Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.


Burner Email Addresses

Filed under: Red Herrings,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 9:57 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Because having a disposable email means having privacy.

I hate spam. I mean, I really hate spam and spammers with a passion. As a system administrator, which is what I really am no matter what fancy title I may currently have, I can tell you that dealing with spam is the single most time-consuming and irritating thing about having an email server. The last time I checked, spam accounted for something like 75% of all email communication. The problem is, a lot of the time, to get the one thing you want from a site, you are forced to sign up for an email newsletter that you don’t really want. Now, don’t get me wrong, I actually like email newsletters. I subscribe to several and I’m even working on setting up one of my own. But, for those times you really just want the one “free” download a site is offering and don’t have any intention of coming back, what are you to do? Or, what if you’re not even sure that it’s a legitimate download or website? Maybe you’re afraid that a hacker has set up a site just to collect personal information, what then?
Well, then, you use nBox by notif.me to setup a free, anonymous and private “burner” email for any site you want to sign up for. You can then choose how and when you’re notified when they send something out. You can even delete the addresses you’ve used for sites you don’t want to be bothered with any more and *poof* they’re all gone, all at once.
And, yes, it’s free. How? Well, it’s free because it’s notif.me’s way of advertising and getting the word out about their service.
So, why not try it and take control of your email notifications this fine Friday?


Phishing Quiz

Filed under: Fun,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

No, that’s not a typo.

This month, I’ve been dealing with a higher than normal amount of phishing emails at work. For those of you not in IT, those are the emails you get that have links which look like legitimate links, say to your bank, but that actually redirect you to a compromised website that collects your username and password for a hacker’s later use. They’re worse than regular spam email, but not quite virus payloads. Either way, they cause me no end of grief. Normally, I don’t have a hard time spotting them, but even I have to admit, these cyber crooks have gotten really clever lately.
So, this week I’m bringing you something rather more important and educational than it is strictly “fun”. Still, if you bear with me, and follow the link, you’ll be helping yourself and endearing yourself to your IT Department. Trust me.
The link is to Google’s phishing quiz and it’s meant to both test your knowledge and skill at avoiding phishing emails. As an IT professional, I can tell you, it’s harder than it looks. Honest. The first time I ran through the quiz, I missed three of the eight questions, though, one was a “false-positive”, which means I was leaning more toward safety by the end of the quiz. In any case, after you answer each question, the site takes you through what was wrong, or right, about each email.

So, yeah, not the most traditionally “fun” thing for a Friday, but it is a kind of game, so I’m going to count it!
And, with any luck at all, by this coming Friday, I may be finally able to reveal one of the things that’s been keeping me from writing up better stuff for you on Friday’s the past month or so.


This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.


Send Big Files

Filed under: Red Herrings,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Frustrated with email limitations on big attachments?

Lately, I seem to be offering up solutions for email problems. I guess, email is on my mind lately. Don’t get me wrong, I love email. I frankly think it’s one of the most incredible things about the internet and quite possibly the greatest invention since sliced bread. Seriously. Think about it. Email connects us almost instantly with virtually anyone else in the world who has an email address. No time spent waiting for postal carriers to get a letter from where we are to where they are which might take days or weeks. Just near instantaneous communication.
Of course, there are some limitations. Obviously, I can’t send someone physical objects directly via email. I suppose, though, that when 3D printer technology catches up to our imaginations, we could send the digital files for some object and then you could print it locally, but that’s far, far in the future. Also? Most email systems have pretty strict limits on how big a file you can even send. Most top out around 25 megabytes, but some are really strict and are capped at as little as 5 megabytes. So, what can you do to keep those limits from killing your ability to share your big, beautiful Photoshop files? Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
In this case, the way is Send by Firefox. Yes, by the people who make the Firefox web browser, but, no, you don’t have to have Firefox to use it. You can watch a small video of how it works here, but really, it’s just a matter of uploading a file and following the instructions. They do recommend that you keep files under 1 gigabyte, but if you’re sending files that big, you’re really better off talking to your IT Department about setting up an FTP server for you. (Don’t worry, they’ll know what that means.)
In any case, this should be a simple solution for you under most circumstances.
And, that’s about the best you can hope for on a Friday!
Enjoy your weekend and I’ll see you back here next week!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words!


Scam The Scammers

Filed under: Fun,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

In the Christmas spirit of giving, give the scammers a headache.

I don’t know about you, but this time of year, I seem to get twice the number of scam and spam email that I normally get. It’s pretty terrible. I mean, most of the year, it’s bad enough, but we are all extra busy this time of year and have even less time than normal to deal with these bottom-feeders of cyberspace. I’m NOT an advocate of the infamous “hack back” strategy, even for well-heeled corporate IT departments that can staff skilled anti-hackers, but the idea of an artificially intelligent email bot that annoys and harasses email scammers is a little different. For one thing, it’s just annoying email. For another, it’s automated.
All you have to do is forward the scam email to me@rescam.org and let the games begin. The Re:scam email bot will reply to the scammer and tie them up with an almost endless stream of questions and “personal” anecdotes so the scammers are kept busy and, yes, tortured just a little bit. And, they’ll forward you the email conversations afterward, for your amusement.
No, it’s not nice, but, let’s face it, these email spammers aren’t exactly on Santa’s “Nice List”, if you know what I mean.

