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Everyone’s a Geek Now: The Year in Technology

By Paul Wagenseil, Friday, December 29, 2006

In 2006, geek culture went mainstream, for better or for worse.

Video-game consoles became front-page news, Internet video clips affected politics and big business, millions of people joined social-networking sites and bought flat-screen TVs — and everyone feared hackers and online identity thieves.Still, a few things didn’t take off as had been expected. High-definition DVD players failed to excite consumers, biometric ID systems creeped them out and, once again, Apple’s Macintosh computers failed to take over the world — even as iPods continued to rule it. Here are the top half-dozen or so tech issues of the year:SOMEBODY’S WATCHING ME:Cybersecurity was never far from the headlines, as the warm and fuzzy One Laptop Per Child initiative was overshadowed by the One Laptop Lost Per Week by corporations, universities and government agencies.

The list of butterfingered organizations included the Veterans Administration,, Ameriprise Financial, Equifax, the Agriculture Department, the District of Columbia, the Department of Transportation, the University of Minnesota and Boeing.

Top prize went to the Commerce Department, which lost track of no fewer than 1,137 notebook computers over five years. Still, despite the millions of Social Security numbers and other sensitive personal data thus exposed to possible criminals, not one instance of resultant identity theft was reported. Yet.

As happens every year, major security holes were found in systems and applications, including the ubiquitous Wi-Fi wireless networking protocol, a top-ranked PC security program and, last but not least, Microsoft’s brand-new Windows Vista operating system — surprising no one except the programmers who’d written the software.

From the other side, cybercriminals and spammers stayed one step ahead of the law, exploiting social-networking sites, crafting viruses that encrypted a victim’s data and held it for ransom, and devising image-based spam e-mail that got around text-based filters, resulting in a huge spike in spam in the final quarter of the year.

Radio-frequency identification chips found their way into credit cards and passports, even as evidence of security weaknesses mounted. Their more organic cousins, biometric identification systems, met resistance from shoppers who didn’t find it prudent to give their fingerprints to supermarket cashiers.

Most troubling to many readers were stories involving e-mail — America Online had to back down from a plan to charge fees to mass e-mailers, even though it wouldn’t have affected the average user. And many were taken aback by new federal regulations that required large companies to retain all employee e-mail — even though many of them already did so on their own.

There was also some grim humor. The massive AOL user-data breach provided a fascinating look into what people searched for — “how to kill your wife,” for example — and was a bonanza to Internet researchers who’d never before had access to such data.

Topping the irony list was the tale of a popular virus-scanning application that went amok, flagging hundreds of innocuous pieces of software, including Microsoft Excel, Adobe Flash Player and Google Toolbar, as malware — and in many cases deleting them.

• Click here to visit’s Cybersecurity Center.


Patent lawsuits made some people very rich in 2006. Leading the list was a small firm called NTP, whose only product was massive litigation against companies that use wireless e-mail.

Thanks in part to vague patent law that granted its deceased founder a monopoly on the concept, NTP forced Research In Motion, maker of the ubiquitous BlackBerry devices, to settle for $612.5 million in March. Read about the reast of the year 2006.

OSA Editorial Comments:

I am not a Geek, I am not a Geek no, no, I am promise, I not a Geek! and you can’t make me be one “;0)

Your Online Security Authority
Bill Wardell

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