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John McAfee: The reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated

10 Sep 2013


Sneak was alarmed to read that his favourite travel blogger and security expert John McAfee is no longer of this earth.

Thank the antivirus heavens then that reports of his demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Sneak knows this because he has seen the proof and read the evidence. He is looking at a picture of McAfee – and two canine friends – now, and you can take it from us, this is no Weekend at Bernie's style jape.

McAfee, who has carved out a niche as an on-the-run virus expert to watch, has tweeted the proof himself.

"I felt fine when I went to bed last night. I had such great plans. ‘RIP John McAfee'," he said.

"For those wondering if im dead the answer is... 'The Media is killing me, but somehow im still tweeting" #NotDeadYet," he posted.

The more keen-eyed among us might notice the expression on the darker dog's face. Let's assume it's all in good fun.

While he was "dead" McAfee was the subject of an online report that claimed he had died after a cocaine binge in a casino.

Sneak was stunned to hear this – since it does not sound true to form for his security hero – and almost updated a McAfee subscription in celebration after hearing he was indeed alive and well.

McAfee has added another update. Having completed his daily check he is happy to assure us that, thankfully, all is still in working order.

Government COO goes to dangerous lengths to prove PC boot up claims

12 Jun 2013

Like many wage slaves, Sneak has a morning routine that involves nipping off to make a cuppa while waiting for the office PC to boot up. But while this strikes Sneak as a bit of productive time management and multi-tasking, Sneak was shocked by V3 revelations of the IT woes that befall many civil servants. Apparently, Whitehall workers have time to cook and eat a full English before their computers are ready to use.

But not everybody was so shocked. Indeed, one Daily Telegraph columnist sniffed that her sources had cast doubt on the claims made by Stephen Kelly, the government's chief operating officer, that it takes him seven minutes to boot his computer.

Clearly Kelly is not one to let such slights pass without comment. So on Wednesday he got colleagues to video him logging on to his laptop and posted the results on YouTube. However, by Thursday the video had been removed, no doubt after Kelly was taken to task by his seniors for posting a video showing his PC logins, and yet again criticising public sector IT.

For those with more pressing things to do with their time than watch seven minutes 18 seconds of inactivity, Sneak can provide an abridged version: it took more than three minutes before Kelly could log in, and a further four minute pass while his personal account is loaded. Meanwhile, his iPad is timing the log on attempt.

“The iPad's losing the will to live,” he notes at one point. We feel its pain, we feel its pain.

So in many ways, it's good to see that Whitehall mandarins have a good grasp on the IT issues affecting their users. However, Sneak looks forward to the day they have similar levels of awareness over the wisdom of videoing inputting your log credentials to highly sensitive government computer systems and posting it on the internet.

Pranksters warn of zombie apocalypse in TV station hack

12 Feb 2013

zombie accountant

It would normally take nothing short of the apocalypse to drag Sneak away from US syndicated talk show, The Steve Wilkos Show. After all, when the former head of security at The Jerry Springer Show gets his own programme, it's gotta be must-see TV.

So it's lucky that Sneak doesn't reside in Montana, where local station KRTV had its ground-breaking episode 'Teen cheaters take lie detectors' rudely interrupted by a honking siren and panic-inducing announcement that the dead were rising from their graves to attack local residents.

“Do not attempt to approach or apprehend these bodies as they are considered extremely dangerous,” viewers were warned by a computer-like voice.

Luckily for Montana residents, the zombie apocalypse had not broken out – after all, Sneak's pretty confident that when it happens, Stoke-on-Trent is first in line. As it turns out, pranksters had hacked the station's emergency alert systems, and issued the fake zombie alert.

“Someone apparently hacked into the Emergency Alert System and announced on KRTV and the CW that there was an emergency in several Montana counties,” the station subsequently announced on its website, pointedly making no reference to zombies, in case fears were inflamed further.

“This message did not originate from KRTV, and there is no emergency,” it added.

Unfortunately for Sneak, there's no word yet on whether the teen cheater passed the polygraph test.

Developer outsources own job to China but VPN logs give the game away

16 Jan 2013


Like many workers, Sneak struggles to manage his Facebook, eBay and Reddit commitments with the drudgery of his day-to-day job. But now Sneak has realised the secret to striking the perfect work-life balance. 

Verizon's latest security blog posting details a great story about a worker at an unnamed firm working in US critical infrastructure. It had installed a VPN service to allow some of its staff to work from home for a couple of days a week, and all was good. Or at least it was until they started checking the logs.

It appeared they had an open and active connection to Shenyang, China. Given the VPN needed two-factor authentication, this had all the hallmarks of a sophisticated malware attack on their infrastructure – and given the nature of their work, that set the alarms bell ringing.

Having drafted in Verizon Wireless to help out, the firm soon discovered that one of its developers had been compromised. Not by a group of nefarious Chinese hackers, but by an affliction Sneak knows only too well: lazyitis.