So, head over to Boiing Boing and read about the Re:scam email bot and enjoy your Christmas shopping!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words!


Cyber Pearl Harbor?

Filed under: Geek Work,News and Current Events,The Dark Side,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Pig which is in the late evening or 10:41 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Really?  Are they bringing this one out again?

I’ve heard about the dangers of “cyber war” almost since I got started in this business twenty years ago.  Essentially, since the internet existed, people have been claiming that dangerous hackers are going to take over our infrastructure from within.  Sound familiar?  Like, oh, say, the Red Threat of the Cold War?
It’s pretty easy to get IT guys like me whipped into a frenzy about this.  Back in the day, Winn Schwartau wrote THE go-to book on the subject, [amazon_link id=”B00127UJMO” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Information Warfare[/amazon_link], and in that book he talked about a so-called “Cyber Pearl Harbor” that ushered in a new era of digital warfare.  Well, now, it seems, ZDNet is reporting that we may have already had our so-called Cyber Pearl Harbor.  According to security researchers at McAfee, and elsewhere, several targets, including the United States, have been under a five year sustained cyber attack and they went on to speculate that a “state actor” was likely behind the attacks.  A security consultant at Sophos pointed out that fingers are usually pointed in China’s direction when government-funded and supported cyber attacks are discussed.  And, I have to admit, based on the other forms of espionage, especially industrial espionage, that we’ve seen from them over the years, it wouldn’t surprise me if they were using the Internet to attack various sites remotely in an attempt to get restricted information of various kinds.

But, is this a “Pearl Harbor”-like event?  I mean, really?
Do you see people rallying around this issue?  Are hackers joining the U.S. Military to defend our cyber borders?  If they are, it’s one of the best kept secrets in the world right now.  Seriously.
Pearl Harbor was a galvanizing event in our history.  That one event is what got us off the fence and into World War II, as a nation.  Honestly, I don’t see that happening here, or anywhere that high-level computer tech is the focal point of the debate.  We may rely on that tech to get our jobs done or to entertain us, but, really, most people don’t have any idea of the security work that goes on behind the scenes.  This is an invisible war, if it even can be called that.
Again, I think it’s a new form of Cold War.  It’s a battle waged in the shadows against an all but invisible enemy.  It won’t be fought like a conventional war of any kind, much less like World War II.  And, if the cyber war is an apt metaphor at all, then it’s a war we’re already fighting.

Oh, and as for the Chinese, well, they’ve already used their influence as a global market to get a partial retraction from those fine folks at McAfee, who are now claiming that there is no definitive link to any “state actor” of any kind, much less China.  Of course, I’ve only seen the back-peddling on a single, English-language, but Chinese supported, news site.  Still, that, my friends, is the view of the new global economy and the real war.  Big governments will start to throw their weight around and corporations will “adjust” their position on the truth to tap the market and access their bottom line.  Of course, that’s nothing new, either.  China’s been doing that for years.  Only now, they may be the biggest market still available in the entire world.
Looks like we all better start learning Mandarin!


Cyber vs. Regular

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Geek Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:05 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Why does adding “cyber” to something make it so different?

So, recently, there was an article on Slashdot about “cyber vigilantes”; “Should Cyber Vigilantes Be Cheered Or Feared?
Um, does being a troublemaker and scofflaw online make it less bad in some way?  I mean, a “cyber” vigilante is still a vigilante.  So, shouldn’t the question really be “Should we punish people who take the law in to their own hands?”  Isn’t that what the question is really saying?  Does it matter that it happened on-line or not?  Seriously?  When someone shuts down part of the financial system, like the ability of Visa to process credit charges, do we care that the people who did it were on-line or in the street?

I don’t care.  As far as I’m concerned, a vigilante is a vigilante.

Look, here’s my point;  There is NO difference between “cyberspace” and “real life”.  There never was.
Why do people still seem to get the idea that we’re different in some key way on-line than we are in person?  Do my values change because I’m sitting at a keyboard?  Does relative anonymity somehow exempt me from my regular standards of behavior and conduct?  No, in short, no, there is no difference.
I have had people say things to me from the safety of an e-mail or forum that they wouldn’t dare say to my face.  I know, because if they had, I’d have a criminal record and most likely be paying their hospital bill still.  Not that I’m a violent guy, on-line or anywhere else, really, but if I’d been within arm’s reach of some of the miscreants who’ve said things to provoke me, well…  Well, let’s just say that your Uncle Jim isn’t easily provoked and that’s best for everyone, okay?
So, riddle me this, dear readers, why do we still persist in the illusion that, somehow, we stop being people because of an intervening computer interface?

And, isn’t it time we stopped that?

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