Mashup Idea of the Day

With yesterday’s unsalted password dump at LinkedIn (seriously LinkedIn, wtf are you doing not salting your passwords?), the password dump of eHarmony and today’s suspected compromise at, this would be an ideal time to provide a service that tells the truth behind an eHarmony profile simply by matching email addresses and passwords.

For example you could enter an eHarmony profile ID in, and it would check the user’s LinkedIn and profiles. A sample output could be:

“Sorry love, you know that 28-year-old, dashing, handsome, eco-friendly power company executive who loves 80s and 90s ballads whilst sunset walks on the beach, kittens and surprise weekends away? He’s actually a married 45-year-old IT Support Executive who’s favourite hobby is being Waldorf on World of Warcraft (as per the Twitter feed connected to his LinkedIn account). His favourite bands are Slayer and Megadeath, but recently has been listening to the Eurovision Song Contest Dusseldorf 2011 CD … a lot.”

Not a bad idea, hey? Please send all revenues from this service, if you implement it, to one of my nominated charities. Or buy me a book from my Kindle Wish List.

Australian Banks’ Special Offer for their Loyal Customers

Shafted!Australian Banks are offering a free pencil sharpener in gratitude for the $36bn profit they got out of us last year. It’s designed to remind us of the friendly and even intimate relationship the banks have built up with the Australian public.

Just call into any branch. There’s a small collection fee of $54.70 (to cover admin and international market fluctuations) plus a hand delivery charge of $47.35. What great value!!!!

Lots of love, Barbara

Censorship, Facebook and the Australian Government

Now as you probably know I’m not one that usually subscribes to conspiracy theories, (for example, I don’t believe that the British Royal Family had anything to do with the tragic death of Princess Diana, apart of course from ordering it, using their loyal subjects) but there has been a recent pattern of events here in Australia that have been far too conincidental.

Australia, of course, is one of the world’s most beautiful and unspoilt countries to visit. A large proportion of its economy relies on the Mining and Tourism sectors. However, due to its amazing natural history and evolutionary process (until, of course, the British invaded in 1779), the land down under has been home to many wild and wonderful creatures that simply don’t exist anywhere in the world. Everyone knows about our ‘roos, wallabies, wallaroos and koalas, but Tourism Australia, in partnership with the Federal Government, supress all information about the Dropbear, for fear of crippling our vital tourism industry. They even regularly force changes to websites, under national security laws, to websites such as the Wikipedia.

For fear of censorship, this article will not talk about the dropbear. However we suspect that the Government have been putting commercial and economic pressure on Facebook to remove content such as this fan page, where young Aussies celebrate our wonderful killer koala-like meat-eating marsupials (whilst also trying to subtley warn tourists who come to our shores to watch out for them, and not to disappear in our CBD parks due to the increasing silent ambush tactics used by hordes of dropbears).

As is commonly known, and opposed by the majority of its citizens (a.k.a. voters), the Australian Government are attempting to censor the internet, lead by the poltiical ambitions of idiots such as Chief Censor Conroy and a few minority independent senators going for the Christian or “Family Friendly” vote. An excellent test of the Government’s powers came to the fore when Facebook decided to ban all Pages that wern’t related to a product or service. Consequently, the administrators of the Drop Bear fan page, which was set up to warn visitors to Australia given censorship by official channels, had to prove Dropbears existed with “official” confirmation otherwise the Page would be permanently closed and deleted.

It doesn’t take a genius to put 2+2 together doesn’t it?

Well apparently it does … Australia today announced that their Internet Filtering “Live” Pilot (a.k.a. censorship) was a complete success – even though less than a third of the “blacklist” contains illegal material – was a complete success and it will push ahead with mandatory internet filtering. As I’ve said before, anything to do with “child sex abuse content, bestiality, sexual violence and the detailed instruction of crime or drug use” should quite rightly be monitored, and people who access such information should be caught, prosecuted and punished with the full force of the law. However, all that will happen is these b@stards will use widely-available technologies to bypass the filter … which makes it more difficult (not impossible, just difficult) for them to be caught by the miniscule 91 extra AFP officers that wil be funded to try and catch them.

