Operator No. 9: August 6, 2001

CEOs of data security companies must patiently pray that - yes! - this will be the week that some freaky, out-of- control virus metastasizes across the Internet, bringing everything in its path to a crashing halt and thereby demonstrating the ne

Were All Gonna Die!

CEOs of data security companies must patiently pray that — yes! — this will be the week that some freaky, out-of- control virus metastasizes across the Internet, bringing everything in its path to a crashing halt and thereby demonstrating the need for their products. With last weeks Code Red worm, the public relations hype machine was cranked to unprecedented levels. The Operator No. 9 prize for "Publicity Mongering Beyond the Call of Duty" goes to Vigilinx, a security consulting firm in New Jersey that forced unlucky public relations rep Tara Rogers to be on call for 24 hours to field calls about Code Red from bleary-eyed reporters. "I just kept my cell phone by my bedside all night," she says. She was awakened only twice: when ABC News and CNet Networks called in the wee hours. But, Rogers says, they called so early that there was nothing to report. Yawn. Lets go back to sleep . . .

Par 40,000

Pity the poor senior managers at Lucent Technologies. Besides having to fire thousands of employees, theyve now lost their favorite playground: In June, Lucent sold its Hamilton Farm Golf Club — a 5,000-acre compound in New Jerseys Somerset County — to a Maryland real estate developer for $51 million. Lucent, which reportedly spent $40 million to $45 million on the golf course, made a small profit on the deal. But why did the telecom equipment company own a country club — outfitted with a helicopter pad and a wine cellar, no less — in the first place? In headier times — you know, before Lucent cut 40,000 jobs — the top dogs imagined that the 36-hole golf course would be the perfect place to smoke cigars and cut deals with customers. I suppose that all seems too extravagant these days.

Microsofts Underground Campaign

If the panhandlers dont scare you on New York City subways this summer, maybe Steve Ballmer will. Microsoft has bought up advertising space covering entire sides of the citys subway cars — sporting such headlines as "Ouch" and "Yikes" — to warn businesses about the dangers of software piracy. Operator No. 9s Brooklyn agent spotted ads on the No. 6 and trains, though they undoubtedly blanket the entire metropolitan transit system. The ads — part of Microsofts nationwide effort with the Business Software Alliance to crack down on the utopian software-sharing mentality — direct straphangers to a Microsoft subsite (www.microsoft.com/piracy/go/subway), where New Yorkers can find out how to pay Microsoft more money for software licenses. Which Im sure many of you are just dying to do.

De Plane! De Plane!

In response to my July 16 item about the possibility of WorldComs new Denver data center being hit by a low-flying aircraft — Centennial Airport is right next door — a reader describes what he was told about AOLs new data center in Dulles, Va., which is right next to Dulles Airport: "The AOL data centers roof was engineered to shrug off the impact of a jet engine from a 747. No word about what will happen if the rest of the 747 hits as well."

Whats That Smell?

Seems more than a few people are finding themselves in a hell manufactured by EarthLink, as was the case with an Interactive Week free-lancer ("Hell on Earth[Link],"). Here is one story I just gotta share from a frustrated reader in California. "I had to laugh at your article about EarthLink. If they are the provider of the future, we are all in trouble. It took me a year . . . yes, a year, to get my DSL straightened out. I was a Netcom user, subsequently sucked up by MindSpring and then EarthStink. First, it was a three-ring circus between Covad [Communications]" — the readers DSL provider — "the phone company — PacBell — and MindSpring to get things coordinated, finger-pointing, etc. Service finally worked fine after four months of fiddling, unknown cancellations of service, new router and new phone line service, double-billing month after month after I would call them to have it removed. Then the connection went bad and I went through the whole scenario as a new account again over the next four to five months — same problems and issues." To add insult to injury, he tells me EarthLink just raised its rates from $39.95 to $49.95 "without so much as a notice . . . I called them and after having to transfer to three different places, the lady was able to look up and confirm I had not been notified and would credit me $10 for a month." Earth to EarthLink: Looks like you need to work on your customer ser-vice. Big time.

"It is not how long it is, but where it goes thats important."

— Camille Mendler, the Yankee Groups director of convergent communications in Europe, describing the long-distance fiber glut in Europe as "boys with toys" concentrating on pan-regional networks and ignoring metro connectivity.

Call a Plumber

In his testimony before the U.S. Senates Judiciary Committee last month at an oversight hearing on cybercrime enforcement, noted security expert Chris Klaus, chief technology officer of Internet Security Systems, provided the following analogy for a distributed denial-of-service attack: "Its like clogging a toilet with too much toilet paper — it overflows." The senators seemed to grasp the concept immediately.

I Guess Thats Why They Call It the Blues

This might be a useful economic indicator for the tech sector: the amount companies will cough up for rock star performances. Nortel Networks, which last month posted one of the largest quarterly losses in corporate history — $19.4 billion — sponsored a 75-minute Elton John concert for 500 guests at the June SuperComm trade show in Atlanta. But a company swirling down the drain wouldnt really pony up the $500,000 that the aging pop singer is rumored to command for a corporate appearance, would it? Of course not. Its no surprise that Nortel went with Sir Elton, a middle-of-the-pay-scale performer already under contract for advertising and not, say, Carlos Santana, who charges $750,000 per hour. Ill start seriously worrying about the company when we see a Nortel banner hanging outside a Village People show.

Naked Ambition

Sure, security vendors may turn into publicity sharks when they sense viruses on the Net. But no one beats the Naked Broadcasting Network for audacious self-promotion. The Toronto company, which produces NakedNews.com — "the program with nothing to hide," featuring stripping newscasters — last week proudly trumpeted its auditions at L.A.s hip Elan Hotel Modern looking for men and women eager to remove their underpants. The company promises — ahem — good exposure to wannabe nudecasters: It claims NakedNews attracts 6 million visitors per month. Oy — just wake me when its all over.