Our Nasty Internet

It sometimes boggles my mind at how messy and nasty the Internet has become.

The Canberra Times (no URL available, can’t find it on their website) quotes Peter Tippett, a member of United States President George W.Bush’s Information Technology Advisory Committee and chief technologist at Cybertrust, as telling a media briefing in Sydney last week that in the first six months of this year “the proportion of total e-mail traffic classified as malicious – including spam and phishing – rose from 20 per cent to 85 per cent.”

What does this mean? Well, for one thing it means that most folk trying to download the Windows XP SP2 update without already having a firewall in place didn’t stand a chance: “In a test undertaken in 10 cities last month, Cybertrust found that only 40 per cent of new computers were able to download a Windows update before they were successfully hacked.” Says Tippett: ”The average time before a successful hack is under an hour on an average high-speed Internet connection in the world today.”

We have got to find another way of doing all this. The Internet has become one, big, bad neighborhood. Ordinary folks just shouldn’t have to be vulnerable when they plug in.

(Tippett, by they way, recommends setting up a wireless network. He plays down the dangers of sniffing and eavesdropping and plays up the fact that over 80% of attacks can’t get through a netted router. ”If you did only one thing for home security, you should add wireless to your home network,” said Tippett. I’m certainly no expert, but wouldn’t adding any kind of router that has NAT, or Network Address Translation, built in do the same thing for you? Why does it have to be Wi-fi?)

To Russia With Love, So Long As It’s Not Email

Russia’s image as Spam (And Other Bad Stuff) Central is beginning to hurt.

CNET reports thats customers of high-speed Internet service provider Comcast were unable to email anyone in Russia for four days last week after the company’s spam filter blocked any emails to an address with the Russian suffix ‘ru’.

Although CNET called the block a malfunction, I can’t quite believe that. Russia is one of the main conduits for email spam, since most of its ISPs either turn a blind eye to spammers, or else collect fees for allowing the huge volume of spam to pass through their servers. Could a spam filter automatically exclude every email with a domain suffix? Or could someone have flicked a switch in frustration? And while the story only refers to outgoing email, what happened to email coming from Russia to Comcast customers?

CNET said that “Comcast implemented the filter to thwart spammers who were using the ISP’s servers to send spam with spoofed return addresses ending in .ru, which is the Russian top level domain.”

I could find no reference to the outage on the Comcast website.

News: How To Be A Pornographer

 Further to my earlier posting about the dangers of folk hijacking your PC to send spam, here’s something from Reuters, appearing on Wired News that confirms the worst: Nearly 2,000 PCs with high-speed Internet connections have been hijacked by a stealth program and are being used to send ads for pornography. The stealth program is a Trojan called “Migmaf” for “migrant Mafia”, and Reuters quotes Richard M. Smith, a privacy and security consultant in Boston, as saying most of the PC owners likely have no idea what is happening. Smith said he suspects whoever is responsible for the Migmaf scam may be in Russia, because some e-mail addresses involved in the scheme go back to Russian servers and there are other Russian language references in some related domain names.
How to avoid become an unwitting pornographer? Use a firewall like Zone Alarm (there’s a free version, which should be enough for your needs) and keep your virus checker running and up to date.