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    • New note by bobjonkman 3 October 2020
      There's also Megablocks, the precursor to Duplo. And there are also Micro Megablocks, the same size as LEGO. The kits for Micro Megablocks were much better than the LEGO kits, making slightly larger models but using only standard bricks. The LEGO models were smaller, depending on many custom pieces specific to the kit, which were […]
    • Favorite 3 October 2020
      bobjonkman favorited something by clacke: Not only are Duplo blocks *like* Lego blocks, they *are* Lego blocks, and I don't just mean that Duplo is a Lego brand and produced in the same factory, the two systems are actually compatible.A Lego 2x2 block fits and sticks to the underside of a Duplo block, and the […]
    • bobjonkman repeated a notice by clacke 3 October 2020
      RT @clacke Not only are Duplo blocks *like* Lego blocks, they *are* Lego blocks, and I don't just mean that Duplo is a Lego brand and produced in the same factory, the two systems are actually compatible. A Lego 2x2 block fits and sticks to the underside of a Duplo block, and the nob on […]
    • Favorite 27 September 2020
      bobjonkman favorited something by clacke: > At least as far as we’re aware, however, this is the first time that a pirated copy of a movie has actually been shown at a cinema in the United States. And surely, it must be the first instance where a pirated copy has been obtained from a torrent […]
    • bobjonkman repeated a notice by tobias 27 September 2020
      RT @tobias ♲ @frederic: "Starting this Thanksgiving I am going to write a complete Unix-compatible software system called GNU (for Gnu's Not Unix), and give it away free to everyone who can use it." September 27, 1983 - Richard Stallman. www.gnu.org/gnu/initial-announ… Happy birthday to GNU \0/
    • Favorite 27 September 2020
      bobjonkman favorited something by tobias: ♲ @frederic@pouet.couchet.org: "Starting this Thanksgiving I am going to write a complete Unix-compatible software system called GNU (for Gnu's Not Unix), and give it away free to everyone who can use it." September 27, 1983 - Richard Stallman. www.gnu.org/gnu/initial-announ…Happy birthday to GNU \0/
    • bobjonkman repeated a notice by lxoliva 27 September 2020
      RT @lxoliva happy original software freedom day! on this day, 37 years ago, Richard Stallman launched the Free Software Movement, and the GNU Project, to build a user-freedom-respecting operating system, so that all users could do their computing in freedom
    • Favorite 27 September 2020
      bobjonkman favorited something by lxoliva: happy original software freedom day! on this day, 37 years ago, Richard Stallman launched the Free Software Movement, and the GNU Project, to build a user-freedom-respecting operating system, so that all users could do their computing in freedom
    • New note by bobjonkman 22 September 2020
      In the Netherlands (which the Dutch call "Nederland") the language is called "Nederlands", so that makes sense. Perhaps English speakers couldn't differentiate between "Nederlands" and "Deutsch", which corrupted to "Dutch". And why do we call the country "Germany" and the inhabitants "Germans" when they call their country "Deutschland" and themselves "die Deutsche"?
    • Favorite 29 August 2020
      bobjonkman favorited something by eloquence: Disturbing reports that Google Play is threatening to kick out Mastodon apps. See:https://mastodon.social/@Gargron/104763960269049818https://toot.fedilab.app/@fedilab/104765191594914330App stores have a track record of acting capriciously & are also easy targets for gov't censors (including Trump). This is why alternatives like @fdroidorg are so important for user freedom.If unfamiliar: F-Droid is a free & open […]

Google Spyware considered harmful

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 16th April 2012

Google wordmark in a "No" symbol

No Google

One day I was asked:

Hi IT Peeps,

I was wondering if I would cause major havoc if I downloaded google chrome? Will it mess anything up? Any recommendations?

My answer:

What problem are you trying to solve? What’s the question that gets answered “Install Google Chrome”?

Google the company is becoming ever more pervasive in our Internet lives. Google’s business is not providing a search engine for free; Google’s business is to sell our demographic information to advertisers. They gather that demographic data by luring us in with relevant search results, free e-mail and slick looking browsers.

Google collects personal information, including information that was voluntarily given to Google (for instance, by signing up for GMail or Google Plus; posting a video on YouTube), information that was collected anonymously (eg. when you perform a Google search or watch a YouTube video and Google records the search terms, your IP address, and leaves a cookie on your computer), and information that Google collected as it does its web indexing (comments you’ve left on a newspaper site, Tweets you’ve made, messages you’ve posted to public mailing lists). Google then correlates all this data based on IP address, cookies, e-mail addresses, your name, geo-location (finding out where you are based on your WiFi connection or IP address).