Moreover, due to the sensitive nature of the blacklist, access to it is restricted with no oversight to prevent governmental censorship of legal material … for example, what next? Anti-abortion websites? Pro-abortion websites? Aethiest websites? Dropbear warnings? Facebook? Whistleblower websites like Wikileaks (currently tried to be censored by the Australian and British governments, among others)?

Australian Internet Censorship In Practice

I have previously blogged about the The Great Australian Firewall, which is currently in its testing phase for manadatory internet filtering under the direction and control of the Australian Government (specifically ACMA). In the past few days, things have taken an alarming turn for the worse. I’m going to be slightly vague on some details for my own protection, as I don’t want to risk being the recepient a $11,000 fine and criminal record thanks to the AFP. So I’m only going to point towards public news sources that are reporting the details about this.

The Government, in its new initiative to become the world’s leading Nanny State, has decided that it is their right and duty to tell us what we can and cannot think, say and see on the Internet and other media. And remember kids, these people mostly live in Canberra, the most boring city in the world. Need I say more?

What has happened recently? (Historically? See here). Well ..

  • Bulletproof Networks hosts the very popular Internet forum, ACMA don’t like Whirlpool, particularly as a lot of discussion about Australian ISPs performance and their views on Internet Censorship, happens on there. A user posted a link to an anti-abortion website which apparently is on ACMAs blacklist. Bulletproof was immediately issued with a takedown notice and a threat of being fined $11,000 per day. Out of the blue of course, because ACMA’s blacklist is kept secret. More information reported in The Australian newspaper
  • Somewhere on the Internet, somebody has posted Denmark’s blacklist. Someone else submitted a link to ACMA aiming to highlight the futility of maintaining a secret blacklist. ACMA responded by blocking access to that website, and their press release about it. US Tech Blog Wired takes up the story.

“ACMA is investigating this matter and is considering a range of possible actions it may take including referral to the Australian Federal Police. Any Australian involved in making this content publicly available would be at serious risk of criminal prosecution.”

  • Coincedentally, whistleblower website, WikiLeaks, has been inaccessible from a number of Australian locations today. Not one to draw conclusions, but they are quoted in The Australian:

While Wikileaks is used to exposing secret government censorship in developing countries, we now find Australia acting like a democratic backwater. History shows that secret censorship systems, whatever their original intent, are invariably corrupted into anti-democratic behavior

Chief Censor Sentator Conroy has aleady admitted his fitering scheme will be used to block legal material as well as illegal material (you know, the kind of stuff you can buy on the top shelves of newsagents – except if you live near a mining site, then its right by the cash register instead). The initial law was strictly to block illegal material such as Child Pr0n* and material that incites terrorism and other evil stuff like that. However now the somebody-please-think-of-the-children thought police have got their way and this has been expanded to “inappropriate” sites … legal gambing sites for example, like, are apparently on the blacklist. Of course, it would not suprise me if the Aussie equivelent of the RIAA, the ARIA, and the MPAA are fevereshly lobbying their cause, persuading Conroy to block peer-to-peer technologies in this filter, fresh on their success in New Zealand.

Unfortunately, the fact that the Nanny State forgets is that as soon as you make something illegal, all that happens is its driven underground. Techologies already exist that will bypass such censorship. Look at drug smuggling which is rife thoughout the world and mostly illegal. Even worse, they also make it more difficult for the authorites to locate and capture the bastards involved in activities such as terrorism and child pr0nography.

My previous position, that this funding should be diverted to the AFP and international legal authorities to track down, capture and castrate (no anasthetic)  people involved in these dispicable acts and then lock them up for life, still stands.

Restricting debate and enforcing your views through legal means on others in a Nanny State solution only drives the problem further underground. More debate here, and here, and here … while we still can.

