Winners and Losers 2005

Though it hardly counts as the worst of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's transgressions during Katrina, the FEMA site where displaced people could apply for federal aid worked only with Internet Explorer and JavaScript. Relief workers using donated computers were forced to use the notoriously insecure browser to enter hurricane victims' personal information. Seems like everybody at FEMA was doing one heckava job.

WINNER: Apple Computer

Apple started the year with the Mac Mini, a pint-size $499 Macintosh sans monitor, and ended it with the long-awaited video-enabled IPod. In between, Apple announced it would start using Intel chips in its new line of Macs. The first Intel-based Macs should debut at around the same time as Windows Vista, which could lead to the first serious OS competition since, oh, 1989. All in all, a very good year in Apple-achia.

LOSER: Apple Computer

For a company that turned rumor wrangling into an art form, Apple proved mighty touchy when rumor sites revealed information about the Mac Mini and other products weeks before the company's official announcements. Touchy enough, in fact, to sic their legal beagles upon them. In one case, a California judge ruled the sites could not protect the anonymity of their sources (that ruling is currently under appeal). Apparently, the sites broke St. Steven of Jobs' 10th Commandment: Thou shalt not release information without prior approval. The result? Apple still doesn't have the information it sought, but did get a ton of bad PR.

LOSER: Cisco Systems

When Cisco Systems learned a third-party consultant planned to discuss security flaws in its software at last July's Black Hat conference, the company demanded he change his presentation and instructed conference employees to tear the relevant pages out of the Black Hat program. No matter; Mike Lynn gave his presentation anyway, and the resulting uproar over Cisco's response blew back in the company's face. Cisco says it has fixed the flaws Lynn identified. However, Lynn has recently claimed that Cisco's Internetwork Operating System--software used by thousands of Internet routers--is riddled with other bugs, some more serious than the one he revealed last July.

WINNER: Juniper Networks

In November, Cisco's primary competitor in the router market, Juniper Networks, hired a new networking security expert. His name? Mike Lynn.

LOSER: Sony BMG Entertainment

Adding copy protection to CDs is onerous enough, but Sony BMG Entertainment and its tech partner First 4 Internet went completely beyond the pale. Insert certain Sony BMG CDs into your PC's disc drive and they would secretly install First 4 Internet's XCP software, which not only limited the number of copies you could make, but also made your system vulnerable to hack attacks. Sony BMG then posted a "fix" that made matters worse, before issuing a recall of the music CDs, offering refunds, and promising to discontinue using XCP. It turns out the record company knew about the vulnerability for at least two weeks before blogger Mark Russinovich made the news public last Halloween. Thanks for sharing, Sony.

EXTREME LOSER: Sony BMG Entertainment

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