Actrix Newsletter July 2002

This newsletter has been produced to help you get the most out of the Internet,
and to keep you, as an Actrix customer, informed of developments and services within the company.
Past newsletters may be viewed at http://editor.actrix.co.nz/
Newsletters are now archived by article at http://editor.actrix.co.nz/byarticle/
Questions and comments about the newsletter can be e-mailed to editor@actrix.co.nz
Other inquiries should be e-mailed to support@actrix.co.nz

 

How Safe is My Password? How much danger could I be in anyway?

by Rob Zorn

Over recent months, there have been a small handful of Actrix users who have discovered, much to their shock and embarrassment, that others have been dialling up to their accounts without their knowledge. Usually it comes about when they receive their first bill for excess usage. When we show them usage logs they find that their account has been used in a very big way indeed, and often during the wee small hours. These customers, of course, are then reluctant to pay the excess hour fees. I can understand that, but perhaps customers need to understand too, that their password should be treated with as much care as any account pin number given to you by a bank. Banks want you to have secure PINs so that they don't have to fight you or anyone else over misplaced money. For the same reasons we want you to have a secure password.

There are two main ways in which your password is at risk. The first is straightforward and easy to understand. It's the danger of having your password stolen (or learned or guessed) by your children, your friends, or even casual acquaintances. Most people understand this danger and feel that they are prepared for it. Most people generally keep their password to themselves, or are very careful with whom they would share it. Very few are silly enough to Sellotape their password to their computer screen, or trust their children (and maybe their children's friends by extension?) with it willy-nilly. Nevertheless, this sort of password theft is reasonably common, and if the person who has stolen your password (or learned it in some way they shouldn't have) is sensible about when and where and how much they use your account, then you may never ever know.

Many people don't quite realise that their password is often easily crackable, and that there are strange people out there who feel very motivated and challenged by the very thought of doing so. Are you aware that you can buy lists of common passwords on the Internet? Do you know how many people use their pets' names (e.g.rover1) or their children's names (almost always the firstborn or the most recently born), or the name of the account itself with the letter "o" replaced with a zero or something.  You'd be surprised, too, at the amount of people who use the word "password," thinking that this is so obvious that no one would ever think of it. Think again. Thousands have thought of it before you.

Feedback on Last month's article on Credit Cards and PayPal.

Hi Rob,

Congratulations and thanks for a very informative newsletter. Don't know how you do it month after month.

With reference to this month's newsletter: Not sure if you are aware, but there is a site www.aboutpaypal.org which documents grievances which a reasonably large number of people appear to have against PayPal. Of course the authenticity of what is stated on any site is open to question, but it would seem that PayPal can be a very difficult company to deal with in the event of any disagreement. It doesn't provide an escrow situation (though of course it makes no claim to this) - the buyer has no way of stopping payment or contesting charges against his account, as would be the case with a credit card.

I'm sure it works seamlessly for vast numbers of people (ie if everything is fine), and it certainly provides a very easy to use mechanism for making a remote payment, but your readers may want to be aware that it not entirely without controversy.


Regards
Don Fisk

Well, so much for the first danger. It's easy to think of ways to be more careful about this one, so I'll deal with some practical password solutions at the end of this article. The second danger is much worse, and the reason why it is so bad is that most people don't even have an inkling that it might be a possibility. Most people feel safe because they can't imagine anyone making them a target for password theft. The fact is that most people on the Internet who have their password stolen were not targeted, they were exploited on the basis of pure opportunism.

As I said above, you can purchase, relatively cheaply, lists of the million or so most common usernames and the million or so most common passwords. It becomes a relatively simple matter (so simple that high school kids can do it) to then find a program that will fire those list combinations at an ISPs authentication servers. It doesn't usually take a computer long to do a million anythings, so before long, this "cracker" is probably going to find a handful of usernames and passwords that worked. Lo and behold, access to the Internet at someone else's expense! Maybe you think you're more secure because your username is on the weirder side, and not likely to be on any "most common list of usernames." Don't relax too soon. In most cases, your username is the same as your e-mail address. Be sure that hackers and crackers out there are collecting lists of e-mail addresses and usernames for ISPs (and sharing them around). If your e-mail address is on the web somewhere, or has been taken out of someone else's address book through a virus, or whatever, the  a cracker may be combining the list of the million or so most common passwords with his nice little Actrix customer shortlist. This suddenly makes you a whole lot more desirable as a target because you're a confirmed user at a given ISP. It's nothing personal. It's like a thief continually trying doors. He isn't targeting anyone in particular. He's just trying a process. If one door out of a thousand opens, then he's happy.

