Ramblings, meanderings, rants and discoveries.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bots and annoyances - How to fight back

We have all had them, bots or even live people who we do not know that decide to contact us while we are online on an IM. IM is a wonderful thing, too bad these bots are about to ruin it.

Lately I have begun fighting back. But merely reporting a username based on a "hi are u there?" message is not enough to go on for an abuse report. So, since i trust my firewalls and AV's I have begun answering them, logging them, and reporting. I advise everyone to do the same. Why you ask it won't stop them..

No it will not. But it may make the IM makers plug the issues that allow people to run these bots. If you are a bot maker reading this TFB. Bots do have their uses but it has hit the point where people who can barely turn on a machine can download a bot to annoy people trying to get work done.

Here is the anatomy of bot IM

Without fail they all have screennames like marvinvalenciagndhs. They begin with any1 there?. If they get a response even an auto one they respond with something Like Hi how u doing. Next response is "It's Ashley" or Alissa Or some female name usually starting with A and having 2 syllables. Now why Ashley is writing from Marvin's account is suspicious enough.

Now the variations start some will tell you they know you and try to get you to connect to a website to view their pics or hot webcam action with their roommate or whatever.

Some will say "you don't know me I got your name from Ashley" then proceed to tell you some sob story about how their boyfriend dumped them or their husband is always out of town and they want to meet up and party with you but they need to know you are ok first.

Either way, an attempt will be made to get you to connect to a website. I HOPE everyone knows better. It is most likely a phishing site or an infected page. Even if it IS a webcam of 2 hot chicks, why would they contact you if they did not want money in some way shape or form and you can rent a porn dvd for the price they will charge. So I will assume that you have not connected to www.hotchicksonawebcam.com and continue

Some will send a link to get off their list. Guess what.. Yep don't buy it. But at this point you have enough to report. So now it is time to hit the ignore button and go to Yahoo, GMail, MSN, ICQ or whoever to report.

FIRST make sure you save a copy of the log file. attach it or copy and past it into your complaint. Next include your real (or business's) name and the IM screenname you were using at the time of the spam. Tell them up front you are tired of this time waster and will reporting EVERY SINGLE ONE in the future. Follow through with that threat. I am betting that it will take only about 5% of the users reporting every single one to effect a change.

Now how do i know these are bots? well most people when someone replies to an "are u there" with "fuck off bitch" will either be insulted or go into a lot of explanation of who they are and how they know you. And they will find either it is a case of mistaken identity (I have done that myself) and apologize for bugging you or they will be someone you know and you will apologize. Real people do not go on to post websites to an IM until they are certain they know the person they are to whom they are typing.

Of course if you are a decent bot writer yourself, you can always set a bot to catch a bot, the only risky thing in that is that some of these bots are actually set to try and hijack your account when you are not online to send their URL all over through your contacts list. So I would advise against unattended bot baiting.

Let's get rid of these so we can go back to using IM for work and fun with our friends.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The I in IT

Once upon a time the IT department was kept in the basement and thrown bones every so often. The rest of the company never understood them and that was fine with everyone. We were let out of our cages to go fix stuff. We were faceless, nameless (as one manager said were were the Shadow Ninjas we fixed stuff and you rarely saw us do it.)

Somewhere along the line all that changed. It was sometime in the 90's. Probably about the time Windoze 95 was released. Suddenly we were adored, worshipped and fawned over. Salaries went skyrocketing and people began to flock to the field.

Then it started happening - branding, image, marketing yourself as an IT professional. It was no longer enough to do your job and do it well, you had to be known; in some cases being known counted for more than knowing your job. Then the bottom fell out of the market for IT professionals. Why is that do you think? Well some maintain we did it to ourselves to some extent and that the nails were driven in by those who are impressed by the look not the knowledge. Egos have ballooned and more and more we see sites, blogs and information that are written by people who bow down to the almighty *I*.

First, let's look at the boom in IT. In the late 90's IT was the place to be. Consulting companies like the now defunct EDS (bought out by HP in July) had strict requirements to be a programmer with the title Software Engineer or Systems Analyst. But almost none to be a Business Analyst, even though in many client locations they performed the same or very similar tasks. Usually a BA cost less than an SA though the client.

Now like most companies, each job title had a level and each level a salary cap. Let us say an employee was a BA level 1. That would mean they had a salary cap of say 30K. So, for a raise you had to be promoted by a manager to a BA level 2 and then you could code pound merrily until your salary broke say 45K. Only thing was a BA level 3 was a manager type. Many code pounders do not want to be a manager and deal with HR things, so as an employee under them approached the next cap; good managers would sound them out and mentor them as to their next step in the company, bad ones forced techies into management. Most of them left the company because they hated being a people person.

The hybrids went to SA boot camp. Most of us never wanted to be more than a Project Manager or Team Lead. A full class at the beginning was around 30. Usually that whittled down to about 20 by the end. The thing was over half the class was frequently comprised of people from the marketing side of the company. When asked why they wanted to become coders, most answered, "Because I can make a lot of money."

That *I* should have been the first red flag to the industry, the answer was not because technology was cool, or users needed friendlier apps, or companies need better systems that are secure or that tools could be more efficient. It was about the person. Unfortunately, that has carried over into the present day. More next time.