Thursday, 21 April 2011

Computer Security

After today's revelations about Apple's quiet intrusion upon our privacy I'm fortunate to have a reader who informs me about current computer and mobile security issues and he has suggested I may like to post his latest findings.

Some are related to PCs rather than Macs but that's not to say Macs are less susceptible to security attacks.

The links I was sent are here, here, here, here, here and here.  The last link reminds me that none of us are completely safe once we place personal details online.  Only last week I had an email from Marks and Spencer which said their system had been hacked and there was a possibility my name and address had been 'stolen'.  They assured me no other details had been accessed but is that the truth?

We can only do our best to protect ourselves by not buying from online sites which don't provide an authentic address and telephone number.  I check these out but I think luck has played a part in it too, because if Marks and Spencer's system isn't secure - and we know many US government sites aren't secure as Wikileaks proves - it's rather like playing eternal catch-up.


Joe Public said...

Apple are Rogues of the highest order for slipping that data tracking unannounced onto iPhones. I hope they get sued.

I know they bleat that their T&Cs allow them to do anything with Fanbois info - but there's a limit to their gullibility.

subrosa said...

I notice the MSM are giving this a high profile Joe and Apple users are furious.

Think Apple will have to quickly make amends or else.

Joe Public said...

Hi Rosie

A Senator's already written to Steve Jobs.

Interestingly he's included the emotive Think-of-the-Cheeeldren angle as well.

If it's a "Feature", then Apple should have both publicised it; and, given users the opportunity to positively 'Opt-In'.

If it's a "Feature", why does it hold so much data, and, for such a long time?

IMHO any company doing that ought to be hung out to dry.

Angry Exile said...

Wouldn't be surprised if it's all covered by something tucked away in the EULA somewhere. You know, that thing that 99.9% of people agree to without reading because never mind all that garbage, I want to play with my new shiny. I got round it simply by not having a smart phone, though that's as much to do with not wanting to pay hundreds of dollars extra for it to be a computer as well when all I really want is the ability to make phone calls (a side issue is that as an Apple user for quite a few years my honest feeling is that while the desktop devices rock the mobile ones can be completely shithouse). But for all that I realise that if the powers that be really wanted they could track me via my very elderly Nokia 6310i, a phone that came out when people still thought it was cool to be able to play Snake on it.

And point of order: Macs are less susceptible to certain kinds of security attacks. I know there's some debate about the validity of claims that Unix based systems are inherently more secure, and I don't have the knowledge to take sides. But as long as Windows systems run the overwhelming majority of computers there's little pay off for a hacker to be attacking OS X . But a Mac can still be an electronic Typhoid Mary and obviously no machine can be secured against the kind of attack which targets gullible users rather than insecure software or hardware. If someone's tricked into giving out private info then despite my readiness to bag both Microsoft and Apple it's really not the fault of either of 'em.

Anonymous said...

This is off your topic, Subrosa, but I hope that you do not mind.

Philip Morris has opened a website in Australia for the defence of smokers. The URL is:

Here is a copy of a comment that I have just posted on Frank Davis's site:

""I too was surprised that comments were limited, but then I thought that, if the site is a success, there could be tens of thousands all talking to no purpose. As it happens, I have just been over there again and clicked on LATEST NEWS. Two of the four items were newspaper articles on which one could comment. Perhaps Philip Morris's idea is to point out these articles for 'members' of the PM site to comment on.

I looked at the comments on the two articles and was amazed at the overwhelming numerical superiority of anti-smoking comments. On one of the articles (about plain packaging), of 132 comments, only 4 were against the idea. The other article (re smoking in the open air) also was very anti-smoker - the hatred was palpable.

Being a bit of a conspiracy theorist, the thought crossed my mind that ASH (or the AU equivalent) is aware of this Philip Morris site and is deliberately targeting any article mentioned on the site. Certainly, the comments there bear no relation to our experience in the UK where opinion is prominently against the Nanny State. Also, the ignorance of facts as regards SHS was astonishing.

I tried a little detective work on the comments and found that on the article with 132 comments, the vast majority started to pour in at 4pm and then abruptly ceased at 7pm. Very few comments were made after that. The last comment there, a few days later, was the one which referred to their being 132 comments and only 4 which supported the author of the article.

I am going to go back there everyday, check the LATEST NEWS and kick butt – hit them with facts and call the ‘stinkers’ rotten. I think that we should all do it. The URL for the Aussie site again is:

I’m going to copy this comment to other sites, Frank – Leg Iron and co. I think we should wake the Aussies up a bit.""

I think that the idea is clear.

JuliaM said...

"I know they bleat that their T&Cs allow them to do anything with Fanbois info - but there's a limit to their gullibility."

Is there? If so, we certainly haven't reached it yet! :)

English Pensioner said...

I've been looking at smart phones, mainly to replace my ancient PDA.
I wonder if the HTC "Desire" or the Samsung "Galaxy" have similar built in spyware?

Billy Carlin said...

Funny I got that message from Marks and Spencer as well Subrosa but the problem for me is I have never bought anything from them or been on their site so where did they get my details. I thought that it was a scam email when it came in.

subrosa said...

Ah thanks Joe. Isn't it strange that it's only the US which has influence is internet issues?

subrosa said...

I too think that way Angry Exile. Part of the reason is the fonts used these days are so small not even someone with perfect eyesight can read them.

Think about labels in supermarkets. I (sometimes) take a pair of serious reading glasses. I don't normally need them unless print is too small and they save me having to carry a magnifying glass.

I know Macs aren't in the least full proof but even using a Mac here that didn't protect me from the hack on my details with my online M & S account.

subrosa said...

We certainly have not Julia.

subrosa said...

Ep don't get a smart phone unless you need to access your email or internet. Sending texts is a nightmare because of the size of the keyboard and all the 'additions' seem futile to me.

I have one yet use my old Nokia because it's far less complicated. I only want a phone which makes calls, answers calls, has a list of friends who I can text if necessary.

Unfortunately I bought into a 2 year contract. Silly me.

subrosa said...

Mmm Billy. I have bought online from them so it didn't surprise me.

You ought to get in touch with them I suggest.

Angry Exile said...

Seems Google is at it as well but there still seems to be more flak aimed Apple's way. I'm not particularly fond of them as a company - I've called them all sorts of names in fact - but this feels awfully like Tall Poppy Syndrome.

Subrosa, I think EULA tend to be so bloody long and involved, not to mention occasionally written in legalese, that most people just cross their fingers and click agreement without reading. I only read it with unfamiliar software and depending on what it is I may well just flick through. If an update of something already installed has an EULA I tend to just agree it as I always tend to be in the middle of something. An even bigger problem, and one which through gritted teeth I admit might need some state intervention, is that the bloody EULA appears when it's typically too late to get a refund if you're not happy about something in it. Another reason why people just shrug and click yes.

subrosa said...

Angry Exile, I'm not fond of any computer company but I do like Apple products as I think, particularly my Mac, is far superior to my Windows laptop.

Couldn't agree more with you about EULA and I never read it because I don't understand half of it.

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