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The mysterious link between security, laptops and rubbish dumps

No, really

Letters In the last letters bag, we tackled the desktop Linux issue. In this one, we've come over all Gwyneth 'n Chris, and are going for Apple instead.

All this uncharacteristic fruitiness has been prompted by SecruityFocus' Kelly Martin's opinion piece on how the dearth of viruses for the Apple OS is fuelling sales of the cute designer machine:

Your point of view would appear on the face of it to boil down to, "if you're a Windows user who is tired of dealing with viruses, get a Mac". While I concede that this is one possible solution, I believe this type of advice is on the same sort of level as suggestions to "get Firefox" directed at spyware-infected IE users - it's a solution, but it's not terribly helpful. From a Windows user's point of view I would expect that the main issues preventing a switch to the Mac would be a) cost and b) software availability, with games and leisure software being one area where the Mac is particularly deficient.

Even were I to use the oft-quoted (and extremely inaccurate, since the two systems use different architectures) adage that Macs are twice as powerful as the same speed PC, I can still buy two "equivalently powered" PCs and still have change left to buy a game or two out of the amount it would cost to buy just one Mac.

While Macs do indeed have a higher perceived level of security and a lower level of "hassle", is this worth the apparent lack of value for money? If all you do is work-related productivity type tasks, then the attraction of a more stable system may well be worth the extra cost, but for a normal home user who just wants to write letters, surf the internet AND play games, "two out of three ain't bad" just doesn't cut the mustard for the prices Apple is charging.


You said several times that there are no viruses for the Mac. I am a new Mac user with the IMac G5. I was encouraged to purchase Norton Anti Virus for the Mac because the vendor said that there were Apple viruses out there, not many mind you, but they are there.

Well now I'm confused. Are there no viruses as you say or are there just a few as the Mac seller advised?

If there are truly none, then Norton is selling fear and nothing more and they should be exposed. On the other hand, could you be wrong? Sincerely confused

Don Davis

I admire your passion for user experience, but if you think that is the only thing keeping virus writers at bay then you definitely have another thing coming. One word 'LowHangingFruit'. OK that's three words, but Windows systems are so easy to break into and there are so many of them out there that virus writers have no need to look any further. That is until people phase out their old 95/98/2000 variety pc's and usher in the new XP SP2 / 2k3 SP1 / Longhorn world. Then there may be a new ripe fruit on the tree that is familiar as Apple pie. Enjoy it while it lasts...


So basically your contention is that everyone who ever uses a mac loves the experience so much that they would never consider writing any form of malware targeting OS X.

Yes it is an interesting phenomenon that to date OS X has no significant virus threat. But your argument shows total lack of understanding of human nature.

Or maybe you've just been brainwashed by the cult of Apple.


More reasons why people should wear appropriate protection (tin foil hats) when surfin the interweb emerged, this week. Baddies are (or might be, or something) scanning the airwaves with covert wireless laptops. Scary stuff, no?

Well, this is not something new. I should have coined the term about 1 1/2 years ago when i first set up my first honeypot access point. Its a linksys, everything default, no security, connected to the internet through a vlan, and with speeds up to 256kbit. SSID is not broadcasted so potential "customers" can use programs like netstumbler or kismet to do their research and find me.

You really cant believe how many "customers" daily, "wanna be hackers", manage to connect to the access point surf the web, and happily enter their usernames and passwords for various sites that they check WITHOUT ANY FEAR OF WHAT THEY ARE DOING IS ILLEGAL AND THAT THEY MIGHT BE MONITORED. I also have some regular "customers", thinking that the owner (that's me) will be sleeping after midnight, so they come after midnight for their daily doze of "hacking". Of course all traffic is captured and analyzed for my own entertainment.

Regards, George

To start with, I was sceptical about all this WiFi security malarkey. I mean, most of our neighbours don't have broadband, let alone WiFi. But then, upon selling my PC to my sis and installing it for her, the computer jumped onto the neighbour's WiFi connection, and, um, well, you can guess the rest. Strike one customer for the local ISP.

And then, I switched on my Mac yesterday, only to find that a local company was broadcasting its SSID - although, they, at least, had secured it with a password.

Mine network, needless to say, was already erring on the side of caution. A silly name, no broadcast and WEP secured. I'm not quite so sceptical now.


There are always big laughs when national security is potentially compromised by a scatty civil servant with a less-than perfect grip on his or her laptop. This week, we all chuckled at the MOD laptop that turned up at a rubbish dump:

Hmmm, all sounds a bit suspect to me "when a woman gave him a bag containing a laptop she was about to ditch". She was clearly a spy waiting for her contact, and mistook this hapless man for said agent. Got to go, black helicopters overhead...


John Leyden says: The swallows fly low over St Petersburg in June...

