A Current Affair

It’s not a revelation that as a society we’re often amiss when it comes to properly prioritizing technological issues. So it should be no surprise that one of the most significant upcoming changes in our physical infrastructure is getting little play not only in the mass media, but in technology-centric circles as well. There are […]


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Ma Bell’s Revenge: The Battle For Network Neutrality

Former FCC Chairman William Kennard recently characterized the Internet network neutrality debate as nothing but a battle between the "extremely wealthy" and the "merely rich," suggesting it was a distraction from truly important telecom-related issues. Kennard misses the point. The outcome of this controversy will affect everybody who comes into contact with the Internet, and […]

Risks of RFID

Like most other technologies, RFID (Radio-Frequency IDentification) systems have pluses and minuses. In their most common applications, passive RFID tags enable rapid contactless determination of the tags’ serial numbers, in theory helping to reduce erroneous identifications. However, this technology becomes dangerous whenever the binding between the tag and its context of use is in doubt. […]

Fake ID: Batteries Not Included

It was only a matter of time. We’ve come to expect almost anything imaginable to be sold on late-night TV infomercials—from feel-good "health" bracelets to "get rich quick" real-estate schemes. So I shouldn’t have been too surprised to stumble across a 3 a.m. full-hour ad for a firm offering biometric "appliances" (for legal applications only—the […]

Wikipedia Risks

The Wikipedia (WP; en.wikipedia.org/wiki/) applies the wiki technology (from a Hawaiian word for "quick") to the encyclopedia, a venerable form of knowledge organization and dissemination. Wikipedia provides a fast and flexible way for anyone to create and edit encyclopedia articles without the delay and intervention of a formal editor or review process. The WP’s over […]

The Best-Laid Plans: A Cautionary Tale For Developers

Once upon a time, Sony Computer Entertainment planned a new handheld device for gaming, music, and movies. Sony’s powerful new "PSP" (PlayStation Portable) is based on the MIPS R4000 CPU, with elaborate graphics capabilities, a gorgeous color LCD display, USB and WiFi interfaces, and a special "UMD" read-only optical disc system. Sony’s engineers didn’t shortcut […]

Close Exposures of the Digital Kind

Sometimes the impacts of powerful technologies are relatively clear and pretty much expected. For example, we all realize that nuclear bombs are capable of impacting the world in drastic and dramatic ways via their very existence, even when not detonated. But some technologies, even seemingly ordinary consumer products, can impact global events and society in […]

Outsourced and out of Control

Outsourcing (farming out production or other work) is not new. But when advanced technologies such as telecommunications and computing are applied to outsourcing, along with vast differences in pay around the world, the results can be unfair, unwise, alarming, and even dangerous. While frequently providing significant "productivity" enhancements, the associated negative risks include domestic unemployment […]

The Devil You Know

Question: What’s worse than buggy software? Answer: Patches and upgrades that make things even worse. This is a dilemma critical to many applications. How should we cope with the untold millions of computers that are constantly subjected to penetrations, viruses, worms, and other nasties that exploit a steady stream of security weaknesses and flaws? Is […]

Spam Wars

In the June 1997 edition of this column, Peter Neumann and I asked if you were being "flooded" with spam. At the time, spam was already annoying, but as it turns out the real torrent hadn’t even begun! Fast-forward to 2003, and spam now threatens the Internet’s stability and reliability—not only of email systems, but […]

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