Once he's able to get online as you, he's able to intercept your e-mail (what could he learn about you by doing that?), check your account details online, commit crimes and nuisance offenses appearing to be you, and the list goes on to be as long as the cracker's imagination.

So what can you do?

Obviously, the first thing you should do is change your password(s) often. You need to treat your password with care. Don't leave it written down somewhere, and if you give it to the kids at any stage for some legitimate reason, then remember to change it as soon as possible afterwards.

Secondly, don't use something obvious, and don't use a legitimate English word. It would not take a hacker long to fire the entire English dictionary at an authentication server (in fact some do just this). I am sure they crack lots of accounts this way. If they have your username, and you have an English word as your password, then you're reasonably vulnerable. You should use a combination of both letters and numbers, upper case (capitals) and lower case. The word you choose could be a mnemonic if you think you need some trick in order to help you remember it, but if so, it should be from a phrase that is completely irrelevant to you, and that no one would be able to associate with you. A mnemonic is where you take the first letter in each word in a phrase and use them to make a word. "It's a Long Way to Tiperary," for example, might be rendered mnemonically as Ialwtt. If you do use a mnemonic, randomly capitalise some of the letters and add a number or two, so that Ialwtt becomes IaL6Wtt. At this stage it's probably wise for dialup users to avoid punctuation in passwords. Answering modems are likely to be unable to handle these sorts of characters.

Thirdly, don't use the same password in too many different places. Crackers see a password as a probable gateway to other areas. If your FTP password is the same as your log in password, or the same as the password you use for Internet banking, then you could be in deeper trouble than you imagine once your initial password has been breached.

Fourthly, don't store your password electronically anywhere on your machine. If you get hit by a virus that sends out documents from your machine (and many of the latest viruses do just that) then you could find you password (and a whole lot of other personal stuff about you) is merrily doing the Internet rounds behind your back.

Some more articles on Password Security:

Passwords: The Weakest Link by Rob Lemos 

Warning Over Password Security BBC News  


Jeremy "The Flash" FairbrassFarewell Jeremy Fairbrass

We're sad to announce that long time employee Jeremy Fairbrass has decided to leave Actrix in order to seek his fortune overseas in Germany. Jeremy has worked for Actrix since February 1998 and for those first couple of years he manned the help desk pretty much on his own. When Actrix went nationwide in 1999, Jeremy stayed on to train a group of replacement help desk staff before taking up more technical duties elsewhere within the company. Jeremy's customer focus and broad knowledge will be missed by staff here and by Actrix customers alike.

Jeremy has been replaced by John Anderson. If you have been dealing with Jeremy, John would love to hear from you. You can contact John at janderson@actrix.co.nz.  

The Actrix Website - Part 2 The Member’s Section

by Amber McEwen
Actrix Marketing

When we were re-designing the Actrix Website we asked some customers about what tools they wanted to access on-line. The most common response was the ability to view their bills and usage information without having to call our Help Desk.

In response to this feedback we created a Members Section that is accessed through the "Members Account Log-in" on the front page of the Actrix Website. To log in to this section you need to enter your Actrix username and password.

Within, there are several sections that you can go to depending on what you want to do.

1. My Services

If you want to sign-up for a new service or arrange to pay your account, simply select what you want to do and follow the instructions. Your options are:

Register for a new service – if you want to add a service such as an additional mailbox to your account.
Upgrade Plan – if your level of Internet usage has changed you can up or downgrade your dial-up account to reflect this.
Top up CyberByte 1
Payment Options
  Direct Debit – order a direct debit form,
  Credit Card – pay your account once by credit card,
  Automatic Credit card Payments – register your account with us and we will automatically charge your credit card with your bill each month. You will be sent an invoice so you know how much we are deducting.
  Automatic Payment – order an automatic payment form.
Loyalty Discounts – sign up for one of our Loyalty discounts.

