FAA says Hackers broke into agency computers

WASHINGTON - Hackers broke into the Federal Aviation Administration's computer system last week, accessing the names and Social Security numbers of 45,000 employees and retirees.

The agency said in a statement Monday that two of the 48 files on the breached computer server contained personal information about employees and retires who were on the FAA's rolls as of the first week of February 2006.

The server that was accessed was not connected to the operation of the air traffic control system and there is no indication those systems have been compromised, the statement said.

"The FAA is moving quickly to prevent any similar incidents and has identified immediate steps as well as longer-term measures to further protect personal information," the statement said. The agency said it is providing a toll-free number for employees "who believe they may be affected by the breach."

Tom Waters, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3290, said FAA officials told unions representing agency employees at a briefing Monday that the second breached file with personal information contained encrypted medical information.

"These government systems should be the best in the world and apparently they are able to be compromised," said Waters, an FAA contracts attorney. "Our information technology systems people need to take a long hard look at themselves and their capabilities. This is malpractice in their world."

The FAA statement said the data theft has been reported to "law enforcement authorities," who are investigating.

All affected employees will receive letters notifying them of the breach, the statement said.

Waters said FAA officials told union leaders the incident was the first of its kind at the agency. But he said his union complained about three or four years ago about an incident in which employees received anti-union mail that used names and addresses that appeared to be generated from FAA computer files.

He said the union complained to the FAA and the Transportation Department's inspector general but no action was taken.

Hundreds of Houston computers infected by virus

HOUSTON - A virus is playing havoc with the municipal court operations in Houston.

The court system had to close down Friday afternoon after a computer virus affected access to data on court cases. Courtroom operations aren't expected to be back in business before Thursday morning.

People can pay fines and conduct other court business, but judges will not call dockets. Those with court dates for misdemeanor cases will be notified by mail of their new dates.

The virus hit 475 of the city's 16,000 computers and infected part of Microsoft Windows that handles the login process.

Gwendolyn Goins, spokeswoman for the court system, says she does not know how many cases have been affected. She said there's no evidence the virus was released deliberately.

Must-Have Security Fixes for IE7, Microsoft Servers

Today's montly patch batch from Microsoft fixes a critical flaw in Internet Explorer 7 that could allow a malicious Web site to install malware on a vulnerable PC, along with a patch for the Visio diagramming software. And businesses that run a Microsoft Exchange or SQL server will want to apply essential fixes right away.

"can be crafted easily," so be sure you get this one via Windows Update. that there aren't yet any known attacks, but it affects both XP and Vista. But only IE7, interestingly, and not earlier versions of the browser.

You'll also find a fix for the Visio software which can allow an attacker to run any command if you open a hacked Visio file. The program is popular among network and server administrators who typically have far-reaching permissions on their networks, so I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a targeted attack come along that goes after this flaw. Get more info and the patch from The other two fixes are for servers - Exchange and SQL server. There has been exploit code out there for the SQL server flaw since December, , so if you have a publicly accessible SQL server at your company (via a Web site) schedule an emergency fix to prevent a SQL injection or other attack. Get details at the .

Do the same for your company Exchange server, which could be taken over by specially crafted TNEF message sent to it by an attacker. No known attacks against this one just yet, according to the ISC, but don't wait for one to show up. This one's

DirecTV subscriber adds beat view, sees strong '09

NEW YORK (Reuters) – DirecTV Group added more subscribers than expected during the fourth quarter and forecast strong growth for 2009 as increased marketing and a new AT&T partnership helps offset the weak economy.

The No. 1 U.S. satellite TV provider, controlled by cable TV mogul John Malone's Liberty Entertainment, said on Tuesday it added more than 301,000 net subscribers in the United States in the quarter. Barclays Capital analyst Vijay Jayant had forecast net additions of 240,000.

