The Actrix Online Informer is published each month to help keep
Actrix customers up-to-date with what's happening on the Internet, and to
help ensure they have every opportunity to benefit from it.
Welcome to the March Actrix Online Informer
Welcome to the Actrix Online Informer for the third month of the third year of the second decade of the third millennium AD. Relax. Put your feet up and spend some time enjoying what we've put together for you. Make yourselves at home.
This month we feature an article about hacking: what it is, who does it, and why. We also have some information on viruses and rumours of the internet being shut down.
This month's video feature is an oldie but a goodie!
Residents in a small town in Alabama claim to have seen a leprechaun that only comes out at night. Possibly funnier than the claim of a mythical Irish creature deep in the American south are the people that are interviewed for this story. Even the residents who don't believe the leprechaun lark have their own hilariously ridiculous explanations.
by Rob Zorn
Something that's starting to appear in the news more frequently is hacking. You might often hear of a website or company being hacked, or someone being arrested for hacking, but little is said about hacking itself.
So what is hacking? How is it done? Who does it? Why? These are just some of the questions we're hoping to answer this month.
What is hacking?
There are so many different forms of hacking that coming up with a definition is quite a challenge. If you were to sum it all up, you might define hacking as the identification and exploitation of weaknesses in computer security systems.
The term hacker was first used to describe a programmer – someone who hacked out computer code. Hackers were visionaries who could see new ways to use computers, creating programs that no one else could conceive. They were the pioneers of the computer industry, building everything from small applications to operating systems. They saw the potential of what computers could do and created ways to achieve that potential.
Nowadays, using a computer and the internet, hackers are able to break through security systems, firewalls and network barriers to access information that would otherwise be inaccessible. The main resource of the hacker is computer code. Everything to do with computers and the internet is written in code, a series of commands and definitions that state what a program is and what it is going to do when faced with different situations. To change what you want a program to do, you have to change the code. However, the code itself is hidden by numerous security features, each of which has its own hidden codes too.
A hacker writes his own code, which interacts with the security features protecting the existing code for a program or website, and disables it or identifies a weakness. After breaking down the security, a hacker is free to do anything from stealing the code, deleting the code (thus deleting the program or website), or manipulating the code to change the program or website.
Types of Hacking
There are generally two types of people who hack, referred to as black hat and white hat hackers.
Black hat hackers are malicious hackers who infiltrate systems with ill intent. These hackers steal information, vandalise websites and generally cause mischief. White hat hackers are "ethical" hackers who specialise in hacking security systems for the purpose of making them stronger. Many companies actually employ white hat hackers to test the limits of their own security systems to see if they can be improved. Unfortunately the line between the two is very thin, and many hackers who claim to have had no malicious intent have got themselves in trouble for going too far.
Hackers use a number of tricks to achieve their missions, from programming viruses to infect and destroy security systems, to password hacks which run millions of combinations of letters, numbers and symbols to discover someone's password. One particularly handy tool in the hacker's toolbox is keystroke technology, which lets a hacker view a record of every action made on a computer. This effectively allows the hacker to steal credit card numbers, passwords, private emails, and even someone's identity.
Regardless of the tools used or one's intentions, hacking is generally classed as a crime. Viewing private information that belongs to someone else is an invasion of privacy, and many hackers have found themselves behind bars for their indiscretions.
You might not have known it, but Steve Wozniak and the late Steve Jobs, co-founders of Apple, began their foray into the technological world as hackers. They built little boxes that would plug into phone lines and allow themselves to make long distance calls for free.
But hacking was around long before the two Steves. One of the first recorded incidents of hacking was done by Nevil Maskelyne, a magician and inventor who disrupted the first public demonstration of secure wireless telegraphy technology to send his own insulting message in Morse code.
Perhaps one of the more famous hackers was Jonathan James, otherwise known as "c0mrade". At the age of 16 he became the first juvenile hacker to get sent to prison. His crimes included hacking numerous government and military computers and the United States Department of Defence. James also hacked into NASA computers, stealing software worth approximately $1.7 million. James explained in court that he had just been trying to supplement his studies on programming, but argued, "The code itself was crappy . . . certainly not worth $1.7 million like they claimed."
At present, a group called Anonymous is stealing the hacking headlines. The group collaborates online to carry out sophisticated hacking missions. The group is quick to identify itself as a collection of "hacktivists". The group uses their collective hacking skills to participate in political activism, mainly pertaining to internet matters.
Anonymous claims to campaign for an open internet free from censorship and copyright. When the founder of file-sharing website The Pirate Bay were arrested, Anonymous threatened action. Within just over an hour of charges being laid, the Ministry of Justice website was hacked and taken down. When an appeal against the chargers was denied, Anonymous attacked again, stealing all the personal information from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), an organisation responsible for safeguarding recording artists' rights.
If a 16 year-old teenager can hack into NASA from his bedroom, it's scary to consider how dangerous talented hackers can be. It might sound like a fun challenge to learn to hack successfully, but don't go breaking your way into any military computers. The government might not see the funny side.
The truth about the March 8 internet doomsday
Floating around popular technology blogs and sites at the moment is the rumour that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is going to be shutting down the internet on the 8 March 2012. There is little truth in this rumour and no reason to be alarmed. Here's what you need to know.
It is true that some people may lose their internet connection when 8 March comes along. In November 2011, the FBI discovered and shut down a long-standing Estonian Web traffic hijacking operation that controlled people's computers with a series of DNSChanger viruses. The viruses worked by replacing the DNS (Domain Name System) servers on a user's computer with fraudulent servers that redirected unsuspecting users to unsafe websites and stole their information. The virus also prevents computers from running security updates and disables installed security software.
Since uncovering the criminal operation, the FBI has replaced the corrupted servers with legitimate ones, which will come into effect on 8 March 2012. If a computer is still running on one of the corrupted servers, it won't be able to access the internet.
So how do you know if your computer has been corrupted by the virus, or is running a different virus altogether? The FBI has released a document that tells you how to go about discovering if your computer has been infected. Alternatively, you can visit Avira and download their tool which will scan your computer and identify and fix the problem. Internet security company Kaspersky has also released a tool which will do the same thing.
Alternatively, here's an article that describes the symptoms of an infected computer and has a detailed but simple to understand list of instructions for removing it yourself.
Your computer should always be running up to date anti-virus software which will prevent it from getting corrupted by viruses and spyware. Remember to regularly run scans so that you can be sure of your computer's safety and security. If you do discover something suspicious on your computer, don't panic and delete it. It could be important and you could end up doing your computer even more damage. Always talk to a professional about what to do if you are unsure.
Helpful Tips: My Actrix – manage your services
The 'Manage Your Actrix Services' feature of My Actrix allows you to do lots of really handy stuff.
Accounts and Billing
Under Accounts and Billing you can make a credit card payment (with the option to save your card details for next time), setup automatic credit card payments, download a direct debit form, or change the way your account is paid.
Under Actrix Mail you can see all your mailboxes (extra email addresses), add or delete them or change their passwords. (Note: You'll need to know the password of the mailbox before you can change it.)
Under Other Services, you can accomplish lots of other neat stuff. If you like receiving spam (believe us, some people do), or want to experiment, you can turn the spam filter off and on for your account. You can also set up a vacation message for while you're away and word it yourself to automatically inform people you're not able to read your email, but that you'll get back to them when you can.
The Newsletter settings feature lets you tell us you don't want to receive newsletter announcements, and while you're there you can switch off receiving other Actrix announcements as well. We make it a policy not to bombard customers with offers and things, but some people just don't want anything. Even if you do change the setting to not receive announcements, we'll still send you stuff that's of high importance, like changes to your account pricing. After all, you do need to be informed.
For more tips & tricks click here for an Actrix Online Informer article about My Actrix.
Please note: Actrix supplies links to these sites for your interest and possible use. We cannot endorse or take any responsibility for their contents.
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Cyberspace news snippets
What's been happening in the online world?
Wellington start-up inspires kids' love of reading: Wellington start-up 8interactive is using modern technology to inspire in children the age-old love of reading by creating educational digital books for the iPhone and iPad. Click here for more.
Website starts up to show off NZ technology : A website designed to show New Zealand's most innovative technology to the world should "dramatically increase" the chances of business success for the nation's science ventures. Click here for more.
Kim Dotcommando: Life's no game: To the FBI, he's a criminal colossus. To his friends and business partners, he's a genius. To his family in New Zealand, he's dad. Click here for more.
From blokes in sheds to inventing wizards: In a garage near you is an inventor working on the next big thing. It could be anything from clothes that measure your heart rate to an engine that will revolutionise the way we run vehicles and machinery. Click here for more.
Your Business: Monkey business leads to games success: The New Zealand video game development industry grew by 46 percent last year, boosted by the huge growth of smartphone and online gaming, according to a survey of developers. Click here for more.
Spies in the bedroom - someone's watching you: Home camera systems on the New Zealand market are being hacked and watched by creeps and voyeurs around the world. Recent evidence has proved internet-based security camera footage was accessible to prying eyes. Click here for more.
Top selling games in New Zealand: Australasian games industry website MCVPacific has published a list of the top-ten selling games in New Zealand as reported by market research company NPD Group. Click here for more.
People not keen to pay for fast broadband extras: Internet providers may have difficulty persuading consumers and small businesses to pay extra for services that could be delivered over ultrafast broadband, a Commerce Commission report has found. Click here for more.
Fry puts focus on data limits: Stephen Fry has labelled New Zealand broadband a "digital embarrassment" in tweets after finding he could only upload videos over the internet at a snail's pace while working from a house in Wellington. Click here for more.
Huge payoff from ultrafast broadband predicted: New Zealand's $3.5 billion investment in an ultrafast broadband network will reap economic benefits worth nearly $33b over 20 years, according to a study carried out by Bell Labs in the United States. Click here for more.
How to cut out time on emails: Robyn "the Time Queen" Pearce runs an international time management and productivity business and is in Wellington later this month taking a seminar on time management. She shares 10 points on saving email time. Click here for more.
Technologist predicts cleaner internet : The internet could be on the verge of a revolution as internet providers use new technology to filter out pirated material, child pornography and malware and buddy up with copyright owners to bolster their own revenues, an Australian technologist has forecast. Click here for more.
Tech companies team up to combat email scams : Google, Facebook and other big tech companies are jointly designing a system for combating email scams known as phishing. Such scams try to trick people into giving away passwords and other personal information by sending emails that look as if they come from a legitimate bank, retailer or other business. Click here for more.
TripAdvisor rebuked over 'trust' claims on review site: TripAdvisor has been ordered to rewrite some of its marketing claims by the UK's Advertising Standards Authority. The ruling follows complaints by hotels that the site had said that its holiday reviews could be "trusted". Click here for more.
Top torrent site BTjunkie shuts voluntarily: BTjunkie, one of the largest torrent file-sharing sites, shut down voluntarily over the weekend. The service ranked among the top five torrent sites on the internet and was never involved in legal action, but recent moves against the likes of MegaUpload and The Pirate Bay have influenced BTjunkie's closure. Click here for more.
Online Cupids often miss their mark: Combing dating websites for that perfect love match can be very frustrating, and a group of US psychology professors released a report on Monday explaining why there is no substitute for meeting face-to-face. Click here for more.
US shuts 16 sports piracy websites pre-Super Bowl : Three days before Super Bowl XLVI, US prosecutors said they seized 16 websites that illegally streamed live sports and pay-per-view events over the Internet, and charged a Michigan man with running nine of those websites. Click here for more.
Zuckerberg describes FB's 'hacker way': In Facebook's regulatory filing for an initial public offering of stock, CEO Mark Zuckerberg included a letter to potential investors about the company's thinking. He described it as a social mission to make the world more open and connected. Click here for more.
Facebook execs gear up political influence : Preparing to join the ranks of publicly traded companies, Facebook is also beefing up its presence in the US capital with a first report of money pouring into its newly created political fundraising arm. Click here for more.
Occupy protester's Twitter subpoenaed: Prosecutors have subpoenaed the Twitter records of an Occupy Wall Street protester who was arrested in October during a mass protest on the Brooklyn Bridge. Click here for more.
Twitter CEO says blocking policy over-distilled: Twitter CEO Dick Costolo sought to calm the global outrage over the company's new country-by-country censorship policy, complaining in part that the issue is being treated with the same kind of shorthand that has made Twitter popular. Click here for more.
Facebook files for monster listing: Facebook took the first step toward public markets in the year's most highly anticipated IPO, which could rank co-founder Mark Zuckerberg among the world's richest people. Click here for more.
Dutch to go after ISPs that allow file sharing: The Netherlands plans to crack down on Internet service providers that allow access to file-sharing sites such as Pirate Bay, though it will not make it an offence for individuals to download from these sites. Click here for more.
