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Networking News Security

TalkTalk Defends URL-Tracking Anti-Malware Service

The Virus Alerts service will log all websites visited, but won’t infringe users’ privacy, says TalkTalk

TalkTalk is going ahead with tests of a network-based anti-malware service which logs all the URLs visited by its customers, despite fears that it will breach users’ privacy.

The Virus Alerts service, which TalkTalk tested in secret until users uncovered the project in July, records all web addresses visited by TalkTalk customers and can warn users who are visiting a site known to contain malware. Users complained in July that it was tested on them without their consent, and compared it to the notorious Phorm service, with which BT intended to target adverts based on user activity.

Users now have an opt-in to Virus Alerts

To avoid the criticism which surrounded July’s secret trial, users will be invited to opt-in to the new test, and the system will not track individual browsing histories, according to a blog by Clive Dorsman, managing director of technology at TalkTalk.

A FAQ on the new service argues that network-based anti-malware is better than that installed on individual PCs, because it allows the ISP to protect other Internet devices in a home as well as PCs, covering  “the whole connected home”.

“We now expect to be able to commence trials for a limited number of customers who have agreed to test our anti-malware system in the next few weeks,” said Dorsman. “This system will warn customers who opt into the service about sites they try to access, which we know to be infected with viruses or other malicious software.”

ThoughVirus Alerts, provided by Chinese network company Huawei, tracks all the sites visited by TalkTalk customers, Dorsman said “the system simply records the destination website URLs; it does not record who sends the request or other personal data with the URL.”

In September, the Information Commissioner investigated TalkTalk over the Virus Alerts test, but apparently it has been convinced that this test is above board. Dorsman said TalkTalk has “had some useful discussions with the relevant public bodies.”

On a different front, TalkTalk is championing user privacy, in opposing the Digital Economy Act, which would require it to monitor users’ downloads and issue warnings to people sharing copyright material. BThis month, BT and TalkTalk won a judicial review of the Digital Economy Act.

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Goverment IT Networking News Security

File-Sharing Case Against UK Teenager Is Dropped

A teenager charged with distributing copyrighted material using the BitTorrent site Oink has been acquitted due to lack of evidence

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has dropped its charges against a teenage boy – who was charged in 2007 with illegally distributing copyrighted material – in a move that is bound to reflect badly on the government’s decision to crack down on Internet piracy.

Matthew Wyatt was only 17 when he was arrested by Cleveland Police, after sharing three albums and one single on popular BitTorrent file-sharing website Oink. According to his lawyers, Wyatt was not responsible for uploading the copyrighted material, but found the music files on a publicly accessible music site and moved them to Oink.

Lack of evidence

On 10 September 2007, several police officers and industry representatives entered Wyatt’s family home and seized more than 160 items. He was charged with distributing copyrighted material so as to prejudicially affect the copyright holder – a criminal offence that carries a maximum custodial sentence of ten years.

“Matthew Wyatt was the victim of a cynical attempt by the record industry to legitimise its heavy-handed tactics and dubious methods by using police resources and the public purse,” said David Cook, of Burrows Bussin Solicitors, which represented Wyatt.

However, the CPS has been forced to drop the case a few weeks before Wyatt’s trial was due to start, due to an oversight by the CPS and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. The two bodies failed to trace the digital watermarks of the copyrighted material back to the source, preventing Wyatt from being prosecuted.

“At no time during the course of this prosecution did the CPS actually produce any evidence that the material in question was in fact copyrighted,” said Cook. “In a world where kudos can be gained through early leaks, and fake tracks consisting of live versions, white noise and loops are rife, we believed that this was a dangerous gap in the evidence. We also found it extraordinary that the copyright holder was never asked to identify the tracks as being theirs.”

Making an example

Cook also claims that charging Wyatt with a criminal offence, rather than treating it as a civil case, was inappropriate. “Case law definitively states that copyright offences arising out of BitTorrent should be put before a civil judge,” he said. “In this case, there appeared a simple reason behind the decision to charge with a criminal act – the IFPI wanted to make an example of Matthew Wyatt.”

