<IT WORLD> Terrorists, Google advance
By Martin J Young
HUA HIN, Thailand - The terrorists who attacked several locations in Mumbai
last week were reported to have used Google Earth images of the city to
coordinate their attacks. Their use of technology did not stop there, according
to Indian investigators and police who interviewed the only captured suspect.
The attackers approached by sea making use of global positioning systems
alongside Blackberrys, mobile phones with multiple SIM cards (reducing the
likelihood of their calls being traced), and the CDs containing high-resolution
satellite imagery from Google Earth.
The revelations will spark protests by privacy advocates and national security
advisors who claim Google provides too much information to civilians. It is not
the first time Google Earth has
been labeled as a potentially dangerous tool in the hands of terrorists.
Indian and Chinese security agencies are concerned that the free download
exposes their defense installations, and the Pentagon has expressed alarm that
US military bases have been revealed. Defense department installations have
been ordered to ban Google from taking photos of their bases for the Street
View application (see
Google eye too close for comfort, Asia Times Online, March 15, 2008).
Government restrictions have a cap on commercial satellite imagery at a
50-centimeter resolution. Yet despite protests and potential national security
risks to innumerable countries, Google is upgrading its satellite image data to
even higher resolutions. The search giant’s GeoEye-1 is currently retaking
satellite images of the Earth; it can reach up to 41-centimeter resolutions.
GeoEye-2, which is planned for launch in 2012, will be able to take imagery at
25-centimeter resolution. So there will be no escaping from Big Brother Google.
Apple received attention this week over a notice on its website that urged Mac
owners to use anti-virus software. The note, updated last month on its support
pages, stated, "Apple encourages the widespread use of multiple antivirus
utilities so that virus programmers have more than one application to
circumvent, thus making the whole virus writing process more difficult."
The long-standing myth has always been that Macs are immune to viruses. Apple
has nurtured this in its sales and marketing spiel so it comes as no surprise
that the notice has since been removed following the unwanted media attention.
Apple spokesperson Bill Evans stated that the KnowledgeBase article was removed
because it was old and inaccurate.
It is true that the lion's share of Internet nasties are aimed at users of
Microsoft's Windows systems simply because that software is used by so many
more people. However, there have been recent incidents of Macs getting infected
by viral code, worms and malware, and this summer saw new infections of the
AppleScript.THT Trojan horse, affecting OSX 10.4 and 10.5 users by exploiting a
weakness in the Apple Remote Desktop Agent.
Cyber criminals and hackers have moved on from e-mail-borne payloads to ones
that trick users into opening or playing Internet media or applications. These
usually target security holes in third-party applications such as video
players, browsers and document readers. The target is no longer your computer,
it's your financial data and money, so the idea that your personal data are
safer on a Mac is a weak one. The Internet is still just as dangerous.
The bottom line is that no operating system is 100% secure no matter what it
says on the box, so it always pays to be safer than sorry. Anti-virus and
anti-malware software are sensible precautions regardless of whether you're
using a Mac or a PC.
Market research firm Net Applications estimates that Windows' market share has
dropped to a 15-year low of less than 90%. This is still an impressive figure,
though we have to go way back to the days of Windows 3.11 to find a similar
share. Windows has been gradually losing popularity for the past five years but
past month was the first time it dropped below the 90% mark to 89.62%.
Breaking these figures down shows that Vista has a market share of only 20.45%
and XP still dominates the operating system race with 66.31%. The winners from
these results are the opposition, with Apple's OSX increasing to an 8.87% share
from 6.80% the same time last year and Linux at 0.83%. That still leaves a long
way to go to catch the mighty Microsoft.
Internet Explorer has also been suffering market-share losses by falling below
70% to 69.77% last month. That is good news for rivals Firefox, which climbed
to 20.78%, and Safari, up to 7.13%. Google’s newcomer, Chrome, has failed to
top 1% and recorded a 0.83% market share for last month.
This shuffling of winners and losers continues amid a deepening gloom in the
computer industry. Market researcher IDC's latest PC market forecast shows a
rapid decline in the demand for computers. They predict 2009 as being the
weakest in seven years for PC sales, with a possible near 3% decline in the US.
While global sales growth could plunge to 3.8% in 2009 from 12.4% this year,
before recovering to 10.9% in 2010.
Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.