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IPv6 Gains Government Traction

The U.S. has been slow to upgrade its IP network infrastructure to the now-mature IPv6 protocol. IPv6’s advantages, including address space, security, quality of service, and improved network management, thus far have failed to win over key players. Why? A recent study by INS (International Network Services) might provide the answer. The study found that for many companies, switching to IPv6 would not result in a high enough return on investment to justify the expense.

There are, however, signs of change. The U.S. government, which does consider IPv6’s benefits—especially security—to provide a worthwhile ROI, will soon begin testing new IPv6 networks at a state-of-the-art facility in Virginia being developed jointly by Spirent Federal Systems and v6 Transition. It will serve primarily U.S. government agencies, such as the Department of Defense, which plans to convert all of its networks to IPv6 by 2008. With such heavyweight support, this might be just what is needed to pull corporate America into the IPv6 universe.


Search-as-a-Service Gets Serious

Google, MSN, and Yahoo all have received a lot of attention for their growing lists of services with published APIs for Web application developers. Witness the proliferation of mashups—scores of new Web apps that leverage these companies’ search or mapping services in novel ways.

A less-prominent player in this arena recently upped the ante. Alexa Internet is an Amazon subsidiary famed for its search index, which powers the Internet Archive. Like the big three, it has decided to make its search service available to developers, yet Alexa’s service apparently offers deeper search access than Google, MSN, and Yahoo. With Alexa, developers can access not only the entire index of more than 4 billion Web pages, but also the data contained within those pages (more than 300 terabytes).

Alexa’s offering differs not only in scale but also in price. While the current popular Web search APIs are essentially free, Alexa charges customers based on the number of requests they make to the service. Should the service take off, we’ll likely witness a flowering of new, search-intensive applications. No word yet on whether the big three will follow, but we can be sure they are watching this very closely.

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When Detecting Life, Is Biometrics All Thumbs?

When thumbprint readers began appearing on laptops last year, many saw it—for better or worse—as a step toward the ubiquitous biometrics we see portrayed in slick, big-budget sci-fi movies. Recent tests conducted by Clarkson University show those days might be a lot further off than expected. A team of researchers was able to trick a thumbprint reader using a variety of spoofing techniques, from full plaster casts of fingers to simple imprints in Play-Doh. These tests highlight a serious flaw that plagues these scanners: They don’t detect living tissue. All someone needs to do to gain access to your laptop is a reasonably good impression of your thumbprint… or your thumb itself! In a rather macabre twist, the researchers showed that the thumbprint readers performed fine using the severed thumbs of cadavers.

The discoveries have inspired new research aimed toward perfecting this immature technology. The Clarkson researchers found that one of the easiest ways to detect living tissue is through perspiration: Plaster fingers don’t sweat. The researchers found that sweat creates a distinct pattern of moisture around the fingerprint that can be modeled on computers. Software programmed to look for this pattern is then better able to differentiate live thumbprints from spoofed ones. Using their prepared samples of Play-Doh and plaster, the researchers were able to fool the thumbprint readers 90 percent of the time. This number dropped to 10 percent once the “sweat algorithm” was implemented in the reader’s software.

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Originally published in Queue vol. 4, no. 1
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