The BPI, in its wisdom, has launched a string of lawsuits against those dastardly rogues: filesharers. As ever, you are, by turns, distinctly unimpressed with the BPI, or calling for the blood and eternally-damned-souls of the accused:

Are the figures not based on the assumption that people would have actually gone out and bought the music they downloaded? Surely this means the figures a flawed, in so much as a) people might not have gone out and bought music they downloaded anyway and b) some people may have merely wanted to try before they bought from another source (downloaded or high street), and subsequently gone out and bought the music they liked?

I wouldn't condone either particularly, but running around screaming about "lost sales" and "cost to the industry" ought to be tempered with a bit of sense. And it certainly adds weight to the argument that the music industry doesn't understand the channel.


the bpi really are pathetic... if anything, a lot of the big downloaders I know (inc myself) have actually bought more cd's of music because of our voracious downloading habits.

You also have to look at the knub of the problem when it comes to illegal downloads - none of the major online music downloading services provide their music drm free, which is the single reason why no-one I know who would fall into their "illegal uploaders" category will ever use their services and will only begin using it once their illegal profiteering mechanism.. sorry, drm systems have been removed and we are allowed to do whatever we want with the files we have legally obtained.

And if they continue to try suing the arses off of people I could very well be tempted to pop over to Holland, buy some blank cdr's and a hdd, put my data onto it and then proceed to sue them for piracy and making money illegally out of data they don't own the copyright to because of the levy system in place on mainland Europe, I wonder how well they would react to that situation =)

I also don't see how the bpi can even claim that their business is being hurt or damaged by the p2p networks because the shipments of cd's sold is currently at record levels, this they keep trumpeting.. however, when you talk about piracy, suddenly they switch track and start talking about revenue.. which of course is going to be lower since prices are lower!! did none of them ever go through maths lesson?!

It's just a shame that the government and legal systems don't have enough of a clue about technology to realise that the drm systems surely break some form of law in that a full product purchase transaction is taking place even tho the product is crippled and limited to the point of basically being a rental.


What makes me laugh is that the software and games industry have been getting ripped off online for donkeys. A lot longer than the music or film industries have been.

I remember downloading amiga games off of BBS's using a pikey 2400 BPS modem back in the days when the internet was still being fertilised. You don't see the software industry firing out lawsuits against the very people who put them where they are today. I suppose you can put it down to the fact the software industry has been in tune with the internet from the start and have learned that it's not worth it.

The music industry had the opportunity to start selling online from the start, It did nothing and now its desperately trying to claw back some profit. Maybe if they put the rolled up fifty down for a second and dusted off their noses they'd realise that a missed opportunity can cost you greatly!


Cough...cough...Business Software Alliance...cough...

Throw all of the BUMS, aka Pirates in PRISON for a couple years and make them PAY for incarceration PLUS fines, and then they'll change their tune, literally !

It's amazing theses SCUMBAGS actually believe it's OK to steal from the record labels because they "charge too much". Great FRIGGIN logic!!! No wonder the World is turning into a sewer... Maybe these folks should be used as boat anchors???



Only ten (ish) percent of British teens were prepared to 'fess up and admit a penchant for downloading porn from adult sites on the web. Could it be that the disposable income of the average 14-year-old does not quite stretch to registering for the saucier stuff on the net?

Well, _DUH_!

When I was 13 I might have been interested in nude photos or the like, but by 20 I was more interested in actual nude women. That was a while ago and the age range for most of my late-teen activities seems to have shifted to the early teens, so I would expect the 13-18s of today to have attitudes much like the 18-23s of my youth. That is:

"Why would I want to look at pictures of naked old folks?"


Some specialist sites you were lookin' at there, Mike...

How many 13 to 18 year olds do you know that will admit to "pulling the plunger"?

When I was that age (A mere 3 years ago in the latter case), I'd only just started believing the slightly-too-old-to-not-be-creepy guy who tells kids in school via the medium of VHS cassette that "Everybody does it, it's only natural!"

Prior to that, it was a poor insult accompanied by an action similar to shaking salt, palm up...


That's funny, it seems most of the e-mail I get about online porn is from teenagers.


Next up, Bloor's Phil Howard asked: why do people hate Oracle?. Some of you had a few thoughts on this one:

People hate Oracle? Big deal. The reason is the same as why people hate Microsoft. Outrageous pricing and market dominance. And the vendors target them not because of perceived shortcomings (most of them couldn't perceive their way out of a paper bag after all) but merely because Oracle is top dog. Why fight with each other for scraps when Oracle has the lions share of the market. If you can wrest away even a small portion of that you can make good money. If you target one of the small fry in contrast you get to see what the phrase 3/8's of buggerall means at first hand...


Could it just be that Oracle is the market leader? Erm, yes.


Hating Oracle also might have something to do with laughable marketing hype ("Unbreakable", "Saved Oracle Billions" et al) and selling some awesomely shit software (I was a witness to this project:

Frankly, Oracle get all they deserve...

Cheers, Kevin.

A survey of big companies concluded that women like to work for organisations where they are treated well, and are allowed to work flexibly, so that they can balance home and work commitments. Really? we thought to ourselves. Shocking news that. We formed the opinion that the same might be true of most people. Even boys:

I really find it a bit sexist that being flexible about family commitments is a "female" issue.. I also object to the adage that men don't have to choose between a family and a career.

