2010年2月5日 星期五

Google Asks Spy Agency for Help With Inquiry Into Cyberattacks

Google Asks Spy Agency for Help With Inquiry Into Cyberattacks

Published: February 4, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO — Google has turned to the National Security Agency for technical assistance to learn more about the computer network attackers who breached the company’s cybersecurity defenses last year, a person with direct knowledge of the agreement said Thursday.

The collaboration between Google, the world’s largest search engine company, and the federal agency in charge of global electronic surveillance raises both civil liberties issues and new questions about how much Google knew about the electronic thefts it experienced when it stated last month that it might end its business operations in China, where it said the attacks originated. The agreement was first reported on Wednesday evening by The Washington Post.

By turning to the N.S.A., which has no statutory authority to investigate domestic criminal acts, instead of the Department of Homeland Security, which does have such authority, Google is clearly seeking to avoid having its search engine, e-mail and other Web services regulated as part of the nation’s “critical infrastructure.”

The United States government has become increasingly concerned about the computer risks confronting energy and water distribution systems and financial and communications networks. Systems designated as critical infrastructure are increasingly being held to tighter regulatory standards.

On Jan. 12, Google announced a “new approach to China,” stating that the attacks were “highly sophisticated” and came from China. At the time, it gave few details about the attacks other than to say that a theft of its intellectual property had occurred and that a primary goal of the attackers had been to gain access to the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.

In reaching out to the N.S.A., which has extensive abilities to monitor global Internet traffic, the company may have been hoping to gain more certainty about the identity of the attackers. A number of computer security consultants who worked with other companies that experienced attacks similar to those of Google have stated that the surveillance system was controlled from a series of compromised server computers based in Taiwan. It is not clear how Google determined that the attacks originated in China.

A Google spokeswoman said the company was declining to comment on the case beyond what it published last month. An N.S.A. spokeswoman said, “N.S.A. is not able to comment on specific relationships we may or may not have with U.S. companies,” but added, the agency worked with “a broad range of commercial partners” to ensure security of information systems.

The agency’s responsibility to secure the government’s computer networks almost certainly was another reason Google turned to it, said a former federal computer security specialist.

“This is the other side of N.S.A. — this is the security service that does defensive measures,” said the specialist, James A. Lewis, a director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “It’s not unusual for people to go to N.S.A. and say ‘please take a look at my code.’ ”

The agreement will not permit the agency to have access to information belonging to Google users, but it still reopens long-standing questions about the role of the agency.

“Google and N.S.A. are entering into a secret agreement that could impact the privacy of millions of users of Google’s products and services around the world,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington-based policy group. On Thursday, the organization filed a lawsuit against the N.S.A., calling for the release of information about the agency’s role as it was set out in National Security Presidential Directive 54/Homeland Security Presidential Directive 23 , a classified 2008 order issued by President George W. Bush dealing with cybersecurity and surveillance.

Concerns about the nation’s cybersecurity have greatly increased in the past two years. On Tuesday, Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, began his annual threat testimony before Congress by saying that the threat of a crippling attack on telecommunications and other computer networks was growing, as an increasingly sophisticated group of enemies had “severely threatened” the sometimes fragile systems behind the country’s information infrastructure.

“Malicious cyberactivity is occurring on an unprecedented scale with extraordinary sophistication,” he told the committee.

The relationship that the N.S.A. has struck with Google is known as a cooperative research and development agreement, according to a person briefed on the relationship. These were created as part of the Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986 and are essentially a written agreement between a private company and a government agency to work together on a specific project. They are intended to help accelerate the commercialization of government-developed technology.

In addition to the N.S.A., Google has been working with the F.B.I. on the attack inquiry, but the bureau has so far declined to comment publicly or to share information about the intrusions with Congress.

2010年2月4日 星期四

Pushing to Bring TV to the Internet

Pushing to Bring TV to the Internet

Start-Up's Technology Can Transmit High-Quality Video, but It Must Convince Networks to Sign On

A small start-up is trying to do what many in Hollywood and Silicon Valley have so far been unable to do: take Internet video from its YouTube origins to a full-fledged television service with dozens of channels.

"We have video on the Web," says Roxanne Austin, chief executive of Move Networks Inc. and a former president of DirecTV. "We don't have television on the Web."

