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Social Media and Politics: Truthiness and Astroturfing

By Jeremy Wagstaff (this is a column I wrote back in November. I’m repeating it here because of connections to astroturing in the HBGary/Anonymous case.) Just how social is social media? By which I mean: Can we trust it as a measure of what people think, what they may buy, how they may vote? Or is it as easy a place to manipulate as the real world. The answers to these questions aren’t of academic interest only. They go right to the heart of what may be our future. More and more of our world is online. And more and more of our online worldContinue readingSocial Media and Politics: Truthiness and Astroturfing

Social Media and Politics: Truthiness and Astroturfing

(This is a longer version of my syndicated newspaper column) By Jeremy Wagstaff Just how social is social media? By which I mean: Can we trust it as a measure of what people think, what they may buy, how they may vote? Or is it as easy a place to manipulate as the real world? The answers to these questions aren’t of academic interest only. They go right to the heart of what may be our future. More and more of our world is online. And more and more of our online world is social media: A quarter of web pages viewed in the U.S.Continue readingSocial Media and Politics: Truthiness and Astroturfing

MyDoom Anniversary: Another Big Attack In The Offing?

Today’s the first anniversary of the MyDoom.A worm. According to an email I received earlier today from MessageLabs, ‘the world’s leading provider of email security services to business’, it was a day that “changed the virus landscape forever”: 27 January 2005 – At 13.26pm on 26 January 2004, MessageLabs,  intercepted its first copy of W32/MyDoom.A. Within the first twenty-four hours, the company had stopped over 1.2 million copies. MyDoom.A, which achieved a peak infection rate of 1 in 12 emails, has proved to represent a landmark in the history of computer viruses, and the legacy lives on.. I’m not sure whether this is just aContinue readingMyDoom Anniversary: Another Big Attack In The Offing?

New Variation Of Bagle Spreading Fast

More virus trouble afoot. This time it’s a variation of Bagle. MessageLabs reports that it’s intercepted more than 10,000 copies in an hour as of this morning. Most seem to be from the UK and the U.S, although the first copy it received was from Poland. It appears to be a mass-mailing worm, installing a backdoor Trojan on infected machines much like its predecessor. It looks like this: Subject: ID <random>… thanks Text:  Unknown Attachment: <Random>.exe Size: 11264 bytes EWeek says it also includes a component that notifies the author each time a new machine is infected. The attachment will mail the virus to allContinue readingNew Variation Of Bagle Spreading Fast

The Next Step: Anti Phishing Services

MessageLabs, those hyperactive purveyors of Internet security, have come up with an anti-phishing service for banks and other targeted companies (Phishing is the scam whereby bogus emails entice you to give up your online banking password and other sensitive information), the first of its kind I do believe. It had been available to about 15 banks and is now available to everyone.    The service involves “real-time scanning, expert analysis and authentication, incident response and early notification of suspicious email activity”.  The company uses Skeptic™ Radar (I’m not making this up) technology to scan millions of email messages to detect threats and anomalies. When aContinue readingThe Next Step: Anti Phishing Services

The Bagle Worm

I’m getting quite a few warnings about a new worm called Bagle, so I thought I’d pass them along. MessageLabs, an email security company, says it’s currently spreading at an alarming rate. The first copy of the worm was intercepted from Germany, and at the moment the majority of copies are being captured as they are sent from Australia. It seems to have several bits to it: The worm arrives as an attachment to an email with the subject line ‘Hi’ and has a random filename, with a .exe extension. W32/Bagle-mm searches the infected machine for email addresses and then uses its own SMTP engineContinue readingThe Bagle Worm

Another Spamming Record

You’re probably getting bored of spam statistics by now, and I wouldn’t blame you. But here’s another milestone, courtesy of MessageLabs, who monitor this kind of thing: December was a new record, they say, for the ratio of spam to ordinary email. In that month, MessageLabs scanned some 463 million emails and found that 1 in every 1.6, or 62.7% of them, was spam. They don’t give a comparative figure, but their PR says that’s a new record. Of course, it may just have been the holiday season, although spam this month shows no sign of easing up, either for that reason or for newContinue readingAnother Spamming Record

Happy Birthday, SoBig

A press release from email security folks MessageLabs points out that tomorrow is the first anniversary of the SoBig.A worm’s debut. SoBig.A (the A bit means it was the first of a stream of worms that were somehow based on the SoBig worm) wasn’t just any kind of worm, MessageLabs point out. SoBig.A was unique in being the first virus to use convergence techniques to create maximum havoc. Basically this means SoBig.A didn’t just do one thing. It incorporated both spamming and virus writing techniques — infecting hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide, installing open proxies on compromised machines, which were then used to disseminateContinue readingHappy Birthday, SoBig

2003, Year of the Spiral of Evil? Or Just The Start?

MessageLabs, who track this sort of thing, say that spam and viruses hit all time highs in 2003. Not surprising, but the figures are pretty shocking, revealing the symbiotic relationship between spam and viruses — what I called in a recent WSJ/FEER column The Spiral Of Evil (no, it doesn’t seem to have caught on). Here are the figures: — Two-thirds of all spam coming from open proxies created by viruses — Ratio of spam to email is 1 in 2.5 – up 77 per cent in 12 months — Ratio of virus to email now 1 in 33 – up 84 per cent Basically,Continue reading2003, Year of the Spiral of Evil? Or Just The Start?

Update: Sobig Is Back

 Just when you thought it was safe to disable the antivirus software. MessageLabs reports of a fast spreading mass-mailing virus it’s calling W32/Sobig.F-mm.  The initial copies all originated from the United States.   Sobig.F appears to be polymorphic in nature and the email from: address is also spoofed and may not indicate the true identity of the sender.  It may carry the subject line ‘Re: Details’ and say ’Please see the attached file for details.’ in the text.   Attachment names may include: your_document.pif, details.pif, your_details.pif, thank_you.pif,  movie0045.pif, document_Fall.pif, application.pif, document_9446.pif. Watch out. It’s moving rapidly, a bit like babies across the floor.

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