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Jason Palmer | 16:58 UK time, Thursday, 30 September 2010

Rodin's The Thinker


On Tech Brief today: geo-passwording, Google's latest dictum, and the dangers of peddling e-smut.

• Conspiracy theorists, take note. While several commentators out there have suggested links (that would be well-nigh impossible to substantiate) between the recent Stuxnet worm attack, Iran, and Israel, there is another intriguing possibility.

Jeffrey Carr writes in a blog for Forbes that when India's Insat-4B television satellite malfunctioned in July, television operators were forced to redirect their dishes to a satellite run by General Electric and a state-owned Chinese operator.

Mr Carr reminds us that China and India are competing in a renewed race for a manned moonshot, and reveals that the Indian space agency runs the very Siemens software that the Stuxnet worm targets:

”My objective for this post is simply to show that there are more and better theories to explain Stuxnet's motivation than just Israel and Iran... I hope others will pick up this thread, give it a good yank, and see what unravels.”

• You know the conundrum - too many sites need a password. We forget them, we duplicate them, we put in fabulously silly passwords like "password". A host of alternatives has been mooted over the years, some of which have been pictorial in nature: you simply click on the relevant bit of the image that you nominated as your password. The problem is that hackers can watch where you point your mouse.

Now, Discovery writer David Teeghman takes a look at the latest idea - an online map on which you choose your "passplace". The precise latitude and longitude actually act as the password. Mr Teeghman points out that:

”Mouse-tracking software can still see where on the screen your cursor goes. But it doesn't know what map you're looking at. And because the password map is zoomable, and you can move it around, the mouse's position on the screen doesn't tell a potential hacker where your unique spot is located.”

• Et tu, Google? Our inbox is budding with news that Google Translate now works in Latin too. The translation of Tech Brief's query "It is a bit curious that Google would bother - doesn't everyone who needs to know Latin already know it?" comes out as a frightfully erudite-looking:

”Frenum est ut Google curiosus esset molestum - quicumque non requiritur cognitio iam scire Latine?”

Overcome with excitement, Tech Brief attempted a translation of that text back into English:

”This is the curb to Google is troublesome to be curious as to - who are not now hear the man needs to know Latin?”

• Ever catch yourself sneaking a glance at the Kindle in the hands of the person next to you? Be prepared to blush. James Ledbetter of Slate has enjoyed a certain frisson noting that the Kindle's top-selling item at the moment is the racy title Compromising Positions.

On the one hand, running such sauciness as a loss leader may "sully the e-reader's reputation" - but a greater revolution may be at hand:

”The growing ubiquity of e-readers could unleash latent demand for nonvisual pornography. The Web long ago eliminated the embarrassment factor of having to purchase erotica at a store or newsstand; stored in digital form on an e-reader, it needn't be seen by partners, families, or anyone at all.”

Well. Tech Brief may be next to you on the bus, so be wary.

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