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Security breach hits Telecom NZ WAP users
Telecom New Zealand has acknowledged a security problem affecting users of its WAP-based wireless e-mail service
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Local Registrar Unwitting Party to ING Scam
12:35pm, 26 April 2002
Shonky domain name seller ING has attempted to use the automated services of a local company to process its domain name registrations.
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Note: This column represents the opinions of the writer and as such, is not purported as fact
Lighten Up 26 April 2002 Edition
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Million $ Ideas
At last, the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook are revealed for all to see!
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Brace yourself for Aardvark's weekly dose of the odd, unusual or just unbelievable stuff that people put on the web.

Here is one of the best collections of incredibly stupid signage in the world. Enjoy.

Sportspeople are always looking for inspiration and ways to improve their game. Well here's a site that offers the ultimate help.

As we grow from infants, through childhood and into adults, there are some skills which become invaluable in day-to day life. This isn't one of them

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How Spam Could Kill Your Mailbox
Most people are annoyed by the constant stream of spam that clutters up their mailbox and wastes their time.

For most of us however, these unwanted intrusions into our daily online activities are really little more than a minor inconvenience -- but sometimes spam can have a devastating effect on Net users.

I'm talking about the case when a spammer chooses YOUR email address to use as the "from" address in one of their spam-runs.

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Unfortunately, as the number valid email addresses on the web continues to grow, the problem is actually becoming quite commonplace.

Here's one poor sod who talked about such an experience in the nz.general newsgroup.

Last week it also happened to my YahooMail account.

When I logged in to check my mail, I discovered that instead of the two or three unread messages I normally find, my mailbox was filled to its 6MB limit and contained thousands of unread messages.

Closer investigation revealed that all of those messages were bounced spams promoting an online casino in Costa Rica.

Unfortunately, YahooMail offers no "bulk delete" capabilities -- so clearing the mailbox requires marking each message individually and deleting them.

When I started to do this I soon found that the bounces were still flooding in faster than I could click -- so I gave up.

Since this YahooMail account is just a backup I use whenever I have to submit an email address to someone or some site that might be tempted to spam me, its loss wasn't such a big deal -- but imagine the effect if this were a small business's main email account?

What happens to Bob's business when a spammer uses sales@bobsantiques.co.nz as the "from" address on a message that is then sent to millions of mailboxes across the globe. The tens of thousands of bounces that come back from invalid addresses will knock poor old Bob's mailbox off the Net in next to no time.

If Bob is smart enough, he'll contact his ISP and ask them to try and filter these bounces out -- but that might not be as simple as it sounds and it will likely cost Bob money.

Then there's the problem of the thousands of bounces already sitting in the mailbox -- they'll have to be cleared. However, since much of Bob's business is done by email and he prides himself on always responding in a timely manner to inquiries, extreme care will have to be taken to ensure that genuine emails are not accidentally wiped along with all the spam-fallout.

If Bob's business were significantly Net-based then he'd have a real problem.

Of course he could change his email address -- but that involves contacting all his existing customers, changing any printed material he might have, and possibly missing out on very important future communications from people who aren't aware of the change.

So what can be done to avoid this situation?

Well, if you have your own domain, make sure that you don't accept all email addressed to that domain. A lot of people have a mailbox that will accept anything addressed to that domain -- this means that all a spammer has to do is use any address @yourdomainname and you'll get flooded.

If losing access to your email or having to wade through thousands of bounces would represent a major problem to your business then talk to your ISP NOW and ask them what provisions they have in place to manage such a situation should it occur.

Always have a backup email address (preferably using a different domain name) so that if your main mailbox does get flooded, you can still stay in touch with important customers or friends.

Once again let me say: I think it's time that governments around the world put some serious effort into drafting up an international treaty to stamp out spam. After all, they seem to have done a very good job with copyright and trademark laws -- so why not anti-spam laws?

Maybe governments would wake up and take notice if it were pointed out that this type of denail of service attack could be used by terrorists or foreign powers to knock out the mailboxes of major businesses or even government departments.

Even the simplest of the evil sods out there could use a piece of off-the-shelf spamware in conjunction with a program that creates millions of fake email addresses to perform such an attack. Under current laws, they'd could simply claim that they not launching a denial of service attack, just engaging in some "harmless" (and in most parts of the world -- quite legal) spamming.

Wake up George W, Helen Clark, Tony Blair and others. Will your mailbox be next?

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Latest
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Security flaw in Microsoft Office for Mac (CNet - 18/04/2002)

A trio of MS-Office security vulns (TheReg - 10/04/2002)

Two new "critical" bugs patched in IE (ZDNet - 01/04/2002)

Second Java hole poses Windows risk (CNet - 20/03/2002)

Microsoft offers patch for Java software (CNet - 06/03/2002)

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New Klez worm squirms across Internet (CNet - 18/04/2002)

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