Thursday AM October 26th, 2006

Web security software firm warns of more sophisticated cyber-extortion…Tanox begins new clinical trial of TNX-650 as potential asthma treatment…New medical park planned for the Woodlands… The recent 2006 Semi-Annual Web Security Trends Report from Websense warns of more sophisticated cyber-extortion and other Internet threats. Websense produces security and filtering productivity software. Dan Hubbard is the […]

Web security software firm warns of more sophisticated cyber-extortion…Tanox begins new clinical trial of TNX-650 as potential asthma treatment…New medical park planned for the Woodlands…

The recent 2006 Semi-Annual Web Security Trends Report from Websense warns of more sophisticated cyber-extortion and other Internet threats. Websense produces security and filtering productivity software. Dan Hubbard is the company’s Vice President of Security Research.

“Number one is, you know, very large increase–to the tune of a 100 percent increase–in the number of Web sites that are storing malicious code designed to steal information from users. So, a much higher volume than previously. Also, the types of attacks out there, becoming a lot more sophisticated and a lot harder to detect. Finally, there is a lot of statistics and a lot of data in there that does towards the fact that there are professionals at work. And actually there are criminals which are selling these toolkits which allow non-technical people who are also criminals to attack people on the Internet and steal information from them and/or their companies.”

Hubbard says scams on the Internet are a lot more legitimate-looking than earlier attempts.

“Yeah, it’s gotten a lot more sophisticated from, you know, in the past, where we used to just see, you know, poor grammar within an e-mail which would, you know, connect you to some type of Web site that was usually hosted in some foreign country and, you know, had some strange name, to, you know, now: very good deception techniques that mask themselves as corporations and that mask themselves as fake news stories and things like that. And then quite often other ways to get code onto you machine, such as, you know, the search engines, and spoofing the search engines, so when you search for things that are common, links come up and you click on those links and can be infected.”

Hubbard says the Websense report finds a 100 percent increase in Web sites designed to install keyloggers, screen scrapers and other forms of crimeware on the computers of Web surfers.

Tanox has begun a new clinical trial of TNX-650 as a potential asthma treatment. Tanox is also evaluating the effect of the drug as a potential treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The company’s drug Xolair, developed in collaboration with Genentech and Novartis, also treats asthma. Tanox is based in Houston, but has a manufacturing facility in San Diego.

San Antonio-based HEB is launching its discount drug plan, offering a monthly supply of 500 generic drugs. Customers can sign up for a free prescription card at HEB pharmacies in Texas, allowing users to save up to 50 percent on brand and generic prescription drugs. It also allows provides free health screenings and educational information.

A new medical park is planned for the Woodlands, with the first phase including a physician-owned two-story surgical hospital, rehabilitation hospital and medical offices. Ground is expected to be broken for the $40 million development in the first quarter of next year. Some 200 people are expected to be employed in the new facilities, with the first phase expected to open in early 2008 and the entire development completed by 2011. The Woodlands Surgical Hospital at Vision Park will be located between St. Luke’s Hospital and Memorial Hermann on Vision Park Boulevard.

A new residential community just north of the Woodlands is being planned by Johnson Development, the developer of Sienna Plantation and Silverlake. The 2,500-acre Woodforest will have some 4,700 homes and commercial properties, parks and nature trails some 38 miles from the center of Houston. The southern Montgomery county project will surround the Woodforest Country Club east of Honea Egypt Road between FM 2854 and FM 1488. The first section of lots is to be ready for home construction by early 2008.

El Paso Corporation has completed the sale of its stakes in two Indonesian power assets to Energy World Holdings for $61 million. The assets include interest in companies which own and operate a 135-megawatt combined cycle, gas-fired power plant in Indonesia, and a company which owns and operates the gas field and processing facilities that provide fuel to the power plant.

The German firm HIMA has opened a regional office in Houston. Br?hl, Germany-based HIMA designs and manufactures safety-system technology for the process industry. The Houston office will coordinate North and South American sales of hardware, integration services and consulting services to energy and petrochemical companies.

Reynolds & Reynolds shareholders have approved the company’s merger with Houston-based Universal Computer Systems. The merger is to close before the end of the week. It’s part of a $2.8 billion buyout funded primarily by a group of investors that includes Goldman Sachs Capital Partners and vista Equity Partners.

Houston-based National Oilwell Varco has agreed to purchase Alberta-based NQL Energy Services for $305.7 million. NQL provides downhole tools, technology and services used in oil and gas drilling. National Oilwell Varco designs, manufactures and sells equipment used in drilling and production.

A double whammy for the housing market. Sales of existing homes fell for a sixth straight month in September. The median sales price dropped on an annual basis by the largest amount on record, further documenting the challenges facing the housing market. The National Association of Realtors says sales of previously owned homes fell 1.9 percent in September. The seasonally adjusted sales pace was nearly 6.2 million units, the slowest sales rate since January 2004. The median price for a single-family home fell to just under $220,000 last month. It is a drop of 2.5 percent from the price in September 2005, the largest year-over-year price decline in records going back nearly four decades.

ConocoPhillips posted a two percent increase in its third-quarter profit on increased production and slightly higher sales. The Houston-based company posted net income of $3.88 billion. But per-share results fell 13.8 percent to $2.31 cents. ConocoPhillips says that because the number shares outstanding increased 18.3 percent to $1.68 billion. The recent quarter included 37 cents in charges. Those relate to unfavorable tax changes in the United Kingdom, impairment on certain refining and marketing assets held for sale, and the costs of new Alaska tax laws. Those were partially offset by an insurance gain. Total revenue fell fractionally to $48.4 billion.

RadioShack reported a third-quarter loss on lower sales–in contrast to a profit a year ago. Losses totaled $16.3 billion for the July-to-September period. The Fort Worth-based consumer electronics retailer reports it had a profit of $108.5 million during last year’s quarter. That included a $56.5 million gain from the reversal of a tax contingency reserve. Total sales dipped 11 percent to $1.06 billion. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were looking for sales of $1.13 billion. RadioShack had 4,460 U.S. stores at the end of the quarter, 530 fewer than last year.

Researchers say ever-expanding Americans can save some money at the pumps if they lose some of the extra weight. A study suggests that Americans are burning almost a billion more gallons of gasoline each year than they did in 1960, simply because of their added pounds. Researchers at the University of Illinois estimate that more than 39 million gallons of fuel are used each year for every additional pound of passenger weight. They figure that a typical driver who loses a hundred pounds might save $40 a year. A health care analyst not involved in the study says even if the numbers aren’t exactly right, the premise makes sense–more weight in cars means lower mileage. Airlines have seen the same relation. The centers for disease control and prevention found that heavy fliers have contributed to higher fuel costs for airlines. The government says the average weight for American men was 191 pounds in 2002 and 164 pounds for women. That’s about 25 pounds heavier than in 1960. The findings appear in the October-December issue of Engineering Economist.

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