Dawn, ComCom wakes up, Spam War

This week, one press release stood out as being particularly weird. Nvidia sent an email with a link to the Miss Digital World competition, run by Italy's Monumedia, asking us to vote for Dawn the Digital Fairy.

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- Dawn of the pixelated pixies

- Commerce Commission wakes up

- Spam War gets hot

- Dawn of the pixelated pixies

This week, one press release stood out as being particularly weird. Nvidia sent an email with a link to the Miss Digital World competition, run by Italy’s Monumedia, asking us to vote for Dawn the Digital Fairy.

While some may argue that artifice is artifice, in human or digital beauty queen form, I’m really not sure what to think of this latest caper. Is it an amazing feat of personal computing technology, or just a case of sad people with too much time on their hands? Rigging the vote with an email campaign is probably not kosher either.

The worst thing is that digital life is infringing on meatspace now as well. Last time I went to Taipei Nvidia had a real-life “Dawn” fairy roaming the exhibitor booths at the Intel Developers’ Forum. Her real name was Kiwi and her dress was rather strange, with fairy wings and things stapled and cello-taped to it. Kiwi had a minder who dutifully applied more cello-tape and staples as her outfit wasn’t terribly durable and fell apart as she moved. Nobody seemed to mind the sticking out staples and rolls of tape though, least of all Kiwi who smiled happily all the time and ended up digitised onto gazillions of geek cameras.

- Miss Digital World

- Commerce Commission wakes up

We’ve been banging on about how the Telecommunications Act of 2001 doesn’t have any enforcement built into it but we didn’t take the Commerce Act, née 1986, into consideration. The Commerce Commission did, however, and is now using said act to investigate whether Telecom is abusing its market power and reducing competition through the way it sells Jetstream.

Past investigations into Telecom’s anti-competitive tactics have been very lengthy, around five years, but resulted in the telco getting hauled in front of the court. We’ll be holding our breath to see how this one goes. Maybe not for five years though.

Speaking of the Telco Act, the overhaul of it is underway so pipe up to the Minister now. The list of excluded issues is longer than the ones to be considered, however, which brings into question of how effective the overhaul will be in the end.

Still on the topic of telco legislation, I see that National IT spokesman Maurice Williamson is getting bored, which is always dangerous — and means he comes up with “brilliant” ideas like his latest one. Allowing appeals against the Telecomms Commissioner’s decisions would hamstring Webb completely and leave us with no effective regulation. Of course, some would say that the current regulation is bad and should be appealed (or even repealed) in favour of something better, but … feeding lawyers is a game that only big companies can play.

- Commission to investigate Telecom’s Jetstream pricing and service bundling

- Telecomms law reform: plenty for public to consider

- Allow appeals for Telecomms Commissioner decisions – Williamson

- Spam War gets hot

Internet search engine and portal company Lycos did something very curious this week — some would even call it foolhardy. They made a screensaver application available that does what the spammers want: it connects to their spamvertised websites.

The only problem for spammers is that the screensaver requests are empty ones, generated when the computer is not in use, and come from a huge number of clients everywhere. This is a strategy utilised by crackers who hijack Windows PCs and turn them into remote controlled zombies or bots. Then, the “botnets” are used for Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks against various targets. Lycos in charge of a botnet? Who’da thunk it?

DDoS attacks are very hard to defend against because the requests are legitimate and arrive from several different sources. Imagine normal-sized requests but from thousands and thousands of computers … enough to bring the beefiest network to its knees. Netcraft reports that several spammer sites were knocked off the internet because people jumped at the chance of getting even with spammers and downloaded the screen saver in large numbers.

Then a funny thing happened. The screensaver site was cracked by spammers. Or was it? We saw the defacement, but Lycos says it’s a hoax done on purpose. Tui moment? Nevertheless, the screensaver turned out to be less than popular with many internet backbone providers, who promptly blackholed traffic to it — I haven’t been able to reach makelovenotspam.com from any of the networks in NZ and USA that I have accounts on for several days.

- Lycos antispam screensaver (may be offline)

- Lycos antispam screensaver site hacked

- Netcraft tracks the ups and down of makelovenotspam.com

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