Google Desktop - yet another security frightener

My state agency's intrusion- detection systems were showing some undesirable activity on our network. Upon investigation, we found that several desktop systems were communicating with Google via Google Desktop. I ran a network security scan and found at least 50 computers set up to do this. How was that possible?

All 50 were new Dell machines. I called down to the lab where desktop system images are created. A tech answered, and I asked him if he knew why Google Desktop was installed on the new systems. "Yes," he said. "The new Dell systems came with it installed. We thought it was a useful tool, so we included it in our standard image."

The question that immediately reverberated in my head was, Why weren't the security implications considered? What I said was, "This is a security problem for us, and we have to uninstall it as soon as possible. I'll put together a meeting."

The good news is that I caught this security lapse before all agency desktops were replaced in our current system refresh. In fact, since desktops are being replaced about 50 at a time, I had caught it pretty early. The realisation that the problem could have been worse cheered me up a bit.

Admittedly, the person who decided to leave Google Desktop on the new computers had no reason to suspect that the program could cause a serious security vulnerability. The root of the problem lay in our quality assurance processes. And that means that if I was going to be irritated at anyone, it would have to be me.

I am in charge of all IT processes and had failed to make sure that we had a certification process for new systems. I was focused on auditing the environment. And in the meantime, I made assumptions - one of the surest ways to get myself into trouble. I assumed that the image had not changed. I assumed it would not change. I assumed I would be asked before someone made a change. No way around it, this was my fault.

Several staffers came knocking at my door, having heard about the situation and wanting to know why it was a big deal. I printed out some articles on Google Desktop for their edification. I had filed in my brain the factoid "Google Desktop = security vulnerability" at least a year ago.

But apparently, my staffers don't read the security news. I don't want to make them do that; they work hard as it is. But I wondered whether I should put together for them highlights of the latest in security vulnerabilities on a weekly or monthly basis to prevent this kind of thing from happening again.

So, what is the big deal about Google Desktop? At Google's site, it says, "Google Desktop gives you easy access to information on your computer and from the Web. It's a desktop search application that provides full text search over your e-mail, files, music, photos, chats, Gmail, Web pages that you've viewed and more." That all sounds pretty good? But, read on:

"Removing deleted files from search results - Some users like the fact that Google Desktop saves cached versions of deleted files in case they need to retrieve them. But we know this isn't for everyone. Don't want to see deleted files in your search results? Just enable the 'remove deleted items' option in your Desktop preferences."

In and of itself, this isn't scary (even though the option should be disabled by default -- in Windows, you can always retrieve deleted files if you have the right utilities). So far, we have an application that indexes everything on our users' computers so they can search them and find information quickly. That is a totally cool feature in an age when we are inundated with so much information we can't think straight. But there's more:

"Search Across Computers enables you to search your documents and viewed Web pages across all your computers. For example, you can find files you edited on your desktop from your laptop. To activate this feature, you will need a Google Account (the same log-in you use for Gmail, Orkut or other Google services). Files accessed on your computer after you enable Search Across Computers will be searchable from your other computers.

"To search your other computers, you must also install Google Desktop on them, as well as enable the Search Across Computers preference using the same Google Account on each one.

"In order to share your indexed files between your computers, we securely transmit this content to Google Desktop servers located at Google. This is necessary, for example, if one of your computers is turned off or otherwise offline when new or updated items are indexed on another of your machines. We store this data temporarily on Google Desktop servers and automatically delete older files, and your data is never accessible by anyone doing a Google search."

The italics are mine, although you probably could spot the security problem on your own. The good news is that this feature isn't enabled by default. If it were, there would be hell to pay. It would allow our users who have Google Desktop and Gmail accounts to share data across the Google servers and wherever else they happened to log into a computer - and that could include data protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

As it turns out, only one of our users had a Gmail account, and the Search Across Computers feature had not been enabled. But when I think about the thousands of computers using this feature and the quantity of data being cached by Google, I get the creeps.

History Of The Cellular Phones

In today’s technologically advanced world, just about everyone has a cellular phone. Adults, teenagers, and even children carry around portable models of the telephone. What is really hard to believe is that just 15 years ago seeing a cellular phone was quite rare.

The history of the cellular phone is very interesting and shows just how the portable wonder became what it is today.

