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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Major flaw revealed in Internet Explorer. Affects all versions

The major press outlets are abuzz this morning with news of a major new security flaw that affects all versions of Internet Explorer from IE5 to the latest beta of IE8. The attack has serious and far-reaching ramifications -- and they're not just theoretical attacks. In fact, the flaw is already in wide use as a tool to steal online game passwords, with some 10,000 websites infected with the code needed to take advantage of the hole in IE.

Virtually all security experts (as well as myself) are counseling users to switch to any other web browser -- none of the others are affected, including Firefox, Chrome, and Opera -- at least for the time being, though Microsoft has stubbornly said it "cannot recommend people switch due to this one flaw." Microsoft adds that it is working on a fix but has offered no ETA on when that might happen. Meanwhile it offers some suggestions for a temporary patch, including setting your Internet security zone settings to "high" and offering some complicated workarounds. (Some reports state, however, that the fixes do not actually work.)

Expedient patching or switching are essential. Security pros fear that the attack will soon spread beyond the theft of gaming passwords and into more criminal arenas, as the malicious code can be placed on any website and can be adapted to steal any password stored or entered using the browser. It's now down to the issue of time: Will Microsoft repair the problem and distribute a patch quickly enough to head off the tsunami of fraud that's about to hit or will it come too late to do any good?

Meanwhile, I'll reiterate my recommendation: Switch from Internet Explorer as soon as you can. You can always switch back once the threat is eliminated.


Friday, December 12, 2008


An out-of-work banker who became a symbol of the looming financial crisis by trudging Manhattan streets wearing a sign advertising "MIT grad for hire" has landed on his feet - scoring a well-paying job at an accounting firm.

In a more hopeful sign of the times, Joshua Persky got rid of his sandwich board and demonstrated that creative people can bail themselves out without any help from the government.

Jobless Rate Hits 26-Year High
"I liked his resume. He had great business sense, great experience and great references," Elliot Ogulnick, his new boss at the Manhattan firm Weiser LLP, said yesterday. As for his unique brand of self-promotion, Ogulnick said, "I must admit, it was very innovative." Persky was hired as a senior manager for Weiser as of last week, just about a year after he was laid off by the investment bank Houlihan Lokey and some six months after he started handing out his résumé to passers-by on Park Avenue.

The road from the streets to his new office on West 50th Street was longer and more winding than he expected - but he never gave up hope.
"It just took more time than I expected," he said yesterday. In his weeks as a walking classified ad, he got several job interviews. "The problem was, it was the time when Bear Stearns collapsed," he said. "I had a lot of interest, but then everybody stopped hiring."

So he tried a different tack. "The publicity I got from the sandwich board encouraged me to set up a blog to document my experience," said Persky, 49. A headhunter spotted the blog and brought it to Weiser's attention. "Obviously, I had vigorous interviews, but I think it was [the blog] which sealed the deal," Persky said. "It feels so great to be back at work. I went through some frustrating times, but every day I tried to be optimistic."

He posted the happy news on his blog and got cheers from around the world. Now the father of five - who declined to discuss his new salary - is looking forward to being reunited with his family.

His wife and youngest kids, 4 and 5, had moved to her parents' home in Nebraska to save cash. But they'll be returning to New York after the end of the school year. "We're looking forward to being back together," he said. "It's hard being a telephone dad.

"There is all this holiday spirit around me, all these holiday parties, and I've got such a lot to be grateful for myself. It's like I'm celebrating twice this year."


Monday, December 1, 2008

Spectacular Sky Show: Venus, Jupiter and the Moon

As the sun goes down in the evening, step outside and look southwest to see a celestial phenomenon. We wont see this spectacle for another 44 years, because next they'll gather like this will be on November 18, 2052.

You’ll find the bright planets Venus and Jupiter near the place the sun went down, with a waxing crescent moon nearby. They’re low in the sky – but beautiful both November 30 and December 1. With the exception of the sun and moon, Venus is the brightest light in the heavens, and Jupiter is second-brightest.

The Venus/Jupiter conjunction happens when these objects have the same right ascension on the sky’s dome. It’s as if they cross the same line of longitude in the sky and – for a brief time – beam north and south of one another on the sky’s dome. A conjunction of the two brightest planets won’t happen again until March of 2012. During this particular Venus and Jupiter conjunction, these two brilliant worlds appear 2 degrees apart. That’s about the width of your finger at an arm length away.

It’s possible – but extremely rare – to see two planets appear to merge into a single point of light. The last time two planets met up at the same spot on the sky’s dome was in the year 1818, when Venus passed in front of Jupiter. Tonight and tomorrow night, look for Venus, Jupiter, and the crescent moon in the west after sunset.

Conjunctions of two planets are fairly common. The planets often meet and appear close together the sky’s dome. But an occultation – or covering over – of one planet by another is very rare. Two planets won’t meet again on the sky’s dome for another 247 years – or until Venus occults Jupiter in the year 2065.

The Venus/Jupiter conjunction in right ascension takes place on November 30, 2008 at 7 p.m. Central Time (1:00 Universal Time on December 1).