Thursday, July 29, 2004

Telstra mobile faults surge

James Riley
Australian IT - JULY 29, 2004

SERVICE faults on Telstra's mobile networks are as much as one-third higher than its internal targets, according to a leaked report.

Poorly documented repair procedures for base stations meant that faults on Telstra's two mobile networks were taking longer to repair, the confidential report found. High fault levels at base stations mean more mobile phone blackouts for consumers.
The leaked report follows a similar document in March which showed that faults on the Telstra fixed-line network had soared to a six-year high.

Labor's communications spokesman Lindsay Tanner said the leaked report demonstrated that the "same pattern of deteriorating service levels that we are seeing in the fixed-line network is now starting to appear in the mobile network".

The Supportability Review of Telstra's network of base stations across Australia found that service outages on the company's primary mobile network base stations were 25percent higher than targeted levels - 20.8 minutes per transmitter per month compared with an internal target of 16 minutes.

Outages on its CDMA network, which is widely used in regional areas, were about 33 per cent higher than the company had targeted - 27.8 minutes versus a target of 20.

The report, dated April 2004, found that on both networks the total number of outages was higher than the previous month and had shown no improvement over the previous three months.

It found that staff responsible for carrying out repairs -- especially in regional areas -- urgently needed training. Telstra often did not know about problems with mobile phone towers until a customer complained, because the company no longer carried out proactive maintenance testing.

"This leaked report provides further evidence that Telstra has taken its eye off the ball in regards to its core telecommunications functions," Mr Tanner said.

"Over the past few years, you've had a massive reduction in capital expenditure (at Telstra) and a dramatic reduction in staff numbers, so it would be surprising if there wasn't this kind of impact on service levels."

Telstra spokesman Rod Bruem said Mr Tanner had taken the internal service report out of context, and that there had been no cutbacks to the maintenance of mobile phone towers. He said service levels within the mobile networks were at all-time highs.


Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Mydoom continues to cause chaos

Mydoom.m (http://www.viruslist.com/eng/viruslist.html?id=1927276), the latest version of I-Worm.Mydoom (http://www.viruslist.com/eng/viruslist.html?id=841769) is not only infecting machines around the globe, but reportedly causing problems for users of Google, Yahoo!, AltaVista and Lycos search engines.

The outbreak caused by Mydoom.m caused the search engines either to intermittently fail, or to return results far slower than usual. The most serious problems were experienced by users in the UK, France, and parts of the US.

This is a new twist in the long-running worm saga. Previous versions of Mydoom simply mass-mailed themselves to all addresses found on the victim machine. However, Mydoom.m has an additional trick. It not only harvests email addresses from the infected system and sends itself to these addresses, but also searches the machine's files for domain names. It then uses Google and other search engines to find additional email addresses in the same domain, and sends copies of itself to all these addresses.

'This worm has a very original approach to sending infected messages. The only similar method we've seen was when Swen (http://www.viruslist.com/eng/viruslist.html?id=88029) sent itself to newsgroups, having requested a list of accessible groups from the newsgroup server.' commented Alexander Gostev, a Kaspersky Labs' virus analyst. 'As for the problems experienced by some search engines, it appears that only Google actually put out a press release. Google normally processes more than 200 million search requests a day - are there really enough machines infected by Mydoom.m to put such a system out of commission?'

Google was the search engine hardest hit by the additional traffic. The search engine received approximately 45% of the additional queries generated by Mydoom.m. The intermittent failure of the service is certainly a major irritation for users accustomed to getting results at the press of a key. It took several hours for adjustments to be made so that Google functioned normally.

However, a far more serious worry is the backdoor component which Mydoom installs on victim machines. Anyone who opened the attachment to an infected message now has a system which is wide open, making it possible to remotely upload and execute programs.

So what conclusions can we draw from the latest outbreak? The facts are clear: Mydoom once again clogged mail-boxes, generated additional traffic and left search engine users frustrated. Most anti-virus software vendors were quick to issue an update to their signature databases. And what should users do? As ever, ensure that antivirus protection is kept up to date, and observe the golden rule: never open attachments in a mail message from an unknown source.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Optus launches IP Centrex

Kate Mackenzie
Australian IT - JULY 15, 2004

OPTUS is launching its outsourced converged networks solution, IP Centrex, aiming to take one-third of the market for such products despite Telstra's early lead.

IP Centrex is a set of technologies which telcos use to provide business customers with hosted, managed voice-over-IP (which carries voice telephony traffic over internet-based networks), along with managing their data networks and other services such as video-conferencing.