The history of the cell phone begins with a skilled, analytical chemist named Michael Farady. In 1843 he began exhaustive research to find of space could conduct electricity. He told of his findings, and these advances of 19 th century science and technology have had an immeasurable effect on the development of today’s cellular phone.

In 1865 a dentist by the name of Dr. Mahlon Loomis became what is thought to be the first person who was able to communicate wirelessly through the atmosphere. Between the dates of 1866 and 1873 he was able to transmit telegraphic messages 18 miles between the tops of the Cohocton and Beorse Deer Mountains in Virginia.

Loomis developed a way of transmitting and receiving messages by using Earth’s atmosphere as a conductor. He launched kites, enclosed with copper screens, that were linked to the ground with copper wires. He was awarded a $50,000 research grant from Congress to continue his studies.

Fast forward to 1973 when Dr. Martin Cooper became who is thought to be the inventor of the first portable handset. A former general manager fro the systems division of Motorola, Dr. Cooper was also the first person to make a call using a portable cell phone.

He set up a base station in New York with the first working prototype of a cell phone, called the Motorola Dyna-Tac. Both he and Motorola took this technology to New York to show the public.

In 1977 cell phone went public and public testing began. Chicago was the home for the first trials with 2,000 people. Later trials appeared in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. It spread to Japan in 1979.

Typical technologies changed in 1988 when the Cellular Technology Industry Association, or CTIA, was formed to lay out practical goals for cell phone providers. Included was research for new applications of development.

In 1991 the Telecommunications Industry Association set a new standard with the creation of the TDMA Interim Standard 54.

The history of the cell phone has had quite a long journey. Even though there was a great demand for cell phones, it took a total of 37 years for them to become commercially accessible in the United States.

It’s hard to believe that, since the cell phone has only become popular over the past couple of decades, wireless service was actually invented almost 50 years ago.

According to the CTIA, there are more than 60 million people who own cell phones. Just 25 years ago the cellular business had a $3 million market, while today it has grown to be an industry worth close to $30 billion per year.

European BPOs seen having lot more gravy

Offshoring of BPO services isn’t happening from the United States alone, but I guess you knew that already. The European Union, too, offshores a substantial portion of its work, to India and other countries, and this only set to grow in the next five years, according to a new "Trends" report by Forrester Research, Inc. Who would have thought this possible in "old" Europe?

The report by Somoko Takahashi says Forrester expects a CAGR of 11.5 per cent in BPO offshoring from the 25-member EU, plus Norway and Switzerland in the next five years. The forecast by Forrester Research, an independent market and technology research firm, tracks six service categories: human resources BPO, financial services back-offices BPO, procurement BPO, finance and accounting BPO, customer care BPO, and "other" BPO.

"Total spending will rise from euro 11 billion in 2006 to euro 18.9 billion in 2011. Relative to their size, firms in the United Kingdom and The Netherlands will spend the most," Ms. Takahashi says.

A third of the total European BPO spending in 2006 will go to BPO. "This service type has the biggest spending share both now and up to 2011. U.K. firms lead, spending euro 1.4 billion in 2006, followed by

German and French firms at euro 587 million, respectively. Demand for HR BPO has a visible impact on service providers. Arinso, for example, reported seeing a doubling of the number of client employees that it serves in one year—much earlier than expected," she says.

The Forrester report says spending on finance and accounting BPO has the highest CAGR of all BPO services, at 16.4 per cent.

"From 2006 to 2007, nearly all countries will raise their expenditures on F&A BPO—with growth rates ranging from eight per cent to 10 per cent. In the most outsourcing-experienced countries like The Netherlands and the United Kingdom, F&A BPO spending will seize about 13 per cent of the

total BPO spending in 2011. But other European countries will not match this growth in share of spending," the report says.

Similarly, spending on financial services back-office BPO will increase at a CAGR of 10.4 per cent from 2006-2011.

"Ongoing automation and standardisation within the financial services industry means firms here are likely to outsource the processing and administration that underpins financial services and insurance products.

Although use of external services is quite common across Europe, uptake is biased towards Western Europe - with the most IT-advanced countries like The Netherlands, the Nordics, and the U.K. all expected to have a steeper increase in spending than the others," Ms Takahashi says.

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