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Showing posts from February, 2005
Home Safe

Alan Mather's Weblog account of the launch of the IT Safe website " When is a site not a site - When it's ITSafe", is the best I've seen so far.

Play spot the Minister - Our future in safe hands!

He comments: "One odd thing about the site is that the home page of the site today lauds the launch event, where a Home Office Minister unveiled the site." That's not too bad", he continues, "having a Minister launch a website these days is probably quite a tough thing to sort. After all, with 3,500 odd sites, they surely haven't launched all of them. But the launch is hardly important, what is vital is the content in the site."
Hare Freight Service

In preparation for Easter and to assist in the further development of Kent International airport, Charlotte Moores of Chartfield School in Westgate, plans to start her own Hare Freight service from Manston in the school holidays.

"I've identified a gap in the market for the export of Easter Bunnies to France through Le Touquet", said ten-year-old Charlotte, who has more hours at the controls than many adult pilots and has been flying light aircraft since the age of six.


I started writing about this a week ago and rather stopped in midstream, only to see that Wired Magazine have thought of it already, proving I'm a little slow at times. I may write more later though as I have some other ideas on the subject bubbling along.

Originally uploaded by ddunleavy.

I'm grounded this morning. Airads did have an appointment with BBC Scotland on a farm-strip somewhere near Edinburgh but the weather is too bad to risk flying up there with a cloud base as low as 200 feet in places.

Some clouds can have hard centres when one's flying over hills and the Met Office is showing that airframe icing in cloud will start at 1000 feet, so I don't really fancy trying to follow a GPS through the Scottish valleys, in cloud and with ice growing on the aircraft. Even Newcastle, our refuelling stop, is giving 500 feet and as the minimum descent height is 700 feet for my IMC rating on the instrument approach without a visual reference, that's out too.

People complain when flights are occasionally delayed or cancelled out of Manston but very few understand how "interesting" some conditions can be for the pilot, in freezing low cloud, even with all today's electronic toys.
Near Broadstairs
Originally uploaded by les2001.An unusual pho…
UK gets official virus alert siteHooray - (Three years after warning them) An alert service to warn computer users about serious internet security problems is being launched by the government. [via BBC News ]

To be fair, "better late than never" but the delays have been in the finest tradition of British Labour governments faced by threats of all sizes in the past.

Not Just Me Then

FBI Issues Warning About Computer Virus

Having had my email address spoofed recently, I see that the FBI warned yesterday that a computer virus is being spread through unsolicited e-mails that purport to come from the FBI. The e-mails appear to come from an address. They tell recipients that they have accessed illegal Web sites and that their Internet use has been monitored by the FBI's "Internet Fraud Complaint Center," the FBI said.

The messages then direct recipients to open an attachment and answer questions. The computer virus is in the attachment.

For anyone who has been scammed, then Mugu is a term used by 419 scammers among themselves to describe their intended victims. Roughly translated this term mean "big fool" but visit and you'll see what I mean!

Stay Inside

Stay Inside Weather

Total chaos on my local roads this morning as everyone slid to work. Many drivers make matters worse by being so frightened of the snow that they drive too carefully, if that's possible and as a result, other drivers come up too close behind them in frustration.


It's not good out there, even my 4WD Subaru Impreza "Twitched" nervously on one icy corner and the snow is starting again. No trains, very few planes and my presentation at the University of Kent has been cancelled because many of the faculty can't get to work.
Best stay at home.
Mules Required - No Experience Necessary

There appears to have been a spate of e-mails recently to recruit "mules" for organised crime gangs to harvest the funds removed from the bank accounts of phishing victims.

Here's one example, not the smartest of websites perhaps but it serves its purpose .

If you routinely delete such e-mails, unread, along with everything else from an unknown source you should also forward them to they are collated and used to try to track, trace and identify those involved.

Bank Safe Online is the banking industry initiative maintained by APACS on behalf of its Member banks, to help Internet users stay safe online. The site includes examples of common scams (phishing, Trojans and fake job offers) as well as advice on how to protect yourself when online.
As Broad as its Long

Mrs Thatcher might have marked the announcement by telling us to “Rejoice” but you can be certain that Mr Blair is at least “Encouraged” by government’s claim to have partly met its target to make the UK the G7's most extensive and competitive broadband market by 2005.

