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TBTF for 1997-07-07: Second thoughts

Keith Dawson (dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com)
Mon, 7 Jul 1997 11:14:44 -0400


Domain naming plan [not] on hold

Note added 1997-07-27: Dave Crocker <dcrocker at brandenburg dot com>, one of the original IAHC members, corrected the misimpression conveyed by the original headline, if not by the writeup below: the IAHC / gTLD-MoU process is not on hold, but is proceeding apace. Please visit TBTF for 1997-07-21 for Crocker's comments in full.
The status of the domain-naming agreement arrived at in April by the International Ad Hoc Committee [1] is uncertain after the US Department of Commerce called for further study [2]. In a move that coincided with the adoption of the Framework for Global Electronic Commerce (see below), Commerce has requested public comment [3] on the domain-naming question. In turn the International Telecommunications Union, prodded by the US, at its annual meeting ordered a wide-ranging review of the IAHC plan. The ITU had been assigned a pivotal role by the IAHC's Memorandum of Understanding [1].

[1] http://www.gtld-mou.org/
[3] http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/domainname/dn5notic.htm


Administration endorses Internet policy

On 7/1 President Clinton endorsed the Framework for Global Electronic Commerce, which generally instructs federal agencies to stand out of the way of Internet growth [4]. The Framework [5] encourages the Net private sector to regulate itself as much as possible and calls for the US to refrain from taxing, censoring, or regulating cyberspace. Software industry leaders praised these aspects of the policy and reacted positively to proposals for tough new anti-piracy laws. Less popular was the Framework's continued insistence on strong export controls for encryption products and the development of a key-escrow infrastructure and its call for Commerce Department review of the domain-name imbroglio

[4] http://pathfinder.com/netly/afternoon/0,1012,1123,00.html
[5] http://www.whitehouse.gov/WH/New/Commerce/index-plain.html


Ho hum yet another way to kill a Net-connected machine

Another denial-of-service attack, this one using ICMP, has crawled out from under its rock. Unknown crackers used the attack -- called SSPING/Jolt -- to take down Microsoft's site for most of Monday 6/30 [6]. Information about the vulnerability was emailed to Microsoft on 6/29; the company has prepared a patch that is now available [7]. Thomas Stromberg <nobody at engelska dot se> posted information [8] on this weakness in some implementations of networking code. SSPING/Jolt is not a new technique, nor are its effects limited to Microsoft platforms. Older MacOS environments are said to be vulnerable, as may be some SysV / POSIX implementations of Unix. For this reason I haven't added SSPING/Jolt to the TBTF list of MS security exploits [9].
Note added 1997-07-10: From Stig <stig at hackvan dot com>:
if it takes down Microsloth boxes, it should be on the list. the fact that it's an older bug and has been exploited in the past makes it doubly incriminating for Microsloth.

The dirty little secret of network security is that the potential exists for a large number of such attacks, based on sending bogus data across the Net to a directly connected machine. In the trusted and trusting environment of the pre-commercial Internet such attacks were vanishingly rare, so developers of early networking code had little impetus to render it fully bullet-proof.

[6] http://www.news.com/News/Item/0,4,12068,00.html
[7] ftp://ftp.microsoft.com/bussys/winnt/winnt-public/fixes/...
[8] http://www.darkening.com/ssping/
[9] http://www.tbtf.com/resource/ms-sec-exploits.html


Digital coupons

Open Market has developed technology that allows merchants to distribute digital coupons by Web, email, or CD-ROM and honor them to "mark down" items for sale over the Web. The technology is called SecureLink Commerce Objects and will be available in August as part of the new version of Open Market's Transact software. (Other Commerce Objects include digital offers, digital receipts, and digital tickets.) According to the company, no custom coding is required to embed secure digital coupons in any HTML- or HTTP-capable medium. Early endorsers of the technology include AT&T, CNET, Disney Online, and PointCast. Follow this link [10] to get a feel for the simplicity and naturalness digital coupons can bring to the experience of online purchasing. Here is the press release [11] on Transact 3.0 and here are some usage scenarios [12] for digital certifiates.

[10] http://coupon.openmarket.com/
[11] http://www.openmarket.com/releases/coupon.htm
[12] http://www.openmarket.com/releases/coupscen.htm


Nambling forecast

Michael Tchong publishes ICONOCAST, a pithy newsletter on interactive marketing and commerce. (Tchong also created the CyberAtlas [13], which I cited in "Exploring the elephant," TBTF for 1996-10-20 [14].) The 7/1 ICONOCAST has a concise and punchy article on the market for online gambling, a topic last visited in TBTF for 1997-04-04 [15]. I'm going to quote it in full, because Tchong's copyright allows it and because it's nearly impossible to condense. (Rather like TBTF, that.)

[13] http://www.cyberatlas.com/market.html
[14] http://www.tbtf.com/archive/1996-10-20.html
[15] http://www.tbtf.com/archive/1997-04-04.html

(The following material is Copyright 1997 ICONOCAST.)

  My Name is Bond, James Bond
  You don't have to be 007 to know that Internet gambling will
  soon take its rightful place in the world of e-commerce. In
  fact, at a Hambrecht & Quist conference, CyberCash chairman
  Bill Melton was quoted as saying: "Overseas gambling and
  adult entertainment will be early-stage drivers of Internet
  electronic commerce transactions."

  Arizona Senator Jon Kyl's March 19 bill intends to ban Net
  gambling by requiring ISPs to block access to gaming sites,
  once ordered by a court. But the fact remains that Internet
  casinos are legally only bound by the laws and regulations
  of their host country.

