Sunday, March 30, 2008
Now the role of IM in the enterprise has been a long-debated topic ever since the messaging system burst onto the scene in the form we know it today, somewhere back in the mid to late 90s. Information workers rightly see it as a productivity-enhancing tool for sharing and collaboration, but on the other side there are the IT enforcers and business managers who see public IM use as a potential security risk, a massive drain on productivity and a compliance risk.
The first two arguments can be pretty convincingly disputed. Security threats to public IM protocols have been relatively non-existent due to their being generally non-interoperable – the malware industry is economics-driven and if the potential group of infectees is relatively small, it's just not worth the hackers’ while. In terms of productivity too, while IM could be abused and used for idle chit chat when your staff really should be getting down to some work, its usefulness comes in those situations that call for a form of communication somewhere between a phone call and an email. Quick questions and clarifications are a perfect example; check the presence status of a name in your address book and fire off a query – no hanging around waiting for an email to come back or the socially-required procrastination of a phone conversation.
But compliance with laws and industry regulations is more difficult to ignore. Put simply, if firms don’t regulate and manage IM usage they could be in for some very large fines, or even worse. The head-in-the-sand approach adopted by many organisations, who seem nonetheless happy to profit from the productivity benefits of their staff using public IM, is not sustainable any longer. Firms need to accept their users are doing it and invest in enterprise-grade systems which will secure, monitor and more importantly, archive messages for any e-discovery purposes. And there's no shortage of options. Led by Lotus Sametime in the late 90s, and followed by Microsoft, Reuters Messaging, and other players like the French-based Process One, they offer enhanced functionality including interoperability with public IM clients, and multi-chat sessions for online meetings.
The alternative is, of course, to block it completely, but with some of the most important information shared within organisations via IM these days, this would fly in the face of good knowledge management. And it will become increasingly difficult to justify, as a new generation of workers who have grown up with the messaging system enters the workplace.
Posted by Phil Muncaster
Friday, March 28, 2008
Microsoft has announced collaborations with five social networks to increase the interoperability of its software.
The vendor said plans to collaborate with the popular sites Facebook, Bebo, Hi5, LinkedIn and Tagged would help to make it easier and safer for social networking tool users to move their relationships around the web.
The collaboration includes an exchange of application programming interfaces (APIs) that will allow users to move their contacts and relationships between services more safely and securely.
Earlier this month, Microsoft unveiled the beta release of the Windows Live Contacts API, to allow web developers to use in production to enable their customers to transfer and share their Windows Live Contacts.
John Richards, Director of Windows Live Platform wrote in a blog on the 'Windows Live Dev' website dedicated to the development partnerships that the use of APIs would avoid the use of 'screen scraping' mechanisms.
"We have provided an alternative that is equally open but unequivocally safer and more secure for customers," he said.
Microsoft also launched a new website, Windows Invite2Messenger, to showcase its vision, where users can invite their contacts from any of the five social network partners to join them on Windows Live Messenger.
But the service is only live today on Facebook, allowing Windows Live Messenger users, to invite social networked friends to chat using the instant messaging (IM) software. Microsoft said Bebo, Hi5, LinkedIn and Tagged would become live on the invite2messenger site in the coming months.
Suw Charman-Anderson, social networking technology consultant welcomed the Windows Live Contacts API beta release. "There is a habit among sites that, if they want you to import contact data from another service, they ask for your username and password to 'screen scrape' the data. But there's no guarantees that the website will look after your password and it also encourages users to get into bad habits, which could leave them more open to phishing attacks."
But she added that today's announcement from Microsoft had left her "seriously" underwhelmed,' in comparison to Google's commitment to developing open APIs through its OpenSocial Foundation launched yesterday.
"I see the OpenSoical announcement as Google trying to take themselves out of the picture, where Microsoft are just trying to insert themselves into a similar picture, while driving more users to it Live Messenger service," she told IT PRO.
by Miya Knights
Monday, March 24, 2008
Every IM poses a potential threat to a company's legal compliance, network and data security or business policies. Unified SecurityGateway (NYSE: GTW) (USG) is Belmont, Calif.-based FaceTime Communications Inc.'s solution for securing realtime communications, which can be the trickiest network traffic to control.
The USG appliance connects to the SPAN/TAP port of a switch. Two additional Ethernet ports are also connected: a management port and a proxy port to connect internal IM clients to the device, which is preloaded with Linux and has two 1.6GHz dual-core processors and 4 Gbytes of memory.
The management interface is Web-based. Reviewers first configured network settings, adding domain information and primary DNS, and set up authentication againstMicrosoft (NSDQ: MSFT) Active Directory. Deployment in the lab also involved creation of policy groups, including one for a less restrictive policy (Admins) and one more restrictive (Users).
Policy setup was easy to navigate. Clicking on the Admins or Users group names brought up the policy configuration screen. From there, access and restrictions were configured for the more popular (and some not so well known) IM applications, P2P software, malware/adware and Web filters. Testers left the Admin group with access to the more mainstream applications, while the Users group was completely locked down.