Issues with re-establishing Identity After Natural Disasters

As many of you will know, southern Australia is currently suffering the worst bushfires in peacetime history of Australia. Over 173 are confirmed as dead with many more injured, towns have been destroyed completely and people losing everything. The SBS and the ABC have particularly good online coverage of this ongoing disaster. What makes it worse is that police are investigating a number of sites where the fires were suspected to have been (re)started by firebugs (arsonists) and even by thrown cigarette butts. IMHO those responsible should be tried for murder with sentences served consecutively.


I’ve just watched Prime Minister Rudd address the Australian Parliment (ironically, via the BBC) where I was pleasently suprised to hear, quite early in his speech [Link Available Soon], that the Government will direct its departments to provide assistance to people re-establish their legal identity. Things like passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates and so on are difficult enough to get hold of, but even worse when all of your “identity sources” are destroyed in disasters such as these fires or the floods ravaging Northern Queensland. Being able to provide a positive and trusted identity “token” (drivers license, passport, etc) about yourself is nowadays a virtual prerequisite to living a normal life in todays society. If you have none – how do you identify yourself? PM Rudd paused from reading his speech to convey, in his personal tone, this difficulty to the rest of Parliament. This is the first time I have ever heard a senior politician even understand this difficulty, simplistic as it may sound. Maybe its because he saw The Chasers’ Julian Morrow demonstrate how easy it is at a recent Identity Fraud conference in Sydney.

However – this got me thinking, as of course I work in the Information Security and Identity spaces. What provisions will the Commonwealth put into place to stop those evil people take advatage of this tragedy to assume the identities of victims? How do you prove your identity when your primary sources have been destroyed? There is an excellent case study of an affluent lady in NSW [Citation Needed] who has lost her home (including title deeds), car, digital identities, bank accounts, and so forth after having her identity stolen by a criminal gang whilst she was abroad. (The suspected Russian-based gang proceeded to sell everything she owned, obtained passports and birth certificates in her name,  bankrupted her and racked up massive debts in her name, and she is still fighting to this day to clear her credit record years later – which nobody seems to know how to do, due to the lack of legaslative process in Australia).  And all from stealing mail from her mailbox. Australians – put an unbreakable lock on your mailbox or get a PO Box, is all I can say.

Although its not proof of identity, people born in England and Wales can order as many copies of their birth certificates as they like (well – to be accurate – certified copies of an entry in the register of births and deaths) over the internet. A very useful service. Indeed, I’ve ordered quite a few copies of my own, based on only knowing basic information about my parents and where I was born. What is a scary thought is that this can then be used to apply for an identity elsewhere, for example my Australian Citizenship, my passports in multiple countries and even my French Carte de Sejour (itself a de facto Identity card).  I don’t know what processes there are in place to stop you, or anyone else, doing that with such a copy. I bet you that the various governments around the world don’t check the validity of every birth certificate copy they are presented with.

Whilst digital identity is a complex area, we must also not forget the issues around dealing with the offline world. Identity theft and fraud is a growing crime, not just done by neer-do-wells, but also in a profitable manner by the organised gangs. And they’ve been doing it for years. All we can do as individuals is to protect our own identity as best we can. Something I will blog about in the near future.

Australian National Disaster Support

Many Australians, including myself, have dug deep and already donated well over $15m in less than 24 hours of the appeal fund being set up by the Red Cross and the Victorian Government. Fires also continue to burn in not only Victoria, but also South Australia and New South Wales. With over 173 confirmed dead in the fires, the toll continuing to rise and many more injured, losing loved ones, pets, their homes and/or their businesses. Once the immediate situation has passed it will take a long time for those affected to recover, both physically and psycologically. I urge anybody reading this blog to please donate to this very good cause. As always, Australians, all donations over $2 are tax deductable (they email you a tax receipt) and for those abroad, the relative weakness of the Aussie Dollar at the moment means your donation will go much futher. Thankyou for your support.