A young "Liger" not fully-grown

Except that behind the smoke and mirrors that we’ve come to expect from any government announcements there’s a harsher reality which shows that broadband is a relative definition that can as easily describe two tin cans and a connecting piece of string as a 10mb full motion video connection to the Internet.

While the UK is seen to be performing well against other G7 nations, particularly where availability is concerned there is still some way to go before equalling Korea, Canada and Japan. If we examine the evidence, from a report from analyst group OVUM commissioned by the DTI, then the UK has achieved the 'most extensive' part of its target during …
Disruption on All South Eastern Services

As predicted, the world has come to a stop. While my part of Thanet at least, is without snow, Chatham and Rochester are giving a good impression of the Swiss Alps on the BBC's weather bulletin and the trains are "Subject to disruption and delay between here and London. This has forced me to cancel my meeting in the city this morning, as there is no guarantee that I'll get there in time.

Landing at Rochester may be a little tricky today!

Just to add a little extra touch to the problem of getting to London, the M2 southbound is apparently closed at Faversham due to an accident involving a jack-knifed lorry.

In Thanet, we are only seventy miles from the centre of London and yet we might as well be in the deepest reaches of Siberia but for the fact that there, it has to be below -30 degress centrigrade to have any impact on their limited public transport system.

We might have Broadband but in contrast with our European neighbours, the firs…
Snow Time

The appearance of snow, here in Kent, rather leaves me to wonder if I will actually get to London for my meetings on Tuesday morning. A year ago when it snowed, my train to Victoria broke down and then the train that rescued us broke down as well. Wrong kind of snow I assume!

A rareity in Kent

The End of Radio as We Know It?

Not quite but it struck me listening to a local radio station last night that with MP3-type iPod players now owned by millions of people, the attraction of listening to in-car radio stations is coming to an end.

Increasingly, docking stations for iPod devices are becoming available for in-car entertainment and in future, car manufacturers are likely to build these in by default. Last night then, having the mindless offensive rubbish called "Rap Music" inflicted on me by two local radio stations at once, it occurred to me, that in future, people will listen more to what they want to hear, in my case, about four hundred tracks on my own Zen media centre.

Already, one can't help but notice people wandering around "wired for sound" and it keeps me sane on the long and monotonous train journey to London. Once people start plugging-in during car journeys then we may see an impact on radio station listener figures. Not for some time but th…
Terrorists' Use of Internet spreads

Cyberfraud, ranging from credit card theft to money laundering, is the latest wrinkle in terrorists' use of the Internet according to USA today but I'm not entirely convinced by this story which, in the face of the evidence, looks rather thin. Unisys are going a little "overboard" with this statement, which plays quite neatly into the security agenda of the US Department of Homeland Security! Certainly, in planning this year's eCrime Congress, the terrorist dimension did not figure highly enough for a specific debate on the subject. Organised Crime on the Internet is of more concern at present although one recognises that examples of such terrorist use of the Web do exist but more for the purposes of a clandestine communications network.

It's "the new cash cow" for terrorists to finance operations, says John Pironti, a security consultant at tech consultant Unisys. Online scams are harder to trace because they a…
Web Criminals Leaving US for Russia

Which is a reason for inviting the Russians to this year's eCrime Congress in April

While the UK remains relatively free of illegal online content, those who host criminal material are increasingly choosing Russia-based providers over the US.

According to the web watchdog the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), the traditional hotspot where criminally racist and pornographic content is hosted - the US - has seen a drop in the number of illegal sites over the last year.

According to the IWF, in 2003, the US hosted 55 per cent of illegal sites. That number dropped to 40 per cent in 2004.

