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A roundup of the latest high-tech news “Hot Off the Wire” from The Associated Press and Local Tech Wire:
• Report: U.S. lacks staff, power to protect networks
WASHINGTON — The federal agency in charge of securing the government’s computer systems is unable to monitor the networks or analyze threats in real time, and it lacks the authority and staff it needs to do its job, according to an internal report.
The (known as CERT) must share information about threats and trends more quickly and in greater detail with other federal departments so they can better protect themselves, the audit said.
Issued Wednesday by the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general, the report lays out criticism that long has been aired by U.S. officials and outside experts who say the government’s computer systems are vulnerable to attacks, are persistently probed, and lack the needed management and security standards.
And it highlights many of the problems Congress is trying to address in a number of bills aimed at creating a more effective government structure to improve and enforce security standards.
Cyber security has become a top priority for the government, bolstered by President Barack Obama’s declaration last year that it is "one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face." Officials say U.S. networks are scanned and probed millions of times a day, and in some cases breached by hackers, cyber criminals and other nations.
The 35-page report said the Computer Emergency Readiness Team, which is a part of DHS, has made progress helping federal agencies protect against computer-based threats, including the creation of a cyber center. But it said the team does not have the enforcement authority it needs to get other federal agencies to take the steps required to secure their systems.
In a detailed response to the report, DHS Undersecretary Rand Beers noted that the inspector general did not make a recommendation on how the agency could gain more enforcement authority. But he said the agency agrees that giving DHS more formal authority would be helpful.
The report also said the Computer Emergency Readiness Team has been plagued with staff shortages and leadership turnover, hindering its ability to retain qualified staff. And due to the security clearance process, it can take nine months to 12 months for a new hire to begin work.
DHS is in the middle of a major boost in staffing. In early 2009, the readiness team had 16 employees, but the number jumped to 31 by October, and is now at 55, with another 25 workers in the hiring process.
• AT&T ends test of data limits for DSL subscribers
NEW YORK — AT&T (NYSE: T) recently imposed limits on the data consumption of its customers with smart phones, but it has ended a test of such limits for home Internet connections.
The phone company confirmed this week that it is no longer holding DSL subscribers in Reno, Nev., and Beaumont, Texas, to data consumption limits and charging them extra if they go over.
With AT&T’s retreat, no major Internet service provider is championing the idea of charging subscribers for their data usage.
AT&T’s trial started in November 2008 in Reno, and was later extended to Beaumont. It ended on April 1 this year, said AT&T spokeswoman Dawn Benton.
• Nokia gives Q2 profit warning
HELSINKI — Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) warned Wednesday that its earnings this year will be hit by tough competition from rivals in the smart phone market. The news sent its stock down 9 percent.
The world’s largest mobile phone maker said competition "particularly at the high-end of the market" would force net sales in the current period to be "at the lower end of, or slightly below, its previously expected range of €6.7 billion to €7.2 billion ($8.2 billion to 8.8 billion)."
Nokia also said its operating margin in the period would be at the low end or below its previous prediction of 9 to 12 percent.
The company’s share price plummeted, closing down 8.9 percent at €7.21 ($8.85) on the Helsinki Stock Exchange.
Nokia stock has continued a downward trend since it fell 14 percent on the April 21 release of its first-quarter earnings report, as the company is seen as losing out against competition.
While it is still a global leader in smart phones, it’s struggling to compete in the expensive segment with rivals such as iPhone-maker Apple Inc. and Research in Motion Ltd., which makes BlackBerry handsets.
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