The British Recorded Music Industry (BPI) expressed disappointment with CPS’s decision to drop the case, but said it did not undermine the case for tackling the “serious damage done by pre-release piracy”.

Last week, the leader of the House of Commons, Harriet Harman, rejected calls for full debate on the government’s controversial Digital Economy Bill – which could oblige Internet service providers to disconnect illegal file-sharers. The Bill has already passed its third reading in the House of Lords, and the government plans to pass it swiftly, as part of the “wash up” process at the end of the current government’s term. The bill will get a second reading in the House of Commons, which is expected to be the date on which the General Election will be announced. Protesters say this will prevent a full debate on the bill, despite widespread criticism of it.

Oink trials

In January, Alan Ellis – computer programmer and founder of Oink – was unanimously acquitted of conspiracy to defraud, in the UK’s first illegal file-sharing trial. When police raided Ellis’s home in October 2007 they discovered that the site had 200,000 members, who had downloaded 21 million music files. They also found almost £185,000 in his accounts.

However, Ellis explained that Oink did not host any music itself but simply indexed the files users had available on their computers. This allowed members to download music from other users for free. “All I do is really like Google, to really provide a connection between people,” he told police officers.

Despite the verdict, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), said the verdict was a “terrible disappointment”, showing that “the law is so out of touch with where life is these days”. Head of IFPI John Kennedy, said at the time that the industry was considering civil proceedings against Ellis, in a bid to retrieve the £185,000 he raised from the website.

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Cloud Mobile & Wireless Networking News

Users Less Loyal To BlackBerry Than iPhone, Android

Big brand loyalty kudos go to Apple iPhone and Google Android OS smartphone users, says a new report, while BlackBerry users are a less content bunch

Apple iPhone and Google Android operating system (OS) smartphone users are a smitten bunch, but owners of Research in Motion’s (RIM) BlackBerry devices have a wandering eye for other smartphones, a brand loyalty survey released today from market research firm Crowd Science revealed.

The survey, which polled over 1,100 respondents, found an overall curiosity regarding the Android OS and a “restlessness” among BlackBerry users.

Nearly 40 percent of BlackBerry users said they’d like to make the Apple iPhone their next smartphone purchase and, when asked if they’d swap their present phone for the Android-based Google Nexus One, 32 percent of BlackBerry users said yes, compared to 9 percent of iPhone users.

Among users with smartphones not made by RIM or Apple, 60 percent said they’d swap for the Nexus One.

“These results show that the restlessness of BlackBerry users with their current brand hasn’t just been driven by the allure of iPhone,” said John Martin, chief executive of Crowd Science. “Rather, BlackBerry as a brand just isn’t garnering the loyalty seen with other mobile operating systems.”

In keeping with such loyalty, 97 percent of iPhone users surveyed would recommend the iPhone to others. When asked about Android, 17 percent said they’d recommend it to others, and regarding “other smartphones,” 18 percent said the same.

When Android users were posed the same questions, 100 percent said they’d recommend an Android device. Regarding the iPhone, 41 percent would recommend it, and 36 percent were positive toward other smartphones. Among BlackBerry users, however, only 64 percent said they’d recommend non-iPhone and Android models, while 52 percent would recommend the iPhone and 28 percent would recommend an Android phone.

Google introduced the Nexus One early this year, nearly midway through the survey’s span from Christmas Eve last year, through to 21 January. Rather than disrupt the results, Crows Science said in a statement that it was able to measure the changing attitudes of respondents.

Following the launch, awareness of the Andorid OS was said to be 91 percent among iPhone users, 75 percent among BlackBerry users and 73 percent among users of other smartphones.

As AdMob similarly related in a late-February report, Crowd Science found Android users, on average, to be younger than iPhone or BlackBerry users, with 29 percent of users falling between 18 and 24 years of age, compared to 11 percent of BlackBerry and 15 percent of iPhone users.

Android users additionally had lower incomes than iPhone or BlackBerry users, while BlackBerry users had the highest incomes of the three.