Optus Business managing director Peter Kaliaropoulos said the product would be aimed at all sizes of business and government customers, from 20 staff upwards. Customers with a traditional voice telephony PBX system and who managed their own data network could save 20 to 30 per cent by shifting to IP Centrex.

"You're looking at total cost of ownership, including buying equipment, maintaining equipment, business processes around them," Mr Kaliaropoulos said.

Optus was the first Australian telco to offer such a full-featured IP Centrex service, he said. Telstra has since late last year offered an IP Centrex product developed by US company Broadsoft, which is more specifically targeted at larger enterprises.

Optus' version of IP Centrex is based on Nortel Networks equipment, and Mr Kaliaropoulos said it would be offer a more advanced range of features than Telstra's, such as multimedia and unified messaging.

"Broadsoft are offering those features for the future, we are offering those features now," he said.

Telstra spokesman Warwick Ponder said the Broadsoft system used by Telstra did not require a 'forklift' upgrade and was more easily compatible with Microsoft Windows. Multimedia applications would be coming soon, he said. "We don't think the market is ready for them just now."

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

New High School Student Tcard

Tcard is the new way to go to and from school. It's a public transport smart card that will make it easier to get around. One day it is expected that everyone will have one, but school students using private bus services will be the first to use it.

In July 2004, 7,000 Sydney school students will participate in a Tcard trial. In January 2005, all school students in the Greater Sydney Metropolitan Area using private buses for school travel will receive a Tcard.

Click here to find out more about Tcard.

Editor's Comment - It's rather poor that Australia has taken so many years to adopt such a system (and even now it's only a pilot trial!). What am I on about? Let me explain... Hong Kong's underground train network relies on a quick and efficient payment of transport using an "Octopus Card", which international students from HK will know about :)

There are no headaches of the public transport system we have here in NSW - inflexible ticketing system, long queues to buy tickets, lack of full compatibility between transport operators, incorrectly programmed ticket barriers (false rejection of your ticket), maybe you can think of more...

To quote the website "The Octopus system was created by AES ProData (Hong Kong) Limited [in 1997], a member of the ERG Group of Companies, based in Perth, Western Australia. AES Prodata is responsible for the design, build, operation, maintenance and financing of automated fare collection in the Octopus system."

In other words, an Australian company engineered this fantasic solution to public transport for Hong Kong yet (as usual) we are 7 years away from adopting this technology in our home country :(

The card looks and feels exactly like to old Telstra Phonecards that were floppy and had holes punched in them. Remember back then?

Hong Kong citizens have even adopted the technology as eCash, a technology dream which has been been touted so much over the last 5 years but hasn't taken off in Australia.

Click here for more technical info on the Octopus Card info here.

So I highly encourage YOU, as the future of I.T and engineering in Australia to take on a more proactive approach than our past leaders, to think globally on how we can advance Australia to the top of the charts! Australia has time and time again show to other countries that we have the talent and ability to create world-class solutions to problems, yet we really need to capitalise on our talent - or our talent will leave for greener pastures offshore.

With the Free Trade Agreement we (companies and individuals) really, really, really need to become globally competitive or we will lose out to our international competitors. The FTA opens Australian markets up internationally and Australian companies are no longer protected by huge taxes. Although not affecting the technology industry as much, it is an indication of things to come.

Take Telstra and Optus as a prime example - which is doing better and why? Optus because it is operated internationally and they are proactive instead of being stagnant. And remember that many of our "Australian" brands are being sold off to companies in America. If we don't move forward then we are moving backwards because our international competitors are trying harder.

And YOU are the solution. Become a more aggressive thinker, think long term, think internationally, be proactive in your career and industry, be ambitious and most importantly voice your opinions to your future company on what we need to do. Because if we sit back and do business like we've always done business, then we'll lose to offshore companies.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Secure Destruction of HDs

Orient Instrument Computer in China produces some interesting machines that can magnetically destroy a HD in 0.1 seconds (a bit like a e-Bomb) using a magnetic field of 7000 Oe, even when it is still in a PC or laptop!! And there's another one that physically drills into the drive to physically damage it, although it's a pity it doesn't drill all the way through, which means with lots of $$$ it could be possible to recover some data using an electron tunneling microscope which can see the actual magnetic domains which represent the bits.

The Department of Defence in America apparently shoots their hard drives with guns and/or incinerates them in a super-hot furnace (hard drives damaged by normal fire can be recovered).