In testing, clients accessing blocked sites were given a default warning message indicating that corporate policy did not allow access to those sites. The warning is customizable and can include graphics, such as the company's logo. Additionally, an e-mail alert can be sent to the user's mailbox. IM restrictions were set up to flag for specific words in the chat. When the specific word was typed, a system-generated message came on screen stating the policy was violated.
IM management is pretty detailed. There is a "spIM" setting, which is used to combat IM spam. A challenge response can be enabled to prevent bots from spamming IM sessions. IM chat is logged through IM transcript reports, listing the username, IP address and all text of the chat session.
Web filtering is set up by default though synchronization with the Secure Computing Control list. With filtering, there are the options of blocking, allowing access or "coaching." The coaching feature enabled the system to send a warning suggesting the user should not access the questionable site but did not block access to the site. Filtering can also block specific files.
P2P and malware filtering features give as much administrative control as Web and IM filtering and are as easy to configure.
With P2P filtering, the version of P2P software allowable can be defined. For example, if there is a known vulnerability in a particular version of an application that is allowed on the network and there is another version of the software patched against that vulnerability, administrators can give access only to the more secure version.
USG is priced at $24,995—that includes support for 1,000 users and full functionality. The system is scalable for an enterprise with more than 10,000 users. Solution providers can integrate the device in a network that has a firewall or an enterprise antimalware system already intact.
With a solution like USG, in conjunction with a strongly defined and consistently applied technology usage policy, solution providers can offer a formidable defense in the rapidly evolving and constantly challenging realm of realtime communications.
By Samara Lynn, ChannelWeb
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Although the new software will not support multiple conversations, it will allow users to have text-based chats with anyone of the website's 60million users.
It will be free to use when Facebook includes the service as a feature on its main page in the next few weeks, according to launch details obtained by the Financial Times.
Yet its release may hurt some of Facebook's third-party software developers, who just last year were invited by the site to "help grow the Facebook applications ecosystem."
The Californian-based firm denied it was stepping on anybody's turf, by telling the FT that users can remove any of its applications and replace them with a third-party or rival feature.
Observers already pitch Facebook's chat service against AOL, Microsoft, Google and Skype, currently the main IM offerings for members craving more human, seamless interaction.
But the tool is not only a salvo against Search and VoIP players: the fact that user messages will be "instant" suggests Facebook may be responding to micro-blogging site Twitter.
Before its bid to extend further into social media, Facebook was yesterday doing a spot of house-keeping to keep its existing community content about their privacy.
It explained: "We are introducing privacy changes that work towards our goal of giving you the control you need in order to share information comfortably on Facebook."
The changes, and such a carefully-worded aim, come after Facebook unleashed a peer-based advertising programme that triggered community outrage for making members' feel too exposed.
Friday, March 21, 2008
“Cypress Communications has shown an unyielding commitment to innovation while addressing real needs in the marketplace, and Unified Communications is pleased to grant a 2007 Product of the Year Award to the company’s C4 IP solution,” said Rich Tehrani, TMC President and Editor-in-Chief of Unified Communications magazine. “We’re proud to honor their hard work and accomplishments and look forward to more innovative solutions from Cypress Communications in the future.”
With its highly resilient network, wide range of applications and commendable scalability, C4 IP has made its mark on the communications industry—even helping to define a new category in hosted VoIP. This category, called Communications as a Service (CaaS), is distinguished by unique end-to-end hosted delivery and wide array of integrated VoIP and unified communications features.
“C4 IP has forged new territory in the hosted VoIP industry, enabling small-to-medium enterprises to take advantage of unified communications technologies that are usually attainable by only the largest of enterprises,” said Frank Grillo, executive vice president of marketing at Cypress Communications.
“The market response to our end-to-end hosted delivery model for unified communications has been phenomenal, and we are honored to receive the Unified Communications magazine Product of the Year Award.”
C4 IP is an enterprise-class, hosted VoIP solution that enables multi-location companies to communicate seamlessly throughout the enterprise. Scalable and adaptable, C4 IP is a dynamic communications solution that streamlines and improves communications, resulting in a more productive and efficient enterprise.
The complete list of Product of the Year winners will be published in the March 2008 issue of Unified Communications magazine.
