The passing of a true genius and a gentleman

This morning I learnt the sad news that Len Sassaman sadly passed away having taken his own life in an apparent suicide at his home in Leuven, Belgium.

Len was a major advocate for privacy and a great influence on some of my earlier work.  He leaves a great legacy but an even greater void in so many lives.  My thoughts go out to his wife Meredith (L. Patterson), may she have strength and courage through these difficult times.

Depression is the silent killer.

I’m coming to understand that "battle with depression" is sometimes very close in meaning to "battle with cancer."

@maryadydd 04 July 2011

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Len Sassaman (1980-2011)
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Yet more Pipex Woes

Yet another example of bad customer service from Pipex. Pipex, a once great UK ISP, now ruined by the ineptitude of Tiscali and TalkTalk. A great lesson on how to take a great company and run them into the ground.

failure-successTwo moans about Pipex in as many days.  They really are going for it in a big way of late.

When I raised a support request the other day, I used my Pipex account email address, i.e the one that has been associated with my account since day one of me being a customer with them. (usually of the form ***@dsl.pipex.com) 
I noticed that I didn’t receive an auto-reply which was unusual, so out of interest, I sent a test message from another email account.
Funnily enough, it bounced. But not just any old bounce, but because of: Continue reading “Yet more Pipex Woes”

Glad not to be mentioned in a Tweet

The following gave me a chuckle, and given the large number of Twitter accounts I run/manage, I was glad to see that no names were mentioned. It’s probably the one and only time I’m glad not to be mentioned in a tweet/post.

I must give credit to Ike Pigott (@ikepigott) for the idea of a "Top 10 People to Unfollow" list.  Although I can easily think of several individuals I’d like to place on this list, I figured it would be too mean to actually call them out by name (and possibly result in a libel suit).  So the list below contains ten archetypes that I’ve noticed on Twitter.

From the post “Top 10 List of People to Unfollow on Twitter” on the blog by Shannon Whitley.

I’m hoping I’ve never fallen into any of those categories, though looking at my main “personal” Twitter account, one or two (erm, try most) are getting pretty close to another Top 10 reason category of “Too Drab to be of any interest”.

Pop over to Shannon’s site and add any categories you can think of to the comments on that post.

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Clueless about Malware (And probably life too)

Here is an excerpt from a post made to a group that helps/deals with Malware reports on web sites.

I can no longer visit this site through google. "Warning – visiting this web site may harm your computer!" This is just a lie and I think we all know why this site is being persecuted. Keep your personal opinions and the opinions of your investors out of it. The deeper I dig in to the StopBadware.org manifesto the more obtuse your definitions become. A couple clicks and suddenly "Site may harm your computer" turns in to "contains or links to badware or otherwise violates Google’s software guidelines." I hope someone sues you silly.

It just goes to show the general level of ignorance out there from people that:

  1. Don’t understand the size of the problem with regard to the sheer number of infected web sites.

  2. Don’t understand the dangers to there own machines when visiting such sites.

Infected Web Sites

In one case alone last week, 10,000+ sites were hacked and malware placed onto the sites.

In another case, a leading Advertising Agency that supplies adverts to 1000’s of sites, unwittingly supplied an advert that carried malware.

And more alarmingly, a well known Anti-Virus/Spyware/Trojan Software manufacturer had it’s own website hacked and malware placed on the site.

When Google or StopBadware report that there is malware on the site, you can bet that there is a very high probability that there is (or was at some point).  The false positive count is extremely low when you consider the number of sites that are listed.

Continue reading “Clueless about Malware (And probably life too)”

Clueless about Malware (And probably life too)

Here is an excerpt from a post made to a group that helps/deals with Malware
reports on web sites.

I can no longer visit this site through google. “Warning – visiting this
web site may harm your computer!” This is just a lie and I think we all know
why this site is being persecuted. Keep your personal opinions and the opinions
of your investors out of it. The deeper I dig in to the StopBadware.org manifesto
the more obtuse your definitions become. A couple clicks and suddenly “Site
may harm your computer” turns in to “contains or links to badware or otherwise
violates Google’s software guidelines.” I hope someone sues you silly.

It just goes to show the general level of ignorance out there from people
that:

  1. Don’t understand the size of the problem with regard to the sheer number
    of infected web sites.

  2. Don’t understand the dangers to there own machines when visiting such
    sites.

Infected Web Sites

In one case alone last week, 10,000+ sites were hacked and malware placed
onto the sites.

In another case, a leading Advertising Agency that supplies adverts to 1000’s
of sites, unwittingly supplied an advert that carried malware.

And more alarmingly, a well known Anti-Virus/Spyware/Trojan Software manufacturer
had it’s own website hacked and malware placed on the site.