2. My Info

myinfo2.jpg (15037 bytes)This section allows you to view all the information relevant to your account. You can view:

Statements – your statements paid and owing.
Usage – you can view your current and previous usage for your dial-up account.
Edit My Account
  Change Password
  Change contact details
Add e-mail address – most of our dial-up plans come with more than one e-mail address. If you want to add another e-mail address to your account you can do that here.

3. Quick Links

The quick links bar on the left hand side of the home page allows you to quickly do some of the most common tasks such as view your usage, pay your account, to up your CyberByte 1 plan and so on.

Our Member’s Section has been designed to allow you to easily manage your own account. If you have any suggestions for what else you would like to see in this section please do not hesitate to contact us.


 

 

Useful Internet Emoticons

These emoticons have been borrowed from http://www.randomhouse.com/features/davebarry/emoticon.html. Some emoticons, and their "meanings" have been removed in this reproduction. This is a family newsletter after all. -Ed.

As a new person or "newbie" on the Internet, you'll probably be struck by the fact that a lot of the messages contain odd-looking words and punctuation. This is a kind of "shorthand" that Internet users have developed so they can express certain thoughts and emotions without wasting valuable time typing them out.

Emoticons are a very clever use of standard punctuation marks to express a human emotion. Here's how they work.

Suppose you're typing a statement such as:

I am feeling happy

The problem with this is, the reader cannot be absolutely, 100 percent sure what emotion you're feeling when you type this. So at the end of the sentence, you type a colon (:) followed by a closing parentheses ()). Now your sentence looks like this:

I am feeling happy :)

See the difference?

 

EMOTICON MEANING

:)

Happy person

:(

Sad person

:-)

Happy person with a nose

:-(

Sad person with a nose

:---(

Person who is sad because he or she has a large nose

:(

Person who is sad because he or she has a large fish for a nose

:-D

Person laughing

:-D*

Person laughing so hard that he or she does not notice that a 5-legged spider is hanging from his or her lip

:-|

Person unsure of which long-distance company to choose

>8-O-(&)

Person just realising that he or she has a tapeworm

;-)

Person winking

.-)

Person who can still smile despite losing an eyeball

:-{8

Person who is unhappy with the results of her breast-enlargement surgery

:V:-|

Person who cannot figure out why nobody wants to talk to him or her, little suspecting that there is an alligator on his or her head

~oE]:-|

Fisherperson heading for market with a basket on his or her head containing a three-legged octopus that is giving off smell rays

>:-[ -{9

Person who is none too pleased to be giving birth to a squirrel

 

Installation of Debian GNU/Linux Step by Step (Part 2)

by John Anderson

Over the last six months I've talked about the benefits of the GNU/Linux operating system. Now it's time to put my money where my mouth is. This article is the second in a step by step guide to installing Debian.

So we’ve organised our pack, made sure it’s sitting right and the map is in our pocket and we’re ready to go. All you need now is the CD, which should have arrived by now and be ready to put into your computer and then start up.

Most CD-ROM drives are bootable these days, so you should have no problem with this. If the CD-ROM doesn’t work let me know and I will provide you with ways of working around this problem.

Anyway upon booting up, you should see a stream of information and finally a nice easy question. What language would like to do the install in? After this you are then asked for your keyboard type. Since my keyboard manual was lost long ago, I’ve always pressed querty/us and it’s always seen me right.

Now comes the interesting part, you need to partition your hard drive. If you can’t remember what this means, take a quick glance at your map and jog your memory. If you haven’t got a map then go back to part one and sketch your partition table out.

The next stage is to initialise the swap partitions. Select the partition you chose for your swap and then proceed. When you are asked if you want to do bad block scans make sure you select no as this is unnecessary and can take a long time.

The next stage is to initialise the other partitions you have created for your /usr or /local partitions. When asked if you want to 'retain Linux kernel 2.0 compatibility, select 'no'. As a new user you are unlikely to require this functionality.

Here we are then, at the top of the first significant ridge. Looking out we can see that our map has served us well and above we can see the next stage the Mountains of Modules.

The kernel is the heart of the operating system, but in order for it to reach all it's limbs like network cards, printers and other hardware, you need modules.

