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Mark Ward | 13:41 UK time, Friday, 24 September 2010


On Tech Brief today: Chinese hackers could be reading your Gmail and database hacking with a pencil and paper.

• Google has begun warning some Gmail users that someone in China is trying to access their account. Paul Roberts at Threat Post says that although one of the people who has been warned by Gmail has spoken against Chinese government censorship, there doesn't seem to be a pattern.

"[A] survey of other GMail users who were warned suggests that the China-based attacks were widespread and lacked a clear pattern. Andrew Turnbull, editor of The Extraordinary Marketing Blog and a recent business school graduate from Alberta, Canada was one. Others included media consultants, doctors and gamers from the US, Canada, Columbia and countries in Europe - most without any clear personal or professional connection to China."

• Give a hacker an interface and they will try to subvert it, even when it is paper based. Jonas Elfstrom at the Alice, Bob and Mallory crypto blog notes that some of the written votes in the Swedish election had a very familiar format. Some appeared to be database query text designed to crash the log of votes.

"Well, it's probably just a joke but even so it brings questions since an SQL-injection on election data would be very serious."

Mr Elfstrom speculates that this could be a case of life imitating art. He suggests the inspiration is the XKCD cartoon about Little Bobby Tables which warns about the dangers of not sanitising database inputs.

• Networked computers, laser printers and graphical user interfaces seem very modern but most of these were developed in a lab 40 years ago. Not just any lab, the legendary Palo Alto Research Centre or Parc. Daniel Terdiman at CNet gets all misty-eyed over Parc's history.

"What may best set PARC apart from its group of august corporate R&D lab competitors, St. Claire and others have pointed out, is that it was started with the idea of giving its employees an unprecedented degree of intellectual freedom. This, the idea went, would allow the researchers to focus on solving the problems at hand."

• Put that paperback down, Grandad. The future is electronic. Kindle, iPad, Nook. E-book readers are everywhere and are taking over. Or are they? Chris Mims at Tech Review runs the numbers and is not so sure.

"[B]ack of the envelope calculations suggest that ebooks are only six pecent of the total market for new books."

He is also sure that physical books are going to be around for a while yet.

"So the world is left with an unconvertible stock of used books that is vast. If the bustling, recession-inspired trade in used books tells us anything, it's that old books hold value for readers in a way that not even movies and music do. That's value that no ebook reader can unlock."

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