July 8, 2005 10:00 AM PDT

Week in review: Terror and technology

Technology--and the human spirit--were put to the test this week after four blasts ripped through London, killing at least 50 people.

E-mail traffic doubled, mobile networks were overloaded and record numbers of visitors deluged British Web sites following the attack, which shut down London's public transit system.

The explosions underscored the problem of picking out a terrorist in a crowd, something that Los Altos, Calif.-based Pixlogic is trying to solve through new software that uses visual pattern recognition and search technologies to match archived still or video images with pictures gathered from security cameras or other sources.

Meanwhile, online security has also been in the news during this workweek, which was shortened in the United States by the Fourth of July holiday.

A German court found confessed Sasser author Sven Jaschan guilty on four counts of altering data and three counts of computer sabotage. The 19-year-old was given a suspended sentence of one year and nine months. He must also complete 30 hours of community service while on probation. The case is significant because authors of malicious code have typically proved difficult for law enforcement to track and catch.

At the same time, experts say, there's a shift under way that could mean the end of big worms like Sasser. In the past, hackers wanted to gain notoriety by writing the most disruptive worm they could. But now they're more likely to be motivated by money. And though the shift could lead to a drop-off in global worms, it still spells trouble. Attacks crafted by businesslike hackers are likely to hit harder.

In the same vein, security company Sophos has seen a dramatic rise in the number of viruses, worms and Trojan horses this year, as more organized criminals turn to cybercrime. The company reported last week that it had detected 7,944 new pieces of such malicious software in the first six months of this year--almost 60 percent more than at the same time last year.

In other security news, a lawsuit related to a data breach at payment processor CardSystems Solutions now also demands unspecified monetary damages for consumers and merchants.

Millions of credit card accounts were compromised by the data breach, first disclosed in June by MasterCard. As originally filed, the class action suit called for CardSystems, Visa and MasterCard inform consumers whose personal data was exposed and give all involved access to a credit-monitoring service. The amended complaint, filed Wednesday, seeks monetary damages and says that credit card companies should waive any charge-back penalties to merchants in the case of fraudulent transactions involving credit cards affected by the breach.

Redmond regroups
Microsoft over the years has developed a reputation for arrogance in its hiring and personnel practices, which has put off some would-be job candidates. But a News.com article this week, which generated a slew of reader feedback, shows how the software maker is working on its recruiting efforts.

Many readers took the time to share their frustrating Microsoft interview experiences, saying that there were internal communications problems, among others.

But reader Anthony Potts defended the software giant and said it's important for companies to grill potential hires, as Microsoft is known for doing.

"And as for being arrogant, why shouldn't they be?" he said. "I personally know several Microsoft employees and they get paid well, get great benefits, have every piece of hardware/software they ask for..."

Also at Microsoft this week, the company released details of the long-awaited update to its customer relationship management software, adding new tools and making the system available on demand. The unveiling of the new applications set, which will be known as Microsoft CRM 3.0, was done in conjunction with the software giant's Tech Ed 2005 conference in Europe and its Worldwide Partner Conference 2005 in the United States.

And in what could be a prelude to a new server product for midsize businesses, Microsoft announced a new bundle that saves such companies up to 20 percent if they buy a set of Microsoft programs. The promotion combines three Windows Server operating

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A German court found confessed Sasser author Sven Jaschan guilty on four counts of altering data and three counts of computer sabotage. The 19-year-old was given a suspended sentence of one year and nine months. He must also complete 30 hours of community service while on probation. The case is significant because authors of malicious code have typically proved difficult for law enforcement to track and catch.

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