Business & Finance
05:45 PM
John Soat
John Soat

IT Confidential: Geek Love: A Laptop, A Van, A Honey Pot

'We are architecting the communications network of the future.'

Thank heaven the conventions are finally over. Now we can get back to some regularly scheduled programming, like Survivor: The Youngest Generation ("All right, you babies, it's sink-or-swim time!"). Several days before the Republican National Convention, technicians from Newbury Networks, a vendor of wireless security devices, took a "war drive" in the area around Madison Square Garden, probing for security vulnerabilities, network-access points, and wireless devices trying to access its "honey pot" (gotta love the lingo) server. According to Newbury, 7,039 unique wireless devices were detected--63% were access points and 37% were network cards. A wireless card tried to access Newbury's honey pot every 90 seconds, "potentially resulting in a direct connection to the resources on that individual's laptop or PC." Newbury says it did the same thing during the Democratic convention in Boston. What I want to know is, where were the police during all this? You've got some kind of stealth vehicle, a black van probably (I'm exaggerating for dramatic effect), circling Madison Square Garden and Boston's FleetCenter bristling with network-probing devices and nobody finds this suspicious? Side note: John Halamka, CIO of Harvard Medical School, once told me MIT students do that kind of thing for fun, circling Harvard Square with homemade devices rigged from laptops and Pringles cans, searching for network vulnerabilities, which doesn't make the CIO's job any easier.

Speaking of online college life, Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland has signed a deal with Radvision to use its multimedia technology for a campuswide videoconferencing system. The system will leverage Case's Gigabit Ethernet network, the largest in higher education, CIO Lev Gonick says, serving up 1 billion bps to more than 14,000 network points across the university, including 2,500 students in residence halls.

The technology advance I fear most is speech--not speech recognition but speech enablement. This week comes word out of the Auto-Tech Conference in Detroit that Honda and IBM developed an in-vehicle speech-recognition system that responds to queries with turn-by-turn directions (see story, p. 22). That's all I need--another voice in the car telling me where to go. My wife does a good enough job of that, thank you.

CIO moves are what pass for juicy gossip in this industry, and I got a line on a couple of good ones, but tell me honestly--do you care? CIOs move around a lot, or at least they used to. Do you care that Paccar CIO Patrick Flynn has left the truck maker to go to Getty Images? Or that Key Bank has landed Steve Yates, CIO of USAA, as its new top tech exec? I really want to know.

Maybe it's like that old Who song: "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss." Let me know if you want more or less CIO gossip, or if you have an industry tip--send it to or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about wireless security vulnerabilities, the challenges of videoconferencing, or the joys of digital devices talking back, meet me at's Listening Post.

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