BlackBerry users, hitting on device’s strength, also use their device more for business than the other phone owners — while the percentage of BlackBerry, iPhone and Android users who said they used their smartphones for both business and personal use was nearly identical, 7 percent of BlackBerry users said they used their device strictly for business purposes, while only 1 percent of iPhone users, and even fewer, if any, Android users said the same.

The most unusual, and perhaps contestable, finding in the survey, however, may be regarding gender. While it’s been reported that Android users are predominantly male, the Crowd Science survey found the same to be even more true of iPhone users. Among iPhone survey respondents, 88 percent were male and 12 percent female — bucking the earlier AdMob results, which found iPhone users to be more or less equally split between the sexes.

The Android users surveyed were 84 percent male and 16 percent female, and BlackBerry users were 82 percent male, 18 percent female.

Women were most strongly represented in the “other smartphone” category, representing 25 percent of those surveyed, while men comprised 75 percent of the group.

Crowd Science reports that respondents were randomly recruited from “Websites serving more than 20 million unique visitors.”

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Goverment IT Networking News

Virgin Launches Big Red Internet Business Package

Fill your boots, says Virgin, as 1Gbps and 100Mbps fibre links tumble in price

On  by Peter Judge 0

Virgin Media Business will today launch a flat rate business Ethernet-on-fibre service which offers “more bandwidth than you think you need,” with uncontended, symmetrical services at 100Mbps or 1Gbps.

The service uses the core network that Virgin has built on the assets of the former cable companies and will offer the services at a “small premium” to businesses currently on 10Mbps or 100Mbps leased lines, according to a Virgin executive. The service can be offered at a lower price than competing leased line services because the bandwidth that it uses would otherwise go to waste, as the amount of traffic on a consumer network drops dramatically during working hours.

“Fill your boots!”

“It’s dedicated fibre, symmetric and uncontended,” said Mark Heraghty, managing director of Virgin Media Business. “Fill your boots!”

The 100Mbps service costs £12,000 per year, or £13,000 for a managed service, while the 1Gbps service costs £22,000 or £25,000 for a managed service which includes router installation and proactive network management.

The service is for directly-connected users, and not for resellers, and can be installed within 60 days from order. Although this sounds a long time, the local loop connection to the user can involve digging up the road; being able to afford a higher speed to start with should mean that is a one-off cost and a one-off delay, Virgin Media spokespeople pointed out.

Virgin Media Business has a very strong fibre network, which was built up by NTL and TeleWest and is mostly used by consumers in the evening, explained chief operating officer Andrew Barron: “It’s bankrupted two companies – it’s our pride and joy!” Big Red Internet is able to offer an uncontended service on that during the day.

Long-term perspective

Since taking over the ntl and TeleWest brands, Virgin first sorted out its customer service, and then got its balance sheet under control, said Barron. “We can fund and finance projects, and take a long-term perspective.”

While Virgin Media has been rolling out 50Mbps, using the DOCSYS standard, to large parts of the country, and promising 100Mbps broadband using fibre-to the-cabinet, Virgin Media Business has launched Ethernet extension services up to 10Gbps. The Big Red Internet offering takes that service and simplifies it, said Barron.

“We are an asset-based carrier,” said Barron. “It effectively costs us nothing to offer this service.” The peak demand from Virgin consumers is around 10pm at night, and the network is largely empty during the day. “Our competitors build networks dimensioned around business-to-business, and buy access from BT,” he said.

The company has promised to divulge prices before customers are asked to start putting down real money for the service – the service will be available in managed and unmanaged versions.

Universal access and fast broadband

At the launch event, Barron claimed that Virgin’s broadband roll-out had now met the government’s original target for fast broadband in Stephen Carter’s Broadband Britain report, but providing universal access at 2Mbps would be trickier.  “Universal access means reaching areas which are not economical,” said Barron. “If the government lets us use unconventional methods such as using electricity poles, we will push ahead as fast as it is economic to do so.”