Configuring device driver modules is usually a fairly easy process, if you have ones that cover the hardware you have. You do not need to install a CDROM module if you have an IDE CD Drive. If your CD Drive is working at the moment, you shouldn't need to install another module. If you have a network card, select the network card. Most modern cards configure themselves so you should not need to put in the IRQ.

Configuring the network is only necessary, if you are going to install over a network. In which case, you need to speak to your network administrator about the appropriate settings. The next stage is to configure the base system. Select the correct time zone.

Next, you will be asked to install on the master boot record, select yes.

And finally the boot floppy. Burrowing deep into your pocket, below the scroggin, you should find that old 1.44 floppy disk push it in and we're almost at the summit.

Reboot the whole system and you're reached the end of the first leg. Take a breather, much that scroggin and we'll be back next month with configuration.


Interesting Sites (Click the picture links to access the sites)

Please note: Actrix supplies links to these sites for your interest and possible use. We cannot endorse or take any responsibility for their contents. Got a site you think would be neat to share with other readers? Let me know and receive a free Norrie the Nerd chocolate bar courtesy of Actrix!

Ramblin' Cameras
www.ramblincameras.com/ - If you've been watching the news or having a hard day at work, or if your relationship's on a downward spiral and you're tempted to forget that there really is beauty left in the world, then you need a site like this one. Many of these lovely images would make excellent desktop wallpaper. On a Windows PC, once the image has fully loaded, right-click and then select Set as Background or Set as Wallpaper.
It Was the Best of Signs, It Was the Worst of Signs
www.signslanguage.com/ - Over thirty galleries of weird signs from all around the world each with
humorous comments of explanation, well, sort of.
Leave a Message for the Future
www.keo.org/uk/pages/introuk.html - The far away
children of your children... of their great grandchildren... who you never would have known, who would have loved to have known you. What would you like to tell them? At the end of 2003 the satellite KEO will be launched into space. It will return to earth 50,000 years later, intact, with a collection of our messages especially for them. Each person on earth is invited to participate in the project, free of cost. Supported by UNESCO and the European Spatial Industry.
Identify Dinosaurs
http://flood.nhm.ac.uk/cgi-bin/dino/ - At some point, just about everyone has held a fascination for dinosaurs. When this happens at your house, head for The Natural History Museum: Dino Directory. Find specific dinosaurs by picking a name, time period, country, or body shape: You'll get information on the species and colour pictures of what the beast may have looked like. For more general information, check out the eye-catching dinosaur gallery page.
Answers in Genesis
www.answersingenesis.org/ - Christian customers who may be less than impressed with the old-earth view of the previous site may prefer this one for finding out about pre-historic lifeforms. It's also a site that might be of interest to
Evolutionists who want a better understanding of the Creationist viewpoint. The site has a good reputation for being scientific and balanced. It was suggested by Renton Maclachlan.
Improve Your Diet
www.nutri-facts.com/fdlabel.asp?fid=16090 - Just how good or bad is your daily diet? Find out at Nutri-Facts.com, the search engine that takes information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture database and makes it comprehensible. Enter the name of a food and you'll get the scoop on the carbohydrates, fat, protein, and calories it contains. Better yet, there's a specific search for fast foods, so you can calculate just how that Quarter Pounder with Cheese is going to affect your waistline.
Reality Pong
www.liquid.se/pong.html - Now this one's a good time waster. This version of Pong is ideal really, in that it is very simple in concept and won't take hours of frustrating learning when you just want to kill a spare 10 mins or so. It's a bit like playing tabletennis down a tunnel and certainly challenges your depth perception.
Above Top Secret
www.abovetopsecret.com/ - "Welcome to AboveTopSecret.com, a website comprising a vast array of pages containing information with the ultimate purpose of exposing the secrecy that exists within the government and military organisations of the world." This has to be the most comprehensive site dedicated to CIA UFO cover-ups, JFK
Assassination theories, Area 51, Human Experiments, The Star Wars program - oh, you name it! - that I have ever seen. Nicely designed site, by the way.
Who, What and When
www.sbrowning.com/whowhatwhen/index.php3 - Any encyclopedia can tell you who the king of France was in 1765, but to give this piece of trivia deeper meaning by placing it in its historical context, head for WhoWhatWhen. Start by specifying a date, a year, or a name. You'll get a graphical time line, which you can then customise to include people or events related to a particular topic (e.g. pop culture, music, politics, business). Click on a name or event and you'll be taken to the search engine of your choice to learn more. It's a great jumping-off point for any kind of historical research.
Hidden DVD Features
http://dvdreview.com/html/hidden_features.shtml - Here's a list of about 150 popular DVD movies, and how to access hidden secret features on the DVD. There are bloopers, documentaries, additional soundtracks, music videos, actor/actress audition videos, spoofs and even comedy vignettes. It's a wonder why they hide them. (Scroll down the page for the big list).
Calculate Your Body Mass Index
http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/bmi-m.htm - "Body mass index (BMI) is measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to both adult men and women. Enter your weight and height using English or Metric measures. Click on compute and your BMI will appear in the heart of the figure. Then see "Assessing Your Risk
" for the health risks associated with overweight and obesity, as well as BMI limitations." In the end, though, don't forget that it's all just numbers....
Plant Care.Com
www.plantcare.com/ - If you're like me, flowers may die the minute you begin to care for them, but that doesn't mean you can't learn how to be a successful amateur horticulturist. PlantCare.com offers you a database of more than 1,300 species of houseplants (and greenhouse plants) by name (English or Latin), type, or environmental conditions. You get access to a limited amount of pictures, information, care tips, etc, and for $14.95 a year you get access to a whole lot more. Free trial memberships available.

