Talking about DDoS attacks on ABC TV’s “The Business”

Screenshot from ABC TV's The BusinessA strange thing happened yesterday. A distributed denial service (DDoS) attack, a big one, got reported in the mainstream media as having somehow all but crippled the internet — despite all the journalists presumably continuing to use the internet as usual.

“The internet around the world has been slowed down,” reported the BBC. Um, no.

Now I won’t go through all the details here, because eventually they were properly reported elsewhere and I’m writing it up for Technology Spectator in a piece to be published Tuesday morning. The short version is that a nuanced report on Kaspersky Lab’s Threatpost lost its nuance in the mainstream media, a process helped along by a data-plotting error in early reports. People like Gizmodo hosed down the bulldust.

However I was interviewed by ABC TV’s The Business yesterday, along with Patrick Gray of the Risky Business information security podcast and Ty Miller from penetration testing firm Pure Hacking.

If the embedded video doesn’t work, try the version at the ABC’s website. In both cases the video is ©2013 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

I’ll also be talking about this DDoS attack on ABC News24 tomorrow morning at 1010 AEDT — and after both of those I’ll ponder the way the media handled this whole thing.

Weekly Wrap 96: Plenty of chaos and a mysterious pump

My usual weekly summary of what I’ve been doing elsewhere on the internets. This post covers the week from Monday 2 to Sunday 8 April 2012.

T’was a short week in terms of writing and media production because it was the 4-day work week prior to Easter, I spend about 10 hours judging entries in the Lizzies, the Australian IT journalism awards — the finalists have now been announced, and the awards night is on 20 April — three and a half hours troubleshooting the ADSL connection at Bunjaree Cottages, and two hours restoring a website that a new developer had accidentally taken offline.

There was also a mysterious pump.


  • Patch Monday episode 132, “Cyberwar: don’t believe the hype”. Thomas Rid, reader in war studies at King’s College London, destroys some myths. I found this to be one of the more fascinating podcasts I’ve ever done.


Media Appearances

  • On Thursday I was quoted in Harrison Polites’ story at Technology Spectator, A storm in a postbox, on the Australia Post’s new Digital Mail service and a similar product from Computershare. “I already have a ‘digital mailbox’. It’s called email,” was one of the things I said. “Why on earth would I want yet another information silo to check for so-called ‘important’ mail — by which they seem to mean bills and bank statements?” Plus some stuff about encrypted email.

Corporate Largesse


The Week Ahead

I’m in Sydney all this week, and the main blocks of work are a Patch Monday podcast to be posted on Tuesday and a 2000-word feature for ZDNet Australia. I daresay other stuff will turn up as well, but let’s focus on one stressor at a time.


Most of my day-to-day observations are on my high-volume Twitter stream, and random photos and other observations turn up on my Posterous stream (or they used to before my phone camera got a bit too scratched up). The photos also appear on Flickr, where I eventually add geolocation data and tags.

[Photo: New Holland Honeyeater (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae), a daily visitor to Rosella Cottage but a bugger to photograph because they move so fast.]

Talking Castro death hoax spam on ABC 774 Melbourne

Apparently the old “Fidel Castro is dead” hoax spam is doing the rounds again. I daresay the bad guys are targetting people during the holiday season when they’re less vigilant and don’t have as much work email to distract them from the spam.

I spoke about this with Matt Parkinson on ABC 774 Melbourne this morning. It’s the usual message. This stuff is common. Scammers act quickly. The aim is to infect your computer and steal your money. I continue to be surprised that most radio presenters seem completely oblivious to what goes on online.

There’s also the now-common ABC glitch of hedging the way they introduce my name. I’ll have to put a stop to that.

The audio is ©2012 Australian Broadcasting Corporation, but it usually isn’t posted on their website and I don’t get paid for these spots, so here it is.

Mix 106.5, fuck off your sky spam!

Skywriting has to be one of the lowest forms of advertising, no different from an attention-seeking teenager scrawling his tag over every flat surface within reach. So I guess it’s only appropriate that the low-brow arsehats of commercial radio reckon it’s a good look.

I’ve met commercial radio executives. They’re not the sort of people you’d want to have dinner with, let alone leave with your pets unattended. Like so many who’ve congealed into the uppermost scum layers of the broadcast media cesspool, they’re arrogant beyond belief, filled with their own sense of self-importance.

Writing in The Observer yesterday, John Naughton reckons this attitude is understandable, if no longer acceptable.

What always struck me about [TV’s] senior executives — in both the commercial and public sector — was how smug and self-satisfied they seemed. In a way, this was understandable: they were masters of a particular universe, rulers of a medium that dominated the information ecosystem, dictated the political agenda, and determined the daily habits of a large chunk of the population. At that time, the most powerful apparatchiks in the BBC and ITV were the schedulers — the planners who designed ways of holding the attention of a mass audience. Their craft included tricks like not scheduling some things against stronger competitors; making sure that one had a follow-on that would keep audiences from switching channels over the 9pm watershed; winning the ratings war over the Christmas period and so on. Watching them at work, one realised that effectively they were playing chess –– and that the pawns in their arcane games were the viewers.

Embedded in the corporate DNA of push media like broadcast television is the assumption that viewers are, if not exactly idiots, then passive consumers. The deal is that they receive gratefully what we, the broadcasters, decide to create.