Ms. Austin's 100-person company, which is based in American Fork, Utah, has raised more than $67 million from some prominent backers that include Microsoft Corp., Comcast Corp. and Walt Disney Co.'s venture-capital arm. But like past efforts by larger companies, including Microsoft and Motorola Inc., to offer Internet-delivered television, it faces obstacles, not least of which is getting content owners to sign on.

Move Networks

A scene from the sitcom 'The Big Bang Theory' in a demonstration of Move's Internet-TV service.

Move Networks

Move's programming guide, which resembles grids found in conventional TV services.

"The technology is good enough this can happen," says Boyd Peterson, an analyst at Grail Research. "Now it comes down to the business case."

Move's technology can transmit broadcast-quality video via the Web, in Internet protocol data packets. Depending on the available bandwidth, a capability called "adaptive streaming" can adjust the quality of the image (and thus the quantity of data), all the way up to high definition, the company says.

Move recently laid off about 15 employees amid its transition to its new Internet-TV offering, away from its earlier main business of providing video-streaming technology for the Web sites of broadcasters.

If the company is able to launch the service it is now pitching to broadcasters—tentatively dubbed Move TV—viewers could watch programs in one of three ways: via a computer's Web browser; on a television that is either equipped with a built-in Internet jack or connected to a set-top converter box; or on a wireless, Internet-connected device like an iPhone or iPad.

Because Move isn't laying cable or launching satellites, the company's executives argue they can charge consumers far less than traditional pay-television operators for a comparable suite of channels. Move hopes to undercut those operators further by offering a pared-down lineup—perhaps as few as 80 to 100 channels.

The company is pursuing deals to act as a back-end provider for Internet-service providers that want to add TV programming to their broadband offerings, and is also considering offering its service directly to consumers.

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Real-time TV to go may soon become a reality for consumers, as a slew of new products are expected to be unveiled at CES 2010 that will pull down a mobile digital TV signal. WSJ's Lauren Goode speaks with Brandon Burgess, Chairman of the Open Mobile Video Coalition, about what's to be expected at CES.

Move does have one customer lined up: CWI, the international division of Britain's Cable & Wireless PLC, which aims to offer the TV service to its 204,000 Internet customers in 38, small, mostly Caribbean nations. The companies aim to launch the service this summer but are still in content-licensing talks.

Move executives say they have opened discussions with major U.S. broadcasters about licensing content and hope to have deals in place by the end of this year.

Mr. Peterson, the analyst, says it could be difficult for Move to sign up enough content creators, particularly small cable channels, who risk alienating the cable and satellite operators they depend on. "You're starting to see the tensions," he adds.

Move executives say they may be able to promise content owners as much money, or perhaps even more, per user, per channel, than existing competitors. But the total amount of money delivered every month is likely to be far lower than what cable and satellite operators pay.

The start-up's affiliations with both a content-creating behemoth (Disney) and a distribution giant (Comcast) could help. But even Disney isn't ready to commit. Asked about discussions with Move, a Disney spokesman said: "We always look at new technologies that offer consumers more choice, and that use business models which work for us financially."

Comcast last month launched a service called TV Everywhere that uses Move software to offer cable subscribers free on-demand access, via a Web site, to some TV programming. The service in some ways represents a pre-emptive strike against technologies like Move TV, and it isn't clear what the implications of TV Everywhere may be for Move's own subscription platform. Comcast declined to comment.

Move's proposed service would allow broadcasters to maintain some degree of what they call "linearity" in their programming—presenting their shows in a context that encourages viewers to tune in to more shows, rather than as the free-floating episodes found on services like Hulu and YouTube.

But if Move's business model were to succeed, it could turn cable providers into little more than utilities, maintaining thousands of miles of dumb pipe—pipe through which Move's snazzily repackaged TV programming would be flowing.

Media companies ranging from the New York Times Co. to the backers of Hulu have begun to look for online-business models that are more lucrative than their longstanding strategies of giving away their content online—often the same content that users must pay for when delivered by traditional channels like print and cable television.

"How do we create a subscription model [for television] on the Net that consumers would pay for?" asks Ms. Austin.

One of Move's tactics is to offer programming in new ways. For instance, in a demonstration of the company's proposed service, programming information is displayed in the same kind of grid that is standard on many cable systems—with a twist. A viewer can scroll backward in time and select programs from the past, as if they'd been stored on a digital video recorder.

Write to Ethan Smith at ethan.smith@wsj.com