The Internet can be a dangerous place, with every e-mail message a potential carrier of viruses, Trojan horses or come-ons from phishers - thieves hoping to trick you into giving up passwords, credit card numbers or other personal information. Such e-mail often looks like a legitimate message from companies such as eBay, PayPal or Citibank, but the links they provide lead to "spoofed" Web sites that look legitimate but are not.
Enter SpoofStick, a new free tool from the Internet security company CoreStreet that aims to help users avoid getting caught on a phisher's hook. After you download the Windows program (www.corestreet.com/spoofstick) which is compatible with Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, it adds a toolbar to your browser. In large, colorful letters, SpoofStick gives you the basic domain information of the site you're visiting, for example, "You're on citibank.com." If it gives you a string of unfamiliar letters or numbers, you are probably being phished.
A recent report from Gartner Research estimated that close to 2-million people last year may have inadvertently submitted personal information at a spoofed site.
CoreStreet readily admits that the SpoofStick is far from foolproof. It can give you information about a domain, but that won't prevent you from giving out personal information. The ultimate tool for that is something else that has no price tag: common sense.
New database tracks changes in Linux
Linux creator Linus Torvalds is adopting a new system for certifying and tracking changes made to the core of the open source operating system to address any legal challenges to its ownership.
Torvalds and the Open Source Development Labs, the nonprofit association that backs him, unveiled a new system intended to document the origins of software developers' contributions to the heart of Linux and to make them searchable in a database.
Source code for the Linux operating system is available for free to anyone to develop and modify, unlike proprietary software from companies such as Microsoft or the copyright-protected Unix system that Linux is based on. Linux software developers around the world contribute more than 300 changes a week to the "kernel," or basic core of the system.
But organizations selling Linux have been hit by lawsuits recently. The SCO Group has sued IBM and other companies for copyright infringement, claiming SCO owns rights to portions of Unix code and should be paid license fees.
The new documentation system proposed by Torvalds, along with Linux kernel manager Andrew Morton, is an attempt to certify the originality and authenticity of developers' work on the Linux kernel.
Wi-Fi company throws in the towel
Cometa Networks launched last year by boasting it would build 20,000 "hot spots" for Wi-Fi Internet access across the country. But hot has turned to cold for the the Schaumburg, Ill., company, which said it would shut down after it was unable to make enough money or get more funds to run the company.
Its demise occurred even though it had the backing of such heavyweights as IBM, Intel and AT&T.
Amazon: Gas prices may drive more online shopping
The Web's largest retailer thinks high gasoline prices could help its business.
Jeff Bezos, chairman of Amazon.com, said the cost of gas could be an incentive for people to do more online shopping at his company's annual meeting, according to a report of the meeting in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
In addition, Amazon.com intends to get much bigger while it keeps cutting prices. "There is still a lot of room for category expansion," Bezos said. "We intend to have the lowest prices, and we think our business model supports that."
Bushnell adds instant replay to binoculars
Until now, when digital cameras combined with binoculars, the cameras had their lenses and the binoculars' optics served as high-powered but separate viewfinders.
The Bushnell Instant Replay avoids framing errors and offers a more compact profile by making its binocular lenses do double duty.
When the Instant Replay is switched on, a built-in video camera begins recording a continuous 30-second loop that can be easily replayed, though the video, at 15 frames per second, is more Webcam than camcorder. A separate switch turns the binoculars into still-camera mode, at a maximum resolution of 2 megapixels.
The binoculars' 8x magnification produces a telephoto effect comparable to a 400-millimeter lens on a 35mm film camera.
Holding any camera steady when using extreme telephoto lenses can be a tall order. "It will take some getting used to," said John Mullet, senior product manager for binoculars for Bushnell Performance Optics (www.bushnell.com) "People have to understand they are using a high-magnification lens."
The Instant Replay sells for about $400. Fortunately for photographers with less-than-steady nerves, the binoculars can be attached to a standard tripod.
Survey: More executives are computer literate
The days of chief executives taking pride in not using a computer are gone. A survey released by the Wall Street Journal reported 99 percent of company chairmen, presidents, CEOs and other senior-level executives use the Internet at work, up from 96 percent in 2000.
Time spent online has also increased 20 percent, to 13.4 hours a week. Ninety-five percent of the respondents said they read business news online, and 25 percent consider the Internet their most important news source.
Who's reading blogs? Survey says...
Who's reading those millions of blogs? Henry Copeland, founder of Blogads, wanted to know, for obvious reasons. He wants to be able to tell advertisers using his network of Weblogs who's reading them.
Last week, he used SurveyMonkey to collect information. Here's what he found: 61 percent of the responding blog readers were over 30 years old, 75 percent make more than $45,000 a year, 79 percent are male, and half of them have contributed more than $50 to a cause or candidate. Copeland makes no claim that his research is thorough or even reliable. Responses came from 17,000 volunteers.