Stuff 'n' nonsense about email, spam, travel, and life in the UK.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Is your Xbox 360 crashing?

AOL "Triton" IM client contains shovelware

AOL recently announced that its next-generation IM client, Triton, is now out of Beta and ready for downloading. The new AIM has some interesting new features and eye candy, but hides a disturbing aspect: it insists that you install a whole new web browser.

When you run the client you get an AOL Explorer web browser window, displaying the AIM Today web page. Note that AIM is simply loading a web page, but not using the user's existing preferred web browser. There are other parts of AIM that also cause this new browser to start.

AOL Explorer nags users to switch their preference, and does it in such a way that it's easy for them to accidentally grant it default browser status. Also, there's also no uninstaller!

Web browsers are complex network applications, with big potential to contain security vulnerabilities. AOL Explorer appears to be based on Firefox, but probably won't get security fixes as fast as Firefox does.

In IT shops, inadvertently installing an unknown web browser is not a good idea. Because of the potential security issues, IT managers should consider forbidding their users from installing the new AIM on corporate PCs and laptops -- users can be instructed to stick with version 5.9.

[Update: tidied up some of the language]

Thoughts about SMS text message spam

SMS text message spam is barely a problem in the US and Europe. Certainly nothing like what some doom-mongers were predicting a few years ago. Operators are incented to control it to maximize customer satisfaction -- number portability has made customer churn a potential business killer.

In Europe, the economics of sending text messages are different from those in the US -- in most countries the sender pays, not the recipient. The US is unusual in this respect -- in the US, one can usually send an SMS by emailing to an SMS gateway. This is free of charge to the sender but paid for through the receipient's plan. In most other countries, sending access to the SMS network is restricted to those who have a financial arrangement set up with the carrier -- receipt of messages is free. This destroys the indiscriminate spammer's business model.

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

Should We Publish Email Addresses?


Since posting my tips on how to frustrate spammers, I've received some questions and comments about publicizing email addresses on websites.

When I wrote How do spammers find your email address?, I said that harvesting was the main way that spammers find addresses. Harvesting is the automatic extraction of email addresses from web pages, online forum posts, and the like. Some people wrote things like, "If the #1 way of getting email addresses is to harvest them from web pages, surely the #1 way to frustrate spammers is not to publish email addresses on the web?" Well, yes, but...

No. [read more]

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