The developer in his mid-40s had been hiring a Chinese consulting firm to do his job for him. He'd simply FedEx his security token over, and sit back and enjoy his pay cheque – as we all know, offshore workers can be much cheaper. In fact, as the investigators discovered, it looked like he'd been running the same scam with a number of firms in the area.

Still, it's not all bad news. The developer in question had quarter after quarter been rated as the best in the firm, so at least the firm was getting good coding for its money.

French thieves smash and grab Paris Apple store

02 Jan 2013


Zut alors! Le Sneak was shocked to zee zat thieves in ze French capital of Paris (That's enough faux French accents now - Parisian Ed) have stolen around £1m of Apple goods in a New Year's Eve heist.

The Gallic assassins used the cover of fireworks and drunken revellers to mask their thieving ways and cries of, "Quick, grab the Pomme iPads and iPhones!" (see those French lessons stuck!), to make off with some serious loot.

"They were well prepared," said the brilliantly-named Christophe Crepin from the police union UNSA, according to numerous reports.

"As the majority of police were busy watching the Champs Elysees the robbers took advantage of this opportunity."

The heist is estimated to be worth around £813,000 which given the pricing of Apple goods means they probably got three iPads, four iPhones and five new iMacs in total.

According to the French newspaper Le Parisien (no idea what that means) the thieves were able to first gain access by threatening a security guard at a back entrance.

Typical, a back-door exploit; see those closed ecosystems aren't as secure as you think.

Michael Dell’s daughter's Twitter photos undo £3m security effort

13 Aug 2012

Michael Dell sitting

The trouble with being immensely wealthy is that you have to worry about all kinds of threats from unscrupulous people wanting to access that immense wealth, as Sneak knows well.

This is why many of the rich and famous in the Silicon Valley bubble live surrounded by security personnel, with pin-code gates and blacked-out windows, to keep themselves very much to themselves.

Unless, of course, they happen to have teenagers who want to share their lives on Twitter and Facebook, which can cause complications for security staff, as those protecting billionaire Michael Dell discovered to their chagrin.

It turns out Dell's daughter has been posting all kinds of information on the sites that could prove dangerous to the family, such as future locations, events and holiday destinations, which undoes all the security team's efforts to keep such information as hard to gather as possible.

Her Twitter account has now mysteriously disappeared and it's likely the security bods at Dell are having a few stern words with her about it all, and you can imagine Michael will have something to say too.

See, even if you're stupidly wealthy you still end up with teenage offspring doing stupid things that need reprimanding, whether that's drinking cider down the local park (sorry Mum), or undermining a £3m security effort.

Porn turns up on Sesame Street YouTube channel after hack

17 Oct 2011


In another example of the dangers posed by the online world, the YouTube channel of kids TV show Sesame Street was hacked at the weekend and videos of muppets replaced by hardcore porn.

Sneak is not sure whether the porn videos in question had a Sesame Street theme, although they do add a rather sinister edge to the show's theme tune and its immortal lyrics: "Come and play, everything's A OK. Friendly neighbours there that's where we meet...Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street."

The videos were available to view for some 20 minutes or so before YouTube suspended the channel for violating its guidelines.

Although credit must go to the YouTube team for acting so quickly, this represents another cautionary tale for content owners to make sure their password security is water-tight.

The destroyers of childhood innocence, or hackers, left a message on the Sesame Street YouTube channel profile arguing, "Who doesn't love porn kids?".

They urged this invisible army of porn hungry six-year-olds not to "let Sesame Street get this account back", arguing that they would "make all the America happy!".

Well, either happy or very, very disappointed.

As for the hackers, where next? Maybe they could expand their horizons to other kids TV channels. He-Man was half way there anyway, while Noggin the Nog could do with a re-working for the 21st century, Sneak thinks. What do you think kids?

Dangerous drivers risk online attack with careless safety record

24 Aug 2011

car crash

Crash. Bang. Wallop. What a video! Yes, we may be a nation obsessed with grainy TV footage of idiot motorists doing dangerous things on our roads, but have you ever thought there might be a correlation with our online safety too?

What? Do what to myself? Well, that's rather rude. A simple "no" would have sufficed. Sigh.

Fear not, though, as help is at hand from anti-virus vendor par excellence PC Tools, which has commissioned some research into the matter.

The study of 1,000 motorists, which (cough, splutter) just happens to coincide with the firm's sponsorship of TDS Racing and partnership with the World Series by Renault, found that dangerous drivers are FIVE times more likely to suffer identity theft. FIVE!

It doesn't end there, though. Oh no. They are eight times more likely to click on links in emails from unknown sources, five times more likely to open emails containing viruses, and twice as likely to reveal personal details to fraudulent web sites. Idiots.

Oh, and they're about a billion times more likely to end up on an achingly bad ITV4 copumentary series while a failed newscaster patronises their driving style from a nearby studio.

So what's the takeaway from this? Don't type while driving? Er, probably not. Ah, hang on, Sneak's got it: if you drive dangerously, get the hell off the internet before you kill someone!!!

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