Attack of the Clones - Part 2.

“The single most powerful force behind the growth Internet of the Internet is not eCommerce but pornography”, a statement I once made in the early days of the Web, when I was the Chief Technology Officer of one of the UK’s ISPs that was subsequently sold to Easynet.
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I’m not a great fan of conspiracy theories but when the news arrived that hackers have started to exploit JPEG images, taking advantage of a flaw in a common Windows component called the GDI+ Jpeg decoder, a feature used by Windows, Internet Explorer, Outlook and many other Windows applications, I rather wondered if this might be the catalyst that really encourages a reluctant world to take Internet security a little more seriously.

This most recent critical Windows exploit, “The JPEG of Death”, surrenders control of the host PC to a Radmin, a legitimate software application that in this case is being used as a remote access Trojan, a RAT, which is triggered when an unwitting user downloads an infected image on an unpatched Windows XP machine, which may be enough to stop any red-blooded male to think twice in his tracks before revisiting his favourite adult education Web site in future.

As Computer Weekly reported last week, examples have already been discovered on popular newsgroups such as "alt.binaries.erotica.breasts" – not one of my favourites I should add - but given the growing connection between virus and worm authors, spammers and organised crime groups creating large, remote “Bot Nets”, dropping RAT code into explicit photographs, is one certain way of picking up new zombie PCs at an accelerated rate.

Of all the most recent attacks on Windows, this one in particular should encourage employers and home users to wake-up to the dangers, which in this case gives new meaning to the concept of unprotected sex. A reality of Twenty-first century virtual living has so-called “dirty pictures” swapped around the Internet in huge numbers, as the Department of Work & Pensions has proved and now, employers not only have to worry over the vicarious liability of their workforce being offended by such images but the risk of swathes of PCs being invisibly recruited into the clone army as a consequence of not being properly patched, proving conclusively, that there is no such thing as safe sex on the Internet.

Alright, I admit there’s no evidence that the JPEG of Death is a huge problem but it is a wake-up call. I’ll give you an example. Last week, I was searching through the results of Google searches against “copyright + legislation” for a research project I’m involved with. Most of the websites that I browsed through were hard work, particularly the EU directive 2001/29 on copyright. One however, was a little more interesting than the others and caused an instant rise in blood-pressure. Called it has very little to do with copyright, is quite tasteful but having captured my attention, further curiosity on my part might have conceivably led to a nasty case of the JPEG of death if any of the images were compromised, which they don’t appear to be.

So there you have it, the risk from unprotected access to sex and the Internet is increasingly unacceptable, so best visit next month’s Erotica show at London’s Olympia ( instead, it’s probably safer!


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