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TBTF for 1995-05-24: Hot Java security; natural gas networks

Keith Dawson (dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com)
Wed, 24 May 1995 08:39:56 -0400

>>From Edupage:

Skeptics are warning that Sun Microsystems' new Hot Java program could carry
some security risks: "It's nice to have a little cartoon character to
watch," says the president of an industry research firm. "But that little
character could crash your hard disk." The potential problem arises from
the way the Hot Java software works; the animated sequences -- called
"applets" because they're essentially mini-software programs -- are received
and played immediately by the downloading computer before an anti-virus
program has time to check them out. "With Hot Java, you are using the
computer's CPU, not the phone network, to animate," says a Sun spokesman.
The fear is that a malevolent hacker could tamper with a Web database,
replace an applet with a virus, and infect the downloader's computer. Sun
counters the criticism, saying that there's plenty of security built into
Hot Java, including a program that prevents applets from interfering with
other hard disk data. (Investor's Business Daily 1995-05-23 A8) The software
can be downloaded at <http://java.sun.com/>, but currently runs only on
Sun's Solaris operating system. Versions for Windows NT, Windows 95 and
MacOS will be available this summer.
(Information Week 1995-05-29 p.32)

[Anybody picked up Hot Java yet? (Bill?)]

>>From Innovation:

An electronic meter-reading unit manufactured by Itron Inc. may soon send
human meter readers the way of dinosaurs. The system uses an Encoder
Receiver Transmitter unit that sits on a utility meter in your home and
records consumption. Once a month, a truck equipped with a Data Command
Unit cruises your neighborhood, and collects data on how much energy or
water you've used as it drives by your house. Back at the utility company,
the data is downloaded into a computer which then compiles your bill.
Advantages include more accurate readings, the elimination of consumption
estimates, and a reduction in labor expenses. "The savings have been
greater than what we anticipated," says the VP of operations for
Commonwealth Gas, which has gone entirely electronic. About 1,200 electric,
gas and water utilities now use the Itron system, with between 950 and 1,000
of them in the U.S. and Canada. (Investor's Business Daily 1995-05-16 A5)

[Colonial Gas installed an Itron transponder on my meter last week. In Cal-
ifornia, PG&E has much grander plans; they want to create a WAN linking all
of their customers' smart meters (millions of them) to PG&E's own network.]

Utilicorp United Inc. wants to be the country's first national energy
utility, and has spent $100 million to do it. "We see our plan as providing
the information content about energy and its use. We want to become the
Visa of the utility industry, providing the infrastructure and taking a toll
on each transaction," says the company's VP and CIO. Utilicorp's Energy
Major Plan will allow customers to select prices and energy options from
their homes using PCs or TV set-top boxes. Partners in the venture include
Oracle, AT&T, Apple and Honeywell. Although other utilities are
experimenting with "smart" energy services and alternative products, such as
telecommunications, "Utilicorp is unique in its plan to tie it all together
nationally," says an AT&T director. (Information Week 1995-05-22 p.60)

Security First Network Bank, based in Pineville, KY, will become the first
financial institution to win the Office of Thrift Supervision's approval to
operate almost entirely electronically. Customers will access information
on the bank and their accounts via Security First's World Wide Web site, and
deposits will be made either through the mail or by electronic funds
transfers. Withdrawals will be made via ATMs. The system is expected to be
up and running this fall, but first will face testing by professional
hackers to see if they're able to penetrate the bank's computer system.
(Investor's Business Daily 1995-05-18 A6)

[Professional hackers, heck, I want to see it withstand the amateurs.]

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Keith Dawson dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com dawson@atria.com
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