1/30/2008

Skype Trojan wiretap plan leaks onto the net

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

German cops are pushing ahead with controversial plans, yet to be legally approved, to develop “remote forensic software” - in other words, a law enforcement Trojan.

Leaked documents outline proposals by German firm Digitask to develop software to intercept Skype VoIP communications and SSL transmissions. A second leaked document from the Bavarian Ministry of Justice outlines costing and licensing proposals for the software. Both scanned documents (in German, natch) have found their way onto the net after being submitted to Wikileaks.

As previously reported, the German government is looking to recruit coders to develop “white hat” malware capable of covertly hacking into the PCs of suspects in investigations of terrorism or other serious crimes.

Proposals to give explicit permission for law enforcement officials to plant malware stem from a Federal Court ruling last year declaring clandestine searches of suspects’ computers to be inadmissible as evidence, pending a law regulating the practice. Germany’s Federal Court of Justice said the practice was not covered by existing surveillance legislation.

Joerg Ziercke, president of Germany’s Federal Police Office (BKA), expressed frustration about their inability to decipher the encryption used by Skype in order to tap into the VoIP calls of suspected terrorists. Digitask, if the leaked documents are to be believed, has stepped into the breach.

Skype is widely used by consumers to make VoIP calls. The firm has commissioned security experts to audit the encryption and security of its software.

However, other experts have contested the security of Skype’s software. Skype uses widely trusted encryption techniques, such as Advanced Encryption Standard, to encrypt conversations and RSA for key negotiation. But unlike Zfone, its source code has not been publicly released.

Google Docs going offline soon?

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Looks like Google is hard at work on offline access to Google Docs. Google Blogoscoped has screenshots of what looks like the beginnings of such a service.

No doubt Google will try to enable offline access for all of its Web apps. This was pretty apparent when the company announced Google Gears last May. Google Gears is a browser plug-in that lets people run Web applications even when they are not connected to the Internet. The Blogoscoped screenshots appear to be the first public evidence of such testing.

In response to questions, a Google representative said: “We’re working on enabling many of our applications to work with Google Gears, but we don’t have anything more specific to share at this time.”

EBay adjusts pricing to encourage low-cost sellers

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Online auction leader eBay Inc on Tuesday introduced price changes and tighter sales standards in a bid to retain quality sellers, improve customer service and revive flagging growth.

In a speech to eBays top store operators and market makers in Washington D.C., CEO-in-waiting John Donahoe will set out a plan to reward the companys best sellers with sales incentives and priority ranking in search results for auction items.

Key changes involve lowering fees for listing items within auctions or for independently operated stores run on eBay. It also involves raising some of the fees sellers pay once sales transactions are successfully completed. And eBay plans to raise minimum standards to discourage abusive sales practices.

MySpace launches developer platform, appoints COO

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

MySpace, the world’s largest online social network, will launch its program to court outside software developers in February in a bid to widen the gap against rival Facebook.

As part of the February 5 launch, it has also promoted MySpace business development executive Amit Kapur to a new role as chief operating officer, the company will announce on Wednesday.

Over the past year, rival Facebook has moved aggressively to close the gap between it and MySpace, a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

Developers have cited, as one reason for Facebook’s rapid growth, its policy of opening up its platform to entrepreneurs to profit from creating applications from the silly — like the ability to throw sheep at each other — to the functional, such as sharing photos.

Although few details were furnished ahead of MySpace’s official launch of its platform, Kapur said the developer program would be rolled out globally in about 28 territories.

Spring, Java platform combos eyed

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Spring technology is an alternative to EJB (Enterprise JavaBeans) for Java development, but an upcoming Java version will enable combinations of established Java platform technologies with Spring, the founder of the Spring Framework said on Tuesday.

Interviewed at the WebGuild Web 2.0 Conference & Expo, Rod Johnson, founder of the Spring Framework and CEO of SpringSource, anticipates accommodations with the enterprise Java platform once Java Platform, EE (Enterprise Edition) 6 is released. This is expected to happen sometime in 2008, according to a Java Community Process Java Specification Request focused on Java EE 6.

“I think it’s pretty clear that Spring provides an alternative to EJB — I recently blogged about how requirements for Spring skills have overtaken requirements for EJB in North America — I don’t think that necessarily means Spring is in opposition to Java EE as a whole, given that Java EE 6 is introducing the notion of profiles,” Johnson said.??

Java EE 6 could allow for standardized combinations of technologies without the legacy of the traditional, full Java EE platform, Johnson said. “We could combine our technology with the various standard technologies we support,” he said.

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