WikiLeaks, Patents, Cyber-Attacks Lead Week's Security News

The government's case against Bradley Manning, Juniper's patent lawsuit against Palo Alto Networks and cyber-attacks were among this week's security headlines.

The United States government began presenting its case against Army Private Bradley Manning last week and continued this week. Manning is accused of illegally accessing thousands of classified documents and video and leaking it to the whistleblower site WikiLeaks. The witnesses for the prosecution admitted to a number of glaring security issues, such as not requiring a password to access the sensitive database, and allowing analysts to download games and upload content on to secure classified networks.

While vendors still battle each other on features, many have resorted to taking the fight to the courtroom by claiming patent infringement. Juniper Networks has joined the long line of companies in court by suing startup Palo Alto Networks for "willful" infringement of six firewall patents. However, this lawsuit has a twist. The founders of Palo Alto Networks actually invented the technology the patents cover when they were at a different startup before being acquired by Juniper.

The Wall Street Journal broke the news that the United States Chamber of Commerce, a lobbying organization, was hacked by an unknown person or group last year and stole six week's worth of emails belonging to four employees focusing on Asian policy. The Chamber confirmed the breach, but said the incident was limited in scope and the organization had already dealt with the issue.

"I wish I could delight in the schadenfreude some must feel knowing that a lobbying group who openly opposed tightening cyber-security laws themselves became a poster child for one of the most high-profile intrusions in the news in 2011," Andrew Brandt, director of threat research at Solera Networks Research Labs, told eWEEK. He added that he could "take no joy" in the knowledge that the attackers had succeeded.

The Iowa Republican Party said it was beefing up its infrastructure and improving its monitoring capabilities against potential cyber-attacks that may try to disrupt the Jan. 3 Iowa caucus for the 2012 presidential campaign. Cyber-threats, such as distributed-denial-of-service attacks (DDoS), will increasingly target high-profile individuals, such as politicians, and controversial Websites, said Carl Herberger, vice president of security solutions at Radware. Researchers have demonstrated ways attackers can remotely compromise electronic voting systems and the recent Russian election was marred with reports of DDoS attacks against media organizations reporting on charges of election fraud.

Microsoft unveiled yet another feature, the picture password protection, in the upcoming Windows 8 operating system this week. The new system would allow users to select a personal image and assign a series of gestures to the image. When the user wants to log on to the system, the user would have to select the correct image and then use the proper sequence of images before it would unlock the machine, Microsoft claimed.

While Congress goes on holiday and House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith agreed to delay work on the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act till January, SOPA still was in the news this week. Customers were outraged that domain registrar GoDaddy supported SOPA called for a boycott and started moving their domains to competitors. The protest spread over Twitter, and competing registrars took advantage of the outrage by posting various discount codes to entice GoDaddy customers away. While the domain giant reaffirmed its support in a statement issued late Dec. 22, it backed down less than a day later and said it would withdraw its support of the bill. While asserting that "fighting online piracy is of the utmost importance," GoDaddy admitted in a statement on Dec. 23: "We can clearly do better."