Under Attack

So, last night I had a lot of fun after I was getting a DDOS attack against my server. I had several connections from a few Camfrog relay servers or other related servers which have been causing high bandwidth flow over the past few days. Needless to say, attack averted at least for now.

The internet seems to be such a friendly place, and it is not the only type of attack I receive. Another favourite of mine is attempting to finding openings into my database. Fortunately, that is something else that I have protected. Stop attacking me!!

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IPv6 working

It’s an exciting time with the web. Linode have just enabled IPv6 networking at their London data-centre, something that I have been waiting for some time now; something to amuse me for this evening.

To experiment, I have enabled this site for IPv6 and hopefully any of you users out there can now enjoy the content of this rarely updated website. It is however unlikely that the new user market opened up by this move will provide access for many as it is the consumer market that now needs to move towards the IPv6 switch-over.

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Site back online – ePrivacy law

OK, finally got this damn site back online (word-press upgrades gone wrong). So, as a first post back, I thought I would touch on the ePrivacy law coming into effect literally over the next few days. Take a look here: http://www.lintal.co.uk/eprivacy-law-debrief/.

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Social Dependence

Once again, Facebook have been in the news this week and this time, because people have not been able to access Facebook. Now I appreciate that it is a very useful tool to share news and information with your peers, however the dependence that some people have to this kind of site is astonishing.

One affected person stated that they were attempting to access the site for “ages” before giving up (BBC, accessed 25th Sept ’10). If I was in the same situation, I am sure that I could find some other internet site to browse around rather than sitting around for “ages” waiting for a problem to be fixed.

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Password Security

How secure do you think your computer or online data really is? One technique used by hackers to break passwords is so-called “brute force” where they try and guess every single combination for your password and unfortunately this is becoming easier. It is quite common practice now to utilise the processors contained onboard graphics cards to crack these passwords because of their abilities to perform “floating-point” operations rather than the standard CPUs performing integer calculations. This means that if you have a short and simply-formatted password, your accounts could be opened to hackers in a matter of minutes!

So how can you protect yourself here?

Well the first option is to use a more secure password; try and choose something with upper/lower case characters, numbers and symbols to add complexity. You should also be using password lengths of around 12 characters ideally as it becomes exponentially harder to crack with a longer password.

When you are online, always make sure that you know the site that you are using is genuine. Simple test for this is look at the URL in the address bar; so many passwords are found where people create an identically looking login page and capture your data. If you know you are sending sensitive data OR accessing sensitive data, make sure that the site has an approved security certificate and is accessed on https:// .

Now even https connections are under attack too. Because of once again the uses of graphics card processors, these secure connections can be broken in a scarily short amount of time too! For this reason, many companies now demand what are referred to as “one-time-passwords” where these are calculated by some algorithm and are time-dependent. This way, if someone does sniff your “password”, it will not be useable at another time.

Rule of thumb

Secure password. Think what you’re sending. Think where it is being stored is secure. Make sure that you are on the site you intend to be on. Simple!

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Security Warning

Recently we have seen many problems from large websites about security flaws at the user level. It is this kind of security loophole that can allow people to access or hijack information that they should not be able to reach. Fortunately the larger organisations have the ability to sort these problems in a short period of time but these could be prevented earlier on in the development process.

At a much more basic level, cross-site-scripting (XSS) attacks can cause havoc to website and server administrators. The primary function of this kind of attack is to “inject” malicious code into your application. The result of this could be some injected javascript to create a popup window (nothing too problematic), to SQL injection that, in the worst case scenario, could delete all of your databases on your server. It is therefore imperative that steps are taken to “sanitise” user input to prevent these problems and, fortunately, the Zend-Framework that I use has many functions to ensure this. Also it should be noted that file uploads should also be validated because, if these are made public, these can carry viruses and infect your website audience’s computers; all in all, none of this is good for your viewer popularity.

We are all guilty of missing a step in application security and, once again, the big names come into the spotlight. Most recently has been YouTube and the use of javascript code injection for advertising purposes. I think we all need to shake up on security, plan ahead, and make sure that these security loop-holes are sealed before they can open.

