Beware The Little Physh!
Bring On The Drones
January 2013 Blogs
Quite reasonably, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has proposed a more determined approach to cyber security. She is, however, concerned by the difficulty of controlling the content and actions of overseas web-sites which are not subject to Australian regulations.
Some months ago, I proposed that Australian schools, or perhaps even State Education Departments, should establish social web-sites so that students could enjoy all of the benefits of the internet chat-sites, but with none of the hazards. The students themselves could design, set-up, and maintain the sites, as part of the I.T. syllabus. The sites could be moderated by a student committee, to prevent cyber-bullying. When the students graduate and look for a job in I.T., they will be able to demonstrate relevant prior work-experience. It costs around $10 per year to register a domain-name (cheaper than buying a single text-book), and can be hosted on an existing web-connected computer, so it's not going to break the Education Budget.
Beware the Little Physh!
We've become accustomed to expecting fraudulent schemes on the internet, scams, to come from such places as Nigeria, or Burkina Faso, or Russia, or China, but beware of the very simply established physhing scams which may come from your own town or state.
For years, I have made use of Paypal to pay for my on-line purchases. They store my account information securely, they do not disclose my account details to my suppliers, their handling commissions are very reasonable, and they offer a fair dispute resolution service for unsatisfactory transactions. They never request that I disclose my log-in details insecurely.
So, when I received an email with a Paypal banner, which asked me to authorise or cancel a request for funds for an Ebay purchase which I had not made, I smelt a rat! The message asked me to click on a link to a "secure Paypal login page". So, I checked the message HTML source code. I discovered that the link was actually pointing, not to Paypal, but to an entirely different domain.
The scam site had been copied from Paypal, and looked genuine. It included a login entry form, asking for my account name and password. This, of course, was the whole purpose of the scam - to learn my account name and password, so that fraudulent drawings could be made upon my account.
I then used Whois.com to determine who had registered the domain name. It was very new, less than a week old, and the name and address of the owner was a lady living in Elwood, Melbourne, Victoria. When I looked up her address on Google maps, I was able to display the entry to her townhouse, one of a row of wooden doors in a brick wall fronting the pavement. I did consider publishing her personal details in full on a scam listing page, but instead provided the information to Paypal's "spoof" email address.
About a month later, just before Christmas, I received a similar Paypal physhing scam email. When I tried to follow the fraudulent link (to a different site), I found that web access had been denied, presumably because the Fraud Squad had got in first.
I have previously received numerous scam emails, purporting to come from Microsoft's Live.com team, telling me that because of "attempts to scam Hotmail accounts", all Hotmail accounts must be verified, or will be closed. Would I please confirm my details, to ensure continuity of service? In their dreams! I use the Hotmail "sweep" command to delete all such messages, unopened.
My advice to all, is NEVER follow a link which leads to a login page, or indeed enter login information to any web-page for which you have not personally addressed your browser. Don't do what I did, i.e. try to play detective, unless you are very sure that you know what you are doing. If you suspect a scam, report the message to the owner of the genuine site. I hate to say this, but the AFP is far too busy with the big crimes, to be interested in the small fry.
Bring on the Drones
We rely upon air support for our ground forces, particularly in areas where we face terrorist attacks such as the planting of booby traps and other I.E.Ds. Our most commonly deployed support is provided by armoured helicopters. The crew is able to locate and identify the enemy with some degree of certainty, and to selectively destroy them while they are engaged upon their covert activities. It is the best of poetic justice when a bomb-planting terrorist is literally "hoist with his own petard" while setting-up an explosive device.
At considerably less expense, and with no risk to our own personnel, we can achieve the same results by using remotely-controlled drone aircraft. Additionally, the drone aircraft give significant advantages - the selection of targets may be supervised by the most experienced and senior supervisors, so that innocent civilians are less likely to be harmed, and the drones may use infra-red imaging, so that they may be deployed effectively at night when the bombers are most active.
The greater effectiveness of drone aircraft has provoked an angry response from the terrorists, who claim that innocent civilians are being indescriminately targeted. Far from it, the reverse is true. We're obviously successfully disrupting terrorist activities, with a minimum of "collateral" damage, and at much less risk to our own troops. Bring on the drones!
We face a significant shortage of affordable public housing. Paradoxically, construction activity is in the doldrums, and the demand for labour and building materials is depressed .
Rather than funding unemployment benefits and re-training schemes for displaced building industry employees, we should pump Reserve Bank funds, at the current base rates of interest, into the Public Housing Departments of the State Governments, specifically for the construction of new public housing. This investment will boost building industry activity, and will deliver long-lasting benefits in an area of great need.
Lance Armstrong (updated February 5th.)
Throughout my somewhat long life, I have been puzzled to understand the motives of cheats. Some are obviously motivated by personal gain, others seek the admiration of their peers. But how can you enjoy admiration when you know that it has not been earned, that you have cheated?
In the case of Lance Armstrong, I believe that he may have struggled to compete while he was still recovering from cancer. Perhaps his advisers suggested that, as part of his rehabilitation, he should stimulate his body to the point that he could once again compete on an equal basis. I believe that his drug-taking, particularly testosterone, may have played a part in his development of testicular cancer. Certainly, this would account for his aggressive and ruthless actions towards his associates, competitors and detractors. My distaste for the man has been confirmed by the ABC TV "4-Corners" investigation and exposure of his behaviour.
He has been stripped of the awards which he won unfairly. His sponsors have dropped him. He is no longer permitted to engage in the sport which he loves. Much of his financial rewards will be confiscated. He can no longer work to promote the cancer research charity which was his greatest interest.
It has been suggested that he should refund the appearance fee and expenses which he received from the South Australian Government to promote the Tour Down-Under. But wait! At the time, he was a public hero and his promotion was very effective. He certainly delivered value for money, he fully performed his contracted duties. We got what we paid for.
When I was young and more foolish, I owned firearms, which I used to hunt game for the table, and for target practice as a member of a rifle club. For both of these activities, the aim was for skill and accuracy. My weapons were single-shot rifles, appropriate to my activities. When gun control was introduced and I was no longer using my rifles, I disposed of them to a licensed collector.
The N.R.A. of the U.S.A., with some 4 million members, argues that to bear arms is a Constitutional right of all American citizens. I would suggest that, if the weapons are to be used for the hunting of game, or for target shooting at a registered gun club, then their constitutional rights may be satisfied by the ownership of single-shot target pistols, single-shot rifles, or bolt-action repeating rifles. I would expect that, as is the case in Australia, all privately-owned weapons would be licensed to reputable, responsible persons. Only security personnel, law enforcement officers, or defence forces personnel should have access to automatic hand guns or to rapid-fire assault weapons.
I believe that the pre-occupation with machine guns in the U.S.A. results mainly from the wide distribution of violent, realistic video games. Young people particularly, fantasise about the ability to destroy opponents wth a withering hail of bullets, without any need for skill or accuracy. Given the easy access to automatic weapons and ammunition, it is a relatively small step to massacre a group of innocent, defenceless citizens.