The percentage of illegal sites hosted by Russia rose in parallel - up from 23 per cent in 2003 to 31 per cent in 2004. Some Asian countries - China, Japan, South Korea and Thailand - also experienced a rise in illegal content.
Phishing By 419
Fraudsters looking for the latest trick in finding victims, have calculated that two scams must be better than one, and have tried combining a phishing scam with a "advance fee" 419 scam. Basically, the scam involves an email sent to users saying that a large sum of money has been deposited in a bank, and gives them the login info (similar to a 419 scam). However, it's done at a fake bank website (like a phishing scam). Then, they ask for the user's real bank account info in order to transfer the loot, and the scammers go to town with the real bank account info. [via Techdirt]
Olympic Hopefuls

The grovelling we have witnessed this week towards visiting IOC officials has left me thinking that we've lost any true sense of national pride. I won't comment on the seedy history of the modern Olympic movement, there's more than enough material to keep one busy but visits to number 10, tea with the Queen and what appears to be super-diplomatic privilege turns me off the entire idea of this potentially expensive beauty contest which may yet end with British taxpayers picking-up the bill, as promised last week to the IOC visitors by Chancellor, Gordon, "I've a huge budget deficit" Brown.

Mr Brown demonstrating how he plans to squeeze the taxpayer after the next election
Does Fraud Threaten The Foundations Of The US Economy?It sounds pretty scary. After all, you have a US Secret Service agent claiming that as online scams and frauds get more sophisticated, it could threaten the US economy. This might be a bit overblown, however. While it is clear that online scams are popular, and getting more sophisticated, it's still quite a leap to suggest that they're putting the entire economy at risk. In fact, if you look at how much money is being brought in by computer security people (or being invested in them) you might get the sense that all of this fearand uncertainty over online security threats is actually helping portions of the economy. Not to downplay the risks associated with sophisticated attacks on financial institutions, but it seems like this claim may be a bit overblown right now. [via Techdirt]
Half Term

I'm trying to find some excitement in the news from this year's RSA conference but so far, I haven't had much luck. A year or so ago, I warned that the security industry wouldn't sit too comfortably with a Microsoft that actually bundled security into its products and I think I can detect the first rumblings of disquiet, which may yet turn into scream of "anti-trust".

Information security is worth at least $20 billion as an industry, thanks to the present state of our computing environment. If good anti-virus and spyware were built-in to Windows, for free, as it should be in my opinion, consumers would breathe easier and the business costs of computing would be less.

This won't happen because it's not fair on the security industry to have a more or even "a secure" computing environment.

I wonder what would happen if the military having accepted armoured personel carriers with thinner armour added steel plates to the most vulnerable are…
Firefox Down

I’ve started using Mozilla’s Firefox browser instead of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. I wouldn’t say it was anymore secure, because the evidence suggests it’s not, however it’s certainly faster and has some attractive features. This, among security concerns, probably explains why 25 million people have now defected and why Microsoft is busily “revamping” Internet Explorer.

What really surprised me is that the Firefox setup file is just under 5Mb to download, so it’s worth looking at, if only for a comparison. Forbes Magazine describes Firefox as “Better than Explorer by leaps and bounds.” They may be right, I've just switched it to become my default browser

Moving Down The Fraud Progression LineA new study points out the completely unsurprising news that criminals seem to be moving down the fraud progression line from riskier, less lucrative crimes, to ones that have a higher payout at a lower risk. A shocker to all of you, I'm sure. However, in the specifics, they note that gangs that used to be into drug dealing, now find that online credit card scams are much more lucrative, with a lower chance of getting caught. Who knew the solution for the "war on drugs" is to push gang members into credit card fraud instead? At the same time, however, credit card fraud detection methods have been improving, and the criminals who had been working that scam are moving on to easier targets in debit and ATM cards. [via Techdirt]
Bill Gates and Other CommunistsBy Richard StallmanStallman Feeds Gates His Own Words - "Thanks to Mr. Gates, we now know that an open Internet with protocols anyone can implement is communism." - See full feature on CNET
This whole issue of software patents is a worrying one which should concern us all. (Ed)
Promises Promises - Dot.P - Dot Not

Dot.P goes down the drain. £40 million goes with it.

Government websites currently using DotP, the hosted content management service developed by the Office of the e-Envoy, will be switching to a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solution next year, eGov monitor Weekly can report.

Bet the President is .P'd Off with this one

Launched by the OeE in April 2003, DotP (short for 'Delivering on the Promise') is a central technology infrastructure specifically designed to manage and host multiple government websites. The eGovernment Unit expects to support its DotP managed service until March 2006, with departments migrating to a COTS offering from then on.