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Networking News

Virgin Media Business Touts Data Centre Connectivity

Virgin Media Business has launched its heavy duty connectivity offerings for the data centre sector

Virgin Media Business has recognised the increasing demand for carrier grade data centre connectivity with the launch of a tailored service for that sector, which it claims can dramatically reduce power and space consumption.

Its data centre proposition is designed to connect customers to a range of services at speeds up to 10Gbps, coupled with network resilience. Each interconnect can connect up to 8,000 users.

“The launch of our data connectivity proposition is in response to the growth in data centres and the demand for connectivity services,” explained Dave Green, product manager at Virgin Media Business, speaking to eWEEK Europe.

Carrier Grade Connectivity

“We want to support the demand in these data centres, especially as data centres increasingly move outside of the London market. We offer a capacity managed service where our teams ensure that there is always enough capacity at all times for the data centre,” said Green.

Green noted that demand for carrier grade connectivity is increasing thanks to the advent of the cloud. “We enable our customers to achieve connectivity cost savings, and offer a one stop shop for connectivity and services.”

Green said that this new service from Virgin Media Business has primarily attracted interest from companies that own their own private centres and that are thinking of running a cloud-based setup, as well as system integrators. “That is where we are seeing the great demand at present but, saying that, we have had discussions with carrier neutral players as well,” he said.

“When the data centre began moving outside of London, it was often the case that the communications option was the last piece of the conversation,” said Green. “Now there is understanding if a data centre is located in the middle of nowhere, it has to have right the communications connectivity to round off that offering. Otherwise it is like building a roundabout but with no roads leading off it, which is a waste of time.”

Green said that data centre builders are now increasingly getting in contact with Virgin Media Business to see if the company can offer them any connectivity options in the area they are building. Green cited that Virgin’s “massive” network covers 85 percent of UK businesses, thanks to its 186,000 kilometres of fibre in the UK. Besides BT, Virgin Media Business is nine times larger than its next nearest provider.

Power Saving?

But how does the company explain its claim that its data centre connectivity options can reduce power and space consumption?

“Power wise we will utilise wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) technology, (i.e. big fat pipes) to give the right level of connection. The provider we use is Transmode and its power and space footprint is incredibly good. For example, a full loaded box that can support 40 10Gbps services only has 750 watts power usage.”

Green admitted that the data centre connectivity option from Virgin Media Business may not be suitable for all data centres, although the company will talk to anyone. “It is a point about scale. For a small data centre that has mainly connectivity via the Internet, this service may not be appropriate  for them, as it is more suited to data centres with the need for a lot of individual connectivity.”

Green said that, so far, Virgin Media Business has £9 million worth of orders in the pipeline for connectivity services, just from talking to a number of system integrators. “The customer does not have to worry about power constraints or have any capacity concerns, we look after the network for you.”

Network Reach

Green admitted that Virgin’s network may not reach data centres in remote regions of the UK such as in Lockerbie in Scotland, but it will look at the cost of deploying connectivity to those areas or utilise third party pipes.

Green acknowledged that 10Gbps connectivity is pretty much the norm at the moment, but felt it would be a while before we see serious takeup of 40Gbps and 100Gbps. “There has been discussion about 40Gbps and 100Gbps speeds for some time now. Today Virgin runs our core optical services at 40Gbps, but it has been designed to run at up to 100Gbps,” said Green.

“100Gbps is very much in our mind at the moment but personally I don’t see it happening for a while yet because of the cost of 100Gbps blades and routers,” he said. Green thinks there is enough capacity thanks to wavelength-division multiplexing techology.

Resilient Option

Green touted the fact that Virgin Media Business can offer its customers true network resilience. “Our service is credible and can be used for dual network resilience for data centre owners,” said Green. “Other than BT, we are only the other carrier that can offer this resilience, which will help us break into this market.

“We are here to stay and we would be absolutely mad not to take this opportunity to move forward and be a leading provider of connectivity in this space,” said Green. “Data centre connectivity is the just first of our announcements in this space, and you can expect more exciting announcements in the future.”

