopes to fight.
INS terrorist-fighting measures get hacked
A new Immigration and Naturalization Service policy designed to tip the government off to potential terrorists may have actually given terrorists something to work with. An unidentified hacker gained access to personal information about international students collected by the University of Kansas. Dossiers on school’s nearly 1,500 international students were downloaded via a temporary “hole” that appeared during what was supposed to be a computer security upgrade. University officials say the hole has been patched, but the hacker has not been caught. The FBI is investigating the case along with the INS, both trying to figure out if terrorist groups stole the information. The university informed students of the violation last week via email, and many were understandably upset. The files included passport, Social Security and university identification information, as well as study programs and cities of origin. This isn’t the first time the Kansas system has been hacked into. An official confirmed that in an earlier instance, what’s believed to be the same hacker used a hole to dispense pornography and copyrighted movies.
January 28, 2003© 2003 Media Life