"These are nice additions," said Thomas Eagan, analyst at Collins Stewart. "Despite cable operators losing or being forecast to lose significant subs, DirecTV has managed to grow -- that makes these adds that much more impressive."

The El Segundo, California company said it would see strong net subscriber growth in the first quarter, with gross additions at or above the year-ago period. In the first quarter of 2008, DirecTV added 275,000 net subscribers.

Chief Executive Chase Carey said that despite the economic turmoil and increasing competition, the company expects earnings per share growth of over 15 percent in 2009 on revenue growth under 10 percent.

"Their outlook looks pretty strong relative to this environment and in line with expectations," said Kaufman Bros analyst Todd Mitchell.

DirecTV, which now has 17.62 million U.S. subscribers, said fourth quarter net profit fell 5 percent to $332 million from $348 million. Profit was impacted by higher marketing and customer installation costs, as well as increased depreciation expenses on its installed customer equipment such as DVRs.

Earnings per share from continuing operations rose to 31 cents from 30 cents a year earlier, when DirecTV had a higher number of outstanding shares. Wall Street analysts had on average been expecting 33 cents a share, according to Reuters Estimates.

Revenue rose 9 percent to $5.31 billion during the quarter. Analysts had on average been expecting $5.34 billion.

Shares of DirecTV initially rose on the results, before they turned negative in a broad market downturn and ended the day down 1.24 percent at $22.30.


DirecTV outperformed the slowdown in growth analysts expected at most pay TV companies due to the weaker economy as well as the impact of the end of a marketing partnership with AT&T Inc in April last year.

DirecTV and AT&T rekindled that partnership on February 1 after rival satellite operator Dish Network Corp lost out in a bid for the lucrative contract.

Carey said the new AT&T contract would have a positive impact on growth in 2009 and was an opportunity to look at developing wireless partnerships to compete with the cable industry's triple package of video, Internet and home phone services.

"Building our AT&T relationship to its full potential is a key objective," said Carey. "We also think there are real opportunities for us to put cable on its heels by developing relationships with the cellular industry as mobility becomes an increasingly central theme in people's lives."

U.S. monthly customer churn, or the rate at which customers left the service, was down to 1.42 percent during the quarter. Average revenue per user (ARPU) was up to $90.46. Jayant had forecast monthly churn of 1.5 percent and ARPU of $91.15.

Subscriber acquisition costs rose to $724, up by $8 from the prior quarter.

DirecTV Latin America also saw strong growth, adding more than 160,000 net new subscribers during the quarter.

(Reporting by Yinka Adegoke; Editing by Derek Caney, Dave Zimmerman and Bernard Orr)

How Will $99 iPhone Impact Phone, Music Businesses?

Apple iPhone has been a game changer since day one. So it's to be expected that the phone would transform the competitive landscape if it were to hit $99. And I'm not just talking about the handset landscape.

Consumers would clearly win out in a $99 iPhone scenario. Even if the phone had reduced functionality (really, when did you last use all of the features in your phone?), it would ultimately get the powerful general capabilities and broad features of the iPhone out to mainstream audiences. So long as you get the basics -- the full, app-enabled iPhone operating system, the multitouch screen, the music player -- many users may not miss the GPS, or a better camera. For that matter, many would probably be willing to sacrifice 3G connectivity -- it's just my luck that 3G speed remains hit and miss, six months after the iPhone 3G's release.

Presumably, enthusiasts will benefit from a $99 iPhone, too. Why? Because Apple will be forced to give the second-generation iPhone 3G a beefier set of new features, to make it appealing vis-à-vis the low-end offering. Let's face it: Beyond iPhone 3G's faster 3G radio, GPS, and a few cosmetic and light design changes, the iPhone 3G was a dramatic change from its predecessor.