For more info on secure data destruction and methods of recovery you can check out this old but excellent article.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

EVENT DETAILS - CSIRO Tech Trends Seminar

The speaker will be the CSIRO ICT Centre Director.

There is no charge for this seminar.

Location: E6A 102
Audience: Everyone
Time and Date: 5:30 PM - 6:30 PM on Monday the 12th of July, 2004

For further information contact Linda Kerr
Phone: (9850) x9101
Email address: lkerr@ics.mq.edu.au

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

EVENT DETAILS - RUXCON 2004

RUXCON Australian Security Conference
This is a fantastic conference to attend and we highly encourage all our members to make the effort to go along and learn more about security issues. RUXCON 2004 will be held over two days at the University of Technology Sydney, Saturday July 10th - Sunday July 11th. Doors open at 8:30am and entry price is $50. MITS will attempt to subsidise some of the entry fee, but exact details are to be finalised (expect $5 to $25 reimbursement). Please email us [MITSociety at Yahoo Com] for contact details.

A list of presentations for RUXCON 2004 is available below:

Win32 local exploits through the 'shatter attack' method - Brett Moore
The Art of Defiling: Defeating Forensic Analysis on Unix File Systems - the grugq
Bluetooth Security: Toothless? - Ollie Whitehouse
Security Impacts of Modern Web Development Technologies - David Jorm
Win32 One-Way Shellcode - SK
A Security Microcosm - Attacking/Defending Shiva, A Linux Executable Encryptor - Shaun Clowes
ELF: A fairy tale for viruses - Daniel Hodson
High Tech Crime Investigations in Australia - Brian Diplock
Reverse Engineering for Malware Analysis - Peter Taylor
Advances in real-time network vulnerability analysis - David Meltzer
Reversing and Exploiting Win32 Binaries - Jaguar
Stopping Stack Smashing Attacks - Paul Ducklin
Logging, Logic Bombs and Litigants: IT Security Law for non-lawyers - Andre Stein
Social Engineering - The gentle art of having the good guys help you commit evil - Daniel Lewkovitz
RUXCON Panel Discussion

Monday, July 05, 2004

MP3.com Technology Guide and Tutorials

With so many options, getting a grip on digital music can be confusing. Don't be glum, chum - they're here to help! With tutorials, product overviews, compatibility charts and insider commentary, the Tech Guide is your source for information and advice to ease your worries, boost your tunes, and help you make the right choices (encoding music files, buying MP3 players, etc).

Sunday, July 04, 2004

WinXP SP2 RC2 Preview Now Available

Microsoft has released a preview for the Windows XP Service Pack 2 Release Candidate 2 at around 260Mb, click the link above for more info on the preview.

SP2 is a cumulative update (patches from SP1 are included) and uninstallation is possible. Some of the features include better:
  • Network protection
  • Memory protection
  • E-mail handling
  • Web browsing security
  • Computer maintenance

    Added new sections: NetSchedule and Task Scheduler APIs, Tablet PC Enhancements, Wireless Network Setup Wizard, Internet Explorer URLaction Settings in Group Policy.

    Revised sections: Data execution prevention, DCOM Security Enhancements, Filter for Add or Remove Programs, Setup, Download, Attachment, and Authenticode Enhancements, Internet Explorer File Download Prompt, Outlook Express E-mail Attachment Prompt, Add-on Install Prompt, Group Policy Internet Explorer Settings, Script repositioning of Internet Explorer windows, Zone Elevation Blocks

    Known Issues: With SP2, you cannot print or print preview a Web page that includes an ActiveX object, Media Library in Windows Media Player may become unviewable with Fast User Switching enabled, color distortion appears with S3 Graphics Video Adapter, streaming Windows Media files fail, MSN version 9.00.0011.1200 does not fully work, Windows Messenger 4.7.3 does not support MSN add-ins for Windows Messenger. See the readme file for possible fixes.

    Click here to go directly to the download page
    Or here for the SP2 Home Page

  • Saturday, July 03, 2004

    Shared Technology - A Road Map for Traditional and Emerging Industries to 2008

    This project has identified 6 main technology areas that have been predicted to be big issues until 2008:
  • Networking

  • Wireless Communications

  • Electricity Generation

  • Embedded Processing

  • Enabling Technologies

  • Human / Technology Interface


  • Although none of these areas are "new" (they have been around for many years now), they have only recently been widely popular and their use is increasing daily. Highly recommended reading to stay ahead with technology. Check it out now (click the heading)!