November 2012 topics  





    Past articles  





    Past Online Informers  





    November 2012 topics  





    Actrix contact info  





    Essential sites  





    November 2012 topics  





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.

Questions and comments about the Actrix Online Informer can be e-mailed to
Other inquiries should be e-mailed to

Actrix – New Zealand's first Internet Service Provider

Welcome to the November Actrix Online Informer

Welcome to the Actrix Online Informer for November 2012.

This month we discuss some of the more inventive email scams our readers have received in the past month. As more internet users become 'switched on' to these attempts to steal their money, scammers have had to start using their imaginations.

We also talk about passwords, what makes a good one, and how to choose one you'll remember.

YouTube feature

This month's YouTube feature is a rather moving video of an eight-month-old elephant calf being rescued from a hole in the desert. I don't know what was more moving, the moment they pulled the calf out or the way the calf sprinted off to find it's mother.


Rob Zorn

Imaginative scams 

Last month we received a number of emails from readers telling us about some of the scams they've been getting by email. It seems scammers are becoming more creative and inventive in their attempts to swindle you of your hard-earned money. A lot of these purport to come from Actrix saying we're doing yet another major upgrade (or something) and all your email will be deleted unless you log in and give us personal information. Actrix doesn't do email system upgrades that often, and when we do, our techs are competent enough to do it without deleting your email. These are just scams to get you to log in at a fake site and give the scammers information about you they can use to their advantage.

Here's a rundown of some of the other interesting scams we've been told about by readers.

Hitman bribe

One reader was sent a rather unusual email from Muhammad Sadik, who apparently is an assassin.

"I have been hired to kill you. Your house is being watched so if you pay me twice the money that has been offered to kill you, I won't kill you. Don't tell anybody about this email."

This is a rather horrible scam, designed to prey on your fear and emotions, but it is absolute nonsense. This particular scam looks like a crude copy of one that originated from Russia in 2006. Hundreds of thousands of people started receiving emails telling them one of their co-workers had paid 100,000 to some contract-killer to assassinate you, and they would carry it out unless you paid them double that.

Because of the aggressive nature of the scam, the FBI and even Scotland Yard were inundated with reports from scared citizens.

If you ever receive one of these emails, just delete it. If you suspect there's a chance on of your co-workers dislikes you that much, maybe it's time to find a new job.

TradeMe account

One reader sent us an email purporting to be from TradeMe and advising him there had been an attempt to hack his account, and unless he clicked a certain link and gave all of his personal details, including his driver's license number and the limit on his credit card, his account would be suspended.

The only problem was, this person didn't have a TradeMe account and had never used the site before, so for him it was a no-brainer. But too many New Zealanders who do have TradeMe accounts are falling for this scam, and end up giving away access to their bank accounts and personal lives.

So here's what you need to remember:

  • TradeMe will never send you an email asking you to enter your log-in details or credit card info. In fact most reputable companies won't.
  • If you do receive an email asking you to verify details, do not click a link within the email. Instead go to the website through your browser and access your account there.

Please help! scam

Another scam email is designed to prey on your sense of compassion.

"Hope you get this on time, This message is coming to you with great depression due to my state of discomfort. Travelled on a short trip with my family to [e.g.] Manila, Philippines. But unfortunately we got mugged and robbed at gun point on our way to the hotel where we stayed. All cash, credit cards and few other valuables were taken away.
"We've been to the embassy and the police here and they have done the best they can. Presently, we are having some problem sorting our bills here as we need to settle every outstanding before we can return as our return flight leaves in few hours. I am contacting you to ask for a short loan of $2,150 to settle our bills which I will refund immediately I get my family back home safely. Let me know if you can help."

The major giveaway that this is a scam is the poor grammar, which lets you know English is not the writer's first language. That and the fact people don't email random strangers asking for a couple of grand to pay their hotel bills.

These three scams are good examples of the different styles scammers use: some plead for help or offer you free stuff, and others get down-right nasty. But the one thing they all have in common, is they want your money.

So what are some of the more interesting scams you've been sent?

