Top 10: Obama wins, e-voting questions, WPA crack

Senator Barack Obama was elected the first African-American president of the U.S. While Obama huddled with advisers to talk about the economy and other policy issues, we began to focus on what his election is likely to mean for IT. And the aftermath of Election Day also brought questions about what it will take to further reduce electronic-voting problems that cropped up yet again. There also was plenty of IT news unrelated to the election, including word that researchers have developed a way to partially crack the WPA encryption standard used on many wireless networks.

1. US voters elect Obama and FAQ: Why Obama may back an H-1B increase even in a recession: Voters this week chose Senator Barack Obama, an Illinois Democrat, as the 44th president of the United States and the nation's first African-American president. The BlackBerry-toting Obama didn't focus much on technology issues during his campaign, what with two wars and a messy economy to deal with, but he has in the past released a tech white paper and otherwise voiced his views on such matters. Wasting no time, we also started to prognosticate this week on the positions he is likely to take on matters such as H-1B visas.

2. Voting technology 2008 and E-voting: What will it take for a smooth election?: Although electronic voting didn't present as many problems as had been expected, the various technologies used for e-voting still have issues. Why is that after multiple election cycles using e-voting, and what can we expect will be done in coming months and years to better ensure the reliability of the technologies? We'll keep asking those questions and pushing for answers.

3. Once thought safe, WPA Wi-Fi encryption is hacked: The WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) encryption standard that protects data on many wireless networks can be partly cracked, according to security researchers who plan to discuss what is being called the first practical WPA attack at the PacSec conference next week in Tokyo. Researcher Erik Tews will explain how he cracked WPA encryption to read data sent from a router to a laptop computer.

4. Google calls off Yahoo deal, citing regulatory issues and DOJ opposition scuttled Google deal, Yahoo says: Google bailed out of its advertising deal with Yahoo this week, citing regulatory worries that included the likelihood of "a protracted legal battle" and "damage to Google's relationships with valued partners." The U.S. Department of Justice was going to block the deal, according to Yahoo, which said it "continues to believe in the benefits of the agreement and is disappointed that Google has elected to withdraw from the agreement rather than defend it in court."

5. FCC unanimously approves unlicensed 'white spaces' use : In a move that proponents say will open the door to widespread mobile-broadband adoption, the Federal Communications Commission Tuesday voted unanimously to allow conditional unlicensed use of "white spaces" television spectrum. The vote was preceded by months of debate, with critics contending that opening the spectrum would cause problems for broadcasts on nearby frequencies.

6. Yang to Ballmer: Microsoft should buy Yahoo and Microsoft doesn't want Yahoo either: Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang is ready to return to the negotiating table with Microsoft, which should buy his company, Yang said at the Web 2.0 conference this week. "To this day I would say that the best thing for Microsoft to do is to buy Yahoo," Yang said. We're thinking that, in reality, that sort of deal is the best thing for Yahoo rather than the other way around -- Yang's comments came amid ongoing financial turmoil for Yahoo, which is in the midst of a cost-cutting plan that will axe at least 10 percent of its workforce in the coming weeks. So far, Yang's job isn't part of that 10 percent. Speaking in Sydney, Australia, Steve Ballmer responded to Yang's comments by saying Microsoft is no longer interested in buying Yahoo and noting that Yahoo turned down Microsoft's offer of US$33 per share earlier this year. (After Ballmer closed the door on the idea in his remarks in Sydney, later that day in the U.S., Yahoo shares closed at $13.96).

7. Microsoft 'interested' in open-source browser: Ballmer: A question at a developers event in Australia seemed to surprise Ballmer: "Why is IE still relevant and why is it worth spending money on rendering engines when there are open-source ones available that can respond to changes in Web standards faster?" Ballmer replied: "That's cheeky, but a good question, but cheeky." After meandering a bit with his answer, he said: "Open source is interesting. Apple has embraced Webkit and we may look at that, but we will continue to build extensions for IE 8."

8. FBI investigates data theft blackmail scheme: A U.S. prescription drug management company is the target of a blackmail scheme by data thieves who say they will release millions of patient records unless Express Scripts, in St. Louis, pays the criminals. The company received a letter early last month containing names, birth dates, Social Security numbers and prescription information for 75 patients whose records Express Scripts manages for health care organizations, insurers and the like. So far, there is no sign that the criminals have misused any stolen personal data.

9. Ex-Intel worker indicted on $1B trade secrets theft: Biswamohan Pani of Worcester, Massachusetts, was indicted on charges that he stole $1 billion in trade secrets from his former employer Intel to help rival Advanced Micro Devices, according to news reports. Pani is accused of remotely accessing Intel's network and downloading 13 secret documents and other proprietary information about ways to design microprocessors. He now works for AMD, which prosecutors say didn't know of Pani's alleged data theft.

10. Wall Street Beat: Another week of tumult for tech: Tech companies weathered another rocky week on the stock market as various of them also released sour financial news. Nokia plans to lay off 600 employees, while Advanced Micro Devices is cutting 500 jobs. Dell confirmed that it is embarking on a new cost-cutting initiative that includes employees being offered the option of taking unpaid time off in the next few months and an enhanced severance plan for those who decide to leave their jobs. Consumer electronics retailer Circuit City is closing 155 stores in the U.S. Cisco says that demand for its wares is declining, with October orders down 9 percent compared to the same month last year.

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