The President's Message

MARCH 2011

Rick Curry

Thanks to Michael Shalkey for handling the entire meeting in February, and thanks to the Ventura Police Department for demon- strating its showcase CAD (Computer-Aided Dispatch) emergency response system: PremiereOne. We all share in the benefit of Dave Wilson's research and negotiations that result in science fiction-like capabilities for Ventura authorities.

Virtual Land Mines Land mines are generally not a problem for the people who put them there - until they are forgotten. There were fun and games at the Curry household recently as two forgotten land mines got together and reached critical mass.

The first petard we hoist ourselves upon was that someone (who Shall remain nameless) was using a weak password for multiple (some of them important) things.

The second land mine was my contribution to having an interesting life. I knew my son was being careless with security. We had discussed it, and I decided my best option was to put firewalls around his machine and allow him to find out for himself why virus protection and a modicum of caution were good ideas.

The way these two land mines got together seems to have involved some social engineering that got our nameless adult to type in the common password on my son's virus-collecting virtual biology experiment machine. The next thing we knew, thousand dollar Paypal charges to strange online games were showing up on a credit card. We managed to catch the last couple of Yahoo e-mails reporting the latest charges in the Trashcan (same password for e-mail too; the person would make the charge, then log into e-mail and delete the reporting of the charge).

There was nothing clever about what was being done with the accounts. This appears to be much more of a childish prank than organized crime. So machines in my demesne have been owned by a script kiddie with little more technical expertise than a trained chimp because I left virtual land mines around to step in. I'll probably continue to see Homer Simpson staring back at me in the mirror for a while, but a few new passwords and cheerful chats with our banks have cleared up most of the mess.

The good news is that since we decided to remove all of our old land mines,the virus-collecting machine has been reinstalled with Windows 7. This is on a pre-2007 machine. The installation went great, and the performance is noticeably better than XP. I will be supervising the configuration of Security Essentials next!

Happy computing!