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Networking News

Vodafone Warns Against Excessive Fibre Investment

A new report by Vodafone suggests that mobile is a better way to patch broadband not-spots than fibre

Mobile operator Vodafone claims that many emerging economies are investing unnecessarily in fibre optic broadband networks, when they should be focusing instead on extending the reach and capability of mobile networks.

In its 2011 Social Impact of Mobiles (SIM) report, Vodafone warns that the current level of investment in fibre optic networks in emerging markets is unsustainable, due to the cost of deployment in rural areas. It also points out that, given the ubiquity of low-cost phones in these countries, mobile is likely to remain the primary way for people to access the Internet.

“We believe that our findings show that the current emphasis on delivering fibre optic cable everywhere overlooks other effective means of extending the use of broadband in an affordable way,” said Diane Coyle, chair of the Vodafone SIM Panel and editor of the report.

Fibre vs. mobile

Vodafone used the Indian states of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Rajasthan as an example, to compare the feasibility of extending fibre access networks against mobile networks. The company concludes that the deployment of a fibre access network would only be commercially viable in 3 percent of the districts, while wireless broadband coverage could be provided in 98 percent of the districts.

In reality, the solution to the problem of broadband provision in remote areas is likely to be a combination of different technologies, including ADSL, fibre, mobile 3G and satellite. While Vodafone makes a valid point about the widespread use of mobile technologies in developing countries, it should be noted that the company is itself a mobile network provider, and therefore prone to bias.

The report goes on to state that social networking sites such as Facebook are helping to build demand for data usage to the point where economies of scale accelerate.Vodafone recommends that governments in developing countries make an effort to provide mobile-enabled services free of charge, in order to increase broadband take-up and reduce the digital divide.

The importance of mobile spectrum

The report also highlights that the availability of spectrum will drive technology innovations and better coverage for the growing demand for mobile broadband services in emerging economies.

“It is tempting to see the spectrum challenge as being the same in developed and emerging markets. That would be fundamentally wrong,” the report states. “The reason is that the widespread fixed networks offer the possibility in developed markets of carrying a sizeable proportion of the data traffic (e.g., via Wi-Fi). But those possibilities just do not exist in the emerging markets and therefore all that traffic will fall on the mobile networks.

“Absent plentiful spectrum, the traffic will suffocate service quality. Emerging markets are going to need large and appropriate spectrum assignments to deliver their data applications.”

Meanwhile, in Britain, the communications regulator Ofcom is currently preparing for the long-awaited auction of 4G spectrum around 800MHz and 2.6GHz, which is due to take place in the first quarter of 2012. Ofcom recently released research, stating that 4G mobile technology will deliver more than three times the capacity of existing 3G technologies, using the same amount of spectrum.

This increased spectrum capacity is essential in meeting the UK’s rapid increase in mobile traffic, fuelled by the growth of smartphones and mobile broadband data services. Only this week, a group of MPs opened a debate in the House of Commons, in an attempt to pressurise both Ofcom and the government to expand the provision of 4G technologies to more isolated rural communities.

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Networking News Security

Westminster Abbey Blocks Twitter At Royal Wedding

Signal jamming technology will be deployed at Westminster Abbey to avoid disruptions to the royal wedding

Guests of the royal wedding on 29 April will be prevented from posting live Tweets, after event organisers arranged for signal-blocking technology to be installed at Westminster Abbey.

The move, which was initiated by senior members of the royal family, is intended to cut down the number of news photos and videos featuring mobile phone-toting guests, and also prevent any distracting ringtones from interrupting the ceremony. Those attending the wedding will also be unable to share pictures, send texts or make calls.

The news has reportedly been welcomed by police, security personnel, and broadcasters, who are keen to avoid any disruptions to the event. Mobile phones can also, of course, be used to set of bombs, meaning that mobile phone jamming will act as an additional security measure.

A police official confirmed to Yahoo on Wednesday that the blocking technology will be in place from early Friday morning and will remain switched on for the duration of the ceremony.

Twittersphere buzzing

The absence of Twitter at the actual event does not mean the web will go silent, however. The wedding will be streamed live on YouTube’s official Royal Channel, and will run for four hours beginning at 10am BST.

