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Germans to avoid spying eyes with typewriters

22 Jul 2014

Typewriter Man Smoking Pipe

Sneak is working on a novel. It's a labour of love that is so complex, clever and cunning that it makes Game of Thrones look like Spot the Dog. When it's ready, and yes Mum it will be, the world will proclaim the greatness that is Sneak.

So good is this work that Sneak has always been concerned that writing it in the traditional method – on Microsoft Word on a laptop – posed the risk that if someone got wind of it and hacked into his machine, they could steal the idea and make gazillions.

To avoid this fate, Sneak has for many years used an ancient, bashed-around typewriter left to him by his great grandfather (the dapper chap pictured above).

Yes his friends mock him when they come round (OK, see it over his shoulder on the webcam) but it’s a trusty machine and no-one’s going to hack into it, that’s for sure. In fact, he often wondered why other security-conscious organisations don't have the odd typewriter kicking around for important intel.

Well it appears the Germans are catching on after Sneak read that the German government is considering using the old-fashioned machines to help stop spies, such as those from the US, from accessing, intercepting and reading the country's most secret data.

The Guardian reported that Christian Democrat politician Patrick Sensburg, after being asked, as a litte joke, if the country was considering typewriters to avoid spying that, "As a matter of fact, we have – and not electronic models either."

"Really?" came the response (in German though, no doubt). "Yes, no joke," Sensburg said back. He never jokes.

Good for you Germany! Let’s see you crack a unnetworked, decades-old, ink and ribbon typewriter, NSA. As for Sneak, he's off to write chapter 247 of his novel. It's an exciting bit, as the Orc King Gringarlos battles the Dragon Wizard Zilarbeth in the Moon Palace of Zingador. Excited? You should be.

FBI gets confused on pot-smoking hackers stance

22 May 2014

Cannabis plant

Sneak was reasonably excited this week. He heard that the FBI would possibly be interested in hiring ‘stoner' hackers and immediately recognised an opportunity to clear out some rooms in his bedsit.

Yesterday, having walked through a fug of smoke to his ‘home office' Sneak read on the BBC that the FBI was facing up to a skills shortage that could possibly only be filled by the tie-dye munchie brigade. Reasonably confused, thanks to the local atmosphere, we was consoled to see that it was the FBI's director, James Comey who proposed the far-out motion.

"I have to hire a great workforce to compete with those cybercriminals, and some of those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the interview," he was reported as saying at an event attended by the Wall Street Journal.

The Beeb reports that Comey was pushed on this by an attendee who asked whether a bud head 'friend' should apply for a position at the FBI. "He should go ahead and apply," he said.

The comments were surprising as the FBI usually has a no-drugs-in-the-system-for-at-least-three-years hiring policy, something of a hindrance to those who enjoy the odd doobie.

However, the headlines the comments elicited has prompted something of a turnaround from the Feds as Corney later said he was joking, a classic symptom  of pot smoking. We do not know if he added, ‘Maaaaan...'.

It reported that during a Senate hearing Corney went further, adding, "I don't want young people to use marijuana. It's against the law. I did not say that I'm going to change that ban. I said I have to grapple with the change in my workforce."

It ain't easy being green.

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.

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?

Hacker arrested after showing off skills on TV

14 Apr 2011

Sneak often has a lot of respect for hackers (ethical ones mind, not nasty ones) for their intelligence and computing skills, but one French hacker has shown he may not be the smartest cookie on the web after bragging of his skills on national TV, according to

The hacker, known enigmatically as 'Carl', bragged - and demonstrated to a national audience - how he broke into the systems of the French army and Thales Group, a company that provides systems and services for the defence and security markets.

He also said he sells and uses credit card and bank account data to buy things for himself, in another move that the authorities must have just loved hearing broadcast into their living rooms.

'Carl' obviously didn't realise that TV is a medium in which most people are well versed, particularly major nation states and huge multinational IT companies, and so was rather quickly subjected to an investigation into his claims.

He was soon picked up by the authorities, who discovered a wealth of compromised credit card and bank account data in the process, and he is now in jail awaiting trial.

The producers of the show, Complément d'enquête (Further investigation), said they did not give any information to the authorities so it's not fully known how they tracked him down, but then appearing on national TV must make it a touch easier.

Still, maybe the authorities will ask him to join them in their fight against cyber criminals, just so long as they keep him well away from any TV shows to stop him telling everyone how they track potential suspects. Zut Alors!

About IT Sneak's undercover reporter offers odds and ends from the odd end of technology.

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