About Cypress Communications
Boasting a 20-year legacy and more than 6,500 customers coast-to-coast, Cypress provides Communications as a Service (CaaS) to small- and mid-sized enterprises. CaaS goes beyond traditional hosted VoIP offerings by delivering a fully managed unified communications solution. Comprehensive and flexible, the CaaS solution from Cypress includes integrated voice and data access, desktop phones, soft phones, local and long-distance voice services, voicemail, advanced collaboration tools and remote office functionality. From their computers, users can take advantage of productivity-enhancing applications such as real-time presence, desktop video, unified messaging, chat, file sharing, and Outlook integration. As a Deloitte Fast 50 and Fast 500 award recipient, Cypress Communications is also recognized as one of the fastest growing telecommunication companies in North America. Cypress is headquartered in Atlanta. The company’s Web address is www.cypresscom.net.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
"With a proven record of bringing to market mission-critical voice and mobility solutions, Motorola is uniquely positioned to address the business-critical communications needs of the enterprise," said Imran Akbar, vice president and general manager of Converged Enterprise Communications, Motorola Enterprise Mobility business. "Only Motorola can bring together the systems and solutions to mobilize workers with scalable and secure voice-over-WLAN solutions -- helping organizations achieve true interoperability from the corner office to the shop floor; at the loading dock and on the road."
In addition to toll quality voice, the solutions will also show iDEN(R)-like push-to-talk services over wireless LAN; integrated mobile access to e-mail/calendar/PIM, internet and line of business applications over wireless LAN; and PBX functionality extended to smartphones, mobile computers and other mobile devices. These unique converged voice and data solutions will empower mobile workers with the mobility tools they need to increase productivity, improve operational efficiencies and enhance customer service.
Motorola's Enterprise Mobility business plans to launch its next-generation voice solutions under the Total Enterprise Access and Mobility (TEAM) name. TEAM solutions will provide security and management as well as a common architecture that will interoperate with an organization's existing voice and IT infrastructure, such as PBXs, wired and wireless LANs and two-way radios. This interoperability will provide enterprises the ability to easily extend the functionality of existing technologies to broaden communications access to a new set of workers.
Motorola is known around the world for innovation in communications. The company develops technologies, products and services that make mobile experiences possible. Our portfolio includes communications infrastructure, enterprise mobility solutions, digital set-tops, cable modems, mobile devices and Bluetooth accessories. Motorola is committed to delivering next generation communication solutions to people, businesses and governments. A Fortune 100 company with global presence and impact, Motorola had sales of US $36.6 billion in 2007. For more information about our company, our people and our innovations, please visit http://www.motorola.com/.
Monday, March 17, 2008
The awards, hosted annually, recognizes outstanding products and services in the network computing industry.
"I am thrilled to win this award," said Tripp Allen, president of Ipswitch (News - Alert) - Messaging Division. "It is an honor to lead a team that focuses on excellence in software development and superior customer support and satisfaction." Winners are chosen by the readers of Network Computing magazine.
IMail Server is a messaging solution for small to mid-sized businesses. In addition to offering premium anti-spam and leveraging third-party anti-virus solutions, IMail also offers secure instant messaging and shared calendaring to make scheduling tasks and appointments easy, according to the company.
"We will continue to focus on customer satisfaction with high quality software, excellent support, and by adding the features that our customers have requested," says Allen. IMail has added many of these new features, including the much requested low-bandwidth webmail client, in their new IMail Server Version 10, which releases March 31.
Another Ipswitch, product, WhatsUp Gold, secured runner-up to Cisco (News - Alert) for Network Monitoring System of the Year at the same ceremony. Ipswitch, Inc. develops IT software products for businesses worldwide. Created in 1991 by Roger Greene, the company now has three product divisions: Network Management, File Transfer, and Messaging.
By Tim Gray, TMCnet Web Editor
Thursday, March 13, 2008
In the last six months information from Eastern Health, the Eastern School District, and the Department of Worker’s Compensation, have all experienced in a breach of private information, where things like a patient’s HIV status, and personal records of more than 20,000 high-school students, were exposed.
Graham Mowbray, director of Computing and Communications at Memorial, says that the incidences involving Eastern Health and Worker’s Compensation had to do with transferring files over peer-to-peer instant messaging systems, an issue which the University has rapidly addressed.
“There was a government privacy section that was proclaimed [on] Jan. 16 of this year, that places the legal responsibility of the protection of information on an institution and its permanent head. It puts a legal reasonability on the institution and the admin to protect private information from unauthorized disclosure,” said Mowbray.
Mowbray says that the ban of instant messaging from all Memorial owned computers, such as those in the library Commons and various computer labs around campus, came on the heels of this announcement made in mid-January.
“Instant chat and messaging [is] another way that a breach in security could happen. With this, file attachments could be sent along with messages, which may appear to be secure … but in actual fact could install some malware or keyboard recording program when it is opened,” he said.
Mowbray says it is this issue that the University is trying to eliminate, and that there are more parties involved in a simple online chat, through such mediums like MSN, than most may realize.
“Take MSN, if you are I are exchanging messages, that message goes through Memorial’s firewall, down to some server the in the States, then back up through Memorial’s firewall to you,” he said.
“The fact that the data goes through that process means that the data is at risk, and that the information we exchange could be stored somewhere where the University doesn’t agree with or doesn’t want it to be stored.”
Mowbray admits many students may have wished to access a messenger service last week from campus, and suddenly found themselves no longer able to do so.
The hasty halt on instant messaging services was due to how severe Memorial actually deemed the risk to be.