Choosing a password

These days you need a password for just about anything. Whether you want to post a status update on Facebook, pay your power bill online, or check your emails, you'll need to log-in with a password.

Choosing a password can be a bit tricky, especially when there are so many frustrating rules:

  • passwords should be at least 67 characters long
  • passwords must use a mixture of character case and type (letters, numbers, special characters)
  • don't use words or names
  • don't use the same password on more than one site.

While these rules exist to make your passwords harder to guess, it does make them incredibly hard to remember, especially when your only options are passwords like P5S0Dk@!i2Yd or #zJCahT0kAA3.

But too many people don't choose an effective password, making it easy for hackers, and even their friends, to guess. One of the more common mistakes is to use your username or email address as the password, or a sequence of numbers or letters on the keyboard. The most commonly used (and hacked) passwords of 2012 are:

  • password
  • 123456
  • 12345678
  • abc123
  • qwerty

It requires very little effort and imagination to guess these, yet they are used surprisingly often.

So how does one choose an effective password that is hard to guess and easy to remember? Here is a technique that'll help you create effective and memorable passwords. Use it or adapt to suit.

The algorithm

The advantage of this technique is it creates a foundation upon which to base every password you'll ever need, and in a few easy steps:

  1. Begin with a memorable quote, phrase or song lyric. As an example I'll use the chorus from Survivor's song Eye of the Tiger: "It's the eye of the tiger, It's the thrill of the fight". (sorry if I've now put that song in your head!)
  2. Take the first letter from each word in that quote: Iteottittotf and keep the first letter capitalised.
  3. Add the first and last characters of the website you're setting the password for to the mix. For example, if I was using Iteottittotf to sign in to Facebook, I would add fk to the password so I would know which password to use for which site, giving me the password Iteottittotffk.
  4. Replace whatever letters you can with numbers so we'de end up with Ite0tt1tt0tffk.
  5. For the future, if I wanted to sign into Facebook all I'd have to remember is the song and I'd be able to remember my password.

There are, of course, other methods of choosing passwords, but it'll be hard to find one better than this. XKCD, a popular online cartoon, created another method which you can view here.

Interesting 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? Click here to e-mail and let me know!

Elevator rules – The main reason that you might have for visiting this site would be to learn more about elevator etiquette so that you become a better person and help those around you to have a better day. But if you don't really care about who gets to step off the elevator first or what not to do in a crowded elevator, then you still might visit the site just for a laugh.
Card stacker – This is another one of those sites dedicated to a guy who had way too much spare time and somehow managed to make a living out of it. Meet Bryan Berg, the Guinness world record holder for card stacking. If putting playing cards on top of each other ever becomes a serious talent, this would be one talented guy.
How many people are in space right now? – It's not exactly one of life's more pertinent questions, but if you were ever wondering how many people ware in space at any given moment, simply direct your browser to this site and you'll have the answer. It's that simple.
Semaphore translator – Semaphore is an archaic way of sending messages using flags. If you've ever wanted to say something romantic to that special someone in semaphore but haven't got around to learning it yet, this site will help you out. Just type in your message and the little stick-man will translate it into semaphore in front of your very eyes.
Dog shaming – Has your pooch pooped inside or eaten the sole of your favourite shoe? Does your poodle shred your newspaper or keep the neighbourhood awake at night barking at shadows? Why not shame them online? Simply take a photo of them, write a brief sentence or two about their indiscretion and upload the photo to this site so the whole world can see just how naughty your canine can be.
Keyboard drums – Got a sweet beat in your head that you wanna play but your work won't let you bring your drumkit into the office? This site lets you play the drums using your keyboard. It may take a wee while to figure out which key does what, but you'll be pounding away like Phil Collins.
The Prejudice Map – This site was created to show what different people from around the world are known for, according to Google. For example, did you know Australians are known for their no-nonsense attitudes, uncomplicated friendliness and an obsession with sport?
The Zoom Quilt – The Zoom Quilt is an interactive work of art that lets you zoom into a picture using your mouse. But as you zoom further and further in, more pictures are revealed within the original picture, turning this site into an infinite loop of merging pictures.

