The Weekly HELO — March 21st, 2011

Posted by Melinda Plemel on

This week: a new army in Iran, a new filter in China, a new political party in India, and the same old scam focuses on Japan.

Welcome to the seventh edition of Return Path’s new feature, The Weekly HELO! Each week, Melinda Plemel synopsizes some of the most interesting current happenings in email technology and messaging abuse.

Don’t Bring a Gun to a ‘Net Fight

Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard’s paramilitary Basij group have reportedly created a “Cyber Army” whose main goal is to attack the country’s enemies by way of cyberwarfare.

Iran started to really boost their web defenses after the Stuxnet computer worm made its way into computers involved with the country’s controversial nuclear program. They have begun to hire hackers that are said to be “university teachers, students and clerics.” I have to assume that this isn’t necessarily volunteer, and most would be working on pieces without even knowing that they are involved in cyber crime — but you never know. It’s been rumored that these hackers could make up to US$10,000 per month for their skills, a huge amount of money for any person, but only a drop in the bucket for the Iranian government when compared to the cost of waging conventional military warfare.

The Cyber Army first appeared during the 2009 Presidential uprising and controversial re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and was believed even then to be linked to the Revolutionary Guard. “In February, Guard chief, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, signaled that the force supports the cyber army, describing it as a “defensive, security, political and cultural need for all countries.”

Email? You Can’t Handle Email

It continues to be interesting how much effort some governments put into controlling the internet. China doesn’t miss an opportunity to keep their country “safe” from the internet and free thought. China’s internet censorship encompasses a wide variety of laws and administrative regulations. However, there are no clear, specific laws or regulations which the censorship reliably follows — probably one factor why some sites are allowed and why other simply are not.

Recently Chinese subscribers to Gmail have reported having a hard time accessing their accounts. ‘There have been concerns from the Chinese that political upheaval in the Middle East might be caught by its workers. Chinese microblogs are barred from searching for the term “Jasmine,” for example, following calls by activists abroad for China to hold its own “Jasmine Revolution.”‘

I don’t support violence, but I do support people wanting more from their government and the opportunity to improve their world. China is an exciting place and it will be interesting to watch how the “revolution’ develops.

हाँ हम कर सकते हैं

Many of you have probably read about Hotmail founder Sabeer Bhatia’s new venture, where “he will be responsible for developing an interactive portal for the East India based political party – Trinamool Congress.”

Political parties in India took note on the success of President Obama’s 2008 election and how his political team leveraged sites like Facebook and Twitter to help motivate and create a movement not seen before in the US. ‘During the press conference Bhatia said, “People of West Bengal are working for a change and I am here to share some of my ideas for better communication. The more an organization becomes cyber savvy, the better it can reach out to people.” Trinamool Congress hopes to have a cyber savvy image to attract the contemporary voters.’

If they play it as smart as the Obama team did in 2008, then I believe they could be successful.

Beware of Earthquake & Tsunami-Related Email

The events that unfolded in Japan are heart-wrenching. The devastation and the human casualties are simply horrific, and many of us are consumed by the videos and the stories that are unfolding every day. Most people actually care, want to donate, to be involved, or simply want to know how things are going. Unfortunately there are those that see an opportunity to spread their evilness and prey on us that give a ….

Sophos’ Naked Security posted a story on one of the new malware attacks that is being spammed globally; others have been reported on Facebook and Twitter. It’s sad and unfortunate that these attacks are so successful, preying on people’s emotions – like I said, pure evil. The only upside is that in this case the “emails are pretty amateurishly assembled…, but such is the public’s interest in watching the news from Japan that some may be tempted into clicking on the links out of curiosity.” And some of the others will be better-written.

The key to playing it safe, as always: go to sites that you know, check the news there. They really have the best coverage and if there is some amazing video, you know that it’s probably already been posted to YouTube or CNN.

Until next time.


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About Melinda Plemel

Melinda has been working at Return Path for 9 years and is currently the Senior Industry Advocate and is responsible for managing global partners that join Return Path's Data Exchange program and emerging markets. She is the key to helping and educating Return Path on mailbox providers, anti-spam, and email technology trends, as well as to educating receivers about everything Return Path has to offer.

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