According to Mowbray, because the decision was made so quickly to ban instant messengers, the University was unable to provide an alternate chat option to compensate.
“We made the decision that the right thing to do was to shut down or stop the technology because [of this] legal liability that existed,” he said.
“In a perfect world we would have thought about this nine months ago if we knew that we had to shut down chat, which would have given us time to maybe have been able to provide an alternative … but I guess we weren’t that smart.”
While there may be discontent among students and staff regarding the ban, Mowbray says the University always strives to progress, rather than regress, when it comes to communication.
“If there is a program that doesn’t allow file transfers, then we would look at allowing them. Memorial has a sophisticated network, a network which we don’t want moving backwards in terms of losing functionality and using less resources. We want to move forward,” he said.
By Kenny Sharpe
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
PanTerra Networks will waive all regular start up costs associated with its Worksmart service plans and provide the first full month of service free of charge. In addition, Covad customers who transition to PanTerra will also find many of their long-awaited features delivered with Worksmart. PanTerra's on-demand platform enables customers to self-administer their own Auto Attendants, utilize the integrated softphone for mobile employees and deploy advanced call center functionality including real-time statistics, reporting and call recording. Combine this with PanTerra's award-winning desktop sharing and secure instant messaging services and new PanTerra customers can finally realize the true spectrum of unified communications.
"PanTerra is excited about the opportunity to provide an easy migration path for Covad customers," said PanTerra Networks CEO, Arthur Chang. "PanTerra can offer these customers a seamless transition of their business voice service with a quick and easy sign up process. Customers will be able to keep their services working smoothly while PanTerra provides a painless, zero cost and trouble-free migration that allows a customer to reuse all their existing hardware while increasing functionality at the same time. PanTerra understands business reliability, quality customer service and the advanced network architecture required to effectively provide business-class unified communications services."
About PanTerra Networks
PanTerra Networks is a leading provider of on-demand unified communications Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions for small and medium-sized businesses. The Company's Smartsuites provide a complete set of communication, collaboration, call center and messaging services including unlimited voice, web meeting and conference, secure instant messaging, multimedia conferencing, remote desktop sharing and ACD/call center services delivered in a single easy-to-provision and easy-to-use and -administer interface. Smartsuites have the ability to tightly integrate with other business applications like Salesforce automation, which makes it an ideal productivity tool. PanTerra's Smartsuite on-demand services keep capital investment low and align operating expense to business value. Smartsuites are co-branded and re-sold exclusively through service providers, distributors and resellers. The Company is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California. For more information, visit http://www.panterranetworks.com or call +1 408.702.2200.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Although they offer a convenient way to communicate with other people, there are dangers associated with tools that allow real-time communication.
What are the differences between some of the tools used for real-time communication?
Instant messaging (IM) - Commonly used for recreation, instant messaging is also becoming more widely used within corporations for communication between employees. IM, regardless of the specific software you choose, provides an interface for individuals to communicate one-on-one.
Chat rooms - Whether public or private, chat rooms are forums for particular groups of people to interact. Many chat rooms are based upon a shared characteristic; for example, there are chat rooms for people of particular age groups or interests. Although most IM clients support "chats" among multiple users, IM is traditionally one-to-one while chats are traditionally many-to-many.
Bots - A "chat robot," or "bot," is software that can interact with users through chat mechanisms, whether in IM or chat rooms. In some cases, users may be able to obtain current weather reports, stock status, or movie listings. In these instances, users are often aware that they are not interacting with an actual human. However, some users may be fooled by more sophisticated bots into thinking the responses they are receiving are from another person.
There are many software packages that incorporate one or more of these capabilities. A number of different technologies might be supported, including IM, Internet Relay Chat (IRC), or Jabber.
What are the dangers?
Identities can be elusive or ambiguous - Not only is it sometimes difficult to identify whether the "person" you are talking to is human, but human nature and behavior isn't predictable. People may lie about their identity, accounts may be compromised, users may forget to log out, or an account may be shared by multiple people. All of these things make it difficult to know who you're really talking to during a conversation.
Users are especially susceptible to certain types of attack - Trying to convince someone to run a program or click on a link is a common attack method, but it can be especially effective through IM and chat rooms. In a setting where a user feels comfortable with the "person" he or she is talking to, a malicious piece of software or an attacker has a better chance of convincing someone to fall into the trap.
You don't know who else might be seeing the conversation - Online interactions are easily saved, and if you're using a free commercial service the exchanges may be archived on a server. You have no control over what happens to those logs. You also don't know if there's someone looking over the shoulder of the person you're talking to, or if an attacker might be "sniffing" your conversation.
The software you're using may contain vulnerabilities - Like any other software, chat software may have vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit.
Default security settings may be inappropriate - The default security settings in chat software tend to be relatively permissive to make it more open and "usable," and this can make you more susceptible to attacks.
How can you use these tools safely?