One red paperclip – This blog follows the story of Kyle, a guy who started with just a red paperclip. He traded the paperclip for something with a little more value, traded that again, and kept trading until he eventually owned a house!

Pacmanhattan – Pac-Manhattan is a large-scale urban game that uses the New York City grid to recreate the 1980s video game sensation Pac-Man. A player dressed as Pac-man will run around the Washington Square Park area of Manhattan while attempting to collect all of the virtual "dots" that run the length of the streets. Four players dressed as the ghosts Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde will attempt to catch Pac-man before all of the dots are collected.


Cyberspace news snippets

What's been happening in the online world?

New Zealand

Google stills holds sensitive New Zealand information: Google has come under fire from the New Zealand Privacy Commission after it was forced to admit that it still holds sensitive information it illegally obtained from New Zealand WiFi networks. Click here for more.

Google agrees to destroy the last disk taken mistakenly: Google has agreed to destroy a disk it obtained while taking photos of New Zealand streets last year. Click here for more.

2.5 million Kiwis using mobile Internet: More than half of Kiwis are now going online on their mobile phones, Statistics New Zealand says. Click here for more.

Under happy smiles is addiction's ugly face: New Zealand's Facebook army now totals an estimated 2.7 million users. Click here for more.

Switched-on student records digital day: As technology increasingly weaves its way into our daily lives, just how invasive has it become? We challenged sixth-year law student Vanessa Haggie, 25, to record her activity with digital technology for one day. Click here for more.

Teen questioned over international cyber bullying: A 17 year-old Raglan boy is being questioned by police over cyber bullying after posting "inappropriate and disturbing" images of Canadian teenager Amanda Todd to an online memorial page mourning her suicide. Click here for more.

Kiwis at forefront of crime scene technology: Police like to insist the reality of forensic work during crime investigations is nothing like the slick, fast process shown on US TV shows like CSI - but real life is catching up with fiction. Click here for more.

NZ software fighting crime: A New Zealand company is at the cutting edge of intelligence-led crime fighting around the globe. Click here for more.

Curran calls for balance in copyright review: Labour communications and broadcasting spokeswoman Clare Curran says she has returned from a US State Department-funded tour of the US with "a greater respect for intellectual property". Click here for more.

Wanganui one of world's smartest communities: Wanganui has been named one of 21 towns and cities around the world in the running to be named 2013 Intelligent Community of the Year. Click here for more.

App a snap for students: A group of University of Waikato students has developed a phone-based photo printing app that will be used by Walgreens, one of the biggest pharmacy chains in the United States. Click here for more.


Is technology driving us crazy?: Could being plugged in to social media be rewiring kids' brains? Click here for more.

Telcos make it hard to block cyber-bullies: Young people are putting up with barrages of unwanted text messages because of phone companies' hesitation to block bullies' numbers, according to cyber safety experts. Click here for more.

Bieber stolen laptop prank a promo: Justin Bieber's "stolen laptop" was a ploy to promote his new music video. The Baby hitmaker was embroiled in scandal after his laptop was reported stolen on Tuesday. Click here for more.

eBay unveils Pinterest-like redesign: eBay has redesigned its website to encourage visitors to browse and collect items they might want to buy later with something it calls the "feed". Click here for more.

It's curtains for obsolete videotapes: The age of the video cassette is dead, long live the digital recording. Click here for more.

Deleting awkward texting photos, in a snap: You don't always want a photo to last forever, particularly when it is potentially embarrassing, or incriminating. Click here for more.

Windows 8 not a 'must': Microsoft's latest operating system for desktop, laptop and tablet computers – Windows 8 – will be released on Friday. Here's what you need to know about it. Click here for more.

US election debates a hit for YouTube : The presidential and vice presidential debates were a hit for the video sharing website YouTube, which streamed the events live for the first time this year. Click here for more.

Smartphone batteries: when will they last longer?: In labs around the world, scientists are looking for ways to power up your phone and, once again, allow mobiles to live up to their name. Click here for more.

