Wednesday, 30 April 2008

R.I.P. Humphrey Lyttelton (and Samantha!)

Remember 'Humph'?

Well I do - not necessarily for the wonderful jazz he played but more recently for the smiles he gave me listening to 'I'm Sorry, I Haven't a Clue' on the car radio!

He had an absolutely wonderful and very special sense of humour - not dirty or tacky but he just used that old magic called INNUENDO!

There's a lovely tribute to him here - if you want to smile today and wonder why he made me smile, just take a moment and go there. OK maybe it was 'smutty' whatever that means and if it was, I just liked it.

Guilty as charged M'Lud!!

Dear Old England

I guess that I should say that it's good to be back - but since we landed life has been kind of hectic and challenging! And to cap a rather gloomy couple of weeks, some nice guy - who apparently fell asleep! - in the car behind me last Friday and crashed into the back of my car!!

All that plus the very gloomy UK Housing and Mortgage markets, rising food and petrol prices and a chilly blast from April Showers make us wish we were somewhere else! Except of course many of these gloomy items affect everyone whether they live in the US, Australia, Timbuktoo or here - in short most are Global problems and we can't escape them!!

But maybe like we've always done we have to adjust our lives and lifestyle to cope - after all isn't that what everyone has to do in such circumstances? Anticipating or at least responding to changing circumstances is what life in the real world is all about!!

And it's always been that way, hasn't it?

By comparison with folks like our parents, we've been very lucky with our lives haven't we?

So as a bit of 'escapism', I watched the TV last night - Manchester United playing the second leg of the semi final of the Champions League against Barcelona in the 'Theatre of Dreams' aka Old Trafford. What a match! The result? Well if you haven't heard it was 1-0 to United which means there is an all English Final of the Champions League in Moscow in 3 weeks time - Chelsea and Liverpool play the second leg of the other semi final later tonight.

But I just KNOW that Craig Woodburn will be up watching the match live from Colloroy!! I'm sure he has absolutely NO DOUBT that Liverpool will win!!

We'll see, Craig!

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

First it was Phishing, now it's Whaling!!

Article from the NY Times:

SAN FRANCISCO — An e-mail scam aimed squarely at the nation’s top executives is raising new alarms about the ease with which people and companies can be deceived by online criminals.

An image of the fake document contained in e-mail messages sent to thousands of executives as part of an online scam.

Thousands of high-ranking executives across the country have been receiving e-mail messages this week that appear to be official subpoenas from the United States District Court in San Diego. Each message includes the executive’s name, company and phone number, and commands the recipient to appear before a grand jury in a civil case.

A link embedded in the message purports to offer a copy of the entire subpoena. But a recipient who tries to view the document unwittingly downloads and installs software that secretly records keystrokes and sends the data to a remote computer over the Internet. This lets the criminals capture passwords and other personal or corporate information.

Another piece of the software allows the computer to be controlled remotely. According to researchers who have analyzed the downloaded file, less than 40 percent of commercial antivirus programs were able to recognize and intercept the attack.

The tactic of aiming at the rich and powerful with an online scam is referred to by computer security experts as whaling. The term is a play on phishing, an approach that usually involves tricking e-mail users — in this case the big fish — into divulging personal information like credit card numbers. Phishing attacks that are directed at a particular person, rather than blasted out to millions, are also known as spear phishing.

The latest campaign has been widespread enough that two California federal courts and the administrative office of the United States Courts posted warnings about the fake messages on their Web sites. Federal officials said they stopped counting after getting hundreds of phone calls from corporations about the messages. At midday on Tuesday, one antispam company, MX Logic, said in a Web posting that its service was still seeing at least 30 of the messages an hour.

Security researchers at several firms indicated they believed there had been at least several thousand victims of the attack whose computers had been compromised.

“We have seen about 2,000 victims, more or less,” said John Bambenek, a security researcher at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a volunteer at the Internet Storm Center, a network security organization.

Researchers were studying a list of the Internet addresses of infected computers that iDefense Labs, a research unit of VeriSign, had assembled by monitoring network traffic.