As a working dad, I like to have a career as well as be a contributing family member. I think it work that flexibilty and family values etc are considered of importance to women only. Us dads should also get some of this!


Fair point, Charles, and well made.

Re: the last paragraph reference to 'removing the obstacles to etc, etc '.

Considering the highest polled obstacle is a familial commitments would the women in question not object to those being 'removed'? Is he referring to a simple 'snip snip' proposition early in a women's career or a slightly more sinister, a la Mexico City type solution, post marriage, children, etc?

Awaiting the inevitable witty put down..


Hardee har har. Witty enough for ya?

Yet more fuss over online child safety this week, as campaigners started to bang their drums and called for industry to do more to regulate chatrooms etc. You hard-hearted meanies think this is unnecessary...won't somebody think of the children?

"The IT industry should do more to protect kids online, according to campaigners, who believe that tech companies should spend dosh to create a global child protection organisation and use their expertise to regulate chat rooms and block the transmission of offensive images."

I suggest the bleeding hearts get the Republican Party to fund their Nanny campaign, and invest in a Parental Awareness program. It's not the business of the IT industry to baby-sit latchkey kids. If parents would supervise their children, the problem would be solved.

And meanwhile, the nitwits who are telling me *I* ought to pay my hard-earned money to keep *their* kids out of trouble can kiss my ASN.


Is the US leading the way in the move to machine readable passports, or is it merely following in the wake of other, more enlightened (!) nations? Guess...

I hardly think that "the United States is leading the charge to move to machine-readable passports". Australia has been using machine-readable passports for years. They don't have an RFID chip, instead they have a code printed on a page in the passport. At the passport control desk, the officer holds your passport against a scanner which reads the code. Your details and photo appear instantly on the officer's screen, and they check that all is OK while cheerfully asking if you had a good flight. Easy.

Chuck Baggeroer from the chip-card industry said "bandwidth considerations also drove the decision to favour a contactless memory chip. The current crop of contactless chips have a read rate eight times higher than contact chips". Come on Chuck, when you are checking people's passports one at a time at the airport, does it really matter if reading the chip takes one squillionth of a second or eight squillionths? I doubt it.


The general election is just round the corner, and the Labour party is still wittering on about ID cards. We ran this story about same, and got the most unusual response:

If a society is ever to be significantly more than just the sum of its parts, enjoying the increased stability and wealth that such a situation makes possible, then a single, central database underpinning national ID cards and a host of related private and State-run services is inevitable.

Since everyone's personal details are already duplicated across enough decentralised databases for anyone with a modicum of interest to collate all they might want to know, we're already a lot further down this path than I suspect many people realise.

I submit that the real question is the degree of attention the owners of such a database will give to the awesome security and integrity ramifications of such a resource.

I would be deeply concerned if my very ability to exist in this country depended upon the slap-happy approach that has characterised Government IT projects to date. If the Inland Revenue system is still insufficiently stable to avoid issuing tax demands for 15 years hence, then my confidence in a truly secure database, proof against all forms of deliberate attack (and, let's face it, simple and honest ineptitude in spades!) is understandably low enough to limbo under carpets.

Oh, by the way - I'm a Business Analyst.

Best regards


Let's play spot-the-flaw-in-the-argument...

"Mr. Speaker, does the Prime Minister join me in expressing outrage over the scandalous lack of effective and efficient checks and balances that has permitted entities so far unknown to access millions of identity records of British citizens whose private information has now been compromised?

And does he concede that it is his government that has failed in the duty, that he has sworn to uphold, to defend every citizen against all enemies foreign and abroad by allowing unknown entities to invade on their privacy, their dignity and their livelihoods by painfully neglecting to protect the information that every citizen has entrusted him to guard safely?"


It is with much dismay that I read of the encroachments upon privacy in the UK. I'd like to propose a solution: The PrivaSuit. This would be a full-body hazmat-style suit with a one-way glass faceplate, otherwise totally opaque. Intent is to frustrate the public videocams, and restore privacy out on the street. All suits will be identical in appearance.

Some problems: A. height still makes people identifiable. Solution: built-in adjustable stilts. Midgets and really tall folks are out of luck. B. gait differs from person to person. Solution: voluminous trouser bottoms. C. females have distinguishing feature in the front. Solution: permanently puffed-out top portion of suit.

I would also propose that the finger-tips of such suits have raised lettering (in inverse), saying (once read from fingerprint): "F*** David Blunkett".

Very sincerely, K Vainstein

Finally, physicists reckon they've discovered the perfect liquid. You said:

I knew that!


I hate to take issue with anything you've written, but I think the perfect liquid has been around for some time (although I'm not wholly surprised that the lab-dwellers appear to have missed it). This is my particular favourite.

I hope somebody buys you one...


Hear, hear! And with that, we note that the pub awaits. Letters will be back next week. ®

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