Wireless Security and More IT Fun

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Paris Hilton’s Contribution to Information Security (No, Really!)
Back in February, hotel heiress and omnipresent socialite Paris Hilton was in the news yet again, this time because her cellular phone was hacked. Not really a huge news item, except for the fact that much of the content taken from the device was posted on the Internet shortly thereafter, leading to hundreds of unwanted phone calls to a whole galaxy of stars from crank callers as far away as Japan and Israel. I guess it is a small world, after all. The contact information divulged to the entire planet ranged from that of “musicians” like Eminem and Ashlee Simpson to (for some reason) author Stephen King and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. Almost all of these celebrities had to quickly change their numbers and—break out the Kleenex, folks—were very, very upset about this brief intrusion into their insulated world of luxury.

In case you’re wondering, Certification Magazine has not gone to a tabloid format. I bring this up because of its impact on public perception of information security, particularly in the wireless arena. Many more people now know what we in the IT industry have known for a while now: Security ain’t no joke. Portable devices like laptops, PDAs and cell phones—more popular than ever—continue to be especially susceptible to attacks. Thus, a great deal of highly sensitive information (like Ashley Olsen’s phone number, for example) stored on and transferred though networks is currently at risk. One can only hope that this high-profile case will lead to a greater awareness of the potential hazards on the part of users of any network, wireless or otherwise, and serve as a wake-up call for any organization not taking adequate steps to secure data storage and transmission.

IT Idol Redux
In a recent column, I briefly discussed some of the best-known luminaries in IT, as voted on in our Web poll by our readers. Bill Gates and Linus Torvalds were a couple of the predictable “contestants” in our IT idol contest, but we also included a none-of-the-above category and encouraged you to tell us who we left out. Well, one of you did.

Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (1906-1992) of the U.S. Navy might not have had the money or fame that the other individuals in our poll do, but her contribution to IT was no less significant than theirs and, in a sense, made their successes possible. This techie pioneer got her start in the field in the 1940s, when she helped program applications on the Mark I, Mark II and Mark III computers at Harvard University’s Cruft Laboratory. (She was credited with developing the term “bug” for computer glitches while working on the Mark II.) Although she remained in the military almost her entire professional career, Hopper began work in the private sector in 1949, taking a position with Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corp.

In the 1950s, Hopper started work on the UNIVAC I and UNIVAC II, which she taught to comprehend English language words and phrases through FLOW-MATIC, a B-0 compiler akin to binary code. Some of her acolytes went on to use this compiler to develop COBOL in 1959. Hopper received the Data Processing Management Association’s first-ever Computer Science Man-of-the-Year Award in 1969, and also was awarded in 1991 the National Medal of Technology, the highest accolade in engineering and technology in the United States.

The achievements of this remarkable woman could fill out this entire column. Suffice to say, Hopper’s example is one all IT professionals can follow. Her professional life is especially inspirational for women (a traditionally underrepresented group in IT).

Brian Summerfield is associate editor for Certification Magazine. Send him your favorite study tips and tech tricks at brians@certmag.com.


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