Thurs Chum: Engage Brain Before Using Computer, Stories about Office Supplies, and Strange Airports

Yesterday, I thought there wasn’t a unifying theme to the news chum, but there was. But I promise there is no such unification theory for today’s lunchtime news chum:

  • From the “Be careful what you say or do” Department: The Washington Post is reporting how more than 75,000 computer systems at nearly 2,500 companies in the United States and around the world have been hacked in what appears to be one of the largest and most sophisticated attacks by cyber criminals. The author of the article uses it to rail against the traditional security approaches of intrusion-detection systems and anti-virus software—in other words, technological solution. To that end, he is right: we keep forgetting about education. That is brought home when the article notes how the attacks occurred: “The hackers lured unsuspecting employees at targeted firms to download infected software from sites controlled by the hackers, or baited them into opening e-mails containing the infected attachment”. In other words: social engineering attacks that should never have been successful. Ah, but these are businesses you say. A related article hits closer to home: a computer science student in the Netherlands, with his friends, have set up a website provocatively called, a mashup of users’ content from Twitter, the San Francisco microblogging service, and FourSquare, a site in which users share their location. Their goal: reformat all that status information you publically post to Twitter or Facebook to make it easy to see when you are not home, and thus could be the target of a robbery. As always, think before you write or do something on your computer.
  • From the “The Pen Is Mightier…” Department: Two articles in Los Angeles local news are interesting because of their relationship to pens. The LAMG newspapers have an article about the overspending for office supplies within Los Angeles County: $40.50 Mini-Jeweleria brown resin fountain pens… $131.54 for floor mats… $5 rulers, $202.46 for printing calculators”. The new LA County CEO plans to rein in such costs. Perhaps one way to do it would be to talk to the people at L.A. Shares. This program, written up in today’s LA Times, is a non-profit donation center. Corporations that are remodeling, changing logos, downsizing, etc. donate their excess products to this group, which redistributes them to needy non-profits before the items enter the waste stream. In the years since the program started in 1991 with the notion to recycle wood from set construction, it has recycled an estimated $180 million in goods. The larger items are often used. Everything else is new but destined for the trash — promotional items, packages with outdated logos, remaindered stock, excess office supplies from divisions that have been shut down, etc..
  • From the “Come Fly With Me” Department: Lastly, an item that fauxklore and some of the other seasoned travellers reading me would love, and would perhaps take as a challenge: Popular Mechanics lists the 18 Strangest Airports in the World. Many of these are due to landing strip challenges or construction challenges. Quite an interesting read.