To jointly achieve this goal, several DotP customers - the Department of Health, the Directgov portal and the Chancellor's Child Trust Fund initiative - have now formed a 'club' with the Department for Education and Skills and the Department for Transport. The DfES, as the lead departme…

I'm beginning to identify with the Inuit eskimos, after three days of a bitterly cold gale here on the North Kent coast. Even the dog doesn't want to go out and having dragged the poor creature down to the beach, one hundred yards away, yesterday, I only managed to survive five minutes before abandoning the adventure and retreating to the warmth of my study, closely followed by a dog worried by the cold and the possibility of migrating Polar Bears. If this is global warming, then it's missed us completely, this week anyway!

This morning, no encouragement at all will persuade the dog to go out for a walk. I produce the lead and then it runs and hides under the bed. Of the two of us it probably has the most sense.
Cisco, The Security Company
Juniper Networks, made a big splash when it entered the security business via a mega-billion dollar buyout of NetScreen Technologies. Now it is Cisco's turn - the company is going to make a big splash at the RSA Conference, to be held later this week in San Francisco, showing off its security portfolio. John Chambers is a keynote speaker as well. EWeek says the company is going announce the largest upgrades to its security products in three years. It is a core area of growth for Cisco and the company has made it a priority.
Cisco isn't known as a security company but its clear they are serious about providing more security in the network. They are definitely the security leader among networking vendors.Cisco is trying to shift from being a pure hardware vendor into a software-services company. [via Om Malik on Broadband]
Flipping Coins To See The Future?How can you resist writing about a bunch of scientists who think they've figured out a way to (just slightly) predict the future? Found over at Slashdot is this story about a series of "black boxes" that generate random numbers and seem to go slightly non-random during big events... and sometimes even goes slightly non-random right before really big events -- or so the article claims. As you might imagine, there are a lot of skeptics out there, and many of them are found in Slashdot's comments discussing the article. Either way, this is worth a quick read and you can watch the number generator "black boxes," you can watch them live -- just don't ask what they mean. [via Techdirt]
The Bigger They Are

In a report on the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) published last month and entitled, “Computerising the Chinese Army, centre-right policy “Think-tank”, Aediles expressed concerns over the management and storage of confidential patient information across a fully joined-up Health Service. The report recommended that “The concept of the Data Spine should be reviewed” and in the context of National ID Card and NHS Proposals for "secure" central files, last week’s reported break-in at the prime contractor for secure US systems and a main contractor to our own Government, is significant.

"Nothing has been stolen I promise you"

On Saturday, the Washington Post revealed that Science Applications International, (SAIC) a $7 billion corporation which manages many of the United States government’s most sensitive information security contracts, had been compromised at the end of January, after a burglary “netted” computers containing the Social Security numb…
Tech-Clueless PoliticiansIt's becoming clear just how important technology is to all different aspects of society these days, yet too many politicians still appear to be absolutely clueless when it comes to technology. While the following article is a bit misleading in comparing a study about the overall tech savvyness of the population to a few anecdotal stories about technology clueless politicians, it does raise some questions about how tech savvy politicians should be. In one example, a speech writer for Tony Blair is trying to find a quote from the Bible and scrambles looking all over a hotel and even calling a worker to go find a specific version of the Bible, without ever (apparently) thinking of just going to Google. [via Techdirt]

Talking of Mr Blair, for a very funny, satirical look at Labour's election campaign for May 5th - A Russian MP just let it slip that the PM couldn't visit Moscow because of the date - visit the "I'm Backing Blair Website". I…
Dodgy Weather

A trip up to Old Buckenham airfield today to do a "Special" for the BBC to support a Valentine's day programme over the weekend. Awful weather on the way, Old Buckenham with a ceiling of 600 feet, was closed to everyone except us the only aircraft up and the flight home was even worse.

Leaving the cloud after an hour on instruments and then duck down to five hundred feet over the sea past Southend, over the top of a very surprised container ship to escape the fog and rain above but with a forward visibility of perhaps one mile.

Skipping over the houses and arriving at the airfield as the darkness was closing in offered the rough equivalent of an aircraft carrier landing in a strong crosswind. Not a trip for anyone with a nervous disposition or a fear of flying.
Irate chickens assault 419 scam banksHere's one example:, aka Abbey Trust & Offshore Bank e.g. WHOIS Information IP: => => Chinanet

They claim to be located at "10th Floor - Eurobuilding,28004 - Tres Cantos, Madrid - Spain" but the Banco de Espana has never heard of them! Not licensed, not a real bank!Happy Chinese New Year [via The Register]
Banking Trojan disables MS Anti-SpywareThe first piece of malware to attack Microsoft's new prototype anti-spyware product has emerged. The BankAsh-A Trojan disables Microsoft AntiSpyware Beta in an attempt to suppress any warning messages the package might display. It also deletes files within the program's folder. Unlike other items of malware, BankAsh-A makes no attempt to turn off anti-virus apps. [via The Register]
The True Cost of eCrime

While the global value of the Internet security industry is now estimated at around $20 billion annually, the market continues to grow by over 20% per annum with no sign of slowing down and consolidation continuing among the larger players, such as Symantec, who recently bought storage company, Veritas.

Market research company IDC has estimated that the worldwide information security services market will have a value of $21bn (£14.3bn) this year, reflecting at trend by businesses and individuals to invest in greater Internet security driven by new compliance regulations, which force company directors to properly secure their critical information assets.

Assessing the cost of computer crime on a global basis is a far more difficult exercise for at several reasons; whether credit card fraud should be included, the true cost of unreported viruses and fraud to individuals and small businesses and the scale of costs to larger businesses and financial institutions of wh…
The Power of Twelve

Yes twelve. Twelve critical vulnerabilities for Microsoft Windows products had me scurrying for the update service as quickly as possible. Me and twelve million other people in an attempt to defend ourselves from the attention of twelve million hackers, who, no doubt, are busy writing exploit code as I write this Weblog entry.

We're now three years into Trustworthy Computing and we're still seeing warnings from Microsoft such as:

"Windows, Server Message Block maximum severity rating of “critical” could allow an attacker to take complete control of an affected system."

When will it stop I wonder as I crouch down behind my firewall waiting from another salvo to appear from IP space, like the Russian "Katyusha" rockets of the Second World War.

At least Microsoft are warning us but one wonders, when they store up as many as twelve at once, how long the other eleven have been washing around without customers knowing about them? A day, a week,…
Strange Weather

One moment there's a thick frost and the next, it's like spring here in Kent.

I've just flown over to Lydd on the south coast to pick-up fuel and over towards Dover it's miserable, leaving me in cloud until I picked-up the runway lights about four miles out. There was a fatal crash nearby earlier this afternoon, the low cloud and fog having the better of someone over the high ground near Maidstone. It's not fun at all in fog and incredibly risky without an IMC rating with a life expectancy, I'm told, of around seventy seconds.

On the other side of Kent, it's misty but you might think it was March or April. Even the insects are out.

I wish...

Nothing to do with technology I know but a comment on global warming perhaps?
Logging Off From Broadband GuiltThere have been stories here and there about people logging off from the internet because they're just overwhelmed, but here's one story that seems to be just as much about being underwhelmed. The guy, who has had broadband for years, understands why it's cool, but says he's simply running out of reasons to use the broadband... so he finds himself coming up with bad reasons to use it (checking email and websites when he should be working, downloading music he shouldn't be downloading). He calls it "broadband guilt" and hopes that going back to 56k will solve the problem -- though he admits to carrying around an ethernet cable for "quick hits" when visiting friends. Still, this does suggest something about the sorts of offerings that really take advantage of a broadband connection: they're few and far between. While some point out that broadband is actually increasing the use of things like e-commerce, it seems…
Risky Business

It’s a thorny question and one that hasn’t yet been properly explored in Britain. Where does the ultimate responsibility lie in cases of online banking fraud?

An American businessman is reportedly suing Bank of America for the return of $90,000 he claims was stolen from his online banking account when he fell victim to a computer virus. For the technically-minded, this was Backdoor.Coreflood a Backdoor Trojan that is primarily designed to conduct Denial of Service (DoS) attacks. It connects to an IRC server and transfers control of the infected computer to an attacker, who was, in this case, apparently in Latvia. Apparently, $20,000 of the money was quickly withdrawn by the fraudulent recipient and the remainder was frozen by a local bank that was on the ball.

Mr Joseph Lopez, the unhappy customer – and who wouldn’t be – claims that his bank is responsible for the theft because it failed to properly protect him from known online banking risks and should have spotted suc…
UK Betting Sites Hit by Outages as Super Bowl Nears
A Worried Superbowl Fan

Several UK betting sites have experienced lengthy outages today as betting action mounts ahead of Sunday's Super Bowl. The simultaneous downtime at UK Betting and TotalBet were preceded by a similar period of slowed response time at early Friday. Both sites are hosted at Prolexic, a hosting firm that specializes in defending against distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. [via Netcraft]
Tory party set to withdraw ID scheme supportNo vote, as opposed to voting "No "The Conservative Party is to withdraw support for the UK's identity card scheme, following the Government's failure to deal with the 'five tests' the Tories put forward as a condition of their support. Tory leader Michael Howard personally favours ID cards, but substantial sections of his party are either sceptical or totally opposed to them. [via The Register]
Between Trains

I've been running all day. It started this morning with an impromptu four minutes on my local KMFM radio station, talking about the Web site, Thanet Life that I've launched as a news source for my local area in North-east Kent. Then it was up to town for lunch with John Meakin of Standard Chartered Bank, a driving force behind the Jericho Forum mentioned in the last entry.

John Meakin of Standard Chartered Bank

The Jericho Forum is of course: "An international circle of IT customer and vendor organisations dedicated to the development of open standards to enable secure, boundaryless information flows across organisations." So now you know but in a nutshell, it's striving to make sense of the standards mess that surrounds information security, a modern equivalent of the labours of Hercules.

The two of us put the world to rights over a beer and pizza and agreed that things could only get better but won't until the world is offered a more secure com…
IT industry faces a question of trust
Virtual organisations need better security for business collaborationJericho's plan to publish approved standards - and to mandate to IT vendors that they are adhered to - shows how critical the need for certifiable trust has become. It's a whole new challenge for an industry that is used to leading its customers with new technology, but is now forced to follow the demands of its biggest users. Read the full article[via Computing]
Anti-Virus Pay Your Money and Take Your PickSweet Internet security suites If you're like most people, mixing and matching antivirus and firewall protection requires too much work. You want one suite of apps that'll give you antivirus protection, firewall blocking, and Internet privacy, plus offer additional privacy protection, such as blocking objectionable Web sites. If so, this year ZoneAlarm Internet Security 5.5 is recommended over Norton and McAfee because it offers the most complete Internet protection for your PC, without slowing down your machine. [via ZDNet]
Government Gateway Four Today
Alan Mather Spotter Wearing Tie

The force behind the eGovernment Gateway, Alan Mather, explores its history in his weblog.

Alan on the right at an eGoverment conference in Riyadh - Happy Days!

Today, he writes, "The Gateway has 5.1 million registered users with nearly 50 services from 20 different government entities. If you are sending a Self Assessment tax return, claiming Child Tax Credit, paying a parking fine in Shepway, sending in your VAT return, checking your pension entitlement or booking a session to give blood, then you are using the Gateway. Sometimes, though, you won't even know that you are because the Gateway allows departments to present its screens in their own format and using their own brand."

"Over the next twelve months, over two dozen new departments will make new services available. Most excitingly more than 40 services for 43 Local Authorities will be developed, making the Gateway truly the centre piece of UK govern…
Was it Something I Said?

Inland Revenue says sorry for computer glitches

The Inland Revenue has lifted the threat of £100 fines and £60-a-day penalties from tens of thousands of taxpayers who tried in vain to file their tax returns over the internet in the last three days.

At first the Revenue refused to acknowledge the problems. Today, however, it apologised for the computer glitches and gave angry taxpayers 14 days' grace to resubmit their returns online. Payments will still have to be made on time.

The number of taxpayers filing their tax return online was this year expected to exceed one million, as the method grows in popularity. More than 700,000 people used the internet to pay their 2002-03 bills, compared with just 76,000 for the 2000-01 tax year. Last Thursday alone more than 34,000 people filed their returns over the internet

Times Online
Problems with the New MSN Search Engine

I tried the new search engine at this morning and it's close to unusable. Searches aginst my name or even headlines, such as "Da Vinci's Workshop Found" and even Slate Magazine produced the error message "Object Moved - This document may be found here." This then lost me up a blind alley on a blank Microsoft page somewhere in the ether. As a result, it's back to Google until they fix the glitches.