When Google or StopBadware report that there is malware on the site, you can
bet that there is a very high probability that there is (or was at some point).  The
false positive count is extremely low when you consider the number of sites
that are listed.

How Safe Am I?

Gone are the days when the you could say, “But I don’t use Internet Explorer,
I use Firefox/Opera/Mozilla” or “I’m on a Mac/Linux” etc etc etc.

You must keep whatever system you use patched with the latest updates and with
good Anti-Virus/Spyware and Rootkit detection. (If possible, use overlapping
coverage from multiple products).

With one worm alone, during 2007 there were over 17,000 variants.   That’s
around 47 variants a day.  The worm went through multiple mutations a
day !!

Most often a virus does not use a single attack vector, but will try a whole
series of attacks looking at multiple security holes and it won’t give in until
it finds one.

Protection from the bad guys and ourselves

Not everyone is vulnerable to being infected and we are talking a very small
percentage that are.  But a very small percentage of a large number of
users is still a large number of machines that are being added to ‘botnets’
on a daily basis.  Some reports put this at hundreds of thousands of newly
infected machines A DAY! And it’s increasing.

Web site visitors must do their part in ensuring that their systems are fully
protected, and web masters no matter whether large corporations or an “at home,
one man band” must also ensure that their systems are fully protected. That
includes any downloaded installations (such as blogs or forums).

Unlike the person above who appears to be in denial of any such problems,
the responsibility lies at both ends of the browser! Don’t become part of the
problem, become part of the fight back!

Time to get some new Bulbs again :(

The boys were playing indoor football again… And it was bound to happen, he says looking at them mowing the back yard for me…

GLS Style Bayonet Fit (BC) 15 Watt Compact Fluorescent Lamp Long LifeEvery bulb I use in this house came from one of the best online stores I’ve seen, not only for usability, but for the sheer numbers and types of GLS and CFL’s they stock in their e-shop. 

I’ve just used my last spare bulb and on visiting the site, I see they stock a lot more items than when I last visited.

Oven Lamp Small Screw Fit (SES)I spent ages looking for a new bulb for the oven a few weeks back and in the end gave up. None of the stores round here stocked one, and the guy in B&Q even tried to convince me that they “don’t make em’ like that anymore, can I interest you in a new oven sir…”

Having just logged into the ebulb shop, they jumped out at me, and low and behold, my lamp is the second one down on the list.  Looks like I’ll be ordering a couple of them as well.  ebulb is just that… it’s not just CFL’s, I reckon if you get light from it, they’ll stock it.

You can tell its been a few months (years??) since I last checked that site.  I’ve just spent a good while looking at all the new stuff they stock.

Never ever buy a bulb from your supermarket or dare I say your local DIY shop.  Even if they are non-filament type, I don’t have any faith that they haven’t been throwing around the boxes that the bulbs were supplied in.
A few weeks back when I was away, my wife bought two new bulbs from a large well known supermarket and both bulbs were broken, when she went back to change them, she found that most of the bulbs on the shelves were damaged in some way.  It was like someone had been playing football with them, (and no, my two boys were not with her).
She didn’t realise I had a box of spares out in the garage (which was the original box supplied from ebulbshop.
That’s the other thing about buying from a specialist. They not only can give you the best advice on which product you need, they also know how to look after the product right up until it reaches your front door. 

Google and StopBadware.org : Hide not Label

For those web masters or indeed visitors out there that are not aware, StopBadWare.org is a site that lists sites that contain malware.  This article doesn’t discuss how they malware got there, but more the way that Google lists them in its index.

StopBadware.org is a “Neighborhood Watch” campaign aimed at fighting badware. We will seek to provide reliable, objective information about downloadable applications in order to help consumers to make better choices about what they download on to their computers. We aim to become a central clearinghouse for research on badware and the bad actors who spread it, and to become a focal point for developing collaborative, community-minded approaches to stopping badware.

From: StopBadware.org

When a site is listed in Google as having badware on it, a warning is displayed similar to the following:

googlewarning1

The contentious part of the above warning is the “This site may harm your computer”.
When you click on the link within the Google index to a badware infected site, Google actually displays an information page telling you why you should not visit the site. (Note: I have purposely masked the name of the site above in order to protect the web site owner from being mentioned, the reasons why are discussed below).

If you want to see a warning for yourself, just go to the StopBadware.org site. In the search box, enter “.co.uk” for the search term.
Copy the ‘domain name part’ part of it but do not include the TLD and enter it in a Google search box.  (So if the domain was www.example-alien-web-design.co.uk, search for “example alien web design” not “example-alien-web-design.co.uk”.
This ‘should’ display a list of search results which will have the warning displayed.
Then click the search result to see the warning page.