As of 1 March 2012 Google changed its privacy policies to combine data mining from all its holdings – the search engine, YouTube, Picasa, Google Maps, Google Plus, Google Mail, &c. I didn’t think too much of that, since I had thought that Google had always aggregated its data. According to an article I read[1] that’s actually a new development. Google used to keep all its data mining separate, in fact, kept it so separate that it didn’t even correlate its adwords between different messages in GMail. With the new privacy policy that’s all changed, and everything is now aggregated, correlated, and retained to be sold to the highest bidder. Google says we’ll never sell your personal information or share it without your permission, but you grant that permission every time you agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policies when you sign up for Google’s services.

Remember the Google Toolbar? Every search request, every URL, and every local file you opened in a browser with the Google toolbar installed was sent to the Google servers. There was a report of someone who opened confidential company documents with IE and the Google toolbar, only to find those reports cached on Google’s servers. Google Chrome is far more invasive than a mere toolbar.

Google Chrome does not have the same set of security-related add-ons that Firefox offers. For your best privacy protection and security, use Firefox with the NoScript, AdBlock Plus, HTTPS-Everywhere and Force-TLS extensions. See my article on Browser Security for details on installing and configuring them.

–Bob, who will be getting fitted for a new tinfoil hat at lunch…

Footnote 1: I wish I knew what article that was. To my recollection, the author said he wouldn’t trust Google with his data again. He had visited the Googleplex some years earlier, and was told how Google kept the data from its different projects in separate silos, so that profile aggregation was next to impossible. Data silos were so extensive that although one GMail message might trigger certain AdWords, there was no tracking between messages. I read the article in March of 2012; if you can provide me with a link let me know in the comments.

Update 8 Nov 2012: A similar quote about data silos from Google’s Vic Gundotra appears in the CNN article Google exec: We won’t break users’ trust.


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Posted in considered harmful, Google, Google Free, Internet, privacy | 2 Comments »

What to do about compromised Hotmail passwords

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 18th November 2010

autoroute à emails

autoroute à emails by Biscarotte

I administer a number of e-mail systems, and I’ve been seeing a lot of spam coming from Hotmail accounts recently. And both friends and clients have been telling me that it’s not them who are sending spam from Hotmail (and ending up in my e-mail systems), their accounts have been hacked. One person asked me:

Is it just Hotmail? What else could I use? Can’t I just change my password?

Changing passwords is only an effective solution if the account was compromised by social engineering, eg. the legitimate user giving out the password in a phishing attempt or other direct means, or if a simple password was guessed or cracked.

There is evidence that Hotmail and Yahoo’s password recovery mechanism is flawed (eg. the Sarah Palin breach), so that malusers can acquire a new password for an account. I don’t think this is happening, because victims are not reporting being locked out of their accounts. Of course, if the service merely sends out the current password then this may be what is happening, and no amount of password complexity will protect the account.

If the passwords were compromised by an automated password cracker then I would expect only simple passwords to be breached, and accounts with strong passwords would be safe. I do not know what kind of passwords were in use by the people who have compromised accounts, but it is likely they were simple passwords.

While I have no evidence, I think the current rash of breaches is due to a more systematic attack by URL munging, or fuzzing the inputs on a POST request, or some other attack vector. These attacks do not require an authenticated login, and in that case no amount of password complexity will provide security either.

I haven’t heard of similar compromised accounts in Gmail, so that may be a suitable alternative for now. I’ve been recommending that people use the mail accounts provided by their ISPs, largely so that they can make use of the ISP’s technical support if their accounts do get compromised. And, of course, if they’re paying their ISP for a mail account then there may be immunity from liability (“My mail account was compromised and I was paying my ISP for security, so all this spam is their fault”).

–Bob.

Update 5 Feb 2012: I retract the first sentence in the last paragraph. E-mail Administrator friends have been telling me that Google Mail is just as vulnerable as Hotmail and Yahoo. Having just read “Hacked!” in The Atlantic I’m convinced the problem of compromised mail accounts is worse than I thought, and that no online providers (especially the “free” ones) adequately protect the e-mail of their users.

autoroute à emails by Biscarotte is used under a Creative Commons by-sa-v2.0 license.

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Posted in email, Internet, spam | 1 Comment »

 
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