January 21, 2005 10:00 AM PST

Week in review: Wi-Fi goes to Washington

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As winter put the big chill on President Bush's second inauguration, wireless technology was creating a new hot spot on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Americans who braved the snowstorms to catch a glimpse of the inauguration were able to check e-mail and update blogs from the ceremony, thanks to a new Wi-Fi hot spot. The wireless node blankets the popular area between 13th and 15th streets. A nonprofit community group called the Open Park Project is providing the free service this week, in what its founders describe as an exercise in wireless democracy.

Last spring, the Open Park Project announced a hot spot on Capitol Hill near the Supreme Court. The group now plans to link up the entire National Mall and is negotiating to place antennas on Smithsonian Institution buildings.


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In an odd twist, the hot spot could have been used to watch the latest political satire video from JibJab. The online producer of "This Land," the short film that satirized the 2004 presidential election, is taking another stab at the victor on the eve of the inauguration.

JibJab on Tuesday released a new animated short film called "Second Term," poking fun at President Bush as he prepared to swear in for another four years on Thursday. The video was released exclusively by Yahoo, via a distribution deal signed in December that culminated with the debut of "Second Term."

Across the country, Wi-Fi networks are growing in popularity. A new research report concludes that the wireless technology has gained a slight edge over Ethernet cables in home networks. The survey found that 52 percent of U.S. households with home networks use wireless technology, compared with 50 percent who use Ethernet and about 5 percent who go with power-line networking via electrical wires.

It's the first time Wi-Fi has outpaced Ethernet, an achievement attributed to growing Wi-Fi support among broadband providers. Most major broadband companies offer options for hooking up a new account via Wi-Fi equipment, an attractive option for those who haven't set up a home network yet or want to do more than the Ethernet setup allows.

As Wi-Fi networks become popular in American homes, however, more people are exposed to dangers such as spyware. Thus, the need to secure systems against those threats becomes more urgent. But for many ordinary owners, the complexity of dealing with a wireless network is leading them to put security on the back burner.

Fixing a hole
Security is often a complex undertaking, especially when you find your ability to control it wrenched from your hands. An Internet service provider in New York learned that first hand last week, when its domain name and e-mail were apparently hijacked.

A Panix.com representative said that ownership of the domain had been moved to a company in Australia, that the domain name server (DNS) records had been moved to the United Kingdom, and that the company's e-mail had been redirected to a company in Canada. E-mail to the domain was being directed to the false site and "should be considered lost or compromised," the ISP said.

Your desktop may not be much safer. The data protection feature in Microsoft Word and Excel documents has a major flaw that could allow snoopers to decode password-protected files, a security researcher has warned.

In the world of cryptographers, encryption schemes that encode more than one message using the same key are seen as flawed. That's

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