Archive for the ‘General Rants’ Category

Data Protection/Privacy Day on Monday

January 25, 2013 Leave a comment

January 28 is Data Protection Day in Europe and Data Privacy Day in US/Canada. The basic purpose is the same: to highlight personal privacy issues and reduce identity theft.

To get some idea of the problem, I visited the UK’s Stop-IDfraud website – a site supported by Fellowes, CIFAS, Norton, Equifax, Get Safe Online and Action Fraud. Heavyweight stuff.

It says,

New research shows that 24% of UK citizens have been a victim of identity fraud, which is the highest figure in Europe, plus a further 75% have been exposed to scams used by identity fraudsters.
Consumer Facts

How I hate this sort of stuff.

New. When exactly?

Research. By whom, and how was it done?

24% of UK citizens. So is that all residents, all residents with a UK passport, all residents with a UK passport over a certain age?

There is no clue to any of this – not even a date for when the details were published on the site.

So my first thought is that these figures cannot be trusted. They could have been made up on the spot. But let’s look at that 24%.

Glance up and down your street. You’re likely to have 100 UK residents living within a stones-throw. Scary to think that 24 of those neighbours have been a victim of ID fraud. OK, so neighbours these days tend not to talk to each other. So think of your immediate family and friends – again you’ll rapidly approach 100. Have anything like 24 of them indicated that they are victims of ID fraud, with two-thirds of them losing more than £1000, and have warned you to be careful? I’m here to be shot down, but I very much doubt it.

Now the second statistic. 75% have been exposed to scams used by identity fraudsters. Really? I get half a dozen or more spam scam phishing emails every day. I find it hard to believe that 25% of the population have never received a spam scam phishing email.

So, put simply, these unjustified and uncorroborated and unsupported figures make no sense to me whatsoever. Except they do sensationalize a very worrying fact: ID fraud is a serious problem. So serious that we really ought to support the government’s plans for the Communications Bill so that law enforcement can track and come down hard on all of these criminals that have defrauded so many of my friends and neighbours to such an extent that they won’t even tell me about it.

You couldn’t make it up. Except, maybe they did.


eWeek ate my hamster

January 17, 2013 Leave a comment

Last summer I interviewed Space Rogue and did a story on his history of security hype: A cyber terrorist ate my hamster.

I must now report that the process is alive and well, courtesy of eWeek.

Over the last couple of days the media has been full of a story about two virus outbreaks in US scada installations. eWeek is clear in its own story USB Storage Drive Loaded With Malware Shuts Down Power Plant:

The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team reports that a U.S.-based power generating facility was shut down after a contract employee introduced malware into the turbine control systems and into engineering workstations. The contractor routinely used his USB drive to perform updates on control systems as well as workstations in the power plant.

I would just like to point out, very politely, that this is what is known in polite circles as a ‘lie’. ICS CERT did not say that.

I covered this story in Infosecurity Magazine way back on January 4: The lessons of Shamoon and Stuxnet ignored: US ICS still vulnerable in the same way.

The truth is less dramatic than eWeek suggests – although dramatic enough. The virus was discovered while the system was in a scheduled shutdown. It delayed its restart, it did not cause its shutdown. But that’s far less dramatic and far less worrying…

The next stage in the security hype process is for politicians to seize on the eWeek story to justify the need of the next draconian piece of anti-terrorist cyber legislation, or the next exponential increase in some LEA’s budget request. Journalists really should read what they talk about before they talk about what they haven’t properly read.

Old Mac Bloggit isn’t really a grumpy old man…

January 2, 2013 Leave a comment

…he’s really a rather nice young chap. But he’s certainly feeling a bit peeved right now, and with some reason. He’s upset about the unquestioning articles in the New York Times (31 December) and the Register (1 Jan) discussing a new report by Imperva. Actually, I discussed it in Infosecurity Magazine on 28 November.

Imperva concluded that anti-virus products are not that good (“The antivirus industry has a dirty little secret: its products are often not very good at stopping viruses,” says the NYT). Imperva’s proof is that VirusTotal (an online collection of AV engines) failed to block many of the 0-day viruses it threw at it. What I said in Infosecurity was that “the real value of VirusTotal is in allowing users to check whether a suspect file is actually malware – it was designed to check malware, not to check AV products.”

Mac Bloggit doesn’t have to acknowledge the niceties of journalism, and can be more succinct. “Perhaps the NYT would care to look up the terms heuristic analysis, behaviour blocking, sandboxing, behaviour analysis, whitelisting, integrity checking, traffic analysis, and emulation, among other approaches that a security program might use to detect possible malicious activity.” His point, and he has a point, is that VirusTotal does not and cannot measure the efficiency of these parts of AV products. The fact that Stoppem Anti Virus on VirusTotal doesn’t detect the latest virus doesn’t mean that Stoppem Anti Virus on a PC won’t detect and/or block the very same latest virus.

Using VirusTotal to judge an anti-virus product isn’t merely bad form, it is positively dangerous – it might tempt users into abandoning AV altogether. That would be a very, very bad idea. The Imperva report is actually a sleight of hand by a non AV vendor. But here’s the rub: the AV industry isn’t innocent of its own sleights of hand.

The one that gets me personally rather hot under the collar is the ‘destroys all known bacteria dead’. Well, that’s the clear message. The actual terminology is ‘stops 100% of viruses in the Wild’. What it is really saying is that Stoppem Anti Virus detects every virus in the Wild List. And the Wild List is very different to ‘in the wild’. In fact, the Wild List is effectively compiled by the AV industry; so in reality, any AV company that doesn’t score at least 99.99% success against viruses in the Wild is largely incompetent.

So I would say this. Imperva, you have been a bit naughty in your report. AV industry, you can be a bit naughty yourself. So stoppit, both of you. Anti-virus is good, not perfect, but essential. Just tell us the truth.

David Harley includes quite a lengthy comment on this blog in his post, Going beyond Imperva and VirusTotal. In particular he delves into the pros and cons of WildList testing. He doesn’t completely disagree with me; but nor does he completely agree – so it’s well worth a read.

The Horseless Carriage Bill

December 3, 2012 Leave a comment

I propose that motorised vehicles be banned. They kill innocent women and children in our streets. They allow serious organized criminals to get to and escape from the scene of their crimes. They carry terrorists to training camps and targets. They allow paedophiles to cruise the streets looking for their prey, and provide enticements to promote abduction. And they kill many, many more innocent members of the public than terrorism does. The police should have the power to arrest any and all drivers of horseless carriages on sight.

As Theresa May said today in an exclusive interview in Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper

The people who say they’re against this bill need to look victims of serious crime, terrorism and child sex offences in the eye and tell them why they’re not prepared to give the police the powers they need to protect the public.

Anybody who is against this bill is putting politics before people’s lives.

We would certainly see criminals going free as a result of this.
Track crime on net or we’ll see more people die

I endorse this wholeheartedly. Ban the horseless carriage. All of those pinko liberals who claim that such a law would destroy any value in a free society worth defending against serious criminals, terrorists and sex offenders are lily-livered apologists who simply don’t understand that control is far more useful than liberty.

Categories: All, General Rants, Politics

What an Italian thinks is wrong with the UK

December 2, 2012 2 comments

Call me naive, but I would expect a guy with a BA in International and Diplomatic Studies, an MSC in Economics and Politics of European Integration, and an MA in International Relations to have a fairly subtle grasp of, well, international relations. This is Giuseppe Luca Moliterni’s take on why more than 50% of the UK population would like to leave the EU:

Main UK problems regarding the European Union can be then summarized as follows: UK still believes to be an empire and to have that kind of power; UK still believes to be the privileged partner of the United States; UK still believes to have a say in foreign policy especially in the European Union because of Catherine Ashton position. As the three elements concur in understanding the failure of UK in adapting its position in a more complex world , they also do create a single framework to understand why UK is a broken hero: it is not possible to live in the past!
Broken heroes: UK – EU Relations – Part 1: UK 

With apologies to the Welsh and Scots members of the UK, I am adding this rank (and may I add ignorant, arrogant and aggressive) anglophobia to my other reasons for wishing to leave the EU: that I believe nations should be governed by their own people; that people should be able to elect the government executive; that the EU as it stands is corrupt, bloated and controlled entirely by and for the Franco/German duopoly; and that the natural order of things is small rather than large and that large will always and inevitably disintegrate into small. As for that last point, the longer the disintegration takes, the bloodier it becomes – and I sincerely hope that neither I nor anyone I know and love is around when the European Union tears itself apart in bloody civil war. Better to break up now in a controlled and amicable manner.

Categories: All, General Rants, Politics

Censorship: idiots playing god with morality

October 18, 2012 2 comments

Isn’t censorship a wonderful thing? While my friends were exercising at the local sports centre in Newton Abbot, I decided to sit things out and carry on working in the gallery. Out came my trusty tablet to connect with the centre’s BT hotspot – and I scanned the news.

This headline caught my eye: New MegaUpload will deflect copyright liability and become raid-proof.

I assumed it would be a move to the cloud – just as I understand The Pirate Bay has or will be doing. But I had to check, so I clicked the link. What I got was this:

Domain Blocked:

The domain you are trying to access
has been blocked by the network

If you feel this is in error, please contact

Why on earth would someone block a legitimate news site? So that’s what I wrote to

This is the reply I got from Jonathon:

This site is obviously blocked under torrents, due to its relation to torrenting and the provision of links to torrent sites and torrent programs. Unfortunately we cannot allow such p2p communication over the network as it is a public service, and these types of communications can massively impact the network for other users.

Let’s be clear – TorrentFreak is a highly regarded news site that provides news on a popular, legal, and pretty damn good and technically advanced computing concept. TorrentFreak does not provide a torrent service, so you won’t get ‘p2p communication over the network‘ from TorrentFreak. If you search through its archives you will find links to some sites and some software – but even there it would be a whole lot simpler to use Google.


Google page one on  ‘torrent sites’ search

Why, then, doesn’t WiFiSpark block Google? Doesn’t stand up does it? This is simple censorship, either because they’ve got crap censorship software that blocks any site with the word ‘torrent’, or because someone has leant on them, or because they think they are the arbiters of right and wrong. And that’s the danger in censorship: some idiot gets to play god with morality and invariably gets it wrong.

Categories: All, General Rants, Politics


October 7, 2012 Leave a comment

Did we really vote for these people? God help us.

A letter from the ‘Litigation Group’ of a firm of London lawyers starts “We act for the UK Government Department of the…” It is addressed to a US company that hosts a website that would seem to the subject a UK injunction. The UK lawyers want the US company to obey a UK injunction that is not relevant in the US.

Good luck with that.

But if that is not absurd enough, look at the threat – not a legal threat, but not even veiled – in the letter.

However, should you choose not to assist us in this matter, we reserve the right to seek an enforcement order. This may result in significant costs, which [UK government department] would seek to recover from you. We note from other correspondence which we have seen that you have ‘limited resources’ and we do not favour this action, given that it may put the very future of your organisation at risk.

Additionally, if you choose not to co-operate, this may become a criminal matter and we will contact the relevant authorities within your jurisdiction. As stated, this is not our preferred action, but without your co-operation and in light of the seriousness of the matter, we may have no other option.

There is a right way and a wrong way to do things. This is not the right way – and makes me ashamed of our government.

Categories: General Rants, Politics