Saturday, 29 November 2014

Phone Hacking and those CCTV Images

The news has been full of stories recently about a Russian website that was giving access to thousands of CCTV feeds from homes and businesses around the world. 

If you have just come back from Mars and don't know what I'm talking about , here is where you can catch up on the story. It follows similar stories that have been in the news for several years about phone hacking. 

A while ago, I bought a new cordless land line phone from BT. As with most of these things, answerphone messages can be accessed remotely from another telephone by entering a PIN code at the end of the opening message. It came with a booklet containing instructions on how to set the device up and includes information on the remote function and security PIN. With this phone, the remote access function is turned off as a factory default and I have to set my own PIN to enable it. 

My new phone replaced an older version which was bought a few years ago. The old phone also had the remote access function but in this case it was turned on and had a pre-set 4 number PIN which could be changed by the user. Unfortunately, neither the instruction book or the box it came in mentioned this at all and anyone setting the phone up for the first time would be likely to leave the answerphone set at it's completely unsecure factory default state not being aware that the remote function even existed or that anyone entering the factory set PIN would enable them to listen to all messages recorded on the phone. The only way I would ever know that my answerphone could be accessed remotely and that it was only protected by a generic factory set PIN would be to download the full instruction book from the manufacturers website and scroll through about 70 pages before getting to the relevant part. If I ever got that far, I would then be told how important it was to change my PIN and how to do it.

It would seem that a similar problem exists with older versions of wireless webcams where the remote access was enabled as a default with only the factory password or even with no password at all. Later versions of these cameras seem to have a similar setup as my new phone in that they come with the remote access function disabled and can only be activated when the owner sets their own password.

In any case, if you haven't already done so, you should check in the full instruction book which you can usually access from the manufacturers website and check that your device is protected.

It is still possible to hack your phone if you use an easily guessable password. Birthdays and anniversaries are easily discovered from readily available sources and it won't take long for the really determined hacker to go through all the permutations of numbers back to front, scrambled or any other combination. When you choose a PIN or password, make up a random number; better still, if you are unlikely to use it, turn the function off completely.

Poundland Arrives in Thamesmead

It appears that Poundland have taken over the site of the now defunct Blockbusters outlet in Thamesmead Town Centre.

This looks like it could be another nail in the Morrison's coffin. I use Morrison's less and less now, preferring to use Aldi. Recent figures are suggesting that they are no cheaper than Morrison's but I hate having to fight my way past all the obstructions, piles of boxes and people trying to sell me a Sky subscription and double glazing that are all part of the Morrison's shopping experience. I hate that bloke outside who keeps shouting "Big Issue" at me. I hate having to faff about with plastic cards and silly bits of paper to collect points. I hate having to pay a thumping great surcharge if I only want to buy one of anything. Their 50p packs of Tiger Rolls suddenly went up to 79p or £1.00 for two - they must think we are stupid. Packets of chicken breasts now cost an extra £2.50 if you only want one.

And I really, really hate those bloody self-service tills. They have a traffic light system flashing away on them to tell you whether they are available or not. If they are available, they flash amber; if they are not available, they flash amber; if they are available but only accept cash/credit cards/vouchers, or not, they flash amber. Easy peasy. And I hate being told to please take the last item out of the bag before I have even started.

London news

Map of London
I am now convinced that the London news page on the BBC news red button has been outsourced to India; there is no other explanation for the inclusion of many of the stories appearing on the site.

Whoever is responsible for choosing them has no idea where London is in relation to the rest of the UK or indeed, the world.

In recent months there have been stories from places that have no connection with London or are of general national or international concern. Countries that are supposed to be in London include Wales (mentioned several times), Iran, Syria (mentioned at least twice), United Arab Emirates, Gaza and a patch of Pacific Ocean somewhere between California and Hawaii.

I won't bore you with a list of UK places that are supposed to be in London - actually I will. Here are a few in approximate alphabetical order:-
Berwick, Birmingham,  Bletchley Park, Brighton, Bracknell, Bridgenorth, Broadmore, Bury St Edmunds, Chelmsford, Cheltenham, Chertsey, Chester, Flitwick, Gatwick, Hatfield, Heathrow, Hemel Hempstead, Leeds, Luton, Macclesfield, Maidenhead, Milton, Newbury, Newport Pagnell, North Ormesby, Reading, St Albans, Slough, Southend, Stevenage, Stourbridge, Sunningdale, Watford, Wolverhampton, Wokingham, Worcester - to name but a few. 

Remember, all these places were mentioned in stories without any connection to London in any way but were included in the BBC London news page.

Whoever is choosing the stories that appear on the London news page is certainly convinced that all of the Hertfordshire new towns are part of London if the frequency of stories from Hatfield, Hemel Hempstead, Welwyn Garden City and Stevenage are anything to go by.

Today, the London news page is reporting a story about a couple who have been murdered in the village of Fetcham, Surrey and another story about Greater Manchester Police appealing for calm following violent incidents during "Black Friday". More of which later.

Black Friday

The latest gimmick used by retailers to persuade the more gullible of us to buy more of what we don't need has been to import "Black Friday" into the shopping calender.

Originally an American phenomena that sees huge numbers of hysterical shoppers pushing, shoving and climbing over each other to get to supposedly discounted goods in shops and department stores.

It follows Thanksgiving Day, a holiday celebrated in the United States on the fourth Thursday in November and which I suppose will also arrive here in the UK just as soon as someone can think of an excuse for it.

Usually, when one of these US style events hits our shores, they tend to be toned down somewhat to accommodate our rather more reserved British nature. But not this. What you get is the full-on, in your face, punching and kicking, moron fest in all it's sad and dismal glory.

We are supposed to be two meals and twenty four hours from barbarism but it seems that we are really just one discounted TV set to see us go from a civilized society to a frenzied, screaming mob of consumer goods obsessed maniacs.

I can understand when people in famine struck parts of the world fight over food to feed their starving children but to punch an old lady in the mouth because she has managed to get hold of a toaster you had your eye on and had £4.99 off the list price is to abandon all sense of decency.

The saddest part of all is these people will get home with their life saving iPod earphones or whatever and will feel no shame, even after they have woken up the next morning and remember what they just did.

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