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Aardvark Weekly 27 August 99
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Dateline: 1 December 1999 All Day Edition
Read Yesterday's Edition

Editorial
Watch Your Back
When Microsoft first launched Windows 95 and offered access to what was to be its global communications network -- MSN, people were worried that during the 20 minutes or so it took for your computer to register with the system, too much private information about exactly what was on your PC may have been transmitted.

Microsoft denied any covert information gathering -- as they did later when online registration for its products became available through the Internet.

Then of course there was the privacy scare over the embedded serial numbers in Intel's Pentium III processors, the recent discovery that the Real Media Player and Jukebox programs were covertly telling others about what you listen and watch on the Net -- and today a new privacy hole has been uncovered.

A free animated cursor program for Windows, distributed by Comet Systems Inc in the USA has been caught sending information about your Net surfing habits back to home-base.

It seems that blatant products such as Back Orifice may pose nowhere near the privacy risk that a raft of seemingly innocuous, and some times mainstream programs do.

Net users should remember at all times that it is extremely easy for any programmer to embed "spy code" into their software -- and, it seems, many do.

The BBC carried a report this week in which it demonstrated one such piece of spy code that was embedded into a copy of the dancing baby screen-saver. This code used your PC's microphone to covertly record conversations in the immediate vicinity and then send them back, through the Net, to an eavesdropper's email account.

I suspect that it won't be long before most virus scanners begin including code that monitors your PC's Internet connection to look for unauthorised sessions with remote machines in an attempt to catch such cyber-spying.

In the meantime most Net surfers will be on their own -- at the mercy of any and every software vendor who may feel inclined to keep an eye on what you're doing on the Net.

If you want to be vigilant I suggest you use an external modem and place it where you can keep an eye on the TD and RD lights. If, while online, you notice any unexpected activity, you might want to open a DOS window (or a unix shell) and use the netstat program to see who your computer is talking to.

The command netstat with no parameters will give you a quick list of any active connections between your computer and another.

The command netstat -a will include far more information, including what your machine is listening for across the Net.

There are also many other utilities available from various sources on the Net, although most of these are not set up to monitor for the activities of spy code embedded in other software -- they're mainly oriented at detecting attempts to access your machine from other locations on the Net.

In the meantime .. be careful out there and treat all software with caution, even if it's from an otherwise reputable source such as Real Networks or Microsoft.

 


General News & Current Events:
7am.com | NZL News | AUS News | GBR News | World News

TODAY'S KEY NET-NEWS HEADLINES


Load in new window Cyber Sit-In Aims To Bring Down WTO Web Servers
A group calling itself the "Electrohippies" this morning launched a worldwide cyber sit-in aimed at the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Seattle...
7am.com

Load in new window Canberra gives spies hack power
ASIO has received approval to hack into personal computers and bug online communications under new legislation...
The Australian

Load in new window Dreamcast browser-less
SEGA'S Internet-capable Dreamcast video games console goes on sale today without an Internet browser...
The Australian

Load in new window Clinton Rethinks Net Biz Regs
The White House calls for government to get out of the way of the e-commerce steamroller. A blue ribbon panel will identify regulations that could interfere with online transactions...
Wired

Load in new window Oftel green lights telco access to BT's local loop
Oftel has finally given the green light for telecoms companies to compete with BT and operate broadband services in Britain. The decision is a long-awaited and much-flagged milestone in the deregulation of the British telcoms market and effectively signals the end to BT's monopoly of the local loop -- the short distance that links people to the local telephone exchange...
The Register

Load in new window NBC Internet trade begins
Television network giant NBC launched its publicly traded Internet company Tuesday....
CNNfn

Load in new window Millions Hitting Online Checkout Lines
AOL said Monday that 4 million of its members made an online purchase last week as big sites saw a wave of e-shoppers...
TechWeb

Load in new window Web Mogul, 17, a Suicide at Israel Diamond Bourse
A high school honor student who ran a thriving Internet start-up firm jumped to his death from the 17th floor of Tel Aviv's Diamond Bourse tower, police and his school principal said on Tuesday...
Yahoo/Reuters

Load in new window Phone.com Sees Half of Cellphones on Net
Phone.com, the U.S.-based software developer for wireless devices, expects more than half the world's predicted one billion mobile phone subscribers in 2003 to be connected to the Internet, a senior executive said...
Yahoo/Reuters

Load in new window Small company wins VW domain battle
In the latest court decision favoring small businesses in domain name disputes, a federal judge rules that Volkswagen cannot stop an Internet service provider from using the address VW.net...
CNet
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