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A New Post

Hi everyone. I am aware its been a little while since the last post I put out but the blame for this lays on university finals and a quick holiday. Fortunately I am back on the scene now so keep a lookout for any new posts from me.

As part of expanding this site, I am going to be adding a portfolio of some of the web projects that I have been working on; this way you can see first hand what is out there under my name. Also, I will be adding a couple of pages over time about the photography I do and some of the interesting software tools that I have been using.

Finally, it is my intention to move away from the standard wordpress template on this site and I am beginning discussions with a friend and graphics designer. Unfortunately it seems that people or companies who work on the web always focus on other projects rather than their own websites, but with any luck it will be done in the near future.

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Browser Wars

Recently we have seen a huge influx of advertisements from Microsoft trying to show off Internet Explorer 8. These adverts, amusingly for those of us who use different browsers, are showing off functionality that has existed in other browsers for a much longer time. The idea of private browsing has existed in all the other main-stream browsers for a long time, parental controls and more.

Having worked in the Internet production field before I also know how frustrating it can be to produce cross-compatable applications and guess which browser is the most problematic! Since IE8 was released, I am relieved to say that is has become a lot easier in terms of styling a website. In the past there were always problems, trying to battle with IE to make things look right. However there was one situation that I was in where I was using a lot of javascript, specifically the Dojo-toolkit. At least with the old version of the toolkit, IE8 would throw errors and the only way to stop these was to put it into “compatibility mode” where styling problems would then occur; somewhat of an annoying trade-off. Fortunately Dojo have fixed these problems, problems that would not happen with other browsers.

Now IE9 is on its way and this will apparently support the forthcoming and updated standard, HTML5. I hope this time they get things right and actually support true web-standards, rather than making us developers fight against all the quirks.

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Apple shunning the competition

There has been a lot of talk recently about Apple now restricting how applications for the iPhone/iPad are made. Simply, any applications that are to be made available through the Apps Store must have been made using ONLY the Apple SDK (Software-Development-Kit) or with a derivative of C or JavaScript. This has caused problems for Adobe who had the tools out there necessary to convert flash applications for use on the iPhone which does not support it natively, but the use of this is no longer allowed. Now I understand that Apple want to improve the available applications by creating a standard but in some instances it would be more efficient to utilise other software to do the job.

These new regulations specify that no intermediary stage may be taken to produce the applications. This includes software or toolkits that convert code from one language into iPhone compatible software. It seems to me that they are trying to push the competition out of the game, just another way in getting money flowing to them directly.

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Social Media – the power of collective thought

For most people as well as companies, a huge amount of effort goes into managing a so called “online presence”. From the social side, users of Facebook like to keep in touch with their friends/family. Companies are out there trying to get the word out about new products or services and trying to get the discussion going between them and their potential customers. However the capabilities of social media do not stop there and in fact could cause a huge change in how companies conduct business.

I was reading an article on the train one morning about Twitter and something came of interest. Now there is a whole load of topics that get discussed in that system, ranging from the mundane like what people are eating, to new music, products and more. This particular article was about using these conversations, or “tweets” to determine facts and figures in the film industry. The algorithm created was designed to guess how much the box-office would take for a given film; I wont bore you with the details, look at the article instead here. Long story short, they managed to get figures amazingly close to the actual box-office takings.

With the UK elections coming up, there is a lot of discussion about using a similar system to try and predict the results of the election. Unfortunately, and from yet another article, political parties currently seem incapable of using the internet to its full potential to put the word out there and gauge public opinion. Maybe something they should look into this the next time around.

Twitter have been discussing the idea of putting out paid ads, or “promoted tweets” as they are calling it. Now there is the problem of how to charge for these “promoted tweets” and up until now, most internet advertising has been done on a pay-per-click or the slightly obsolete pay-per-view. Twitter it seems is going to be tapping into the Collective-Thought pool to determine the success of these ads and then calculate the appropriate cost due. Some companies may not be ready for the “pay-per-resonance” method of charging but I believe it is just as powerful, if not more so than the popular pay-per-click. Also at the same time, a company would be getting feedback about what makes their advert good or bad and could adjust accordingly. Web 3.0, lets utilise the power!

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