Evaluate your security settings - Check the default settings in your software and adjust them if they are too permissive. Make sure to disable automatic downloads. Some chat software offers the ability to limit interactions to only certain users, and you may want to take advantage of these restrictions.
Be conscious of what information you reveal - Be wary of revealing personal information unless you know who you are really talking to. You should also be careful about discussing anything you or your employer might consider sensitive business information over public IM or chat services (even if you are talking to someone you know in a one-to-one conversation).
Try to verify the identity of the person you are talking to, if it matters - In some forums and situations, the identity of the "person" you are talking to may not matter. However, if you need to have a degree of trust in that person, either because you are sharing certain types of information or being asked to take some action like following a link or running a program, make sure the "person" you are talking to is actually that person.
Don't believe everything you read - The information or advice you receive in a chat room or by IM may be false or, worse, malicious. Try to verify the information or instructions from outside sources before taking any action.
Keep software up to date - This includes the chat software, your browser, your operating system, your mail client, and, especially, your anti-virus software.
Authors: Mindi McDowell, Allen Householder
Copyright 2004 Carnegie Mellon University.
IMAuditor 9.1 enables organizations to put Unified Communications (UC) and enterprise instant messaging deployments to optimum use by offering regulatory and corporate norm compliance like logging, archiving and retrieval of data from Web conferencing.
Further instant messages and attachments are protected from outside interference on public networks due to the deep compliance protection offered by IMAuditor as there is a growing concern regarding instant messages. FaceTime IMAuditor secures and manages instant messaging in enterprises within the network of an organization. It operates from the LAN and offers high security to corporate data from threats like spyware, viruses and worms besides from leakage of critical information from within the company.
The October 2007 survey titled, “Greynets in the Enterprise: Third Annual Survey of Trends, Attitudes and Impacts,” was commissioned by FaceTime and conducted by NewDiligence a market research firm.
The Greynets survey found that 56 percent of organizations will be launching UC solutions in the near future. It also reports that most IT managers confirmed that public instant messaging was in use by employees wherever enterprise instant messaging was available.
“Unified communications suites are becoming integral to the way employees work today. But IT managers are finding that their UC rollouts don’t significantly reduce employee use of consumer-oriented Web 2.0 applications and public instant message networks,” said Frank Cabri, vice president of marketing and product management for FaceTime Communications.
“Security and compliance controls must extend across all UC modalities in this heterogeneous environment, both enterprise-sanctioned and consumer-oriented,” added Cabri.
IMAuditor 9.1 (IMA 9.1) includes logging and archiving of instant messages and Web conferencing conversations and attachments besides blocking or allowing audio and video transmissions. IMA 9.1 also supports Sametime 8.0, VMware andReuters messaging 7. It features redundant connector capability for OCS and ability to import employee identities.
By Shamila Janakiraman
A statement from the Marketing Department of Globacom said the SMS-based mobile messaging and community solution is the first such product in the market and provides a fun-filled platform for users to make friends and interact.
“It is a simple, fast, text-based anonymous chatting service that provides an exciting medium for people of like minds to build friendships and exchange ideas,” the statement said. It explained that Globacom subscribers to the service will be able to access not just subscribers of other participating networks in Nigeria but a pan-African community of users in a secure environment.
“This is an innovative service which offers our consumers the benefits of social networking and self expression. It has a combination of easy-to-use offerings which provide a highly engaging environment for peer-to-peer interaction and community bonding across Africa.
“The Globacom brand is an enabling platform which since launched has been leading the change in the telecommunication industry. Afri-Chat is one more innovation in this direction. The service provides our subscribers the avenue to indulge in their favourite pastime of interacting, ‘gisting’ or just plain gossiping,” the statement added.
Afri-Chat also enables users with MSN and Yahoo! Accounts to stay in touch and chat with their existing online contacts.
The chatting and community service operates at two levels; Personal Chat and Group Chat. For the Personal Chat service, the subscriber first searches the database according to age, gender, interest or location and then subsequently sends a chat invite to someone who meets his desired profile.
To use the Group Chat service, Globacom further explained, the subscriber joins an existing chat room which focuses on such subjects such as sports, business, politics, romance, music, movies, jokes, religion and astrology.
by: Prince Osuagwu
Thursday, March 6, 2008
Web-messenger apps meebo and eBuddy have already signed on with Open AIM 2.0, and AOL has announced integration with its forthcoming AIM Money, to debut in April, which will let developers generate income from their apps.
AOL launched the first incarnation of Open AIM back in 2006, before open-source was all the rage with big-name Web companies. This second iteration arrives in the midst of similar open announcements from big guns such as Google, Microsoft, and Apple. Since AOL first launched the program, more than 235,000 developers have signed on to Open AIM.
"Our mission for AIM is to facilitate the world's online, real-time conversations," AOL's senior vice president of social media, messaging and homepages, said in a statement. "To that end, we've come together with third-party chat services such as meebo and eBuddy to enhance the experiences of our users who access the AIM platform from these web-based services. We're also giving developers the tools and flexibility they desire to build innovative and meaningful applications around instant messaging for web users around the globe."