Cyberspace News Snippets

General

Free Census Details to be Posted Online: Detailed results from last year's census will soon be available free online. Statistics NZ will receive $617,000 over the next four years to fund the public access, of which $455,000 would be allocated in this year's budget. Click here for more.

When Spam Policing Gets Out of Control: Anyone who's had an e-mail account for more than a week knows the extent spam has permeated the Internet lifestyle, but the actions of over-zealous "spam cops" are shutting down and taking off-line hundreds, perhaps thousands, of legitimate businesses. Click here for more.

Spammers threaten UK Net user: A British man has been threatened by a gang of spammers after reporting its activity to his ISP. The man, who asked to remain anonymous, is so concerned he fears for this own safety. Click here for more.

Recording Industry Take Audiogalaxy.com to Court: Audiogalaxy.com, a Napster-like clone that has facilitated and encouraged the unauthorized trading of millions of copyrighted songs, was taken to court today by songwriters, music publishers, and the recording industry for wholesale copyright infringement. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in New York on Friday by the RIAA, on behalf of its member labels, and the NMPA, on behalf of the music publisher principals of its licensing affiliate, The Harry Fox Agency, and their thousands of songwriter partners. Click here for more.

Maori Call: InternetNZ, the non-profit society which sets policy for New Zealand's cyberspace, has issued a last call for submissions on a call to set up a special zone on the Net for Maori sites. Click here for more.

Split Lines Slow Net Access: Twenty-six thousand Telecom customers are unwittingly sharing telephone line capacity with their neighbours, causing slow internet access. The line splitting, known as "Pair Gain, 1+1" or "0+2", puts two separate phone services down one physical copper pair line. Click here for more.

"Free" Hotmail Virtually Unusable: The millions of Hotmail users out there know now that they have to log on at least once every thirty days or find their account oblivioned. You can avoid this by paying a fee of course. Next up is the limit on the size of your hotmail account. This is the focus now, of the Volish attempts to get you to pay for your "free web-based email service." Click here for more.

Teaching a Machine to Think: Day after day since 1984, teams of programmers, linguists, theologians, mathematicians and philosophers have plugged away at a $60 million project they hope will transform human existence: teaching a computer common sense. The have been feeding a database named Cyc 1.4 million truths and generalities about daily life so it can automatically make assumptions humans make: Creatures that die stay dead. Dogs have spines. Scaling a cliff requires intense physical effort. Click here for more.

Aussie Boffins Teleport Light: In a dramatic technological breakthrough, an Australian-based research team has teleported a message-encoded laser beam - bringing the science fiction fantasy of "beaming" humans from one place to another a step closer. Although Star Trek-style planet hopping is way into the future, teleporting - disassembling objects in one place while a perfect replica is created elsewhere - promises to revolutionise computing and communications over the next decade. Click here for more.

