Originally created 01/31/05

Techbits: Identity theft, ABC News digital and more

NEW YORK - Despite growing fears about online fraud, a new study finds that most cases of identity theft originate offline.

Most often, a lost or stolen wallet or checkbook gives thieves information to commit fraud. Computer crimes made up just 12 percent of all identity fraud cases in which the cause is known; and of those half are attributed to spyware, the software that sneaks onto computers and can send back private information.

"Most people's identity is being stolen in traditional ways," said Ken Hunter, president and chief executive of the Better Business Bureau, which conducted the study with Javelin Research.

CheckFree Services Corp., Visa USA and Wells Fargo Bank - three companies that promote online banking and other services - sponsored the study, which also found that identity fraud is often committed by a friend, relative, in-home employee or someone else known by the victim.

The study also found that those who access their bank accounts online can detect identity theft earlier and thus minimize losses.

-Anick Jesdanun, AP Internet Writer.


NEW YORK (AP) - ABC News is ending a digital television experiment it began with last summer's political conventions.

Beginning this weekend, its 24-hour-a-day news feed will be available only over the Internet and through wireless devices. "ABC News Now" had also been available on the digital channels of nearly 70 ABC affiliates; such channels require digital cable service or a television capable of receiving digital broadcasts.

Although the network is pleased with the digital experiment, it needed to re-evaluate what distribution methods made the most sense, ABC News spokeswoman Julie Summersgill said. Internet and wireless distribution will continue because ABC News has multiyear deals with such partners as America Online Inc., she said.

The network still considers "ABC News Now" to be the future of television news, allowing viewers to watch from whatever platform is most convenient, be it a cell phone or a computer. Yet the audience is very small - in the thousands, compared with millions for regular TV.

Prior to the conventions, ABC began distributing the program on digital channels in an experiment intended to last through Election Day. The network extended that through last week's inauguration before deciding to end the experiment.

Summersgill said ABC News remains committed to the program and is beginning to hire permanent staffers; before it had borrowed personnel from other ABC News shows.

-Anick Jesdanun, AP Internet Writer.


BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - Computer scientists are developing software to scan Arabic documents, including handwritten ones, for specific words and phrases, filling a void that became apparent following the Sept. 11. attacks.

Besides helping with intelligence gathering, the software should expand access to modern and ancient Arabic manuscripts. It will allow Arabic writings to be digitized and posted on the Web.

"The whole Internet is skewed toward people who speak English," said Venu Govindaraju, director of the Center for Unified Biometrics and Sensors at the University at Buffalo, where the software is being developed.

Govindaraju fears that if optical character recognition software isn't developed for a particular language, "then all the classic texts in that language will disappear into oblivion."

Bill Young, an Arab language specialist at the University of Maryland, said the software could help scan through masses of typed pages for specific names or words, though he cautioned that handwritten Arabic presents serious challenges for computers.

For instance, the word mas'uul, meaning responsible, can be written in more than one way, he said. So the software would have to be given instructions about possible variations.

Govindaraju, who helped develop software to recognize handwritten addresses in English, said the Arabic software would take into account the fact that characters may take different forms depending on where within a word they appear, and that Arabic vowels are pronounced but often not written.

-Carolyn Thompson, AP Writer.


NEW YORK (AP) - America Online will stop providing direct access to Usenet newsgroups, one of the earliest forums on the Internet for people to discuss a large variety of topics from television shows to software to sex.

The move to drop AOL next month comes as usage of the service has shrunk to fewer than 1,000 users a month. AOL has some 23 million subscribers in the United States alone.

Dropping Usenet will let AOL focus more on more popular community features such as message boards, chat rooms and online journals, said AOL spokeswoman Jay Esmele.

AOL users still would be able to access Usenet groups from other providers, including Google Inc., which packages the newsgroups for free as "Google Groups."

Thousands of Usenet groups exist, covering a range of topics. They go by such names as "alt.tv.amazing-race," a discussion forum for the reality series "The Amazing Race." Though Usenet groups are generally text-based, some exist for exchanging photographs and music files.

-Anick Jesdanun, AP Internet Writer.


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