TBTF for 7/28/97: Disturbing Napier's bones
T a s t y B i t s f r o m t h e T e c h n o l o g y F r o n t
Timely news of the bellwethers in computer and communications
technology that will affect electronic commerce -- since 1994
Your Host: Keith Dawson
This issue: < http://www.tbtf.com/archive/07-28-97.html >
C o n t e n t s
NSI files suit against AlterNIC
Applications are open under the IAHC plan
The GAK worldview
Alexa Internet opens the doors
Cheeky news from the UK
Analog computing in Java
..NSI files suit against AlterNIC
Network Solutions, Inc. took Eugene Kashpureff to court last week
for rerouting its traffic to his own site, an action Kashpureff
freely admits he undertook on two occasions to protest NSI's claim
to ownership of the top-level domains .com, .net, and .org. A
judge in the Eastern Virginia U.S. District Court granted a re-
straining order  on Wednesday morning. Kashpureff was not pre-
sent; an August 1 hearing date was set. Kashpureff has ceased to
perform this particular antisocial act and says he will never re-
direct traffic from any site again. But it may be too late. NSI's
civil suit requests confiscation of Kashpureff's computer equipment,
and one press account claimed that the FBI is investigating for pos-
sible criminal infractions as well. Many ISPs and others in the in-
dustry express sympathy with Kashpureff's view of the NSI monopoly,
but no one has come forward to support his methods, which have been
characterized in newsgroups and mailing lists in terms ranging from
"crack" to "digital terrorism." However, my reading of expert opin-
ion is that it would be extremely difficult to prove in court that
Kashpureff had effected a DNS redirect, even if his upstream ISP
could produce relevant packet-sniffer logs.
..Applications are open under the IAHC plan
Last fall the International Ad Hoc Committee  began work to re-
define and broaden the process by which domain names are granted.
While questions and opposition have arisen, the IAHC process --
which goes now by the ungainly name "gTLD-MoU," for generic top-
level domain memorandum of understanding -- continues to move for-
ward. Last Friday the doors opened to applicants who wish to become
grantors of domain names . You have until 10/16/97 to apply, and
it will cost you $10,000.
..The GAK worldview
"GAK" -- government access to keys -- is the shorthand term used in
the cypherpunk community to signify the government push for key es-
crow / key recovery.
On 7/22 another House panel approved the Security and Freedom through
Encryption bill, and not without drama. The International Relations
committee, by a vote of 22 to 13, turned back an amendment proposed by
committee chair Rep. Benjamin Gilman that would have disemboweled the
crypto-friendly measure. Representatives at the voting session heard
surprise testimony from a group of law-enforcement lobbyists, orches-
trated by the pro-GAK Rep. Gilman. The testimony echoed a classified
briefing held before this same IR committee on 6/26 with FBI director
Louis Freeh, Commerce export official William Reinsch, NSA deputy dir-
ector William Crowell.
These are all honorable men, but I won't trust them with my private
key; I doubt most Americans since the founding of this country would,
and ditto for most Europeans since at least the second world war. You
can get some insight into the GAK-centered worldview from two docu-
ments made available by Declan McCullagh and John Young: a declassi-
fied transcript of the hearing  (99K), with portions blacked out,
and a letter  the Attorney General sent to Congress on 7/18. Mc-
Cullagh characterized the letter on his fight-censorship mailing list:
> ... signed by a bevy of Federal drug-cops, including the heads
> of the Drug Enforcement Administration, BATF, Secret Service,
> Customs, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy. This
> apparently is the administration's latest argument: key recov-
> ery is needed to fight the war on drugs.
Since the latest House vote, Rep. Gilman has been circulating an-
other proposed SAFE amendment . This one would make it unlawful
to "manufacture, distribute, sell, or import any product within the
United States that can be used to encrypt communications or infor-
mation if the product does not permit the real-time [within 24
hours] decryption of such encrypted communications or information."
