- Instant Independence
- Crimes Bill no more
- 6000 websites
- Instant Independence
Oh the beauty of it all.
As you've probably worked out by now, I work from home. I stay in touch with the office by means of a number of different technologies: there is the copper line from my house to the exchange, which does double duty (and charges double duty, funnily enough) as voice line and broadband access. Then there's the cellphone. There's email, the Computerworld editorial database and on a bad day I could burn fossil fuels and drive in.
My favourite means of contact, though, is instant messaging and it seems I'm not alone. IM in its many flavours is starting to make an impact on corporate life in much the same way handhelds did a few years ago. Remember handhelds? Weren't they fun? You could store your company's next marketing campaign in something you could happily leave in a pub without noticing until the next day. Brilliant!
IM is similar. IT managers aren't too interested in it at the moment - if you want it, they say, go right ahead. Just don't expect any support from us. Fine, say the end users, we shall. And they do - because most PCs ship these days with Microsoft's IM built in. It's a breeze to set up, it's a doddle to use and before you know it tiny arrogant holes are being punched in your security procedures.
IM is rapidly replacing email as the end user's personal communication tool of choice for two reasons. Firstly, legal departments haven't noticed it yet and while every email I get these days seems to include some kind of disclaimer and has been scanned for spam, porn, movies, non-work related content, bad grammar and gross misuse of the exclamation mark (I wish), instant messages get through under the radar. There's no paper trail, no grumpy tech support block, nothing to link you to that leaked memo. When it comes to sending personal messages, instant messaging beats email hands down and IT departments, or rather the legal team, should be wary.
But on the positive side there are huge benefits to be gained from IM. I can tell which of my contacts are immediately available at a glance. I've set it up so I don't get messages from anyone not on my list of contacts, so I don't get spam. With MSN Messenger I can even see if they're typing a reply to my question so I know something's on the way.
IDG Communications, publisher of this missive, runs instant messaging for its various bureaus around the world - they all use AOL Messenger and you can see who the duty editor is at any moment so you can make contact immediately should something huge break. It's a great idea, and yet I find myself caught working with folk that can't see the point. Apparently being in touch is a bad thing; but then, you could say the same thing about cellphones. And outside lines for every employee. And email.
Wellington-based software company Intergen recently ran a seminar on instant messaging and presented a few predictions from a US researcher. Basically every corporation bar a handful are running IM of one kind or another but very few are taking control of it in a management-down way. These platforms are being run and managed by end users themselves and that's going to lead to trouble I would think.
Personally I think a lot of these companies are avoiding IM because it's not something the managers thought of so it can't be any good, right? I've worked for too many companies where the only ideas that were implemented were ones from head office and anything that happened at the coal face took years to trickle up the food chain. That's sad, because in the meantime you've got employees who are making themselves more efficient and that's got to be a good thing, hasn't it?
- Crimes Bill no more
That's right, the Crimes Amendment Bill (number six) with its attendant supplementary order papers that let coppers and spooks hack into your system (with the correct approval and paperwork of course) is no more. It had its third reading in Parliament this morning and was passed and now simply waits for the Royal Seal or some such. It's now the Crimes Act and we finally have legislation that will outlaw hacking and some other computer nasties.
The bill hadn't addressed a couple of issues - most notably, in my opinion, spam - but I'm told the whole thing doesn't rest here and is likely to be updated in a couple of years after we've seen how it works.
Spam's a tricky beast to legislate against. First, you have to define just what is and isn't unsolicited commercial email without ruling out those emails you do want. I'd like to see that tackled next - and I think as email boxes fill up with rubbish it's reaching a point where email is becoming something akin to a denial of service attack on my inbox.
We've got a few stories in this week's Computerworld on the bill and its various components so have a look for those on Monday.
- 6000 websites
Or: When idiots gather None Of Us is safe.
Some plonker with too much time on his or her hands has issued a challenge to the script kiddy world - hey, wouldn't it be cool to have a Deface A Website day?
Short answer, moron: no.
Actually, I'm not entirely convinced anyone seriously suggested this - the website that originally held the proposal has vanished from the net and while so many media organisations have picked up the bugle call it does smack a little of someone having a bit of a laugh at our expense.
The problem is, of course, that it's just too nasty an idea not to warn people about. Even if nobody takes the challenge seriously you'll still get idiots with too much time on their hands and a lack of impulse control trying it on.
So if you're running a website, check your patches and firewalls are up to scratch, okay? I can't imagine too many of the big sites will be troubled by it but I do remember Ihug losing 4000 files from its home pages server back in 1998. Why not back everything up and if you don't need the site to be up, take it down for a while? Might be a prudent idea.
The attack is supposed to happen on July 6 but what with international date lines and hacker idiots generally being 14-years-olds who forget about such things, it could happen any time over the weekend or Monday our time.