Eight Technologies that Will Change the World: What happens when today's tech trends begin to intersect and feed off one another? They'll spawn new fields of knowledge that will transform everything. Click here for more.

Why Software is So Bad: It’s one of the oldest jokes on the Internet, endlessly forwarded from e-mailbox to e-mailbox. A software mogul — usually Bill Gates, but sometimes another —makes a speech. “If the automobile industry had developed like the software industry,” the mogul proclaims, “we would all be driving $25 cars that get 1,000 miles to the gallon.” To which an automobile executive retorts, “Yeah, and if cars were like software, they would crash twice a day for no reason, and when you called for service, they’d tell you to reinstall the engine.” Click here for more.

Friends Help Friends Stop Junk E-mail: There's no escaping e-mails that tout herbal remedies, porn sites, and low-rate mortgages and credit cards. Even more depressing: Analysts predict that the problem of junk e-mail will only get worse. According to industry research firm Jupiter Research in New York, the average Internet user received more than 700 spam messages last year. And by 2006, that figure will jump to nearly 1,500 unsolicited e-mail. Click here for more.

Windows Wire

Microsoft to Change Windows to Comply with Antitrust Settlement: Microsoft said it will allow users and computer makers to hide some of its programs in an update to its newest Windows operating system, as required by the antitrust settlement it signed with the U.S. The Windows XP Service Pack 1 will allow computer makers and users to change which Web browser and Internet audio player is automatically used by Windows and which programs are displayed or hidden. Click here for more.

Microsoft's License To Fail : Microsoft may have thought it could make software upgrades easier for customers - and secure a steady revenue stream - by mandating an automatic upgrade plan for applications and operating system software, but the company should rethink its strategy, analysts said. Click here for more.

Microsoft Warns of 'Critical' Browser Flaw: Microsoft issued two bulletins Tuesday, disclosing "critical" flaws in its popular Internet Explorer Web browser, as well as in MSN Chat, MSN Messenger and Exchange Messenger. The Chat and Messenger flaws were to have been corrected by an earlier patch. The first bulletin involved Internet Explorer versions 5.01, 5.5, 6.0 and Proxy Server 2.0 and ISA Server 2000. The flaw involves a piece of faulty code that can let an attacker access a user's computer to run various programs. Click here for more.

MacNews

Apple's Silly Marketing Tricks: What Steve Jobs did this week wasn't as silly as refusing to license Apple Computer's operating system or releasing an ill-fated computer that looked like a cube. It wasn't even as silly as those ads that tried to convince you that dead celebrities would have used Macintoshes. Click here for more.

Where Apple Doesn't Always Play Nice: Is Apple bullying its playmates in the Mac sandbox? It controls the sand and the box, too - in a way Microsoft can only envy. It decides everything from how an application will run on a Mac to the speed of the machine's microprocessors. In addition to hogging the territory, is Apple also taking unfair credit for innovations? Click here for more.

Apple Revives the Fight With Microsoft: Steve Jobs & Co. roll out a new ad campaign to woo Windows users. PLUS: Yahoo begins a homepage overhaul. Yoda may be 847 years old in the latest Star Wars movie, but not all icons last that long. So Apple Computer's "Think Different" campaign, which sought to convince people that John Lennon and Gandhi would use iMacs if they were alive, is dead. The ungrammatical campaign was successful to a degree: Apple's market share inched upward, but it's still less than 5 percent. Click here for more.

Is Apple Ripe for a Takeover?: Apple Computer, knows all about being bruised -- and about regaining its shine. From personal computer pioneer to industry doormat to beloved design innovator, Apple's ride has never been linear. It even suffered the indignity of a bailout by arch-foe Microsoft, which made a crucial cash investment in Apple in 1997, around the time CEO Steve Jobs returned to the company he co-founded. Click here for more.

Security and Safety

MSN Messenger Users Vulnerable to Hackers: Users of the latest versions of Microsoft's popular MSN Messenger program are vulnerable to computer hackers, the company warned. The "critical" flaw in the Internet-based program, which has millions of users, is the latest serious security flaw to be discovered in a program from the world's dominant software company. Click here for more.

