IT Business Elsewhere: Homeless hacker pleads guilty

IT Business Elsewhere is a weekly roundup of technology stories reported around the world.

The American 22-year-old known as the “”homeless hacker”” pleaded guilty to breaking into

the computer network of the New York Times Co. last year and causing more than US$5,000 in losses. Adrian Lamo said he was able to view employee records and contact information for the paper’s sources and columnists. He earned his nickname because at the time he had no fixed address, wandered around the U.S. on Greyhound buses and sometimes slept in vacant or derelict buildings.

In other abuses of the Internet, a Mississippi man denied accusations he tried to extort US$2.5 million from the Best Buy retain chain by threatening to reveal alleged security problems on its system. Thomas E. Ray III, who Best Buy said sent it an email last October, was arraigned on two felony extortion charges and freed on US$10,000 bail. Best Buy said the security breaches never occurred.

Not to be outdone, Asia is seeing its own Net-related mischief. Victims receive an email warning of five impending terrorist attacks, including times and places leaked by an anonymous Malaysian government source. A link that’s supposed to connect to a site with important information about the attacks instead installs what appears to be trojan horse virus files and adds a new key to the computer registery. Then the virus attempts to connect to three Internet hosts set by the virus.

The U.S. government, meanwhile, is fighting back against crime on the Internet. The FBI and the Justice Department have asked the Federal Communications Commission to order companies offering VoIP services to rewire their networks to allow police to eavesdrop on the conversations of subscribers, among whom may be criminals, terrorists and spies. But 12 small VoIP providers say the government should wait for industry initatives to work.

In India, what may be the world’s largest biometrics solution has been implemented in the country’s Tirumala temple group, which sees an average 45,000 pilgrims every day and 150,000 on some festival days. The biometrics system is meant for crowd management instead of security. Eighteen fingerprint scanners are installed. The fingerprint registration is used with pilgrims enrolling for certain Hindu religious rituals. Visitors also register for bar-coded tags.

University of Melbourne researchers have produced a toolkit making it easier to see how a grid job is going. Gridscape allows users to create a Web interface to a grid computing testbed without doing any programming. It includes a template that allows users to plug in information like a testbed name, logo, information about the computers being used in the testbed and a geographical map.

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