Along with the new release, AOL is making public OSCAR, the proprietary protocol that AIM uses for IM and presence information. According to the company, this new-found openness will "enable developers to build fully-compatible, full-featured and secure AIM services for use on platforms that also host other chat services, both on the desktop and on mobile devices."
AOL is also offering more flexible usage, removing per-day and per-month usage limits, and opening the SDKs and APIs for international usage. Developers can also use the new tools to design enterprise and mobile apps for the chat service.
For more information on Open AIM 2.0, check out AOL's developer page.
Originally published on AppScout.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Nearly a decade ago, Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy snapped out a warning to the worriers of the Internet Age: "You don't have any privacy. Get over it." McNealy's words look more prescient every year. In 2006, AOL unwittingly divulged the personal lives of 650,000 customers by publishing their search histories as research data. Despite AOL's attempts to anonymize the info, the New York Times quickly outed a 62-year-old lady in Georgia whose searches revealed her dog was wetting the upholstery. The Justice Department has subpoenaed Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and AOL for lists of search queries. More recently, Facebook employees were caught reading the customer logs.
With more people putting more of their personal lives online every day, there's a huge potential market for the Web's privacy pushers. A couple of weeks ago, search engine Ask.com tried to poach customers from Google by launching a new service called AskEraser. Worried that Google keeps your search queries for ages? AskEraser allows you to force the company to delete your search history from the company's servers. Great idea, but it's just a start. How can you use the Web, e-mail, and IM without seeing your Internet Explorer history in the New York Times?
Web surfing. Every Web site you visit logs the unique IP address of the computer that's requesting its pages. Want to surf anonymously? The way to fool Web servers is to use a go-between server, called a proxy, to make your requests. There are two ways to do this. The easiest is to use a proxy Web site, which serves as a wrapper around whatever pages you want to look at. The coyly named more.doesntexist.com has a bunch of geeky options to block your identifying information from being passed to Web servers. Its default settings are pretty good. You will, however, immediately notice that surfing through a proxy Web site can be frustratingly slow.
There's a faster way: Configure your browser to use a proxy HTTP server automatically, rather than wrapping your requests in another Web page. Pick a proxy from this list. If it's slow, try another. Your safest bet is to use a proxy in another country, to prevent your local legal system from going after its records to look you up.
While you're at it, crank up your browser's privacy settings to the max. This will disable personalization and other features on some sites, but that's the price you pay for privacy. The sites you visit won't recognize you from last time. That's important, to prevent them from building up a history of long-term use that could eventually be tied to you, like the AOL users' searches.
If you're still worried, you can always watch what you search for. Supposedly anonymous AOL users were identified because most people have a habit of searching for their own names, addresses, and obvious family, friend, and work terms. Imagine finding that someone using a computer at IP address 220.127.116.11 had searched for "paul boutin" and "slate" almost every week for the past four years, and had also searched for "buy steroids online." You wouldn't need a map to figure that one out.
Instant messaging. Your IM traffic goes through servers at AOL—or whichever other service you use. The easiest fix is to encrypt your sessions, using the option built into AIM 5.0 and higher. Your words will still go through AOL, but they'll look like gibberish to anyone who's trying to read them. Only your chat buddy can decipher and read them at the other end, and vice versa. I suggest the free Trillian for Windows or Adium for Macs—both more user-friendly programs than AIM that also support encrypted messaging. These programs will all talk to one another. Security experts love to point out the vulnerabilities of the encryption scheme to a dedicated hacker, but your goal should be to stop AOL from passively collecting your messages, as they did their customers' search terms.
E-mail. The trickiest of all. Any remote mail server you use—and it's pretty much impossible not to rely on a remote server unless you're a pro system administrator—keeps all of your mail on its disks. I used to recommend the Canadian company Hushmail, which offered an encrypted mail service so secure, the company claimed, that even Hushmail employees were unable to read your mail.
But to my shock, that's turned out not to be true. Court documents revealed by Wired this fall showed that Hushmail turned over completely readable e-mail archives to U.S. authorities looking for illegal steroid distributors. Since then, I've been looking for a recommendable alternative. I haven't found one I can solidly recommend. Safe-mail.net promises security, but most people will have trouble following the wonky tech-speak on the site.
The Hushmail case shows that privacy on the Web is never a guarantee. It used to be that there was one fail-safe to keep the Net from invading your privacy: Never log on. Now that every Joe Blow has a blog and a camera in his phone, the Net will erode your privacy even if you throw a brick through your computer. Look, here's my wife chewing me out on the dance floor for my sloppy footwork last week. You can proxy your browser and encrypt your IM, but eventually you'll have to leave the house. You don't have any privacy. Get over it.
