Stories by Michelle Goldberg

A Heyday for Hackers

Guess Yahoo Inc. didn't make up its hack after all. Yesterday, four other major Web sites suffered similar denial-of-service attacks. Almost everyone in the media agreed that the person or group responsible for taking down Yahoo on Monday had probably perpetrated the new attacks, too. Buy.com, eBay, Amazon.com and CNN.com all fell victim Tuesday, leading to a rush of hand-wringing tech stories all saying, essentially, that if these sites are vulnerable, no one is safe.

Amazon.com's Real Security Problem

Crackers weren't Amazon.com Inc.'s only problem yesterday. If fact, its PR people can be grateful that the string of attacks diverted the media's attention from problems that could prove to be more embarrassing: privacy lawsuits and an FTC probe. The lawsuits allege that Amazon subsidiary Alexa - which, when installed in a Web browser, tracks surfers' online movements and suggests related Web sites - "secretly intercepts personal data and sends the information to third parties, including Alexa's parent company, Amazon.com," wrote the AP's Michael J. Martinez. The FTC is conducting an "informal probe" of Alexa, both Reuters and the AP reported.

Drsnoop.com

Hypochondriacs love the Web, that great depository of scary diagnoses and obscure diseases. But there may be reason for them to fear the Web, too. According to a new report by the California HealthCare Foundation, when you use the Web to look up the symptoms of syphilis, others may be checking up on you.

Matt Wishnow's Underground Ambitions

Matt Wishnow is not waiting for his IPO. He has no plans to retire before he's 30. In fact, though his business is a music e-commerce site, he doesn't even want to corner the mainstream music market. "Our positioning statement is 'neglecting the average music fan,'" he says half-jokingly.

Oh, and Speaking of Privacy

DoubleClick's information-gathering methods were cited among the privacy lapses reported by the California HealthCare Foundation. And to make things even harder for DoubleClick's PR crew, the privacy group Center for Democracy and Technology has launched a campaign against the Internet ad-placement company. As CNET reported, the CDT moved in response to DoubleClick's new plan to tie records of Web surfers' online behavior to their actual identities. The new consumer profile database would "include each user's name and address; retail, catalog and online purchase history; and demographic data," CNET's Evan Hansen wrote.

Victory in the Toy Wars

Despite the way e-commerce has changed the Web in the past few years, the success Zurich-based conceptual art group etoy has had in beating back an attack by the massive online store eToys suggests that the old insurgent Net culture remains a vital force. As Wired News reported, the toy company eToys has agreed to drop its copyright-infringement suit against etoy and to pay the group up to $40,000 in legal fees and expenses. In return, wrote Wired News' Steve Kettmann, etoy has dropped its countersuit against the e-retailer.

David and Goliath: The Sequel

Though David won one in the etoy battle, Goliath came out ahead in a separate conflict between businessmen and old-school geeks, as a 16-year-old hacker was arrested in Norway. Teenager Jon Johansen was one of the programmers behind DeCSS, a program that breaks through the encryption code of DVDs - much to the chagrin of the Motion Picture Association of America. Police seized several computers, a Nokia cellular phone and some CDs from Johansen's home, and, according to Wired News writer Lynn Burke, questioned Johansen for nearly seven hours. CNET's Courtney Macavinta reported that Johansen was charged with breaking security to gain unauthorized access to data or software, and he and his father, on whose homepage the program was posted, were charged with copyright infringement. Both face two to three years in prison if convicted, Macavinta wrote.

The Pull of Push

Remember push? The technology that was supposed to be the future of the Web, before it withered and died before it really got off the ground? Well, it's back, if one can believe RealNetworks. And even if the company's new Quicksilver music service fails to resurrect push, at least it's given the media a good angle on RealNetworks' latest play.

Craven iCraveTV

The behemoths of U.S. broadcasting are out to quash iCraveTV, a Canadian Web site that rebroadcasts American and Canadian TV programs on the Web. Two separate lawsuits were filed yesterday, one by the NFL and the NBA, and one by 10 movie companies and three TV networks. As CNET reported, the first suit asks for $150,000 per broadcast - for a total of $5.4 million - as well as additional unspecified financial penalties. The movie company and TV network lawsuit is asking the courts to shut down iCraveTV immediately, the story said.

Crusoe: Revolution or Anticlimax?

The ultra-secretive Silicon Valley company Transmeta Corp. unveiled its new line of processors Wednesday, and nearly everyone in the business press was there. Transmeta's product, as you surely know by now, is an energy-saving chip family called Crusoe that promises to increase the battery life for laptops and handheld devices. The story got major play all over the media. Some sites, including Wired News and MSNBC, even ran two stories. Overall, reporters were torn between their instincts towards hyperbole and cynicism, resulting in a disparity in tone between stories with exactly the same facts.

Gemstar Wants to Bring E-Books to the Masses

Will the company that bought TV Guide last fall be able to jump-start the market for electronic books? That's the question in stories about Gemstar's stock-for-stock deal to acquire the two leading e-book device manufacturers, NuvoMedia and SoftBook Press.

Hacking for Credit

Journalists often say that three of anything equals a trend. If so, get ready for a raft of hand-wringing stories about online (in)security. Just a week after a cracker stole credit card numbers from CD Universe, here come reports that hackers broke into Visa's European headquarters in a failed blackmail attempt. Meanwhile, MSNBC reported that reporters were able to view 4,000 personal account numbers sitting "in plain view" on the Web site of GlobalHealthtrax, a multilevel marketing health-product Web site. "What's worse," wrote MSNBC's Bob Sullivan, "these included not just credit card numbers, but in some cases bank account numbers - everything a criminal would need to print their own checks and empty a victim's account."

Slow Justice in Net Death Threat Case

In what may have been the first case of its kind, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development yesterday charged Ryan Wilson with civil-rights violations for threatening a housing activist on his Web site, the AP reported. But as Wired News' Lakshmi Chaudhry wrote in a far more comprehensive story, it took victim Bonnie Jouhari nearly two years to get the government to press charges - suggesting that the Department of Justice still isn't sure how to handle Net threats.

MP3.com Lets You Listen to Music You Already Own

In a new move by MP3.com, users can listen to CDs they already own, via streaming audio from any computer connected to the Internet. In addition, they can instantly hear any disc they buy from an affiliated retailer. The deal was all over the press, but few captured the problems inherent in the scheme. As Reuters explained, using MP3's new Beam-it software, "songs from a user's personal music collection that match those in MP3.com's database of 40,000 disks, are transferred to an MP3.com account from those disks. The user can then access the password-protected account, instantly playing, or 'streaming,' the songs via software like Winamp or RealPlayer."

Market Place