From the news desk to the desktop, Between the Lines brings you industry views of the recent news. In this issue, find out how a young security tester may have saved his school's fall registration, "celebrate" the silver anniversary of the computer virus, and join the nations of the world in wondering just who is hacking into all the government computer systems.
Banner Year for Young Security Tester
But one student and "computer security enthusiast" noticed that something was awry with the software while working on a summer project. According to the Brown Daily Herald, When Brenden Hickey encountered a certain error message while using Banner, the student identified the opportunity for a cross-site request forgery and notified the Brown Computing and Information Services Help Desk. After creating a test case that proved his point, Brenden was contacted by SunGard for more information about the issue and what he thought they should do next.
The software loophole could have provided access to student records had it not been discovered shortly before fall registration began. What's more, it could have been used to gain access to school administrative computers and wreak all sorts of havoc for students and the school.
The fact that Brenden's actions showed him to be a responsible, young tester did not escape Brown's Computer Science Department. "He was a total 110 percent pro about the whole thing," Shriram Krishnamurthi, an associate professor of computer science, told the Daily Herald.
Happy Anniversary, Virus!
In honor of the first software virus, a poem:
"Ode to Elk Cloner"
It was twenty-five years ago that ninth-grader and friendly prankster Rich Skrenta discovered how to make his Apple II computer automatically copy a message to a disk whenever the disk was inserted into the computer and the user requested a catalog of files. Once the disk was "infected," it would display the following poem every fiftieth time it was booted:
"It will get on all your disks; it will infiltrate your chips."
And Rich, who would go on to start the Topix online news service, would never live it down. "I guess if you had to pick between being known for this and not being known for anything, I'd rather be known for this," he said in an Associated Press story about the anniversary of his feat.
Of course, the "Elk Cloner" virus, as Rich's poetic message was dubbed, was child's play compared to the complex, invasive, and costly viruses that now can zoom around the world via the Internet and widespread personal and commercial use of email.
Other famous names "celebrated" in this silver anniversary of the computer virus include "Melissa," "Love Bug," and "Blaster."
On August 27, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao dismissed allegations from German officials that the Chinese government had links to hackers who allegedly infiltrated Germany's government computer systems. "Every country has the right to development," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the Kyodo News. "But at present there are a great many large countries such as China that are developing fast, and there is a need to respect the rules of the game."
Within a week, the Financial Times reported that an unclassified email system in the office of Defence Secretary Robert Gates also had been hacked by China's military. The Chinese government again dismissed the accusations.
Then came word from London that British government networks had been attacked. And then the French. Even New Zealand announced a break in, but didn't point any fingers in the direction of China.
According to Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu, "This is not only groundless but a demonstration of a Cold War mentality."
Calling All Software Developers, Testers, and Managers!
The 2007 Better Software magazine/StickyMinds.com Salary Survey is in full swing! Don't miss your chance to contribute to the collective knowledge of industry salaries and employment trends. Follow the link that best describes your employment level, answer a few questions, and enter to win a $50 Best Buy gift certificate! The results will appear in the December 2007 issue of Better Software magazine.
Last Month's Survey Results
In August, we asked whether you use voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) telephone service. Here's how you responded:
44% said "Yes, but I still use traditional phone service as well."
Have you checked out the StickyMinds.com MarketPlace? The MarketPlace provides links to products and services designed to aid or improve software development.
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