My personal thought is that Google should just temporarily remove the site listing from the index rather than apply a label against that site.
You have to ask why Google apply that label and prevent ‘its’ users from clicking on that link within it’s index.
I can only guess at the following:

  • Google wishes to protect its users from visiting a site that has malware on it.
    (Google has checks in place, or one would hope that they do, that prevents falsely labelling a site as hosting malware).
  • Google is also expressing it’s desire to help remove malware from the ‘internet’ by contacting and informing web masters of malware upon the sites it finds.
    It doesn’t just list web sites, it does make a concerted effort to contact the web master of the site involved.

Google do have a right to stop users from visiting those sites infected, as potentially one could argue that they could be held responsible for forwarding its users to a site which ultimately costs the visitor time/money or both.
The problem is, that web masters feel that the label Google applies next to their entry in the index causes damage to the reputation of that web site as well as a loss of income. 

So why does Google apply a label?
Some have argued that it is the quickest method to ensure that the web master contacts them and the problem sorted.
(Sticking a big red flag next to your site does tend to bring it to your attention rather quickly when your users start complaining to you, OR, as should be happening, a good web master will find this out when he does his daily/weekly check).

I would rather Google remove the entry from the index altogether, not stick a “label” against the entry.  You can’t visit the site from the link in the index anyway (without a spot of cutting and pasting – at least you can’t in Firefox with my setup).You could say the link in the index is non-functional, so why bother putting it there in the first place?
Removing the infected site from the index achieves both points from above.

  • It prevents Google users from visiting the site.  The result is simply not returned.
    It is no different from the supplemental index, or at least very similar to the supplemental index.
    After all, the StopBadware database is exactly that. It is an index of sites that contain or are believed to contain malware.
    Just like the supplemental index, the results are still there, but you have to search for them in a specific index. 
  • Google can still contact web masters and let them know that their site has been placed into the ‘malware’ index as before.

The removal or placement into the “malware” index would be temporary. Rather than display a warning, it doesn’t display anything.  No harder to code than it is at present. 

Any decent web master will be monitoring his PR and his SERP placement.  Suddenly dropping off the main Google index should be pretty obvious to them.
And if his visitors complain that they are not finding the web site in the index, that too should draw the web masters attention to a possible problem.

Google will still be trying to contact the web master and the web master should also be encouraged to join Webmaster central (http://www.google.com/webmasters/) to keep an eye on their site anyway…

However, web masters have no right what so ever to complain about the damage to their reputation.  Malware is a problem, and is far more serious to their users than a lot would lead you to believe.  Ok, you could say that around 85% of your visitors would be vulnerable to being attacked by malware (due to the browser type, security settings and whether javascript is enabled). Of of that 85%, at least 50% of them would be very vulnerable, due to no firewall, no or an outdated Antivirus/Antispyware.
So there would be a large percentage of your visitors that could potentially be damaged or effected by malware.

  • You cannot say that some malware is less harmful than others.
    Malware is malware. Plain and simple.
  • You cannot say I have a set of known visitors and I know them to be safe.
    (You are complaining about being in the Google index, therefore you are potentially available to everyone who has access to the Google index).

What damage would be done to your reputation IF, one of your users blogger on a popular forum that they went to www.example.com and they got hacked.  That www.example.com has no protection, or www.example.com has bad security. Or they blame www.example.com for them installing the malware on their computers (regardless of the fact that www.example.com had NO knowledge of the exploit in the first place).
At least an entry in the Google index as at present is temporary and will be removed once Google are assured that the malware has been removed.
An entry on a web site would be within the index for a lot longer (if not ever).
And that’s if there was just one entry on one blog.  What you would do if your sites name was spread around the web by a disgruntled visitor (who was infected as a result of visiting your www.example.com)
There is no argument that the web master purposely allowed their site to become infected.
A web master of a major site earning major money will be running a much more secure system than a small time web hosting company (on a dedicated server or a shared web hosted account).  They are less likely to be the victim of an attack.
So it could appear that Google are against the smaller web hosts and web masters sin
ce you won’t find big web sites listed. That is simply not the case. 
It is just the simple fact that the smaller web site, web host or web master is more vulnerable to attack since they cannot or do not spend money on massive security defenses against malware attacks.

A web master has a responsibility to protect the visitors to their site. (Whether they rely upon the web host to do this , or whether they takes charge is another matter for discussion).
Google have the same responsibility to it’s users. They have chosen to protect their users by displaying a warning and not giving a clickable link to the infected web site.

I’d like to hear from Google as to why they chose the method they did, and for them to state why they don’t just remove the link temporarily from the index.