The end for keyboards and mice?: Apple's iPhone and its rivals may have introduced touchscreens to the masses, but now a raft of technologies promise to change the way we interact with computers forever. Click here for more.

Social Media

Facebook testing 'want' button: Facebook is testing a feature that lets users of the social network create "wishlists" of home furnishings, clothing and other retail products, laying the groundwork for what some believe could be an eventual push into e-commerce. Click here for more.

How social media watched the supersonic skydiver: Felix Baumgartner's 24-mile (38.6-kilometre) skydive from the stratosphere was a boon for social networks as millions of users shared in the wonder of the moment from their computers, tablets and phones. Click here for more.

Facebook hijack joke sees boxer banned: An Australian muay thai boxing trainer has been barred from his flight home from Singapore after posting a threat on Facebook to hijack and crash the plane. Click here for more.

Baby boomers polled on social media: The late Apple entrepreneur Steve Jobs may have been a baby boomer but it is the younger, technologically savvy generation - from which Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg sprang - that has made social media its own. Click here for more.

Facebook opens international engineering centre: Facebook's first engineering centre outside the United States opened in London on Tuesday, boosting the British government's ambition to make the digital economy a central plank of its growth strategy. Click here for more.

After lawsuit threat, Twitter to pull racist posts: Twitter agreed to pull racist and anti-Semitic tweets under a pair of French hash tags after a Jewish group threatened to sue the social network for running afoul of national laws against hate speech, the organization said. Click here for more.

Facebook sales beat forecast, profit falls: Facebook, owner of the largest social network, posted sales that topped analysts' estimates as companies experimented with new tools for delivering marketing messages to users of handheld electronics. Click here for more.

Apple and Android

Microsoft set to mimic Apple ideas: Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer has signalled a new direction for the world's largest software company, pointing to hardware and online services as its future, taking a page from long-time rival Apple. Click here for more.

Missing socks? There an app for that: If matching socks is a daily problem, a new app that sorts them into pairs and even lets users know when it is time to buy a new pair may help. Click here for more.

Rovio unveils Angry Birds Star Wars: What's the best way to deal with two behemoth franchises that have run their course creatively? More spin-offs, of course. Click here for more.

Finding your way to the best map apps: Apple's rotten handling of its new problem-plagued map application led to an unprecedented backdown this week - with the company suggesting users revert to rival Google's maps. Click here for more.

New app puts fans in touch with favourite bands: Your smartphone could be smarter than you when it comes to listening to live music, thanks to technology developed by London start-up UntapTV that uses sound codes to provide song lyrics, photos and offer products. Click here for more.

App lets strangers weigh in on relationships: Confused about why a relationship went wrong or the true meaning of a text message? A new web app that relies on the comments of strangers may provide some clarity. Click here for more.

Student fights smartphone slavery: Andrew Burns becomes so engrossed in his smartphone that he switches off to people around him. Click here for more.

Apple unveils iPad mini: Apple has this morning unveiled its new iPad mini, among a slew of new products including a fourth-generation full-sized iPad. Click here for more.

Android apps leaking personal, banking details: Millions of people around the world are using "vulnerable" Android apps that are leaking personal data, including bank account information and webcam access, new research says. Click here for more.

Beware apps that hide your cheatin' heart: New smartphone applications designed to help cheaters cover their tracks can also be turned back on the user, prompting calls for stronger privacy laws and a warning by the Australian Attorney-General's office on the use of "spyware". Click here for more.

Copyright vs Piracy

Is delayed airing to blame?: There are plenty of theories to explain why good shows are routinely out-rated by inferior or repeated shows, but a reason commonly cited by fans is that illegal downloading from the internet has affected ratings. Click here for more.

US judge allows Megaupload case to proceed: The US government's criminal case against the shuttered file-sharing website Megaupload will go forward for now, a federal judge ruled in an order made public on Tuesday. Click here for more.

Skynet accused takes case to Tribunal: One internet user who faces penalties under the controversial "Skynet" law for pirating music has asked for a formal hearing in front of the Copyright Tribunal to decide their case. Click here for more.

