Tangled Web

From corny videos to email jokes and cutsie animal photos, Southland Times online editor and internet columnist Jillian Allison-Aitken tours the wonders of the (often) weird wide web.

If you're online, you need protection

05:00am 20 Feb 2014


While it certainly has its good points, there is no denying the fact that the internet is becoming more of a security minefield every day.

Many years ago, when I bought my first computer and discovered the joys of the web via my trusty 14.4 kbit/s dialup modem (yes kiddies, there was a time before wi-fi, broadband, Twitter, and even Facebook), there were still a good number of people who didn't use security software.

Back then, having your computer hacked was a more personal event, without the much more automated and efficient processes available to today's online vandals. And even though I knew a lot of people who were living on the edge and surfing without protection, few were actually targeted.

This isn't the case now: if you are online, you are a target. The Symantec Security Threat Report says web attacks rose 30 per cent in 2012.

Symantec's latest range of security software is comprehensive enough to have something to suit most households and are compatible with the new features of Windows 8.1.

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Thanks for the extra, but not to Xtra

05:00am 07 Feb 2014


It's bad enough that so many Xtra email addresses have been compromised but the fact that Yahoo, the company responsible for managing that email system, won't even give an answer on how many accounts is nothing short of arrogant.

If you have an email address of any description, it's likely you have been affected in some way by the Xtra email dramas: either your email has been hacked or your address spoofed. I have suffered the latter fate and I'm not happy. And there isn't a thing I can do about it.

This whole sorry saga began at least a year ago, when hackers managed to get their grubby paws on the login details for 87,000 of Xtra's 450,000 email accounts. Yahoo has been running the email service for seven years and while it has never officially explained what went wrong, those a tad more tech-savvy than me reckon is was a cross-site scripting attack that targeted a security flaw in a piece of blogging software used by some Yahoo geeks. Everyone thought the problem was fixed but the ongoing problems would seem to indicate that our email addresses are still in the firing line.

I've had phonecalls from friends and colleagues who thought my email had been hacked because they had received messages from me with odd links but while I've actually managed to avoid the whole being hacked part of the equation, I have still been affected. How? I'm being spoofed.

It looks like the hackers copied the address books or took the email addresses from messages Xtra users had sent and they are now spoofing those addresses in the emails: the from line might say it's from me but it isn't. It just looks that way.

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Video: Beatboxer Tom Thum

11:54am 05 Feb 2014


This week's video is beatboxer Tom Thum doing his thing at TEDxSydney.

Armed with just a microphone, he pushes the limits of the human voice. This is awesome and just a little mind boggling!

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Health, Lotto and tolerance

05:00am 09 Jan 2014


Well, here we are then, staring down the barrel of a whole new year and marvelling at the fact that we made it through the previous one relatively unscathed.

After my health dramas in 2012, I was pleased to get through last year fairly well intact and with a much healthier heart that I started the year with. In light of that, I've decided to break my own rules and this year have made some New Year's resolutions.

1. Do more of the same: Last year my health had a quite remarkable turn around. I went from someone who was in heart failure and feeling pretty miserable to someone living quite well with heart failure and feeling pretty damn good. I'll have another round of that, please.

2. Win the lottery: I'm feeling so fit and well that I think I need to retire so I can take up some new hobbies, like travelling first class and counting my millions.

3. Learn to be more tolerant: The phone scammers are doing the rounds again and I have decided to try to be more tolerant and patient when they call. After all, they are simply trying to earn a living. So when I next get a phone call from some dodgy dude advising me that my computer has a virus, I won't tell him to insert his head into his anal orifice but will instead have a wee chat with him first. Then I'll tell him where to insert his noggin. However, I will continue to be intolerant of broad beans.

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Video: Revel in the panda cuteness

09:00am 02 Jan 2014


And now for something completely different: the first 100 days in the lives of baby panda twins. Prepare to go "awww".

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