NIMBY’s vs. 36 Grays Lane

A soldiers Story (fictional)

250px-Basra_locationYou’re on your last patrol before your unit returns home after a 9month stint in Iraq.  You’re on point covering for your squad as they return to the Warrior after inspecting a suspected arms dump on the outskirts of Basra.

Spirits are high because tonight’s scran in the mess tent will be the last meal before you get home to your mum’s Sunday roast.  In 8 hours, you’ll be on the plane home in to the arms of the family you’ve been away from for so long. 

warrior

Your squad mates begin shouting, they are pointing towards 3 youths running out of a nearby building.  You are almost at the Warrior when there is an almighty ‘whoosh’, followed by a loud explosion.

 

When you open your eyes, you find yourself 20ft away from the Warrior.  You can’t focus on anything, you can’t hear anything. The dust is settling and you begin to see your surroundings. You try to clear the dust from your eyes, but there is something wrong. You look down towards your hand and there’s nothing there. In a panic, you try to stand, but you fall over.  The bottom of your left leg is missing. In pain you slump down to the ground as the rest of your unit reaches you.

The next time you wake, you find yourself in the Military Hospital in Basra.  The medics have had to amputate your right arm from below the elbow, you’ve lost the left leg below the knee, and you are blind in your right eye.
After a week or so, you are transferred to the facility at Headley Court.

The above could have happened to any number of our serving personnel in Basra or in fact any of the current overseas theatre of operations.  But in this case, it’s a fictional story. But there have been many of our service personnel over the years who have and are still going through similar experiences.

But the hardship doesn’t end there. Once the injured personnel come back to the UK, there is yet more pain to endure, but this time by the families of the victims themselves. 
Often families have to travel hundreds of miles to visit their loved ones.  Living in a hotel or bed and breakfast is fine for a brief business trip or a short holiday, but when the family themselves are having to deal with the emotions involved with supporting an injured loved one, it creates unwanted stress.

the fisher house In the US an organization known as “The Fisher House” exists which quotes the following on their web site.

Supporting America’s military in their time of need, we provide “a home away from home” that enables family members to be close to a loved one at the most stressful time — during hospitalization for an illness, disease or injury

Headley Court and the SSAFA

RAF Headley Court near Epsom in Headley, Surrey, England deals with with UK Military Forces personnel with physical disabilities obtained during service, and also deals with patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

With a dedicated staff of around 200, the care it provides is essential to the recovery of the personnel.  In 2005, Major David Bradley of the Princess of Wales‘s Royal Regiment was given a five per cent chance of survival as a result of injuries received whilst on duty in Iraq during 2004. Headley Court played a vital part in ensuring he had the best chance of recovery.

Having family around you during recovery is an important factor (and I know this from personal experience). Not only do families have to deal with looking at the some times horrific injuries to their loved ones, many patients will often reject the attention of their families, pushing them away as a result of their injuries, which causes further stress. 

The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) exists in the UK to help out where ever it can.

ssafa The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) Forces Help is the leading national charity committed to helping and supporting those who serve in our Armed Forces, those who used to serve, and the families of both.  We provide a reliable, caring and trusted service to more than 50,000 people each year.

36 Grays Lane

 The SSAFA were hoping to provide a home away from home for the family members visiting loved ones being treated at Headley Court, but met with some unexpected resistance from local residents.

It appears that a bunch of NIMBY’s have been coming up with all sorts of reasons why 36 Grays Lane should not be used by SSAFA.  To see some of their reasons, visit the 36grayslane web site.

36grayslane has been set up to highlight the actions of the Management Company representing the local residents and to gain support for the SSAFA campaign.
If ever there was a perfect example of the phrase NIMBY, they are it.

It as if they don’t want their neighborhood spoiled by having “the lower class” families of our service personal living in their area.
None of their concerns expressed (detailed at this page at 36grayslane have any merit what so ever.

Every single resident who has signed up in protest to the SSAFA proposal should be given a guided tour of Headley Court and spend time with the visiting families.

Each of the residents who signed up, should be ashamed of their selfishness and total disrespect for the families of our service men and women who have given more than most to protect our beliefs and interests.

The people at 36grayslane have a guestbook that you can sign to show your support.

There is also a petition set up on the 10 Downing Street E-Petition site.

The rest of the UK needs to show those residents of Grays Lane who are objecting just how pathetic their actions are.

I wouldn’t mind if they founded their objections on anything reasonable, but they are not. Laughable at best.
If it were a travelers camp, nightclub, sex shop or something similar to those, I could see their argument. But the truth of the matter is that the house run by SSAFA would hardly be noticeable. Their argument shows snobbery and contempt beyond belief.