Dotcom speaks of Megaupload relaunch: In a move bound to provoke US prosecutors and entertainment executives, indicted Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom is planning to launch a replacement of his shuttered website and a new online music service by year's end. Click here for more.

Rianz drops two 'Skynet' music copyright cases: The Recording Industry Association has dropped two of the first eight "Skynet" copyright cases, including one in which it reportedly sought $2669 from a Wellington student whose internet account was allegedly used to download five songs worth $11.75. Click here for more.

Security and Safety

Cracking careless Pins is no needle in a haystack: How easy would it be for a thief to guess your four-digit personal identification number (Pin)? Click here for more.

Hackers attack Greek official websites: The activist hacker group Anonymous said it had taken down a number of Greek government websites on Monday, on the eve of a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel that is likely to be met by angry protests. Click here for more.

Blogger names MSD privacy breach source: One of the men arrested in the Urewera terror raids asked the Ministry of Social Development to pay him for information about problems with its privacy systems, it has been alleged. Click here for more.

CERA data possibly exposed in WINZ flaw: A major security breach which gave the public access to sensitive welfare case notes also allowed them to view scanned invoices from the Canterbury earthquake authority. Click here for more.

Firefox 16 withdrawn due to security flaw: Firefox 16 was pulled offline only a day after its release by its maker, Mozilla, after a major "security vulnerability" was discovered. Click here for more.

The 'white hat' hacker: Nathaniel Carew makes a living protecting computer systems. In his spare time, he hacks into Google. Click here for more.

Hacktivists out Amanda Todd's tormenter: Hacker activist group Anonymous has exposed the man believed to be responsible for Amanda Todd's suicide. Click here for more.

Report: PlayStation hacked: Eurogamer reports that new custom firmware released by hackers overnight will allow compromised consoles to join the PlayStation Network, and that the release of LV0 decryption keys will allow jailbroken consoles to circumvent any future security updates made by Sony. Click here for more.

Hacker loses job at Apple: An iPhone hacker Apple hired has lost his internship with the company after he forgot to reply to an email concerning his future employment. Click here for more.

How Windows 8 changes the game: Security, or lack thereof, has dogged Microsoft Windows since the mid 1990s. This was bad news for consumers who were fond of risky practices such as sharing 3.5-inch floppies and downloading unknown files from services like AOL, UseNet Groups and, later, the web and file-sharing service. Click here for more.

The Weird, Wide Web

Like-A-Hug Vest inflates when you get a Facebook like: There's nothing like a bear hug from a loved one at the end of a long day. But if you live far away from your family, you now have a man-made alternative. Scientists at MIT have created a vest that inflates when your Facebook friends "Like" your posts, mimicking the sensation of a hug. Click here for more.

Urban ninja in city crime spree: A video has emerged showing a notorious urban ninja on an apparent small time crime spree in central Auckland. Click here for more.


It was five years ago today

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.

State of Play: The game of love: People play games for many reasons, but increasing numbers are finding that they are a great way to size up potential partners. Click here for more.

When the net is watching you: Click reporter David Reid asks why search engines are so keen to keep hold of our personal data. Click here for more.

Anorexics snared in web trap: Dangerous eating disorders are being promoted and glorified on popular social networks such as Facebook and YouTube – and health experts feel powerless to stop it. Click here for more.

Websites let anybody be banker to world's poor: Fuelled by last year's Nobel Prize for a man nicknamed "banker to the poor," microlending to small businesses in the world's poorest countries is booming as individuals discover they can be their own mini World Bank. Click here for more.

Hi-tech crime 'is big business': Internet crime has become a major commercial activity, reveals a report by computer security company Symantec. Click here for more.


Bringing it all back home

Thanks again for reading the Actrix Online Informer. Feedback can be sent to me via the e-mail address listed below. Please limit this to comments/suggestions regarding the newsletter. The best place to send requests for support is the Actrix Help Desk ( or to the Accounts Department (

Take care through November!

Rob Zorn 


Copyright 2011 Actrix Networks Limited | Contact: