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SECURITY. True or false?

The eight top cyber security practices recommended by NCSA are practical steps you can take to stay safe online and avoid becoming a victim of fraud, writes Deepak Mankar.

india Updated: Nov 06, 2005 16:31 IST

Last week www.hindustantimes.comI wrote about the spam menace in blogosphere (‘MEET ‘SPLOGS’. Unwanted spawns of blogs’). Just now I read an article by Elinor Mills at TechRepublic (‘Tempted by blogs, spam becomes splog’) www.techrepublic.com.comThe author sums up the new crisis – with Google as the main victim – as follows: "The search giant's Blogger blog-creation tool and BlogSpot hosting service, together the most popular free blogging service on the Web, fell victim this past weekend to the biggest splog attack yet – an assault that led to clogged RSS readers and overflowing in-boxes, and that may have manipulated search engine rankings." And: "The attacker, or splogger, used automated tools to manipulate the Blogger-BlogSpot service and create thousands of fake blogs loaded with links to specific Web sites (home mortgage, poker and tobacco sites among them). The move was designed to doctor search results and boost traffic to those sites by fooling the search-engine spiders that crawl the Web looking for commonly linked-to destinations." Moreover: "The counterfeit blogs also triggered thousands of RSS – Really Simple Syndication – feeds and e-mail notifications, swamping RSS readers and in-boxes." The sad part is that, unlike e-mail programs, "blogging services don't have the capability to easily detect and filter out spam, explained Bob Wyman, chief technology officer at blog search and tracking service PubSub." PubSub may stop including entries from Blogger-BlogSpot feeds in the ‘normal’ results it delivers to users as a consequence. It is also thinking about asking users explicitly to opt in if they want to see results from Blogger-BlogSpot feeds, said Wyman.


NO SUGAR COATING. Free speech under threat?

Dr. Joseph Mercola runs a website and a newsletter that ranks among the most widely read sources of alternative health-care information. He claims he has been coerced into blocking readers in the U.K. from reading his opinions about a controversial sugar alternative called Splenda (sucralose), marketed by McNeil
Nutritionals, a joint venture of Tate & Lyle and Johnson & Johnson. In an article discussing the legal action threatened by Splenda maker www.mercola.com he writes: "I am forced to block all my comments regarding Splenda from the U.K. Tate & Lyle has assured me they will sue me if I do not. This is largely related to the liberal libel laws in the U.K. What is perfectly legal in the United States is not in the U.K., as freedom of speech is severely restricted over there." Steve Outing in his 20 October E-Media Tidbits post at www.Pointer.org calls this muzzling move "counterproductive". He wonder "when corporations will get on the Cluetrain (www.cluetrain.com) and understand that in our digitally networked world, it's better to publicly engage critics in a dialog rather than try to shut them down with brute force. Silencing Mercola's point of view will only spawn a thousand other Internet critics who won't be cowed."

SECURITY. True or false?

A survey conducted by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and the US Department of Homeland Security found that more than 70% of computer owners falsely believed they were safe from online threats such as adware, spyware and viruses. The eight top cyber security practices recommended by NCSA are "practical steps you can take to stay safe online and avoid becoming a victim of fraud, identity theft, or cyber crime". (1) Protect your personal information. It's valuable. (2) Know who you're dealing with online. (3) Use anti-virus software, a firewall, and anti-spyware software to help keep your computer safe and secure. (4) Be sure to set up your operating system and Web browser software properly, and update them regularly. (5) Use strong passwords or strong authentication technology to help protect your personal information. (6) Back up important files. (7) Learn what to do if something goes wrong. (8) Protect your children online. www.staysafeonline.info. By the way, October was observed as the National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

LESSONS ON LINUX. Short, simple, sweet.

The well-known Tourbus conductor, ‘Doc’ Bob Rankin, offers in his usual altruistic frame of mind a series of short and simple tutorials for simple non-techie people wanting to learn the basics of using Linux, without getting bogged down in too many details or technobabble. You'll find plain-English information here about using Linux on your PC. www.lowfatlinux.com. (P.S.: Originally, this info was available in a book, ‘The No BS Guide to Linux’.)

SOME MORE FREE ADVICE. Again from Bob.

How generous can a guy get? Bob has a website, ‘Ask Bob Rankin’, where he dispenses free advice on PC use and trouble-shooting. For instance, he explains how to wipe your browsing history so as to avoid falling prey to prying ‘neighbours’ at www.askbobrankin.com. Then again, he patiently explains how to avoid the ‘bloated monster’ that often gets spawned when you save a document as a web page with Microsoft Word and that sometimes can cause problems when displayed with a web browser at www.askbobrankin.com . And, so on and so forth. Thank you, Bob.

THE MORE, THE MERRIER. A clarion call to Spaniards.

In her 24 October E-Media Tidbits post at www.Pointer.org, Eva Dominguez tells us how Spain where 35 percent citizens are surfers will celebrate 25 October as Internet Day in order to promote its use even further. Those who don’t use it find it either not interesting or useful enough or they cite financial reasons for not using it, she writes citing a recent survey. Among the various public activities planned for the day are the gifting of 5,000 domains, organizing a Web gymkhana, and driving buses with free Internet connections to many locations. The press support to the campaign includes such imaginative incentives as the opportunity to readers to become journalists for one day and make news for a special homepage as El Mundo, a leading daily is offering. One of its colleagues, El País, will carry a special report for the day including a section where readers and famous people will explain how the Internet changed their lives.

OFFSHORING. Small beginning. Big promise.

‘Attracting more offshoring to Philippines’ draws pointed attention to the small country’s "combination of rock-bottom costs and a desirable labor pool" that may assist in propelling it "to prominence as an offshoring location". However, the McKinsey Global Institute’s research suugests that "a poor risk profile, a deficient infrastructure, and a subpar business environment conspire to hinder the country's offshoring prospects."www.mckinseyquarterly.com. Then, on to the McKinsey perspective on Morocco’s chances (‘Morocco’s offshoring advantage’). Here. The hurdle is "slowing growth" and "a rising trade deficit" that need to be tackled by the broadening of its industrial base. A recent study found that "the offshoring of services by French- and Spanish-speaking companies could help. Morocco offers a large pool of relatively cheap and well-qualified French and Spanish speakers and a good telecommunications infrastructure." Last but not the least, it should begin byestablishing economic zones to host the offshoring of business processes and IT operations and by attracting a handful of multinationals to the country."(Registration required to read the full article.) www.mckinseyquarterly.com.

ID THEFT. Truth versus myth.

The fears about identity theft are vastly exaggerated. An identity can't be stolen. It can be used fraudulently, yes. In March 2005, a laptop containing names, dates of birth, addresses and Social Security numbers of 98,369 graduate students or graduate-school applicants was stolen from the University of California at Berkeley. One of them was Gretchen Hayes. She received a letter warning that she could be at the risk of identity theft. Nothing happened, though. The laptop was recovered in September. Police feel the thief’s interest was only in the computer, not in the information in its files. To read the full story, go towww.techrepublic.com.com.

That's all for now though there's plenty more out there. Join me again next week, same place. Happy Diwali.

Copyright (c) 2001- 2005 by Deepak Mankar. All rights reserved. Deepak Mankar, an advertising practitioner on the creative side since 1965, is also intensely passionate about the web and web content creation. Read his online articles athttp://www.asiaondemand.com/. Website:http://www.addgandhi.com/original/. You may e-mail him at dmankar@bom8.vsnl.net.in.

First Published: Oct 29, 2005 12:30 IST