..Alexa Internet opens the doors
This next-gen service  -- think "Yahoo meets Firefly" -- is
now taking applications for beta testers. You need Win 95 or NT.
Behind Alexa is Brewster Kahle, late of Thinking Machines and
more recently responsible for the Internet Archive. Alexa prom-
ises to banish "404 not found" messages for its members by re-
trieving stale pages from the Archive. It will offer guidance
on where to go next, based on the traffic patterns of its user
community -- putting in sidewalks where the footpaths are. Alexa
will also offer context for each site visited: to whom it's reg-
istered, how many pages it has, how many other sites point to
it, and how frequently it's updated.
The Virus Test Center at the University of Hamburg, Germany, pub-
lishes monthly a list of knowm macro viruses affecting PC and Mac-
intosh platforms. The most recent compendium, dated 6/30/97, lists
1117 macro viruses. Download  for the short list (17K) and 
for the detailed one (44K). The vast majority affect Microsoft
Word. More than 20 Excel viruses are listed, with one each for
Lotus 1-2-3, Ami Pro, and Windows Help. The material is Copyright
(c) 1997 University of Hamburg, Germany.
> The number of known macro viruses in June 1997 grew again
> significantly: with 18 new strains and 132 new viruses, growth
> was significantly reduced as compared to previous months
> (e.g. 37 new strains with 246 new viruses in May). Only 22
> months after Microsoft shipped the first Word macro virus
> (Concept.A), the 1000th macro virus was reported around June
> 20, 1997.
> Word + Other = Total (New)
> Strains 214 + 15 = 229 ( 18)
> Viruses 1051 + 14 = 1065 (132)
> Trojans 21 + 7 = 28 ( 0)
> Generators 10 + 0 = 10 ( 0)
> Intendeds 22 + 1 = 23 ( 0)
> Jokes 0 + 1 = 1 ( 0)
The article on Trellix  in TBTF for 7/21/97  may have given
the impression that the 1.0 product outlined is being made available
for download. What is on offer is a Sneak Peek version 0.8. No sched-
ule for 1.0 has been announced yet.
..Cheeky news from the UK
If you crave a change from TBTF's dry, sober Netnews coverage, you
could do worse than to look across the Atlantic at Need To Know .
NTK is perpetrated by Special Projects -- Danny O'Brien, Dave Green,
and Ben Moore. The masthead calls it "*the* weekly high-tech sarcas-
tic update for the UK." Special Projects claim to have written, per-
formed, and hacked code with the BBC (radio and television), The
Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, and Wired Ventures, among others, and
they know the UK new media scene. NTK is emailed weekly. See Sources
below for subscription information.
..Analog computing in Java
Those of you who took an engineering or science course more than 25
years ago (I still have my slide rule from university, do you?) will
want to visit this HP site . Turn on Java first, and be patient:
the page's footprint is 477K and it will take well over 2 minutes to
load at 28.8 Kbaud. HP claims with reason to have put the slide rule
out of business 25 years ago with the HP 35 pocket calculator, so as
a matter of poetic justice they have brought it back. They've gone
and implemented a Keuffel & Esser log-log duplex decitrig slipstick
in Java. One side only, but fine enough resolution to calculate with.
It's slick as a smelt, a breezy demonstration of digital technology
powerful enough easily to mimic its analog forebears. But if Napier
 were alive today I fear he'd be turning over in his grave. Thanks
to Ned Gulley and Valerie Lyons of The Mathworks for the forward.
N o t e s
> A lighter issue than usual this week, due in part to a story that I
ended up retracting the following day. No sense perpetuating it here.
> Did you know? The Details page  lists all manner of fascinating
to develop and maintain the site, and a modest contest offer to
which no-one has responded since its posting two months ago.
S o u r c e s
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firstname.lastname@example.org without subject and with message:
subscribe . Archive at < http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/Risks/ >.
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Layer of ash separates morning and evening milk.
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