By Paul Boutin
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
March 3, 2008 - Machine Builders and Infrastructure markets have, for many years, used Modem-to-Modem connections for remote access to devices and outstations. Today, the Internet offers exciting prospects for industry players but also brings more IT complexity. Talk2M makes things smarter.
Talk2M (stands for Talk to Machines) is an Internet Service designed to address the growing need for broadband and wireless access to perform remote maintenance & access distant equipments. The key added-value of Talk2M is the full integration of IT security standards by allowing an Internet communication tunnel between the user and the remote machine without any IT network security change on both sides! This major breakthrough allows easy deployment while hiding the complexity of the IT network infrastructure.
The Talk2M solution using GPRS/EDGE connection on the remote sites only requires standard national SIM cards - avoiding the use of dedicated international APN or dedicated SIM cards - and the connection via ADSL is straightforward.
The most powerful and innovative architecture with Talk2M is reached by using, at the remote site, the existing Ethernet LAN infrastructure with its Internet connection to make the remote device accessible from anywhere in the world by Internet. As a result, no extra dedicated telecom media are required.
Together with the eWON range of industrial modem-routers, Talk2M sheds new light on Internet remote access & maintenance, being compliant with a wide range of serial or Ethernet based PLCs: Siemens, Rockwell Automation, Schneider Electric, Omron…
Designed with affordability in mind, Talk2M’s User Interface is your eWON address book and your single click access to your machines!
ACT’L, established in 1992, is a Belgian electronic and industrial engineering company. With the successful launch of the eWON product line in 2001, ACT’L became a worldwide market challenger for intelligent Ethernet gateways and industrial IP routers. Thanks to its growing market recognition, the eWON concept and its service product range have become a reference and a quality standard for every major company in the industry.
Monday, March 3, 2008
Over the last year or two, unified communications has become more and more common. As with any other IT technology, the more mainstream unified communications becomes, the greater will be the need to secure it. As it stands right now, products and mechanisms exist for securing unified communications -- but it seems to me that unified messaging security is being largely ignored.
From what I have been able to gather through observation and by talking to other network administrators at various trade shows, a lot of administrators seem to be oblivious to the need for specialised unified messaging security, and therefore they work to secure unified communications networks in the same way that they would secure any other IP-based network. Some of the administrators that I have talked to have done enough telephony work over the past few years to understand some of the specialised security needs associated with VoIP, but they view unified communications as simply an extension of VoIP rather than as a collection of networking technologies -- each with its own individual security needs.
I believe that the key to securing unified communications is to treat each aspect -- VoIP, IM, presence, peer-to-peer collaboration -- as a separate entity and address its specific security implications individually, even though there will almost certainly be some convergence between some of the various technologies.
Obviously, there is no way that I can possibly address all of the individual security considerations within the limits of an article, or even within a series of articles. Instead, my goal is to help you to think about some of the security issues that are unique to unified communications (UC).
I have to be honest and tell you that I was not going to mention malware prevention in this article, much less lead off with it. After all, right now there are no UC-specific viruses or Trojans that I am aware of. Even so, I believe that malware prevention is critical to maintaining the system's integrity.
Today, most viruses and Trojans seem to target Web browsers and email clients. Malware that targets IM does exist, however. I think that it's only a matter of time before we start seeing viruses designed to target VoIP or video calls -- or maybe Trojans that tamper with presence information. I admit that I don't have a crystal ball, but those are my predictions.
Another issue that I wonder about is that some UC products offer end users a Web interface. Since so many viruses and Trojans already target Web browsers, it isn't a big stretch to think that a virus may someday be designed to target specific UC-related applications through a Web browser. Sure, these types of viruses probably wouldn't be able to harm the UC servers, because they are attacking the client rather than the server, but they could theoretically intercept or disrupt communications.
Instant messaging works well if it is implemented in a controlled manner -- but left unchecked instant messaging can pose a huge threat to security -- especially if users are allowed to download and install their own instant messaging (IM) software.
Some of the threats posed by IM involve inbound viruses and spam, and the potential to disclose sensitive information. In some organisations, it is also necessary to consider the regulatory compliance issues associated with IM. For example, some organisations may be required to archive instant messages.
Earlier, I mentioned that there are security issues related to UC that go far beyond those of normal IP networks. Nowhere is this more obvious than with IM. Many IM applications are specifically designed to circumvent an organisation's security. For example, many IM applications are designed to search for open firewall ports and use any open port, rather than IM traffic being bound to a specific port. Likewise, an IM client may communicate with any number of IM servers. Public IM servers make a practice of routinely changing their IP addresses to prevent organisations from being able to block them at the IP address level.
As if this weren't enough, the protocols used by IM applications are constantly evolving, which may introduce new vulnerabilities.
Most of the issues that I have talked about in this section don't really apply to corporate IM deployments, because most corporate deployments use their own internal IM server, and the IM clients are deployed in a controlled and consistent manner. The dangers that I have spoken of come into play when clients are allowed to download and install their own IM software, or when the network administrators don't really understand the security implications of installing IM software.
