27 April 2011

Draining The Spam Flood: FBI vs Coreflood Botnet


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According to Wikipedia, Computer crime, or cybercrime, refers to any crime that involves a computer and a network, i.e. the Internet.
Since the Internet is a global network and can be accessed anywhere in the world, combating cybercrime has become a real challenge.

Therefore, I must say that I was all the more glad when I read Ars Technica’s report on

FBI’s Beheading Of The Coreflood Botnet

Coreflood is a malicious software used by its controllers to steal online banking credentials from a victim’s computer to loot their financial accounts. This means that the operators of Coreflood have made themselves guilty of several offences penalised by the

Cybercrime Convention

such as computer related fraud and computer related forgery.

The convention has been signed and ratified by the majority of the industrial states, thereby including the USA and the vast members states of the European Union.
The signatory states have undertaken to transpose convention’s catalogue of crimes into their own law.

For instance, the USA have addressed the most of them in the 18 USC § 1028 and I guess that the above acts of the FBI agents grounded thereupon.

However, it has not all been

Sunshine And Roses

The FBI seems to have used a stealth mode to access infected computers in order to remove the malware from them. Consequently, it would be the first time a government agency accessed and automatically removed code from Americans’ computers.

Although I appreciate what FBI did in terms of cyber security, I could never acclaim the government to access my computer, no matter how noble its purpose was.

What about you?

27 February 2011

Net Neutrality: It Is Getting Serious In Austria


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Do you remember my primer on net neutrality? In that very same I expressed my concern about the development in the United States and showed some optimism as to the “stable conditions” in Europe. Well, I might have been wrong. But let me first remind you

What is net neutrality about?

In a nutshell: net neutrality is the principle proposed for user access to the Internet, which would prevent Internet Service Providers (ISP) from acts of discrimination related to different kinds of Internet traffic that would result in restricting content, sites or platforms.
Having monitored the press releases this week, I
came across what sounded very much like a war cry against that principle. Somewhat suprisingly, it came from Austria.

What is the current menace?

In a very recent meeting in London, Mr Hannes Ametsreiter, CEO of the Telekom Austria Group, reportedly challenged the principle of  net neutrality, thereby using harsh, even menacing expressions. For those not necessarily familiar with the abovementioned company: Telekom Austria is the incumbent telco operator in Austria that still has a significant market power.

From what I read, he has considered to block the access to services such as Skype and Google Voice, provided they “cannibalize and eat up our revenues“. This sounds scary, does it not? And should Internet users just accept that threat or can they rely on some shelter? Let us have a look at the regulatory front.

What does the regulation say?

You will not find a specific language on net neutrality in the regulations currently in force. The Access Directive from 2002 spends some words on “adequate access, interconnection and interoperability of services” in its Article 5. In the light of the older legislation, however, this represents an instruction related to interconnection rather than to net neutrality. The latter did simply not represent an issue in 2002.

But things have changed with the issuance of the revised Telecoms Package in 2009. The updated version of the Access Directive contains not only European Commission’s declaration on net neutrality, it even mandates the Member States to “promote the ability of end-users to access and distribute information or run applications and services of their choice“. The Member States are under the obligation to transpose that directive by 25 May 2011.
Things look now brighter, do they not? Nevertheless, we should take Mr Ametsreiter’s words very seriously.

My concluding thoughts

I have some understanding for Mr Ametsreiter’s concern. Incumbents such as Telekom Austria are under the obligation to provide for a universal service. In the last decade however, they have gradually been bleeding market share and revenue in the realm of voice services. A good chunk of the customers they have lost went to Skype and Google Voice, since those have a nearly free of charge Voice over IP offerings. Incumbents claim that they remain sitting on the cost of their infrastructure, while Skype and the like absorb the profits. Without such infrastructure, incumbents as well as other ISP assert, there would not be Skype or content providers at all. But would there be any interest in ISP if there were not content providers?
Reminds me of who came first, the chicken or the egg.

The optimists among use might say: the market competition will solve it all.
I do not think so.
It is simple – if an incumbent makes a first step, others will follow and the market will fail. And this is the reason why we have regulation – to remedy such failures, irrespective of whether Mr Ametsreiter likes it or not.

 

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9 March 2010

Spam


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Spam & Baconphoto © 2010 Robert Simmons | more info (via: Wylio)

I guess every Internet and e-mail user has at least once received a spam, scam or any other sort of a junk mail in their inbox. So far, the system admins at my employer have always managed to filter such undesired messages. Yesterday, however, I received an e-mail that has apparently succeeded to overcome the protection designed to restrain it.