Computer Fraud on the Rise: Experts: Cyber-savvy NSW police were being trained in the use of sophisticated technology to crack down on computer fraud, experts said today. The rate of computer fraud in Australia was on the rise and would soon rival that of the United States, Detective Inspector Bruce Van Der Graaf of the NSW Computer Crime Unit said today. Click here for more.

Don't Let the Web Bugs Bite: I asked you if the website you're viewing has a ''Web bug,'' you might think that I was asking if it had a glitch or problem. Actually, in this context, when I use the word ''bug,'' you should think of a little surveillance device. Did you know websites and even e-mails can be bugged? Big Browser may be watching. Click here for more.

Microsoft, Real Face 'Spyware' Probe: Microsoft and U.S.-based Real Networks stand accused by EU privacy regulators of spying on consumers downloading music using their software. Brussels is investigating whether music player software which automatically sends information to a user's PC is in fact -- under European Union law -- an act of consumer espionage. Click here for more.

Security Flaws Continue to Plague Microsoft: Despite Microsoft's five-month push to exterminate security bugs, the software giant's Internet products continue to turn up riddled with security holes. Last week, Microsoft issued a flurry of security bulletins, keeping it on track to match or exceed 60 such advisories issued last year. This year, Microsoft has issued 30 advisories outlining fixes for 40 vulnerabilities - gaps in code that hackers can exploit to steal data, shut down computer networks or launch rogue programs. Click here for more.

IM, Therefore I'm Hacked: While instant messaging can result in greater productivity and cost savings for corporations that are increasingly embracing real-time communication, the technology is also synonymous with getting hacked or receiving a virus. Analysts say companies' fears are justified -- and as the number of employees and consumers using IM increases, so will IM platforms' appeal to hackers and virus writers. Click here for more.

Microsoft Discloses Ambitious New Security Effort : Microsoft has disclosed an ambitious new project to improve security by creating within its Windows software a virtual "vault" where customers would conduct electronic transactions and store sensitive information. Click here for more.

The Penguin Roars

Lindows OS Licenses Herald Cheaper PCs : Linux software developer Lindows.com has said it will offer system builders a flat-rate licensing plan for its operating system, in contrast to the per-unit fees charged by Microsoft and other software companies. Click here for more.

The Weird Weird Web

The Answer To Everything? According to Douglas Adams, in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the answer to the ultimate question of all - what is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything - is simply "42". Funnily enough, in a case of art imitating life, typing the question into Google, comes up with more of less the same result. Click here for more.

Inside the (Twisted) Mind of the Average Consumer I'm shivering, my body temperature is dropping fast, and an MIT business professor is watching with a bemused expression. I'm sitting in Dan Ariely's metal reclining chair wearing what he calls his "pain-and-pleasure suit" -- a black spandex wet suit lined with clear plastic tubes... Click here for more.

A Real X-files Case in Argentina? Argentina is sending its own “X-Files” scientists to probe strange deaths of farm animals found dissected, mutilated and drained of blood on remote Pampa plains, killings some have blamed on aliens. At least 70 animals were reported killed in recent weeks, some with their genitals and tongues pulled out with surgical precision surrounded by charred grass with no signs of blood stains. One horse’s hoof had a circle drawn into it. Click here for more.


Bringing It All Back Home

Thanks again if you've read this far. I hope you have enjoyed the newsletter, and have gained some benefit or entertainment from it. Thanks especially to those who have replied with feedback. I always enjoy hearing what you like or didn't like about the newsletters. People who send in suggestions about web sites to feature (and I use them) or anything else useful usually get sent a free Actrix chocolate bar. This can depend upon how many I have ion stock at any given time (and how badly my secret stash has been raided by other Actrix staff. I would especially like to thank Ray Ball of Heraldic Art who makes and supplies these. If you'd like to consider having some promotional chocolate art done, let me know and I'll put you in contact with Ray.

Please be aware that I have a pretty steady workload these days. In my spare time I'm also the Actrix Operations Manager, so I can't always respond very quickly with advice on problems. You'd do better to e-mail the help desk on support@actrix.co.nz. If you have Accounts-based queries, I'm not at all the person to ask them about. Try accounts@actrix.co.nz.

Take care through June,

Rob Zorn
editor@actrix.co.nz
http://editor.actrix.co.nz