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Showing posts from February, 2004
Homeless Tony

Outside it’s snowing and then some. I was caught by a blizzard of sleet on my motorcycle this morning. Wearing only jeans and a jacket, I can still feel the consequence of the biting cold eight hours later. The visor on my crash helmet froze shut in the sudden drop in temperature.

I had planned to go flying this morning and it’s a good thing I changed my mind after a talk with the tower and a quarter of an hour looking at the clouds coming in from the North Sea. It was surprising how fast the weather changed from blue skies to a frozen grey-out.

Later on, before sunset, I managed to lift off for thirty minutes but the visibility wasn’t good. So much cloud was around that my aircraft GPS gave up trying and decided that I was suspended somewhere above Herne Bay. I’ve only seen this happen once before in a thunderstorm and it’s a lesson to anyone who might start relying on a GPS in bad weather. Don’t.

From television and The Sunday Times today, we learn that the Prime Minist…
Internet is a new target for crime and terrorism

Interesting piece from a Russian publication,. It points out that Hacker activity directed to break in bank automated systems concerns law enforcement most last year.

In November 2003, Ukrainian hackers attacked computer payments system of The Royal Bank of Scotland Group was put out of action. The Royal Bank of Scotland took measures to renew the computer system of retail payments. By means of this system The Royal Bank served 27,000 clients by WorldPay and accepted payments on Visa, MasterCard, Diners and Eurocard in more than 27 countries all over the world. Annual losses from illegal activity applying new Internet technologies are over $ 80 billion. Manufacturers and bankers spent about $ 30 billion on fighting hackers and viruses last year.

The full story can be found here: Internet is a new target for crime and terrorism
Actions Speak Louder Than Keystrokes

With media coverage very much focused on the first day of last week’s eCrime congress, day two almost passed unnoticed.

The release of the NOP poll examing ‘The Impact of Hi-tech Crime on UK Business’, had revealed, as expected, that the problem of eCrime continues to grow at the expense of business but its most revealing ‘bombshell’ statistic, was the news that at least three companies had, between them, experienced losses in excess of £60 million. Just as revealing perhaps was the figure for the number of businesses reporting hi-tech crime to the police. Less than 25%, a troubling statistic which strengthens the hands of fraudsters, phishers and extortionists.

On the second day of the conference, Assistant Chief Constable Jim Gamble of the National Crime Squad argued that the National Hi-tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) is everything that SOCA, the new Serious & Organised Crime Agency should aspire to. “Every police officer”, said Gamble, “Needs to und…
No Callers Please

The efficiency of any technology or service is, I believe, inversely proportional to the size of the investment in the call-centre or the chief executive’s salary.

That’s my theory at least in a world where responsibility for such vague outdated abstracts as customer service, are increasingly passed to pre-recorded messages or outsourced to one of the new silicon sweat-shops in Mumbai.

This morning, a pre-recorded message at the station is apologising for the delay to a train, due to arrive one day soon on platform two and the BBC tells me that computers are much better at sending ‘spicy’ SMS messages than people; effectively passing the famous ‘Turing Test’ and leaving me to wonder why anyone would wish to spend fifty pence a message flirting with Jordan, a large dual processor unit on one of the domestic cellular networks.

Last week, as I stood outside an office block in Kent, I realised I was early and so, I called 118500 for the business’s number. “We have no re…
Middle Ground

The Middle Ground Magazine is also acting as the programme for this year's ecrime Congress in London. Below you can find links to four of the principal features on ecrime in the magazine in Adobe PDF format.

It's also worth noting two features in The Observer newspaper today. The first is on computer viruses and the underground that writes them and the second is from my old friend John Naughton who believes that a victory in the fight against Spam is wishful thinking.

The full version of Clive Thompson's piece on the Virus Underground , originally from The New York Times, can be found on his weblog.

Cyberchology of Crime.pdf
Fighting Back Against eCrime.pdf
On Line and Vulnerable.pdf
Partnership and Perspectives.pdf

A Sea View of Progress

Winter has returned and with it, the howling North-easterly wind which is swirling the exposed edges of my two hundred year old home.

The house was originally the local Coastguard Station as far back as 1791 and in those days, the view of the sea was uninterrupted by the row of later dwellings closer to the beach. In fact, before this very Georgian-looking structure appeared, there was no town, nothing but a track down to the beach and before that, a stream that once fed an iron- age settlement, the muddy remains of which are sometimes exposed at very low tides.

Once upon a time one could gaze out of my study window and see history sailing past. At the beginning of the century, what was to become Manston airfield was a seaplane station in front of the house and all that remains now is a single aircraft slipway on the beach and what was the Officers Mess, is now the site of the tennis court.

I think we’re all set for the eCrime Congress on Tuesday. As I type this…
United We Stand – Digitally Divided We Fall

In the coming week, London witnesses a gathering of experts from business, finance, law-enforcement and industry from every corner of the globe. They are here to explore the growing problem of hi-tech crime and what can be done to combat the threat it presents to individuals and a fragile digital economy.

