McColo, king of spam, falls and the fight goes on
At the end of October, McColo, a company based San Jose, Calif., that hosted a range of cybercrime activities, was shut down. About half the spam on the Internet disappeared. A private citizen, Washington Post reporter Brian Krebs, had put pressure on ISPs to drop McColo's service. The problem is that without support from the police and federal agencies, there's no way to ensure that spammers like McColo will go out of business permanently. Private citizens do not have authority to raid and confiscate datacenter technology, which could shutter an operation like McColo forever. Some security experts are saying that spam is again on the rise, and suspect that McColo, one way or another, may be at least partially back in operation. It's difficult to get authorization for the possibly hundreds of warrants it would take to confiscate the property of a spammer like McColo. Sweden's TeliaSonera in fact did help resurrect McColo for a while. Until international cybercrime laws and enforcement procedures are in place, victories against spam are only temporary.
XP is dead, long live XP
At the end of June, a long-feared date arrived. PCs preloaded with Windows XP would no longer be available. Industry insiders had braced themselves for that date because XP's successor, Vista, was plagued with performance glitches and a host of problems like driver incompatibility. Though Microsoft has cleared up many of those problems, Vista never really ended up getting the respect of many IT pros. However, Microsoft left ways for people to get their hands on XP. Though retail PCs would not be shipped with XP, business customers -- the ones who really care about incompatibility issues -- could still get their hands on the OS. Low-cost notebooks can continue to ship with XP through June 30, 2010. Many users are running XP until Windows 7 ships. Company officials promise the OS will not give rise to the same device driver problems that bugged Vista users. Stay tuned.
Politics 2.0: Obama taps tech to clinch victory
Barack Obama arguably ran the most efficient, organized presidential campaign of all time. Computing power, database technology, social networking, e-mail list management, and some form of automated business intelligence (the campaign has been reluctant to reveal the exact ingredients of the secret sauce) were key to his winning campaign. Campaign canvassers were given computer printouts zeroing in on key characteristics of swing voters, supporters were able to create personal online dashboards that made it easier to coordinate their volunteer activities, and mobile communications were tapped to pique the interest of young and tech-savvy citizens. Just as technology has become incorporated into core business processes, it will become de rigeur for campaigns to employ cutting-edge computing. One of the more interesting questions in politics and technology in 2009 will be how Obama taps his vast electronic network to help him enact the change that was the premise of his campaign.