Bits & Bytes
THE BEST DEFENSE REMAINS A GOOD OFFENSE
INFORMATION ABOUT EVEN well-publicized security glitches and hacker attacks on corporate networks is often skimpy in details. That leaves many execs to wonder just how dangerous a particular security flaw might be, let alone how to prevent it on their corporate network. Axent Technologies Inc., a software maker in Rockville, Md., figures that the best first-line defense against hackers and security loopholes is intelligence.
Axent Vice-President Robert A. Clyde says the company, which makes Internet "firewalls" and other Net security software products, already has detailed information on more than 50 potential network-safeguard problems--many of them discovered by Axent's "SWAT" team of "ethical hackers." By publishing all of the details on its SWAT Web site, Axent believes it can help busy information-systems managers stay on top of serious Net issues--and perhaps steer them to Axent's security products. More than just a marketing tool, however, the site (www.axent.com/swat/ swat.htm) also links to bug fixes on other software makers' Web sites. And the SWAT page maintains links to hard-to-find Web sites that are home to hackers, making it an easy starting point for those interested in the hacker culture.EDITED BY PAUL M. ENGReturn to top
KITCHEN PCs THAT CAN STAND THE HEAT
JOHN T. OPINCAR KNOWS from experience that PCs and hamburgers don't mix. In 1992, he was selling restaurant-management software and computers to Bexar Burgers, Inc., a local fast-food chain in San Antonio. But when summer arrived, the installed PCs would quit, halted by the heat and grease-laden air.
His response: startup Iron Computer Corp. The Austin (Tex.) company developed an environmentally sealed PC with built-in air conditioning, fail-safe power supply, and a composite shell. Opincar thinks his Iron PCs, which start at $1,600, will thrive in harsh environments where office PCs often fail. And while Iron PCs won't begin shipping until this fall, Opincar is now trying to finance his company through an initial public offering solely over the Internet. He hopes to raise $1.2 million to $9.4 million. So far, Iron Computer has posted a loss of $381,000 for the nine months ended April 30.
Opincar's previous company, Flexsales Systems Inc., foundered in 1995 after a dispute with Sears, Roebuck & Co. over the moniker of his first machines: Diehard PCs. This time, he hopes Iron PCs will be a hot seller.EDITED BY PAUL M. ENG By Gary McWilliamsReturn to top
THESE `CATS' COULD CHASE OFF YOUR MOUSE
WHEN IS A COMPUTER MOUSE not a mouse? When it's a cat. To keep up with the added capabilities in Microsoft's Windows 95 operating system and the ever-growing influence of Web browsers, Cirque Corp. has introduced its Cat series of touchpads.
The new $29 Easy Cat features a textured area in the upper right corner that mimics the right button of a typical mouse. That gives Cat users the same capability as double-tapping on the right to bring up a standard pop-up window for such tasks as creating a new document. Another model, the $49 Smart Cat, adds two textured buttons, labeled "forward" and "back," at the top of the pad to navigate Web pages without having to move the on-screen cursor. Scrolling down a long Web page requires just a swipe of a finger down a textured strip on the right side of the pad. And the top-of-the-line $79 Power Cat features a stylus to easily add digital signatures to on-screen documents. The Cats are due in computer stores by Aug. 1.EDITED BY PAUL M. ENGReturn to top