There are a number of stories about The Malware Museum on the Internet Archive. This archive gathers a number of 1980s and 1990s viruses (just the animated parts) with emulators so you can run them and see their visual effects. The Toronto Star story has a quote from Hyponnen on the art of the early viruses,
“You could call it an art form,” he said in an interview. “These early virus-writers were expressing themselves with animations and sounds.”
It wasn’t until later that viruses started encrypting things and blackmailing you to decrypt them or doing other things to make money.
There is an extended talk (50 minutes) by Mikko Hypponen, the security specialist who gave this collection, on The History and the Evolution of Computer Viruses. The talk starts with the first PC virus BRAIN that he traced back to two brothers in Packistan to Stuxnet. (For a good book on Stuxnet see Kim Zetter’s Countdown to Zero Day.)
The Guardian has a good article on spam,Why the spammers are winning that is based largely on a new book Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet by Finn Brunton. The article tells about what may be the first modern spam message which was distributed on a Sunday evening of 1864 by a telegraph company. The urgent message was from a dentists company advertising their hours.
What is interesting is that spam filtering and spam filter bypassing agents are text technologies that are getting more and more sophisticated. As filters got better spam is no longer a matter for amateurs. Spam is also changing – there are more an more inventive ways to get you to read junk ads. For that matter at the end of Guardian articles there has been a collection of links to articles in the Guardian and elsewhere that feels a lot like clickbait. The links are paid for and provided by Outbrain. They tend to be ad cloaked as stories.
Thanks to Bethany on twitter I came across this great post by Stephen Wolfram on The Personal Analytics of My Life. Wolfram is not the first person to use computers to track his activities and then understand himself. Microsoft Research has a project MyLifeBits that is “an attempt to fulfill Vannevar Bush‘s vision of an automated store of the documents, pictures (including those taken automatically), and sounds an individual has experienced in his lifetime, to be accessed with speed and ease.” The project is digitizing and following Gordon Bell and they have released a book Your Life, Uploaded. We could even go back to the ancient Greek aphorism “Know theyself” that motivated Socrates and which, in its Latin form (temet nosce), shows up over the door of the Oracle in the Matrix.
Continue reading Stephen Wolfram Blog : The Personal Analytics of My Life
“The deluge of information will be one of the most important problems a company will have to face (in the future). It is time to think differently.” Reading useless messages is terrible for concentration, as it takes 64 seconds to get back on the ball after doing so, according to a recent study by the social and business responsibility watchdog ORSE. “Poorly controlled, the email can become a devastating tool,” it warned.
There is more and more criticism of email and how it can distract you. Here is an article from the Telegraph about a French company where Staff to be banned from sending emails. What is interesting is that the CEO of Atos is advocating using instant messaging and a Facebook-like social network. This is supposed to be less distracting.
There is hope in the battle against spam. The New York Times is reporting on a study that has identified a weak point in the spam chain. See Study Says Spam Can Be Cut by Blocking Card Transactions – NYTimes.com.
The study by Kirill Levchenko and colleagues is titled, Click Trajectories: End-to-End Analysis of the Spam Value Chain (PDF of unpublished manuscript). They followed up on a lot of spam ads and bought thousands of dollars of stuff (like Viagra.) They then analyzed the chain of servers and services that make spam a viable business. The weak point is the credit card processing, because this is a business and some money has to be gathered at some point to finance it. There are a small number of banks that process the credit card transactions, and these banks may be vulnerable to political pressure.
Finally, we have used this data to provide a normative analysis of spam intervention approaches and to offer evidence that the payment tier is by far the most concentrated and valuable asset in the spam ecosystem, and one for which there may be a truly effective intervention through public policy action in Western countries. (p. 15)
I just found an interesting site about Nigerian scams. The site has some history, it has a bibliography of books on the subject, it has an archive of example emails, and it tracks people who seem to be fraud artists. While the site at times seems to have an amateur side it has a lot of information.
I must admit that I’m interested in this as I’ve begun to think of spam as a form of creative writing. Spammers have to tell a story that will entice people to start up a dialogue so that they can ask for an advance. Who writes these stories? What sorts of people maintain the dialogue? What do these stories tell us about ourselves? Why Nigeria?
Thanks to readers for pointing out the spam you are getting when you read my blog with the Google Reader. I’m trying to fix the problem. If you have links to good explanations of the problem please email me.
The New York Times has a disturbing story, Before the Gunfire, Cyberattacks that suggests the Russians may have practiced cyberattack techniques against Georgia before the surface attack in what is the first case of a “known cyberattack had coincided with a shooting war.”
the attacks against Georgiaâ€™s Internet infrastructure began as early as July 20, with coordinated barrages of millions of requests â€” known as distributed denial of service, or D.D.O.S., attacks â€” that overloaded and effectively shut down Georgian servers.
Georgia, however, doesn’t seem to have noticed as they don’t have that many internet sites and don’t use it much in everyday life/business. One wonders how a successful shutdown of the Internet in Canada would affect us … what would break down?
Well, I’m in the news today. I was interviewed for a story in the Spectator, Mass e-vites can prompt gatecrashing which is about how word of parties circulates quickly on the web leading sometimes to uninvited (and violent) guests. Or it is about how Facebook is dangerous. I have blogged before about Facing Facebook (and privacy), but what strikes me now about Facebook is how it offers an alternative to e-mail. The argument goes like this:
- Email was developed when the internet (Arpanet actually) was a trusted circle. The net was flat and only people like you and answerable to you were on it.
- Email doesn’t work on an internet that is broad, global, and open. Spam is just one symptom of the problem of scale.
- What we need is a messaging system that lets us control who can write us; a system that priviledges the local (in the sense that people in my university have easier access); and a system that lets me use different types of messaging for different purposes (from short announcements to photos to private messages.)
Sounds like Facebook, doesn’t it? Which is why my children seem to use Facebook for communication and email for file transfer (as in moving a copy of a paper to print out to the lab at school.) Unfortunately I can’t move off email the way Donald Knuth did – it is now woven into the work practices of the university. I’m also not comfortable with a commercial organization like Facebook or Google having all my messaging. But I can start moving to private social networks for certain purposes. To that end I set up a private network for my extended family on Ning where we can keep track of birthdays, family photos, and information.
How about an open source project to develop a distributed social network messaging environment that could interface with email, that could be run by individual units, and that could offer control over types and sources of messages?
Peter sent me to a neat blog, FlowingData that is partly about visualization. Nathan, the author, posts longish notes like 17 Ways to Visualize the Twitter Universe. He also has a good one on 21 Ways to Visualize and Explore Your Email Inbox which has some creative ways to handle spam like Alex Dragulescu’s Spam Architecture that takes spam and generates “three-dimensional modeling gestures”! (I want to be a 3D modeling gesture!)