Internet Exploder; Yahoo user tracking

Maybe I was unfair to Microsoft last week - just a bit - when I referred to the record-breaking speed with which a serious bug was discovered in Internet Explorer 7 beta 2. Tony Chor at Microsoft's IE development team writes in the IEBlog that the while the bug crashes IE 7, it cannot be used to "elevate privilege" (gain Administrator or similar high-powered user rights) or for that matter to inject and execute any old code.

Top Stories

- Not such an Internet Exploder

- Opt out of Yahoo user tracking

- Digital Jihad underway

Talk to the mouse!

Every now and then you come across something that makes you understand why nobody thought of it before. The successor to Maxwell Smart’s shoephone is finally with us, courtesy of the febrile minds of Taiwanese inventors who thought of putting a microphone were nobody was going stick one before. Yes, in your mouse.

- Sysgration VoIP mice and phones

Not such an Internet Exploder

Maybe I was unfair to Microsoft last week — just a bit — when I referred to the record-breaking speed with which a serious bug was discovered in Internet Explorer 7 beta 2. Tony Chor at Microsoft’s IE development team writes in the IEBlog that while the bug crashes IE 7, it cannot be used to “elevate privilege” (gain Administrator or similar high-powered user rights) or for that matter to inject and execute any old code.

Although I still can’t imagine a web accessed without the sanitising extensions of Firefox, there are some things to like in Internet Explorer as well. I mentioned the speedy rendering and IE7 has some nifty zoom and Cleartype features built in. The nicest thing about IE is that it doesn’t leak memory like Firefox does. I thought that issue had been sorted with FF 1.5.0.1 but I checked last night and Task Manager reported huge memory usage. Single instance of Firefox with four tabs open, no plug-ins running but Gmail active in one window chewed up 230MB (yes, megabytes) of memory, with another 300MB paged out to disk. I have a gigabyte of RAM in my machine but even so, I’d say it’s time for the Firefox developers to look into this one.

Also, one Microsoftie thing that I really like doesn’t run in Firefox. The Windows Live Mail beta, which is set to replace Hotmail/MSN at some point, is pretty damn good. A webmail interface that’s almost as easy to use and fast as a standalone email client, for the first time. The spam filtering and phishing recognition is OK, although a bit too much on the conservative side — it lets through some pretty obvious stuff, and doesn’t learn quickly enough when you click Report and Delete. It’s a beta still which is evolving and the last couple of weeks has seen Live Mail improve a lot. It’s certainly much better than the present Hotmail interface, and I’d say it beats Google’s gmail as well. Yahoo uses a horrible webmail interface and seems to shop its customers to the Chinese authorities, so the less said about that the better.

Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to get onto the Live Mail beta. You can try at Microsoft’s “beta place” (URL below) to see if it’s available for you.

- Microsoft’s IEBlog

- Microsoft’s betaplace

- Reuters: Yahoo accused in jailing of 2nd China Internet user

Opt out of Yahoo user tracking

Speaking of Yahoo, my good friend David B in Sydney drew my attention to a nasty practice by the portal. If you run a Yahoo Group, you should be aware that Yahoo uses so-called Web Beacons or Web Bugs to track every user. David says it’s similar to cookies, but allows Yahoo to record every website and every group you visit, even when not connected to Yahoo.

If you don’t want to supply Yahoo with this information, gathered through Web Bugs planted in HTML formatted messages, and I suspect you don’t, there’s a way to opt-out. That is, if you still want to use Yahoo after learning about this invasion of your privacy, which David says is machine-specific. Yeah, not user-specific, which means you have to opt-out on every machine AND browser that you use.

To opt-out, David says to head over to Yahoo’s Privacy Statement page, and look for a link half-way down the page that says Web Beacons. Click on that link, and on the page that opens, look for the paragraph called “outside the Yahoo network”.

In there, locate the “Click Here To Opt Out” link to stop Yahoo’s snooping. However, David says to be careful because the next button that shows up after you’ve opted out is in fact a sneaky Opt Back In button that undoes the Opt Out.

Spread the word about this amongst Yahoo users.

- Yahoo web beacons may not shine with users

- Yahoo Privacy Statement

Digital Jihad underway

After the Mohammed Cartoons Madness took off, I noticed a marked increase in hostile probes from countries such as Turkey, Pakistan, India, Indonesia and some Arab states, in my server logs.

That, unfortunately, is no coincidence. Digital internet vandals across the world have taken it upon themselves to revenge hack Danish sites because of the cartoon publications. Calling themselves things like “Islamic Brigades”, “Islamic Security Guards”, “SaudiaHacker” but never daring to use their own, real names, they’ve broken into and defaced some 600 Danish sites, including the Yellow Pages and some run by schools.

Israeli ones are also being attacked, and random sites in the Western world are also being hit. Some of the defacers are threatening with suicide bombing attacks and jihad, whilst others are going on about the publication of the cartoons, and how Denmark should be boycotted and so forth.

As New Zealand papers and TV stations have published the cartoons, consider this a heads-up for network administrators. The chance of being hacked just went up by several hundred per cent, and these miscreants don’t care who they attack.

What is wrong with people?

- Zone-H: Prophet Mohammed protest spreads on the digital ground

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