It is not the usual marketing spam telling you how to buy cheap watches or to enlarge certain body parts, but rather a scam mocking an urgent situation. The sender pretends to be Marina Encheva and the e-mail reads as follows:

How’s everything on your end? This has had to come in a hurry and it has left me in a devastating state. I travelled to UK for a volunteer Training Program (UTP 2010), unfortunately for me I was robbed and my wallet was taken at the hotel where I lodged. The Embassy only cleared me of my travelling documents and ticketing since I came in on unofficial purposes. I only need to clear the hotel bills before I can leave but ofcourse they stopped billing me since the incident. I didn’t bring my phones here and the hotel telephone lines were disconnected during the robbery, so I have access to only emails. Please can you send me £1370 as early as possible so I can return home. As soon as I get home I would refund it immediately, I need you to get back to me so I can let you know how to send.


I’m looking forward to hearing from you.


Regards,

Marina.

So what – could the well informed Internet user ask – spam should not bother you anymore in these days – do not overestimate it! To an extent that would be fine – I would reply – but there are not only well informed users surfing the net. The average users’ age is said to amount to 28 years and as a result of Web 2.0’s advent more and more minors are entering the net. No doubt, the Internet brings many advantages that oftenly show its bright side, but spam, scam & Co show definitely its dark one.

Spam mails are in the most times misleading or even fraudulent. Hence they have the potential to cause damage to their recipients. Yes, just look at the above spam mail and consider the “professional” drafting skill applied to create it. The most users, I am sure,  would cross-read and then delete such a mail. A certain, maybe small percentage would read it carefully, and then spend some time questioning its authenticity prior to deleting it. An even smaller percentage might consider some support and probably contact the sender with an offer to help. That’s it, that’s how it works. This is what these guys are aiming at.

It is possible that the sender’s e-mail account has been hacked and misused by a wrongdoer. It is however possible that the sender is truly experiencing the described difficulties.

In any case, I will take the risk and have the sender, whoever she or he may be, wait for my reply until the cows come home.

 

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10 February 2010

Do not post on Facebook while wanted


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Facebook for Dummies, anyone?photo © 2008 David Fulmer | more info (via: Wylio)

 

Imagine you are wanted by law enforcement officers who, upon discovery, would imprison you without any delay. What would you do? I bet you would hide and keep beneath surface. Moreover, you would very likely think twice before using social media, whereby proudly communicating your wanted poster to the public. No, you would not? Your case then would pretty much equate Christopher Crego’s current situation.

It is somehow surprising that some society’s members do not recognize social media as well as other web 2.0 applications to be “public”.  This appears even weirder as the desire to “communicate with the public” is considered the main drive behind the use of such platforms. In the field of internet, hence, public is where others could look into your content, get notice what you do or otherwise interact with you. Everything leaving your privacy almost automatically enters the public realm.

In this regard social media has the potential of great convenience – communication with others is just a click away. Equally important, however, social media has also proved problematic – think of people that got fired for being on Facebook while actually on sick leave or of recently reported recruiters’ practices.

So, be careful because the social media has you!

25 November 2009

Austrian National Railways must not restrain an ISP to use their infrastructure


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Silver Server, an Austrian ISP, approached the National Railways of Austria (ÖBB) and requested access to their infrastructure, particularly their communications lines. Silver Server grounded their request on the joint-use right as outlined in Articles 8 and 9 of the Austrian Telecommunications Act 2003. Upon ÖBB’s refusal Silver Server referred the case to the Telecom-Control Commission (TKK) which regulates the Austrian telecommunications market.

In its recently issued decision, the TKK held ÖBB liable to grant Silver Server access pursuant to their request. In accordance with Austrian administrative law, TKK’s decision serves as a so called “contract substituting ruling”. For this reason the TKK has employed great detail in drafting and has for a first time in a matter of joint-use provided for precise conditions (e.g. definite rental price) and a share of responsibilities (e.g. performance guarantee, maintenance obligations) between the parties.

The decision is noteworthy because it extends the scope of the Telecommunications Act beyond the sector of electronic communication and affirms its applicability also to somewhat unusual market players such as the national railway company.

11 December 2008

Is narrow band internet still alive?


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I just read this communication of the European Commission and was amazed to find out that narrow band internet is still used in the enterprise sector within the EU.

So, telecommunications infrastructure companies – look up and listen up! You may have your chance in Romania, Lithuania and Poland.