That's what I want

If you thought that most of the cybercrims out there are just script kiddies with too much time and no social skills, think again.

If you thought that most of the cybercrims out there are just script kiddies with too much time and no social skills, think again. Security holes in our networks and computer systems are targeted by criminals who are in not for the notoriety, but for the money, honey.

Persistent claims that the worms targeted at Windows machines allow spam merchants and con artists to send their illicit email through compromised hosts were apparently confirmed when German magazine C’t said it had purchased the IP addresses of infected computers from virus authors. C’t informed Scotland Yard, who commented that virus-writing had become more professional as writers realised how much money could be made.

That was followed up by a post on the BugTraq security mailing list. Lance James had earlier asked for security contact information at the Bank of America in order to pass on information about a cybersecurity issue at the bank, only to find he was contacted by a number of people masquerading as bank staff and asking for details of the security hole. Some of the social engineering attempts were quite sophisticated; one went as far as spoofing his caller ID number to appear to be phoning from the bank. Clever. Scary.

Milking it

What a confederacy of IS managers Fonterra has. What seemed like half the number of IS execs in the country (ok, maybe 20) turned up to what seemed a convivial meeting in Auckland's pleasant Heritage hotel last week to "focus on technology". Glad to hear it.

Those who can't, sell

As to the plethora of terms around portals, EIP and the like, EDS software architect Neil Brown said last week that he sometimes wonders if vendors are like teachers: "They get paid by the term."

In the interest of fairness

A reader tells us the patch Microsoft released in December to "fix" the Bookshelf symbol 7 font removed one Star of David and one swastika, not two swastikas.

Gadgets are us

Occasional Computerworld contributor Vik Olliver notes that somebody has finally figured how to make a Linux CPU speed meter with the side of an AA Duracell, an old CD case, and assorted small electronic bits and bobs. Or there's always the MP3 player housed in an AK47 magazine.

Free access

Bob Kerr, a member of the Edinburgh Linux Users Group, has spent £5000 of his own money, but he has convinced more than 80% of Scotland's public libraries to stock OpenOffice, the free, open source alternative to Microsoft Office. Kerr has put together a CD package containing versions of the software for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X, says The Guardian. Borrowers can take it home, copy it and get word processing, spreadsheet, graphics and presentation software that's broadly compatible with Microsoft's Word, Excel and PowerPoint. It's a perfect match for public libraries, concerned as they are with free access to knowledge. And with no copyright restrictions, it's one of the few areas where Microsoft's proprietary software can't compete.

In the wars

At a recent seminar on wireless security, a speaker recounted the bizarre tale of a Canadian man caught last year driving with no pants on. As if that wasn't weird enough, the Toronto police officer who stopped the 36-year-old noticed he was downloading pornographic images on a laptop computer. The offender had hacked into a residential wireless LAN or, in hacker-speak, was war-driving. That it was the nearby house, not him, who was actually accessing the porn didn't get him off the hook. Police searched his own house and found thousands of images of child pornography.

Yellow fever

A leaked memo revealing that Telstra was considering putting in an offer to buy Australian publisher (and owner of many New Zealand papers) Fairfax has caused a storm over the Tasman. After the story broke, Telstra played it down, saying it was exploring synergies between its Sensis yellow pages division and Fairfax. Fairfax confirmed that no offer to buy had been presented to its board, but the very fact that Telstra, which is half-owned by the Australian government, was considering any kind of takeover, merger or co-operation with Fairfax had Australia's media and opposition up in arms. Objections included that it would effectively mean nationalising many of Australia's newspapers and that it would inhibit full and frank examination of Telstra by the press. Imagine the Yellow Pages taking over Computerworld. The horror.

.Net gains

Speaking of which, is Fairfax NZ, publishers of Wellington's Dominion Post and many other papers, embracing Microsoft web services technology? According to the New Zealand Herald (which is owned by a different publishing company) last month, Fairfax NZ's Australian parent announced ".Net profit of $A162.4 million for the half year to December 31." If you can have a .Net profit, can you have a J2EE loss?

Calling his bluff

John Kerry, the Default Democrat, is thoroughly opposed to offshoring jobs. According to writer Mark Steyn he has pledged his support for a "Call Centre Consumer's Right To Know", which would require that the person at the call centre identify their location at the beginning of every call. "Right now, you just get vague hints -- for example, if I'm in New Hampshire and dial directory inquiries and ask for a number in Woodsville and the fellow says, 'Certainly, sir. What hemisphere is that in?' " Unfortunately, says Steyn, this "Right To Know" system wasn't in place when Kerry's campaign placed calls to potential voters in Wisconsin. So it was only a few observant Democrats with "Caller ID" displays who happened to notice that the calls were coming from an Ontario area code. Kerry immediately fired the company, but a few days later found himself beset by rumours about him and a young intern, who's since left the country for Kenya.

Idea ownership

Who owns that presentation you've sweated bullets over? You or the company? About 70% of the 400 workers polled by computer forensics firm ibas confessed to nicking corporate secrets when they left their last job. The most commonly stolen forms of intellectual property were email address books, sales presentations and customer contact information. IT has made it much easier, most opting to send files to personal email accounts. Employees most commonly felt they had created the documents and felt they partly belonged to them. Women were more likely to consider taking documents, but men were far more likely to actually do it.

Wider than a mile

US specialist Jim Thomas, one of six consulting scientists for the US Department of Homeland Security, extends the idea of "visual analytics” to the concept of a "theme river". This would be a way to represent the rise and fall of themes in a sequence of documents or speeches, to see the way a regime’s policy is developing, or patterns of concern among the customers of a business. A Computerworld staffer says when he was about 12 he did just such an exercise for a couple of weeks of radio show -- “He spent two minutes on Jack worrying about his teenage daughter tonight, as against three minutes last night” -- and diagrammed it as a series of rises and falls in different colours. Had he known that was a theme river, he might have thought to patent the concept.

Smelter armpit

Would mouldy old spam smell as badly as it reads? We may soon be able to find out. Following in a long line of similar ideas is a US firm called Trisenx ("The internet finally comes to it's [sic] senses"). The idea is apparently being developed by British scientists working for the ISP Telewest Broadband, based on products from Trisenx. The Trisenx website sells a Scent Dome for $US269, mixing software for the same amount and refill cartridges for $US49. Up to 2000 aromas can be customised. Then you'll probably need a broadband connection ...

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