  And while placing bets in the originating country might be
  deemed illegal, it will be well-nigh impossible to get a
  US judge to close access to an off-shore casino site that
  is legally licensed and taxed by its host government.

  >> Market Size -- According to International Gaming and
     Wagering Business, a New York-based industry journal,
     more than $500 billion was wagered legally in the US
     in 1995. Smith Barney's 1995 Global Gaming Almanac offers
     a more conservative US estimate of $400 billion a year.
     The Wall Street Journal reported on April 10 that
     Americans spent almost $25 billion on casino-based
     gambling in 1996.
  >> Market Forecast -- Some industry observers believe that
     online gambling will be a $10 billion market by 2000.
     That's probably a trifle optimistic. But with a vigorish,
     the house betting margin, of about 8 percent, one can
     safely expect an $800 million Internet gaming industry
     before 2010.
  >> Market Players -- About 10 gambling sites are currently
     accepting real wagers, according to Rolling Good Times
     On-Line, an online gambling industry magazine. Most are
     located in either Antigua or Belize in the Caribbean.
     Liechtenstein's InterLotto has attracted more than 30,000
     registered players. Another recent arrival is Interactive
     Gaming & Communications' The Global Casino.

  Once marketers figure out how to overcome their biggest
  objection, a lack of consumer confidence, Net gambling (or
  nambling as it's now being called in the vernacular) will
  take off faster than you can say "neuf a la banque."

  ==> http://www.rgtonline.com
  ==> http://www.interlotto.li
  ==> http://www.gamblenet.com

Marketing oneself

Speaking of Michael Tchong, a note at the top of the 7/1 ICONOCAST embodies the difference between someone who knows how to market himself and one of more modest self-promotional gifts, such as your humble correspondent. PC World Online [16] named both ICONOCAST and TBTF to their list of the best mailing lists in the category of Computer Industry News. They picked only five from among the legions of e-journals bustling about the aether.

I didn't much like the brief capsule [16] accorded TBTF. Forgetting the First Rule of PR -- never complain what they say about you as long as they spell your name [email address] right -- I buried the news on the TBTF reviews page [18]. Tchong trumpeted it at the top of his next mailing:

(The following material is Copyright 1997 ICONOCAST.)

      An Interstitial from the Sponsor
      It gives me great pleasure to announce that PC World Online
      has named ICONOCAST one of the best industry mailing lists.
      According new media editor Tracy Swedlow, there are more than
      40,000 lists with topics ranging from garden irises to the New
      York Sushi Lovers Digest. In the review, PC World Online
      states: "ICONOCAST presents industry news clearly and provides
      perspective analyses into the latest relevant technologies in
      scintillating short form." Thanks, PC World Online, for that
      poetic justice.
Um, yeah. What he said.

[17] http://www.pcworld.com/software/internet_www/articles/jul9...
[18] http://www.tbtf.com/blurbs.html


Jargon scout: reverse egosurfing

Note added 1997-07-07: Stop press. Acute embarassment accompanied by sound of hand thwapping forehead, Homer-Simpson-like: "Doh!" Bill Cheswick <ches at plan9 dot bell-labs dot com> sent a gentle reminder that not only has he deployed a real-life example of reverse egosurfing for the last 15 months, but he had written to tell me about it four months ago. More embarassing still, his page has been linked from Jargon Scout since 1997-03-17. Here is ches's original note:
I have been using "egosurfing" to have old friends locate me for about a year now. See this unpublished page, which the search engines know about but no page points to.

Rohit Khare went looking for his name in the Net search engines -- Wired's Jargon Watch has enshrined the term "egosurfing" for this pastime -- and came across a link to one of his pages put up by Alan Cooper after he (Cooper) had conducted his own ego-search. In a moment of reverse egosurfing Khare put up a link back to Cooper's page to facilitate the further researches of self-referential Net omphalosceptics.

John Le Carre (no relation to Khare as far as I know) might have called this practice "taking back bearings," a term he coined in The Honourable Schoolboy for the art of tracking down opposing agents by divining patterns of damage in the institutional wreckage caused by an enemy mole. ("Mole" is another Le Carre coinage, this one from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy -- a long-term double agent who has risen to the top ranks of your own service. The term has since been adopted at Langley, or so they tell me.)


The longest day in a while

At midnight on 6/30 the world, by consent, enjoyed an extra second of time [19]. Extra leap seconds are irregularly announced by the International Earth Rotation Service in order to keep atomic clocks in sync with the rotation of the earth; this will be the 21st second added since the IERS was brought into existence by treaty in 1972. The earth's rate of rotation fluctuates by minuscule amounts, generally tending to slow over time. The cause of the slowing is a matter of contention: some say it's due to tidal drag as a result of the moon's gravitation; others point to the slow rebounding of the North American continent after its ice sheet receded beginning 100,000 years ago.

A third source of time reference has become important in recent years: the Global Positioning Satellite service. The GPS's principal product is accurate location, but such is impossible without accurate time. The GPS signal incorporates delta information on how far earth time (UTC) has drifted from atomic time (TAI), and this datum is adjusted when leap seconds are added. This RISKS posting [20] from John Laverty via Peter Ladkin details more than most humans will ever need to know about the several time standards and their interworkings.

[19] http://tycho.usno.navy.mil/leap.html
[20] http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/Risks/19.14.html#subj10.1


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