The biggest security risks associated with VoIP are eavesdropping and the possibility of a data network being exploited using weaknesses in a VoIP-related protocol. The potential for eavesdropping that VoIP presents is unprecedented. We tend to think of eavesdropping as listening in on a phone conversation, but if a hacker were able to intercept a data stream in the right location, he could capture the packets flowing across the wire and later use them to eavesdrop. In doing so, he would not be limited to listening to a replay of a single phone conversation but rather could have access to every conversation that was going on during the packet capture.
Right now, the best thing that IT professionals can do to protect themselves against VoIP-related exploits is to encrypt VoIP traffic. That way, if VoIP packets are intercepted, the calls are still protected against eavesdroppers.
Web filtering doesn't really have anything directly to do with unified messaging security, but I still believe that it is critical to an organisation's overall health. I have already talked about how applications like unified messaging and peer-to-peer networking can pose security threats, but it is important to realise that these threats are not related solely to applications that are installed by the IT department.
Without the proper constraints in place, it is easy for users to download and install their own IM or peer networking software and install it on their workstations. This can lead to a number of potential security issues, ranging from malware infections to accidental disclosure of information. The only way to protect against the threats caused by unauthorised applications is to lock down the users' workstations to prevent unauthorised software from being installed and to use Web filtering to block any websites that pose known threats to security. I certainly don't want to turn this article into a commercial, but there is a company called Bit9 that makes an excellent desktop lockdown product called Parity.
If you work in a regulated industry, it is critical for you to consider how UC will affect your company's regulatory compliance. Compliance rules can change drastically once UC is introduced. For example, I have heard stories of companies implementing Microsoft's Unified Messaging for Exchange and then suddenly being required to archive voice messages and faxes that are added to the users' mailboxes. From an architectural standpoint, it isn't a big deal to archive these additional data types, but the volume of disk space that may be required is certainly a consideration.
Unfortunately, I can't even come close to talking about all of the various security issues related to UC within the space that's allotted to me. However, I hope that I have at least given you an idea of how security needs can change once various forms of UC are introduced onto a network.
By: Brien M. Posey
Extricom, provider of enterprise-class wireless LAN (WLAN) infrastructure systems for converged voice (VoWLAN), data, video, and RFID services, today launched its PartnerAdvantage Partner Program. The PartnerAdvantage launch comes as solution providers and Value Added Resellers (VARs) of all sizes are searching for differentiated solutions that will enable them to take advantage of the multi-billion dollar opportunity the wireless LAN (WLAN) market represents.
The PartnerAdvantage Program is based on a single premise: drive revenue growth and profitability for Extricom Partners, by creating a strong sales and marketing bond between them and Extricom. PartnerAdvantage will offer common-sense, value-adding programs for sales enablement, co-marketing, promotion, and investment protection. These will ultimately enable Extricom Partners to capture above-average product margins, develop their wireless LAN expertise, cost-effectively market their solutions, and protect their pre-sale time commitment via deal registration.
"Extricom PartnerAdvantage is a key building block in our strategy for 2008 and beyond," stated Dan Kirtchuk, executive vice president, global sales for Extricom. "Increasingly, resellers and VARs are recognizing the unique blend of wireless innovation, performance, and ease-of-use that the Extricom WLAN brings to Wi-Fi implementations, and they are evangelizing these value points to the end-user IT community. PartnerAdvantage will enable them to maximize their selling opportunities in a rapidly expanding market."
PartnerAdvantage is built around three levels of partner commitment, Registered, Select, and Premier, bringing together a select group of commercial Partners who will be seen as vendors of choice for Wi-Fi networks. Extricom PartnerAdvantage gives its partners the ability to drive increased profitability while reducing total business costs, based around Extricom's core values: surprising simplicity, total mobility, guaranteed performance and convergence without tradeoff.
"The Wi-Fi arena is crowded with solutions that talk a great game but don't deliver on what they promise in terms of bottom-line performance or partner value," declared George Grella of RubyTech Deutschland GmbH. "We look at Extricom as a welcome alternative to all the noise out there, and one that provides value on multiple levels. It's a technical solution that will give us an edge in a highly competitive marketplace, but at the same time we see the value-selling relationship enabled by PartnerAdvantage. This will make it possible for us to identify opportunities, close business, and execute on our commitments."
For more information, visit http://www.extricom.com/content/partners/sales-partners
Extricom is the premier provider of enterprise-class wireless LAN infrastructure solutions for converged voice (VoWLAN), data, video and RFID. Its innovative Interference-Free(TM) WLAN System, based on Channel Blanket(TM) technology, enables dramatically easier WLAN deployment and lower total cost of ownership, while achieving a generational leap in capacity, coverage, seamless mobility and security performance for Wi-Fi. The result is a large-scale, 802.11 standards-based WLAN infrastructure with the dependability of a wired network. Founded in 2002, Extricom is privately held, with strategic investors that include Motorola.
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