Personalized scam messages have been on the radar of security researchers and law enforcement officials for several years, but the latest variant is a fresh indication of the threat posed by such digital ruses.

“I think that it was well done in terms of something people would feel compelled to respond to,” said Steve Kirsch, the chief executive of Abaca, an antispam company based in San Jose, Calif.

Mr. Kirsch himself received a copy of the message and forwarded it to the company lawyer. “It had my name, phone number, company and correct e-mail address on it and looked pretty legitimate,” Mr. Kirsch said. “Even the U.R.L. to find out more looked legitimate at first glance.”

When the lawyer tried to download a copy of the subpoena and the computer restarted itself, they quickly realized that the file contained malicious software.

Several computer security researchers said that the attack was the work of a group that tried a similar assault in November 2007. In that case, the e-mail message appeared to come from the Justice Department and stated that a complaint had been filed against the recipient’s company.

The software used in the latest attack tries to communicate with a computer in Singapore. That system was still functioning on Tuesday evening, but security researchers said many Internet service providers had blocked access to it.

A number of clues, like misspellings, in the fake subpoena led several researchers to believe that the attackers were not familiar with the United States court system and that the group might be based in a place that used a British variant of English, such as Hong Kong.

“This is probably Chinese-based,” said Mr. Bambenek. “If all the key players are in China there is not much the F.B.I. can do.”

Several security researchers said that the real danger of the attack lay in a second level of deception, after the hidden software provided the attackers with digital credentials like passwords and electronic certificates.

“There are very subtle nuances to their attacks that are well known in the financial industry but are not well publicized,” said Matt Richard, director of the Rapid Response Team at iDefense.

Mr. Richard said the criminals were going after a particular area of the financial industry, but he would not elaborate. He said that law enforcement officials were investigating the fraudulent documents.

Calls to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for comment were not returned.

Although the software package used to deliver the eavesdropping program is well known, it was hidden in such a way that it avoided detection by commercial programs in many cases, researchers said.

“This is pretty well-known code,” said Don Jackson, a researcher at SecureWorks, a computer security firm. “The issue has to do with repacking it.”

Recipients of the e-mail messages are directed to a fraudulent Web site with a copy of the graphics from the real federal court site. They are then asked to download and install what is said to be a piece of software from Adobe that is used to view electronic documents.

“There are several layers of social engineering involved here,” said Mike Haro, a spokesman for Sophos, a company that sells software to protect against malicious software and spam. rich guys out there have been warned!!


Isn't it nice when someone remembers a happy occasion in a life, amongst all the grief, sadness and tears when a loved one passes away.

Clare's partner John took this photo of Winnie and Harold a few months ago when we had a 'family' get-together - although John hadn't known them long and didn't know them very well he's just emailed me wanting to share a memory of a happy day. He says he 'is saddened by your loss, he was a wonderful man and a pleasure to talk to'.

Thank you, John. Your kind thoughts and words are a great comfort to us at this time.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Thank you

Although slightly impersonal I guess, Shirley and I would like to thank everyone for all the expressions of condolence and goodwill following the sudden death of her father, Harold last Wednesday.

We just wanted everyone to know how much we appreciate all the messages we have received which give us much comfort and strength at this sad time.

Harold Astle - 1920 to 2008

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Back to Blighty!

Just a 'jetlagged' quickie to let everyone know that we arrived safely at Heathrow around 1215 local time - sadly one of our bags (actually Shirley's) didn't make the transfer at Dubai so here we are at 5.30pm waiting for it to be delivered here by courier!!

We also had some bad news on arriving home - Shirley's Father had a major seizure in the early hours this morning and very sadly passed away only a few hours before we landed; he was 88 years old and had been in somewhat 'fragile' health over the past year or so. I know you always 'expect' these things to happen someday but it's always a shock when it does isn't it?

We'll be travelling down to Kent to see Winnie tomorrow morning and try to help with organising everything.

Anyway we just wanted everyone to know we had returned safely - I'll post something more once the jetlag has worn off!