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John Simkin

Internet Explorer and the Forum

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Over the last few days I have been unable to access certain pages of this forum while using Internet Explorer? Has anyone else had problems? It works fine when using the Mozilla browser.

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It works OK with Mozilla and Konqueror (which is based on Mozilla code I believe).

I useExplorer at work ...our technicians have had a running battle with pop-ups and spyware but I doubt the education forum is the source...they are probably left over from adware from other sites

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John asks:

Over the last few days I have been unable to access certain pages of this forum while using Internet Explorer? Has anyone else had problems?

No, IE6 is working fine. I've never had any problems accessing the Forum with IE6. Regarding the irritating pop-ups and spyware that Derek mentions, I kill pop-ups and cookies via my firewall, ZoneAlarm Pro - although I have to activate them when visiting certain known sites from which I buy goods and services. I keep a daily watch on adware and spyware with SpyBot and zap any new nasties that appeaar.

In another part of this Forum I mentioned that my business recently had to take the unprecedented step of shutting down our former business email address. This is because the email address was hijacked by purveyors of spam and rendered totally useless within one week.

We have suffered from the effects of viruses and spam for several years but, thanks to the efficient mail filtering system that we use (MailWasher Pro), these intrusions have been no more than an annoyance. On 15 July, however, we suddenly began to receive hundreds of bounced "undeliverable mail" messages per day. It is now evident that our email address was being spoofed as the sender's address by a number of different spam companies and we were the recipients of their bounced emails and irate replies from recipients of their rubbish. Our business no longer displays its email address at our website. Enquirers have to use a contact form offsite.

Lesson to be learned: Don't display your email address prominently at your website and never display anyone else's email address unless they ask you to. See the WillMaster website on different ways of hiding or disguising (munging) your email address to avoid it being harvested by spammers - and see how vulnerable you are: http://willmaster.com/possibilities/archiv...020625001.shtml

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Lesson to be learned: Don't display your email address prominently at your website and never display anyone else's email address unless they ask you to. See the WillMaster website on different ways of hiding or disguising (munging) your email address to avoid it being harvested by spammers - and see how vulnerable you are: http://willmaster.com/possibilities/archiv...020625001.shtml

How then is one to use a site to communicate with and mentor students? I display my e-mail address on My Website very prominently and suffer quite a lot of spam as a result. Communication between teacher and student is an absolutely central advantage of the internet. Am I to lose this?

Regarding John's problem with the forum, I would advise him to download something like "Pest Patrol" and update AV products and run them both through.

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Andy writes:

How then is one to use a site to communicate with and mentor students? I display my e-mail address on My Website very prominently and suffer quite a lot of spam as a result. Communication between teacher and student is an absolutely central advantage of the internet. Am I to lose this?

You won't necessarily lose email contact with your tutees, but you will in future have to be very careful about publicising your address. It's will be like having an unlisted telephone number - you give it out only to those who need to know it. You will also have to make your students aware of the necessity of Internet security and request them to install up-to-date anti-virus software and a firewall on their own computers. Two colleagues of mine had their computers trashed by viruses sent to them by their online tutees - which was mainly my colleagues' fault for not making their own computers secure.

We used to display several different email addresses at our business website - one for each of the partners. We all received spam. Some of it was clearly tailored to the sex of the partners, so I (as a male) got most of the ads for Viagra, and the females got most of the ads for make-up, clothing etc. But a lot of the spam was completely indiscriminate - and often disgustingly graphic.

The spam got worse, so first I removed the "mailto" tags of the addresses. The spam continued to get worse, so I blocked all the personal addresses leaving one common contact address visible. The spam continued to get worse - no problem we just filtered it with MailWasher Pro. I even experimented by publicising a temporary email address without a "mailto" tag to see how long it took for the spammers' robots to find it - less than 24 hours!

Then the spammers hijacked our address, using it as their return address. This caused our mailbox to overflow daily and lock up. So I killed the address and set up a new one.

Now our contact address is munged into an offsite contact form. If you search our website for an email address you won't find it. Genuine enquirers can still email us via the contact form, but there is no indication where their email is heading and I don't have to reply to them if I suspect their motives in contacting us. In the business world this is the way things are going, I'm afraid, as our government has not tackled the problem with effective anti-spam legislation. Many small businesses have contacted me to indicate they they have suffered in exactly the same way as we have and have had to take similar evasive action. The education world will probably have to go down the same route.

I wonder how long it will take for the spammers to break through the lines of defence I have set up. We'll see...

See "The Death of Email" by John Dvorak (24 May 2004) at:

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,1599324,00.asp

See also "Email is broken" by the same author (19 July 2004) at:

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,1624935,00.asp

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This problem of e-mail being hijacked is one of the reasons I sometimes advocate using a platform programme for running on-line courses. The problem is that most of the modern platform programmes want users to use their current e-mail address … which is why I'm much less interested in platform programmes these days.

We try to sidestep the e-mail hijack problem by publishing the classlists as .pdf documents …

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I used to suffer from regular junk telephone calls (mostly in the evenings) and from junk faxes, but virtually all of these have ceased since I registered with the DMA Preference Services: http://www.dma.org.uk/shared/PrefServices.asp

A good deal of junk snail mail has dried up too as a result of registering with the Preference Services, but they don't seem to have the clout to stop junk emails.

I used to amuse myself getting rid of junk telephone callers in my own way:

Caller: Is that Mr Davies?

Me: Yes, speaking.

Caller: I represent X financial services. I wonder if it would be possible to discuss a new investment scheme that we are offering to selected customers.

Me: (Having recognised that "financial services" really means life insurance.) OK, suggest a date.

Caller: How about next Tuesday?

Me: I'm afraid not, I go the the sub-aqua club every Tuesday.

Caller: Would Wednesday be OK?

Me: No, that's when our pot-holing club meets.

Caller: Would you be free at the weekend?

Me: Sorry, I'm learning to free-fall parachute jump over the weekend.

Caller: What about the following Monday?

Me: No, that's not convenient either. I have a hospital appointment - nothing special, just a check-up regarding a heart murmur.

Caller: Thank you, Mr Davies, we'll be in touch some other time.

If only we could get rid of junk emailers in the same way. It might just work. See the story entitled "Turning the tables on Nigeria's e-mail conmen" at the BBC site:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3887493.stm

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