The same for radio. The same tricks to keep listeners from changing that dial before the next 15-minutes ratings measurement slot starts. The same arrogance.

And double same for Australian commercial radio, whose executives grew fat and lazy through the 1990s as they traded metropolitan broadcast licenses for tens of millions of dollars and their testosterone-filled 4WDs cruised the suburbs handing out largesse to the proles. The rumbling and whooshing and laser zaps and deep booming voices of their station promos underlined their self-image as intergalactic heroes.

Broadcast radio is threatened, of course, especially that which does little more than play music now that everyone has a gadget in their pocket that can play whatever music they want, when they want.

It’s becoming even more threatened now that those gadgets are connected to the grid, where they can figure out for themselves what new music we might want to listen to and download it automatically. Or hook into any audio stream on the planet, including those that we and our friends create for ourselves without the help of the music director’s computer-based music scheduling system. You know the one, the one that says it’s 8.50am so we must therefore listen to an up-tempo track from 1996 with a female vocalist, because in the last hour we’ve already had 75% male vocals and instrumentals.

How much are we paying that music director, anyway, when iTunes does the same job for free?

So in the face of this challenge, what is Mix 106.5 FM in Sydney doing to shape its future?

Smoke-pissing its frequency across the sky of one of the world’s most beautiful cities. Ruining that beauty, not just for those vast migrating commuting herds who might conceivably want to listen simultaneous to exactly the same sequence of songs by Diesel, Rihanna and Nickelback as everyone else in the city — yes, that’s what they’re playing right now, inspiring eh? — interspersed with forced cheerfulness, lowest-common-denominator inanities from a B-list comedian and, of course, advertising. Advertising that for the most part hasn’t thought of a more sophisticated strategy to grab our interest than shouting at us.

This sky spam, this moronic vandalism on a glorious summer’s morning just makes you look even more out of touch, Mix 106.5. Just fuck right off. And no, I’m not linking to you.

[Photo: More sky spam by sylmobile, taken just a few minutes ago.]

The Online Circle apologises, makes good. Bravo!

Last night I gave one hell of a serve to The Online Circle, a “full-service interactive agency” who I accused of… well… read it for yourself. Today their CEO Jeff Richardson emailed an apology, and I reckon he’s more than made good. Bravo.

I’ve always said that the true measure of a business is how it responds when something goes wrong. Too many try to cover the cracks with bullshit — I’m sure you know the kind of hollow corporate PR-speak I mean. It takes integrity and, indeed, guts to respond directly to criticism, particularly when it was a direct and as harsh as mine.

Mr Richardson, Sir, it takes a solid effort to write an email like yours, which I thoroughly appreciate, and of course I accept the apology.

Here’s the full text of Jeff’s email:

Continue reading “The Online Circle apologises, makes good. Bravo!”

Oi, The Online Circle! Don’t spam! Don’t lie!

[Update 8 June 2010: The Online Circle’s CEO Jeff Richardson emailed an apology and explanation today. I think it’s a superb response, dignified yet accepting the very harsh criticism I served out. I’m impressed. And of course I accept the apology. So do bear that in mind as you read this rant. — Stilgherrian]

Speaking personally, I wouldn’t trust a “full-service interactive agency” that can’t even get the basics of the Spam Act 2003 right. So here’s my Big Fat Monday Night Hello to The Online Circle, the arsehats who just spammed me.

Guys, here’s how your email starts:

Hi Stilgherrian,

Firstly, thank you very much for your effort and involvement in our [redacted] campaign (We hope you enjoyed the chocolate). We saw some great blog articles and Twitter updates written that have really helped people understand more about [redacted] and why we all should get involved.

Erm, I wasn’t involved in this campaign, with or without any effort. So there’s arsehattery #1. And I never got any chocolate. There’s arsehattery #2.

Oh, and that sentence in parentheses? The full stop should be inside the closing parenthesis. That’s #3.

I’ll skip over the plug for your “we’re excited to announce” thing because — and OMFG how original is this? — you’re inviting people to upload videos to promote your client’s product! A video competition! How unique is that?

“Not at all,” is my answer there. Video competitions have to be the most overworked cliché in social media marketing.

But here are the bits which really shit me.

You are receiving this email because The Online Circle has found you to be an online influencer in Australia. This is our first contact with you and we promise not to share your name or any details with anyone.

An “online influencer”, eh? So it’s not that I’m an “interesting writer” or “respected commentator” or “glutton for chocolate” or even just “nice guy” or perhaps even “dangerous psychotic” — but an “online influencer”. Great. I fit some smegging buzzword du jour category for your marketing effort. T’riffic. How depersonalising.

“This is our first contact with you,” you say?


You previously emailed me on 24 February, subject line “Social Media Influencer — How about free samples?”, to say that you “understand generating content for your blogs and social media channels can sometimes be challenging”. No, I don’t “generate content”. I write. I take photos sometimes.

And you emailed me again on 1 March, subject line “We are ready to send you some free chocolate”, with the same content.

All three emails claim “This is our first contact with you”. Liars.

And if you’d bothered to even look at my website…

… as opposed to, I presume, just finding me on some list of Australian bloggers somewhere, you might even have discovered that I don’t fill my website with random plugs for multinational corporations. Especially corporations that pull more than USD 7 billion a year in revenue but still want the punters to do their creative work for them in exchange for a few chocolates.

Arsehats. Exploitative spammy bloody arsehats.