Conficker spawn, recession smackdown

A new version of Conficker has turned up and could portend even more malevolent uses of that already-nasty malware. Hewlett-Packard, Apple and Sprint Nextel, through either rough earnings reports or market surveys, joined the ranks of big-name tech companies that have been slammed by the recession. And if you use facial recognition to securely log on to your laptop, you may want to reconsider.

1. Conficker worm gets an evil twin: The Conficker worm has spawned an even more evil twin that researchers believe could give those who created it more ways to use and abuse computers it infects.

2. Wall Street Beat: Economy hits HP, Apple, Sprint Nextel and Analyst: HP results bad news for Microsoft: Bad financial news just keeps on coming, this week courtesy of Hewlett-Packard, Apple and Sprint Nextel. The second link in this entry is included as an example of the dreaded ripple effect.

3. Laptop face-recognition tech easy to hack, warns Black Hat researcher: Face-recognition technologies used for logging in to some laptops are not so secure after all because they are easy to trick, a security researcher warned at the Black Hat conference.

4. Stimulus bill aims for 'national broadband plan': If you are curious about how the U.S. government is likely to spend the US$7.2 billion apportioned to a national broadband plan in the recently passed economic stimulus bill, this is the link for you.

5. Update: Skype's immunity to phone tapping threatened: Skype conversations deemed suspicious could be tapped in a European-wide investigation linked to what authorities believe is a huge loophole in existing wiretapping laws. The probe may also help U.S. authorities get access to Internet-based calls made by criminals who do not currently have to worry that their conversations are being tapped because of the loophole.

6. Scientists claim big leap in nanoscale storage: In the category of cool news this week, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Massachusetts Amherst say they have found a way to achieve storage density of 10Tb (125GB) per square inch, 15 times the density of previous methods, without defects. That means that, theoretically anyway, some day the contents of 250 DVDs could be put on a surface the size of a coin. The technology could be commercialized in less than 10 years if there is sufficient industry motivation. (Considering that we are just about out of DVD storage room, we're hoping there is that motivation.)

7. U.S. spending $2B to challenge Asia on laptop battery manufacturing: Some battery makers are eyeing funds from the $787 billion U.S. federal stimulus bill to possibly build factories in the U.S. that would compete with Asian manufacturing facilities and create thousands of jobs.

8. Microsoft retail stores a risky proposition: Microsoft did not provide much ballyhoo over its announcement that it plans to open retail stores (news that actually trickled out last week), but a bit more scrutiny suggests that decision could be trickier for Microsoft than it was for competitor Apple. So far, there has not been much in the way of specifics from Microsoft about its retail plans, although there seems to be plenty of available retail space around these days.

9. Undermining expectations at Mobile World Congress: Even with the announcement of Windows Mobile 6.5, an assortment of new smartphones and a focus on emerging mobile technologies, the Mobile World Congress was found by some to be oddly lacking. For instance, Android was a "nonpresence."

10. Netbooks in the business: Do they make sense?: Exactly what a "netbook" is may still be subject to debate, and change, but the possibility of business uses for such small, cheap laptops is intriguing. Netbooks are perfect for some industries, notably for field service uses such as transportation and logistics or repair and service employees. They might also be a good fit for those who have to travel a lot because they are so lightweight.

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