So, who gets squeezed in a $99 iPhone 3G world? Well, Apple, for one: the company's iPhone profit margins will likely take a hit -- a hit that may, or may not, be made up for in sheer volume. More critically, at 99 bucks, suddenly iPhone is an attractive alternative to a dedicated MP3 player. A Shuffle costs just $20 less and lacks all of the fancy accoutrements of an iPhone. Of course, there's the pesky issue of the service contract, but if priced right, service providers should find interested consumers interested in a middle ground between the class act of iPhone 3G and the lower cost model.

Why? Because most people use a cell phone, no matter what. When the cost delta narrows between a low-end iPhone and competing cell phones, more people are bound to consider it as a viable alternative. That means that music-centric cell phones will also get the squeeze: Phones like Sony Ericsson W350 and other music phones from and T-Mobile (like the Nokia 5310, the Nokia 7510, and Nokia 5610) will have to struggle to find an audience. They'll be going up against the Apple iPod juggernaut.

I wouldn't want to be one of those phone companies when Apple drops the price on the iPhone.

Apple Reportedly Asked Google To Avoid Multi-Touch

When the Android-powered T-Mobile G1 emerged last year, numerous reviewers took an obvious potshot at the hot new smartphone: No flicking, swiping, pinching, unpinching, or other fun finger movements popularized by Apple's iPhone. An explanation for that omission has been reported, but it leaves more questions than answers.

According to VentureBeat, Apple simply asked Google not to implement multi-touch capabilities in its Android mobile platform for the G1, even though the phone's touchscreen can support it. The information allegedly came from a member of the Android team, who said Google agreed to Apple's request.

Google's decision was apparently a huge relief for the Android team, which was concerned that a hard-headed approach would embroil Android in a messy patent fight that could have delayed the rollout of the G1 for months, if not years.

Avoiding a Patent Fight

Michael Gartenberg, vice president of strategy and analysis for Interpret LLC, said it made sense for Google to heed Apple's wishes, at least in the short term.

"Apple appears to have several patents for the concept of multi-touch as it relates to phones," Gartenberg said. "But it's also important to note that while Apple competes with Google to some extent in this space, Google is also an important partner for Apple on the iPhone and elsewhere."

Among other things, Google has made a concerted effort to format many of its services specifically for the iPhone, and just this week took the unprecedented step of licensing Microsoft's Exchange software so that it could provide real-time synchronization of contacts and calendars on the iPhone.

Google's approach is in stark contrast to Palm, which incorporated multi-touch capabilities in its newest smartphone, the Pre. The ability to swipe and pinch content on the Pre helped make it one of the hot items at last month's Consumer Electronics Show, but Palm (which, interestingly, is well-stocked with former Apple employees) may find itself facing patent-enforcement litigation.

Is That Your Final Answer?

As last year's criticisms by tech analysts amply demonstrates, the multi-touch capability introduced by Apple on the iPod touch and the iPhone was a true game-changer. The movements are so intuitive and efficient that they have become the new standard for smartphone interfaces. That's at least part of the reason that Palm is willing to risk Apple's wrath.

Given its relationship with Apple, Gartenberg thinks Google may be able to work out a deal to incorporate multi-touch in future Android-based phones.

"I'd suspect that if Google were concerned about this as an issue and wanted to implement it," Gartenberg said, "they'd figure out some license terms to make it happen."

TeamViewer desktop collaboration app now Mac-compatible

TeamViewer added Mac compatibility to its self-named desktop sharing application, giving the browser-based TeamViewer V4 cross-platform capabilities.

TeamViewer uses log in via the Web to connect with other partners listed on their account for easier collaboration and information access. By using a Web-based approach, TeamViewer says its program is ideal for mobile users.

The Windows edition of TeamViewer V4 was launched a few weeks ago, introducing a partner list that displays the online status of each user and a multi-screen presentation feature that allows up to 10 participants to join desktop presentations. Tuesday’s announcement extends Mac compatibility to TeamViewer for the first time.

TeamViewer is free for non-commercial use. Pricing starts at $249 for a six-month Business license or $699 for a lifetime license. A Premium license costs $1,399.