CNET News: A recent analysis of a popular piece of software used to store corporate intellectual property has been found to be easily hacked by a major computer security company. Elinor Mills’ McAfee: Source code is easy target within corporations details the the failings of the Perforce IP protection software program:
McAfee analyzed a commonly used software for housing intellectual property called Perforce and released its findings during a session at the RSA security conference here. The company helped in the discovery that a hole in Internet Explorer 6 was exploited in at least some of the recent attacks on U.S. firms and named the attacks “Operation Aurora” after the malware used.
Stuart McClure, general manager risk compliance at McAfee, offers his thoughts on the software’s inadequate security:
In Perforce, McAfee found that there are no additional security mechanisms in place, so the security is only as strong as the security already created on the system, according to McClure. Many of the usernames and passwords get transmitted as clear text and authentication can be totally bypassed, he said.
“Strictly by knowing a user name, which I can figure out, I can assume the identity of that user within the Perforce system,” he said. “Source code control systems tend to be one of the most open systems we have inside an organization,” he added.
The recent attack by Chinese hackers in search of intellectual property via Google’s Gmail product and the ease with which such attempts to gather valuable IP have bypassed the very security software meant to protect companies and their innovations should serve as a serious warning to beef up computer systems and take a ‘belt-and-suspenders’ approach to locking down sensitive information.
WIPO: The World Intellectual Property Organization has released their most recent edition of their IP-focused magazine and focuses heavily on the issue of IP litigation costs. The digital magazine is available in either Web or *.pdf form and is provided at no cost. For more information, visit the WIPO Magazine website and read Special Edition: IP Litigation Costs – 1/2010 (February). Here’s an introductory snippet to whet your IP appetite:
This issue of the WIPO Magazine on IP Litigation Costs addresses the aforementioned challenges in IP litigation and looks in particular at the costs and particularities of IP dispute resolution in jurisdictions such as Africa, Europe, Japan and the U.S. The WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center, co-editor of this issue, explains the benefits of Alternative Dispute Resolution, which appears to be an efficient way out of costly and complex IP litigation. Finally, a range of useful practical tips are provided for minimizing IP dispute settlement costs.
IPWatchdog.com: In a welcome change of tenor, Gene Quinn offers up some Dilbert comic strips in the interest of highlighting the importance of documenting the process of coming up with an innovative product or idea. Quinn’s piece should get a chuckle or two from even the staunchest of readers and you’ve got to give him credit for lightening up an otherwise dry subject. Here’s the takeaway once the laughter dies down:
Successful inventors will treat their pursuits as a business, keep appropriate records and not unnecessarily waste time (MONEY) by giving their patent attorneys or agents little or nothing useful to work with. To be sure, if the proponents of patent reform get their way this will matter less in the grand scheme of things because inventors will need to file as soon as practical and not rely on the pipe dream of being the first to invent, which almost never actually leads to the true first inventor being the one who is awarded a patent anyway.
Seeing as we all could use a laugh now and again, I recommend the gentle, constant reader click through to Patent Law Fun & Lessons: What Dilbert Teaches About Inventing and ease into the weekend on the right foot.
Vassar College: If you happen to be near Poughkeepsie, New York, on April 7th, you might be interested in attending a lecture by physicist (quantum mechanics) turned economist, Claude Henry. The program is provided at no cost and will feature Henry’s thoughts on intellectual property and some possible replacements/amendments to the current system of IP protection. “In his lecture Henry will address whether intellectual property helps disseminate the body of innovation required for switching to a more sustainable development trajectory, or whether it acts as an obstacle. He will explore what alternatives might be promoted.” You can read more of Henry’s bio and learn additional details about his upcoming lecture in the aptly-titled Economist Claude Henry will discuss intellectual property and innovation on April 7, 2010.
Daring Fireball: John Gruber provides an excellent take on the HTC vs. Apple patent fight in his recent topical blog post, This Apple-HTC Patent Thing. In it, Gruber references a number of other outspoken hackers who believe that Apple’s strategic litigatory move might signal a sea change in technology patent law. Gruber offers some food for thought on the viability of software patents:
There’s an argument to be made that software is inherently different than other fields of invention, different in such a way that patents should not apply — or, should apply for a significantly shorter period of time before expiring. You can’t (or at least shouldn’t) be able to patent mathematics, and there are good arguments that programming is a branch of mathematics. But because software patents are granted, concede at least for the moment that certain kinds of software innovations ought to be patentable. Even with that in mind, clearly the U.S. Patent Office is and has granted patents for things which ought not be patentable. Not just silly frivolous things, but patents that have been granted for concepts alone, rather than specific innovative implementations of said concepts. Ideas in the abstract, rather than implementations of ideas.
That old bugaboo ‘obviousness’ comes to mind. And Gruber thinks Apple’s lawsuit over a portion of their patent portfolio’s contents is a sign of things to come. “This litigation, perhaps then, isn’t about particular specific patented components, but rather is about the big idea, the general gist and grand ambition of the iPhone as the basic model for how modern mobile devices should be designed and work.” How things pan out remains to be seen but one thing is for sure: Apple has just thrown a huge boulder into the smartphone patent pond and the ripples will continue to be felt for some time.