The eCrime Congress has been organised in partnership with the National Hi-tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) and for two days, the Hong Kong Police, The ‘Mounties’, the Met, Interpol, The Department of Homeland Security, FBI and many others, can exchange ideas and information with the Chief Security Officers of the largest international banks and hear both Government and opposition views on the subject.

Can such a gathering make a difference? EURIM’s Philip Virgo has wryly commented, “The only thing saving the information economy from complete collapse, is that organized crime wishes to milk the cow and not kill it” and it is this concern over the gro…
Take Two Aspirin

I always believed that a monoculture preceded a dictatorship, at least in a political sense but perhaps I was wrong, because it is a term now increasingly connected with Microsoft by those who fear a future of cascading failures brought about by our reliance on the closed genetic sequence of the Windows Operating System.

Biology teaches us that species with little genetic variation, called monocultures, are the most vulnerable to catastrophic epidemics. Populations that share a single fatal flaw, such as the lack of immunity to smallpox, can and have been wiped out by a virus capable of exploiting that flaw, as happened in the Americas following the arrival of the Columbus. Genetic diversity in the population increases the chances of survival and the same can be said of software in today’s increasingly connected but hostile environment. A PC sneezes in China and twelve hours later, 100 million computers decide to call in sick with the flu.

When copies of the Windows s…
Own Goal

Feet back on the ground after an afternoon of very murky, low level approach practise with a new pilot and I’ve been watching a programme on the Munich Olympic tragedy. I was suddenly reminded that those same games were a turning point in my own life too.

I remember the Radio Times carried a special feature on the Soviet sprinter Valeri Borzov; "The fastest man alive" it asked?

That was enough for me as an energetic sixteen year old in urgent need of a hero. I resolved to become the world’s greatest sprinter and although it never quite happened that way, it did help make me pretty much uncatchable as a rugby winger until I gave up on running fast . As I got older, I concentrated first on making a living from tennis and then on running longer and longer endurance races, finishing my career with an attempt at the eighty mile World Trail Running Championships six years ago. To be honest, I collapsed after forty miles of non-stop running, proving conclusively that if you…
Number of Sites Running Windows 2003 overtake Windows NT

Now that's really interesting given the security push behind Windows Server 2003. But note that a proportion of those sites moving to Windows also came form Linux and Solaris!

See the complete story at Netcraft: Number of sites running Windows Server 2003 overtakes NT

Workplace Data Theft Runs Rampant

According to the BBC in a story BBC NEWS | Technology | Workplace data theft runs rampant

Employees often steal data when leaving their jobs and office technology makes it much easier for workers to steal important information from their employers.

Research into intellectual property theft found that almost 70% of people have stolen key information from work.

The most pilfered items include e-mail address books, customer databases as well as proposals and presentations.

Many of those questioned said they used office e-mail to get the stolen information off company premises.

But is anyone surprised. I'm not.

Final Approach

An early start to buy flowers for my wife but a disappointingly overcast and damp today, which put an end to my plans for a day’s flying. At least yesterday, I managed to find the time to fly over to Rochester for lunch and found myself temporarily stuck there while they towed another aircraft off the runway where it had become stuck.

One thing I’ve learned about flying is that it’s not unlike driving, in that the idiots, the aged and the acutely inexperienced can be found on the road and in the air as well. How the old duffer managed to skid his aircraft off the runway as he taxied, did rather baffle the rescue crew and the tower but fortunately, no damage was done except to the pilot’s pride.

Local airfields can be ‘interesting’ at times and you’ll find other pilots occasionally ‘cutting-in’ on your approach instead of waiting their turn in the pattern. Clearly against the strict rules of the air, it’s dangerous and rather like undertaking on a motorway and yet it’s no…
World Wide Winston

It was of course Winston Churchill who once said “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”, But then Churchill was fortunate enough to live at a time ‘BC’, before computers, when the bombs fell and not your broadband connection and smoking cigars was good for you.

Sadly, if the last few weeks are any measure of what is yet to come in 2004 we have also witnessed the end of the beginning and not the beginning of the end. There was MyDoom followed by Microsoft shooting itself in both feet at the same time – no mean trick – on ‘Patch Wednesday’ with the worst and most critical update yet. This was so secret that the Chief Security Officer of one bank found out about the problem in the newspaper on the way to work and it only came to my attention when the BBC telephoned me over breakfast asking how bad it was. “How bad is what” I asked sounding less intelligent than usual?

Other people feel hard done b…
Men in Black

Any suggestion that the UK is to have its equivalent of the FBI, may be an exaggeration, but SOCA, the new Serious & Organised Crime Agency will still have to prove that it can redefine policing in the 21st century, particularly in areas that touch the Internet as a channel for serious and organised crime, presently the remit of the NHTCU, The National Hi-tech Crime Unit, which last week received a visit from Mr Blair, Mr Blunkett and of course Sadie the Labrador.

Having recently met with the chief security officer of one of the country’s largest financial institutions, I’m told that the constant battle against eCrime, scams, phishing, fraud, extortion and money laundering are an expensive headache and present a growing and serious challenge to any fond ambition of becoming the showcase information economy described by the Chancellor in his business leaders summit last month.

