Internet Story: 24 May 1999
Directory Enquiries Online Finally BT has given us what most other countries has had for years - online access to directory enquiries. No more need for those 45p (+VAT) calls to discover what's just a few keystrokes away. No more paying ridiculous prices for a CDROM with the numbers on it (again, its equivalent is just a few $ in the US). Apparently the billing details and "friends & family" sites that we have listed on our "useful info" page for the past 6 months have also only just been discovered by the press. There's also a site for tracking reported faults that we didn't know about. Thanks for not telling us BT - it's nice to talk!
Big Brother Emerges Well this weekend has brought a landslide of information about just what our governments are up to. Spying on everything we do that involves a telephone or radio transmitter. Since I reported the the news about Echelon (showing how the US spies on Europe and hands over trade secrets to US companies) a couple of weeks ago several stories have emerged on the net about similar activities. There was a report in the St Petersburg Times that the Russian authorities are demanding that all ISPs in Russia install equipment that will allow the FSB (former KGB) to monitor all communications. Details of the "UKUSA Alliance" has emerged in news media in Canada and Australia. Australia has been the first to confirm that such activity goes on. Martin Brady, director of the Defence Signals Directorate in Canberra, admitted this on Channel 9 TV on Sunday morning. Together with the giant American National Security Agency (NSA) and its Canadian, British, and New Zealand counterparts, DSD operates a network of giant, highly automated tracking stations that illicitly pick up commercial satellite communications and examine every fax, telex, e-mail, phone call, or computer data message that the satellites carry. The French are at it too. No wonder the US government (and others) don't want encryption in daily use. It has little to do with criminals and terrorists.
Here are some links to more information on Echelon.
On a slightly different note, check out the article in Newsweek about Clinton ordering the CIA to wage "Cyberwar" against Serbia. The purpose is apparently to hack into his bank accounts, etc.!
Watch those emails! You better be careful what you send via email to colleagues at work. Rolls Royce has just sacked 5 people from its Bristol office for sending what they describe as "grossly offensive" hardcore porn. Earlier this month 14 employees were suspended subject to further investigation. The 9 others have had verbal warnings and have returned to work. My advice for clients with email systems at their place of work has always been, "would you sit at you desk and read a print version of what you're looking at on the screen as your boss walks past?" If the answer is no, then you probably shouldn't be looking at it, or (worse!) sending it, online. On the other hand, employers should be very careful that they can prove employees have actually sent offensive material - they would look very silly if someone had planted the material in another's mailbox (or hard disk, etc.), or forged an email! Companies should also make sure that they have a recognized, published email/internet policy before acting.
Andrew Stringer, © Pendle.Net Ltd, 1999
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