The story of hackers from China romping through New York Times computers for months is enough to make anyone with an internet connection feel exposed. Computer security experts hired by the Times quietly studied the incursions for many weeks before locking the system down. The attacks came after the Times reported on the family finances of China's leader. We worry about hackers guessing passwords or tunneling through electronic firewalls, but the evidence here suggests hackers got in by sending Times employees rigged emails.
"This is a frequent tactic used in targeted attacks," says Chester Wisniewski, a computer security expert at Sophos. "The difference between targeted attacks and any other attack, you might say, is that you have a specific goal in mind -- you want a particular piece of information, or you want a particular person, or people around them, at least, to become infected so you can get access to that information.
"This is different than the way that people think about typical computer viruses just spreading -- in the old days, from floppy disks, and now USB keys or poisoned websites. What's more scary is that you may not even know why you're being a target."
The New York Times had reported its Symantec anti-virus software failed to identify the malicious code. Symantec has now issued a statement that security requires multiple strategies, saying, "Anti-virus software alone is not enough."
This week, software developers in New York are getting their first hands-on look at Google's "Project Glass." A tiny computer screen on special spectacles less than an inche from your eyeball.
"What they are is basically glasses frames. You put them on your head, over your ears, like glasses. And, in the top right corner of your field of vision, they have this little transparent screen that can display text, and there's a little camera -- you can take photos, shoot videos. In theory, eventually you'll be able to make calls, get text messages -- everything you do today with your smart phone, but on your face,"says Will Oremus, who reported on the story, for online magazine, Slate.