Weekend news roundup

8 Aug 2011

A trawl through some of the technology news coverage in the weekend papers, including hackers releasing US police information, ‘Spam King’ facing 40 years in jail and the World Wide Web turns 20.

Hackers release vast amounts of US police information

Hackers have broken into the computer systems of dozens of police departments across the US, releasing vast amounts of information, including reports of crime submitted by the public, The Telegraph reported.

Members of the hacktivist groups Anonymous and LulzSec posted a seven-gigabyte file, also containing credit card details, social security numbers and other private data, online on Saturday. They also appeared to have taken files from 77 law enforcement offices in states such as Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. About 100,000 emails from officers’ police accounts were released.

The hackers said they were acting in retaliation for the arrests of several members in Britain and the US last month, as part of an investigation being led by the FBI.

Facebook ‘Spam King’ faces 40 years in jail and $2m fine

A man accused of hacking into 500,000 Facebook accounts and flooding them with spam faces 40 years in jail for the crimes, The Daily Mail reported.

Sanford Wallace (43), the self-proclaimed ‘Spam King’ from Las Vegas, USA, has pleaded not guilty in an initial court appearance after turning himself in to the FBI last week.

He was slapped with six counts of email fraud, three counts of intentional damage to a protected computer and two counts of criminal contempt.

Wallace would collect Facebook account information with ‘phishing’ messages that conned users into providing their passwords, the indictment said. He would then use that information to log into their accounts and post spam messages on their friends’ Facebook walls, the indictment said.

Wallace was released after posting US$100,000 bond Thursday, and he’s due back in court on 22 August.

World Wide Web marks 20 years

The Daily Mail also reported on the 20th anniversary of the World Wide Web.

What started as a simple page of links that allowed a group of scientists to share data in their laboratories on 6 August, 1991, has grown to become today 19.68bn pages – more than three times the world’s population.

Physicist and computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee launched the first web page while he was working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva when he sought to find a better way for his colleagues to link up.

He first proposed the World Wide Web in 1989 and posted a prophetic summary of the project on the alt.hypertext newsgroup, saying: ‘The WWW project aims to allow all links to be made to any information anywhere.’

The first website – http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html – was hosted at the URL nxoc01.cern.ch.

Tablets are a fad, Acer founder says

Ultrabooks and tablet computers are a short term fad, The Telegraph also reported the founder of computer company Acer as saying.

Stan Shih said the PC industry needed to add more value through innovation to tackle the growth in tablet computers, Digitimes reported.

Shih said Acer’s forthcoming tablet computer, which has a 7-inch screen, would take advantage of the fact consumers want low-priced, convenient products.

His views contrast with those of analyst Ben Reitzes, of Barclays Capital, who last week said he expected tablet computers to continue to weaken the laptop market this year.

Logging on to computers helps us get out more, insist economists

The internet’s social networks and access to information bring people together and keep us sociable, not lonely, The Observer reported.

In a paper to be presented to a gathering of Nobel prize winners later this month, three economists claim their work demonstrates the internet is actually making us more socially active.

Stefan Bauernschuster, Oliver Falck and Ludger Woessmann of the Ifo Institute in Munich reject the claim that the internet isolates people socially and erodes the traditional foundations of society.

“There are no indications whatsoever that the internet makes people lonely,” Bauernschuster said. He explained their study revealed that a broadband connection at home positively influences the social activities of adults as well as children.

The economists found that once adults had access to broadband, their attendance at theatres, cinemas, bars or restaurants actually increased. They also found evidence that far from curtailing children’s extracurricular experiences, a broadband internet subscription at home increased the number of children’s out-of-school social activities, such as sports, ballet, music, painting lessons, or joining a youth club.

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