Tag Archives: The Star Tribune Company

Wikipedia Scalps a Journalist

Wikipedia isn’t always on the defensive, when it comes to getting things right: The Hawaii Reporter reports that the Honolulu Star-Bulletin has fired a reporter for plagiarism, after allegedly lifting material directly from Wikipedia:

Honolulu Star-Bulletin Editor Frank Bridgewater said today in a nearly 200-word front-page letter to readers on Friday, the 13th of January, that he had fired veteran entertainment reporter Tim Ryan following an investigation into his stories over the last several years. Ryan has been employed with the Honolulu Star-Bulletin since 1984.

Though Bridgewater does not acknowledge this in the letter, the internal investigation was prompted by two reports in Wikipedia.org and Hawaii Reporter, which documented that Ryan seemed to have lifted large sections of national stories – directly and without attribution – for his local reports.

Bridgewater admits only to Ryan’s stories containing “phrases or sentences that appeared elsewhere before being included, un-attributed, in stories that ran in the Star-Bulletin.”

The letter lists six stories, including a review of a PBS documentary about Aloha Airlines. The Aloha story page includes a footnote correction which does acknowledge that a portion “was taken verbatim from the Web site reference.com. The material was originally published in the online encyclopedia wikipedia.com. The article, on Page D6 Thursday, failed to attribute the information to either source.” Wikipedia had in the meantime run its own investigation of the journalist, the Reporter says,

after its editors discovered Ryan seemed to have taken large portions of his Honolulu Star-Bulletin Dec. 22, 2005, story on a PBS documentary about Aloha Flight 93 from an earlier Wikipedia.org story. The Wikipedia.org editors delved into his past entertainment reports noting similar trends in two additional stories Ryan authored that first appeared on NPR and in other national news sources.

The Lego Scam

A man after my own heart: AP reports that a man has been arrested accused of stealing a truck full of Lego:

A 40-year-old man is behind bars, accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars of a toy geared toward the 6-and-up crowd: Legos. To haul away the evidence, agents working for the U.S. Postal Inspector said they had to back a 20-foot truck to William Swanberg’s house in Reno, Nev., carting away mountains of the multicolored bricks.

Swanberg was indicted Wednesday by a grand jury in Hillsboro, a Portland suburb, which charged him with stealing Legos from Target stores in Oregon. Target estimates Swanberg stole and resold on the Internet up to $200,000 of the brick sets pilfered from their stores in Oregon as well as Utah, Arizona, Nevada and California.

When no one was looking, Swanberg switched the bar codes on Lego boxes, replacing an expensive one with a cheaper label, said Detective Troy Dolyniuk, a member of the Washington County fraud and identity theft enforcement team.

Target officials contacted police after noticing the same pattern at their stores in the five western states. A Target security guard stopped Swanberg at a Portland-area store on Nov. 17, after he bought 10 boxes of the Star Wars Millennium Falcon set. In his parked car, detectives found 56 of the Star Wars set, valued at $99 each, as well as 27 other Lego sets. In a laptop found inside Swanberg’s car, investigators also found the addresses of numerous Target stores in the Portland area, their locations carefully plotted on a mapping software.

Records of the Lego collector’s Web site, Bricklink.Com, show that Swanberg has sold nearly $600,000 worth of Legos since 2002, said Dolyniuk.

Interestingly, folk seemed to have been quite happy to deal with Swanberg on Bricklink.com. He’s been registered on the site since 2002, earning praise from more than 6,000 users, and getting complaints from only 11. He was still shipping up until the last minute: Eight folk posted praise about dealing with him on the day or after he’d been indicted. Only one person seemed to harbour doubts: That person wrote on November 19, four days before Swanberg was indicted: “Wish I knew where these came from…”

Actually, this kind of scam is well documented, and may be a copycat theft. Eagle-eyed readers may recall a piece I wrote a few months back about Douglas Havard, a phisher who was jailed in June for conspiracy to defraud and launder money. According to an earlier piece in the Dallas Observer Havard used to steal expensive Lego sets by switching price tags on Lego boxes. The only difference was that Havard was printing his own price stickers.

What is it with Lego that turns people into criminals?

Discerning Porn Merchants And Rogue Dialers

Malaysia is feeling the heat from the rogue dialer, or Internet dumping, scammers. The Malaysian Communications & Multimedia Commission (MCMC) said on Wednesday in TechCentral that most of the victims had been unwittingly downloading the offending software while surfing porn sites:

“Since it occurs mostly on adult and entertainment sites, we would like to urge users to be more discerning when accessing these sites as it may result in high IDD (international direct dial) call charges,” said Adelina Iskandar, head of corporate communications at MCMC.

I rather like the idea of trying to be more discerning while surfing for porn. I suspect that by the time the person has decided to head for those kind of sites, the need to be discerning is somewhat low on his list of priorities.

Anyway, it seems as if Malaysia’s main problem is coming from Papua New Guinea, where most of the international calls are getting routed to. In its latest effort to curb this problem, The Star’s TechCentral reports, Telekom  Malaysia will be blocking all IDD calls to Papua New Guinea as most of these sites are hosted there. Effective immediately, customers who wish to make calls to Papua New Guinea will have to call 108, Operator Assisted International Services, for their calls to be connected.

Wiretapping Your Way Into Credit Card Fraud

If you think the Internet is a scary place for stealing your sensitive bank data, try your local gas station.

The Star Tribune in Malaysia reports that criminals there are increasingly intercepting the transmission of credit card data between the point of sale machines that swipe your card and the bank. This data, incredibly, is being sent in unencrypted text form so all a criminal has to do is ‘wiretap’ the phone line and capture the data — usually onto an MP3 player.  All they need to do is find the phone line, either in the outlet’s Main Distribution Frame room, or that of the bank itself and record the gurgling modem sound. A special decoder can then convert that noise into data. Your data.

The banks are finally getting onto this. Malaysia’s central bank has ordered all credit cards in the country to be EMV(Europay/MasterCard/Visa)-compliant by end-2005 (this means smart, and supposedly fraud-proof). But for now, The Star Tribune says, the banking industry is trying to encrypt data. Unfortunately, so far nothing has been agreed on.

At the risk of sounding appalled, I’m appalled. How can such data be transmitted without a modicum of encryption? This means that when we’re typing our credit card number into a web page it’s actually more secure than if we give it to the guy at the gas station or restaurant?

I was never that happy anyway doing the latter, given the prevalence of skimming — where a crooked employee would either double-swipe your card, or swipe it into a separate device that stored your details — but now, it seems, the data is up for grabs even when it’s being transmitted to your bank for verification. Yikes.