Ukraine shuts down leading file-sharing site Ex.ua : Ukrainian authorities have shut down a popular file-sharing website saying it violates copyright laws. The Recording Industry Association of America has named Ex.ua among the world's worst Internet piracy sites. Click here for more.
Nonprofit to help Megaupload users retrieve data: Users of the file-sharing website Megaupload who feared their data could be deleted within the next few days have been given a reprieve, after a nonprofit group stepped in at the eleventh hour. Click here for more.
Thailand welcomes Twitter censorship: Thailand is welcoming Twitter's new policy to censor tweets in specific nations where the content might break laws. Thailand's taskforce that monitors anti-monarchy content has blocked 1156 websites since December. Click here for more.
Parental stalking online 'unwise': Parents should not stalk their children online, warns leading US cyber safety expert Dr Danah Boyd. She is leading Microsoft's investigation of child trafficking online, and Lady Gaga funds her bullying research through the Born This Way Foundation. Click here for more.
Google, FB remove content on India's order : Google and Facebook have removed content from some Indian domain websites following a court directive warning them of a crackdown "like China" if they did not take steps to protect religious sensibilities. Click here for more.
Deleted Facebook photos still lurking on internet: Pictures users have deleted from Facebook months or even years ago may still exist, it has been revealed. Facebook says it's working to fix flaws allowing deleted photos to hibernate on various data servers. Click here for more.
Facebook users get more than they give: The goody-two-shoes among us say it's better to give than to receive. That's not true for the average Facebook user, though. Only around 5 percent of Facebook users regularly utilise the site's full range of activities. Click here for more.
No 'Facebook fatigue' for longtime users - survey: So much for "Facebook fatigue". A survey released on Friday shows that people who have used the social networking site over a long period - since its founding in 2004, say - show no sign that they have tired of posting pictures, updating weekend plans or just relaying random thoughts. Click here for more.
Security and Safety
Anonymous attack Brazil's largest state-run bank: A group of Internet hackers took down the website of the Banco do Brasil, Brazil's largest state-run bank. It's the third such attack against financial institutions in a week. Click here for more.
Facial recognition to replace passwords?: Remembering complex passwords could be a thing of the past if facial recognition technology takes off - but is it as secure as a password and does it work? Click here for more.
Hackers outwit online banking identity security systems: Criminal hackers have found a way round the latest generation of online banking security devices given out by banks, the BBC has learned. After logging in to the bank's real site, account holders are being tricked by the offer of training in a new "upgraded security system". Click here for more.
New Android scare: just how malignant is yhat malware?: Symantec says it's discovered a new form of Android malware that it says has already infected up to 5 million users. Android-based malware has been spotted before, but this time some security researchers are questioning whether it would be more accurately classified as "adware." Click here for more.
Anonymous publishes FBI call on hacking: Internet activist group Anonymous published a recording on Friday of a confidential call between FBI agents and London detectives in which the law-enforcement agents discuss action they are taking against hacking. Click here for more.
The Weird, Wide Web
Online game theft earns real-world conviction: The amulet and mask were a 13-year-old boy's virtual possessions in an online fantasy game. In the real world, he was beaten and threatened with a knife to give them up. Click here for more.
Caution on Twitter urged as tourists barred from US: Holidaymakers have been warned to watch their words after two friends were refused entry to the US on security grounds after a tweet. Before his trip, Leigh Van Bryan wrote that he was going to "destroy America". He insisted he was referring to simply having a good time – but was sent home. Click here for more.
Each month we dredge through our archives to pull out stories from the Actrix Newsletter of exactly five years ago. Sometimes these stories will show just how much the net has changed in such a short time, and sometimes they'll be included just because they're interesting.
Kiwi blogger logs on to make a living: Read/WriteWeb attracts more than 600,000 page views per month and is linked to over 4000 other blogging sites, making it the world's 51st most popular blog... Click here for more.
Act of God hampers spam: The recent earthquake that hit Taiwan in late December may be responsible for a reduction in spam and virus rates for January. Click here for more.
Want to cross the road? Don't ask Google Maps: Thirty second walk becomes 10.4km epic road trip... Click here for more.
Windows 'fails' active virus test: Security tools that work with Windows Vista have failed tests to see if they can detect viruses circulating online. Click here for more.
Howard heart-attack email carries virus: A fake breaking news report claiming that John Howard had a heart attack is being circulated by spammers in an attempt to hijack Australians' computers. Click here for more.
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