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As security improves, hackers find more vulnerable targets

Associated Press

As people heed warnings to install the latest security updates for Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating systems and Internet Explorer browsers, researchers say hackers have been shifting their focus to applications that are harder to protect.

The SANS Institute’s annual list of top Internet security threats includes a separate category for “cross-platform applications” for the first time.

Data-backup programs, media players and anti-virus software were added to the list, joining instant messaging and file-sharing applications before listed under Windows threats.

Most of these programs lack auto-updating mechanisms now available to automatically take care of the Microsoft threats, setting the state of security back five or six years, said Alan Paller, director of research as SANS, a security training and research organization.

Backup programs are of particular concern because they are used by businesses to duplicate the most sensitive data, such as financial and hospital records, Paller said.

SANS considers the list — at http://www.sans.org/top20 — a consensus among security professionals of the vulnerabilities that require immediate attention.

Female chancellor creates tech challenge

The election of a woman as Germany’s chancellor presented government techies with an immediate challenge.

With gender-based spellings in German, the chancellor’s Web site could no longer be bundeskanzler.de. Angela Merkel’s official title is “Bundeskanzlerin,” with the feminine ending “-in” — but bundeskanzlerin.de was already taken.

Now it appears the owner of the feminine version is willing to cede it.

On the bundeskanzlerin.de Web site was an announcement that its owner, Lars M. Heitmueller, had registered it in 1998 to “hold in trust” until a woman got the job and he could officially turn them over. Merkel took power Tuesday as Germany’s first female chancellor.

For now, the official chancellor Web site, complete with photos of the new leader and details of her career, appears at the slightly unwieldy bundeskanzlerin.bundesregierung.de.

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