One obstacle is that some politicians and many Labradors lack the appropriate frame of referen…
Blogged Out

I feel I’ve been neglecting this journal. Too much work of late.

Today, I’m writing as the train shudders over the Medway Bridge at Rochester. It’s moving around far too much for me to do any real work this morning, which is annoying, as I had planned to use the hundred minutes between the coast and London to do some real work.

I suppose I’m lucky. It’s almost Spring-like this morning. The last time I tried taking the train two weeks ago, I got nowhere. The wrong kind of ice you know or was it pollen or leaves or any other excuse that suits. The truth of the matter is that trains in the Britain of the 21st century are an unpredictable and frequently uncomfortable and overcrowded means of travel; laptop unfriendly as well to add to the bargain.

Stop to pause for a mile or so to keep my PC from sliding around. A wireless link would be good. One day perhaps or more possible half way through the century before the rail operators catch-up with the idea of adding wireless access …
Hurricane Season

I think I should point out that I won’t be applying for the role of Director General of the BBC. It’s disappointing news, I know but I suspect the odds are stacked against me, in that I’m in favour of abolishing the license fee and cutting the corporation down to a size which doesn’t attract threatening letters from the TV Licensing Authority to my London house, which has no television.

I’m tempted to add my name to the candidates list for the constituency of Thanet South. Again, very little chance of success but then I’m a local boy and here, I think I could make a small difference to the future of North Kent, which needs all the help it can get from central Government, if the size of my poll tax bill is any measure.

Ironically and after last week’s news of the tragic deaths of the Chinese cockle harvesters in Morecambe Bay, I can throw my mind back to last summer when I spotted a group of Chinese ‘harvesting’ shellfish from the beach in front of my house.

“I wouldn’…
The Future of Ideas

I’m depressed. I have been reading Lawrence Lessig’s ‘ The Future of Ideas’, his sequel to ‘Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace’ and it seems much of what he predicted and warned against at the start of the Internet revolution is slowly coming to pass, regardless of the march of Open Source computing.

Lessig, who I met at Cambridge in the summer of 2000, argued in his first book, that the common belief that cyberspace could not be regulated, “That it is, in its very essence, immune from government’s or anyone else’s control”, was a fallacy. His thesis was that “cyberspace has no nature”, it has only code which can on the one hand, create a free environment and on the other a place of “Exquisitely oppressive control”.

In ‘Code’, written in the heady days before the Internet bubble burst, he warned that we would have to choose what kind of Internet we wanted and what freedoms we will guarantee. These choices he wrote are all about architecture and the code that will ev…
One of Those Days

Which started with my HP ze4300 laptop deciding that it would start up to the splash screen but no further. I tried everything, Safe Mode, Norton, the lot but nothing worked and in the end I decided to pull my 'spare' ze4300 out of its box and completely reinstall all my files from my desktop PC. This took twelve hours and I'm almost done.

I'm lucky. At least I have a spare, thanks to HP not having collected the unit they left with me last month. What frustrates me though is that this is the third lethal Windows XP crash I've had. Look back in this weblog and you'll find references to two previous rebuilds and at least three major Operating System crashes.

What causes this? God knows. I've heard one Microsoft techie alluding to 'Cumulative patch fatigue' but all I know is that I've lost most of this week's work from my stay in London and that hurts. At least the critical files find their way onto my USB drive. I've learn…
Question Time

Computer Weekly reader, Michael Fabricant, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Lichfield and Shadow DTI spokesman has started the New Year with a series of Parliamentary questions which are exploring the depth of the Government’s grasp of the issues surrounding electronic crime and protection of the critical national infrastructure.

Lenin pointing the way to eGovernment

With Britain reportedly sliding down the list of international ‘e’ rankings and with the Government still looking for a successor to e-Envoy Andrew Pinder in the shape of a ‘Chief Information Officer’, Michael Fabricant asked Minister for The Cabinet Office, Douglas, ‘Douggie’ Alexander “What the role of the Central Sponsor for Information Assurance (CSIA) will be when the e-Envoy's responsibilities are re-assigned in accordance with the e-Envoy 2003 report”? In reply, he received a classic ‘Yes Minister’ reply, from young Douggie, that “The re-organisation of the e-Envoy under a new Head of e-…
Rough Justice

I’ll confess, MyDoom is now getting on my nerves. I’ve just started Outlook and there are at least fifty copies of the virus in my mailbox and I’m guessing I’ve received five hundred to a thousand since Wednesday of last week. It’s chewing-up my time and I’m sure that it’s doing much the same to you.

There was an extended panic yesterday when I thought I had the virus on my second laptop. A file associated with My Doom (on the Kapersky antivirus site) appeared to be sitting in my Windows Directory and it took the entire day and virus scans from Norton, MacAfee and GeCad to convince me that the machine was clean. The result, a lost Saturday.

How we stop this plague other than very publicly hanging the next convicted virus author from the nearest lamppost I don’t know. All I can tell you is that each incident is becoming nastier than the one before it and the cost to the economy and society in general is fast becoming unacceptable.

Any clever solutions on a postcard please…