Meanwhile, AP Live, CBS News, TheInsider.com and the UK Press Association will all have live coverage and commentary of the event, and the BBC, ABC News, Fox News and ITN are all hosting live streams, ensuring that the social media channels will be buzzing.

Talk of the Royal Wedding is already accelerating rapidly on Facebook and Twitter. Overall, tweets about the Royal Wedding have quadrupled since the beginning of the month, averaging nearly 5,000 per hour over the last week and accelerating quickly in recent days. According to data from social media business intelligence platform Trendrr, 46 percent of tweets are positive, 43 percent are neutral and 12 percent are negative.

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IT Networking News

Low-Latency Network To Connect London And HK

 by Sophie Curtis

gridnetwork

A high-speed fibre network between London and Hong Kong could help decrease financial trading times

Financial traders and law firms are set to benefit from a new low-latency network between London and Hong Kong, which can conduct data on a round trip from Europe to Asia in around 176 milliseconds.

The cable network, run by UK-based trading technology company BSO Network Solutions, has been in place for some time, but previously had to route around large parts of Russia, due to difficulties laying fibre in that country.

However, a new lower latency and higher availability ‘Transit Mongolia’ connection has helped to reduce the time of a round trip by more than 20 milliseconds during the last 12 months. Improvements have also been made at BSO’s Ancotel point-of-presence (POP) in Frankfurt and Mega-I POP in Hong Kong.

“These modifications and improvements to the BSO Network Solutions’ Backbone enable us to offer the fastest network from London to Hong Kong,” said Scott Ritchie, Managing Director of BSO Network Solutions, in a statement.

New ‘Transit Mongolia’ connection

Ritchie told eWEEK Europe that large sections of the network run through Russia and China, both of which have assets and infrastructure that is either only used for internal projects or is “protected” (ie. hidden) for historic or security reasons. Recently, however, Western companies have been gaining a better understanding of how existing assets can be used for commercial benefit.

“In this instance, the improvements were made through better utilisation of the existing infrastructure through the Western Sector of the cable system through Europe and more significantly we have been able to replace the Trans-Siberian Section by activating capacity on the Transit Mongolia Path,” said Ritchie (pictured).

“This not only improves our latency but also adds further resilience to our Backbone as our former path has not been decommissioned but is being used as further protection to the new Ultra-Low Latency long haul route,” he said.

The new super-fast connection could allow high-frequency traders and professional service specialists such as law firms to gain a competitive advantage by rapidly sending and receiving large volumes of data from Europe to Asia. BSO’s deployment over Ethernet and Virtual Private LAN Services (VPLS) also makes networks more stable and secure, the company claims.

According to Ritchie, the media industry could also benefit from low-latency networks, due to the increasing demand for content and digital distribution throughout the production phase.

“Latency is a tool for any network engineer in any industry. It is about the return that a company wants to generate,” said Ritchie. “As is so often the case, the Traders are the early adopters and they are really starting to reap the benefits, getting access to new markets, new customers and new revenue.

“In today’s economy I believe that getting access to these three things should be every company’s goal,” he added.

New transatlantic submarine cable

Last week it was announced that a new transatlantic submarine communications cable would be installed on the Atlantic seabed at a reported cost of $300 million (£189m). The high-speed fibre optic cable, known as the Hibernian Express, will eventually stretch to 3,741 miles (6,021km), as seabed survey work begins on the east coast of America.

The cable will offer sub 60ms latency, and it will connect financial traders in New York and London. The company behind the project, Hibernia Atlantic, said the cable would initially be lit with 40Gb technology, which could be upgraded to 100Gb technology in the future.

“Demand for low latency routes has grown exponentially over the past several years,” said Bjarni Thorvardarson, CEO of Hibernia Atlantic at the time. “Project Express will offer the lowest latency from New York to London and provide demanding customers the speed and accuracy they require.”

The technology is available to the market now and CommScope said the Amsterdam Internet Exchange is already using it to achieve greater performance.