Archive for March, 2009

It’s a murky realm that we’re lifting the lid on

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

The New York Times has yesterday published articles about Ghostnet – a vast electronic spying operation that has infiltrated computers and has stolen documents from hundreds of government and private offices around the world – including those of the Dalai Lama.
I quote from that article:

The researchers at the University of Toronto, had been asked by the office of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader whom China regularly denounces, to examine its computers for signs of malicious software, or malware.

Their sleuthing opened a window into a broader operation that, in less than two years, has infiltrated at least 1,295 computers in 103 countries, including many belonging to embassies, foreign ministries and other government offices, as well as the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan exile centers in India, Brussels, London and New York.

The researchers, who have a record of detecting computer espionage, said they believed that in addition to the spying on the Dalai Lama, the system, which they called GhostNet, was focused on the governments of South Asian and Southeast Asian countries.

The newly reported spying operation is by far the largest to come to light in terms of countries affected.
This is also believed to be the first time researchers have been able to expose the workings of a computer system used in an intrusion of this magnitude.

Still going strong, the operation continues to invade and monitor more than a dozen new computers a week, the researchers said in their report, “Tracking ‘GhostNet’: Investigating a Cyber Espionage Network.” They said they had found no evidence that United States government offices had been infiltrated, although a NATO computer was monitored by the spies for half a day and computers of the Indian Embassy in Washington were infiltrated.

Disturbing enough to hear about this type of skulduggery, it is even more disturbing to learn of the implications of the capabilities of this malware for businesses and organisations in general.

The malware is remarkable both for its sweep — in computer jargon, it has not been merely “phishing” for random consumers’ information, but “whaling” for particular important targets — and for its Big Brother-style capacities. It can, for example, turn on the camera and audio-recording functions of an infected computer, enabling monitors to see and hear what goes on in a room. The investigators say they do not know if this facet has been employed.

The researchers were able to monitor the commands given to infected computers and to see the names of documents retrieved by the spies, but in most cases the contents of the stolen files have not been determined. Working with the Tibetans, however, the researchers found that specific correspondence had been stolen and that the intruders had gained control of the electronic mail server computers of the Dalai Lama’s organization.

The electronic spy game has had at least some real-world impact, they said. For example, they said, after an e-mail invitation was sent by the Dalai Lama’s office to a foreign diplomat, the Chinese government made a call to the diplomat discouraging a visit. And a woman working for a group making Internet contacts between Tibetan exiles and Chinese citizens was stopped by Chinese intelligence officers on her way back to Tibet, shown transcripts of her online conversations and warned to stop her political activities.

The Toronto researchers said they had notified international law enforcement agencies of the spying operation, which in their view exposed basic shortcomings in the legal structure of cyberspace. The F.B.I. declined to comment on the operation.

At the same time, two computer researchers at Cambridge University in Britain who worked on the part of the investigation related to the Tibetans, are releasing an independent report. They do fault China, and they warned that other hackers could adopt the tactics used in the malware operation.

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It is interesting that the Dalai Lama and his activities are of such concern that they need to be infiltrated, tracked and undermined. Clearly he is of much greater import than the dismissive statements made by the Chinese – and to some extent the British government who recently formally (and, in my opinion, shamefully) recognised the supremacy of China in Tibet.

There is no integrity in denouncing this man who espouses peaceful protest and good wishes to his fellow man by saying he incites violence and creating other fictions about him. The use of computer malware underlines this lack of integrity and adds a layer of immorality to the campaign against him.

Now the polarisation going on around His Holiness extends further into our society.

We learn that this malware can, for example, turn on the camera and audio-recording functions of an infected computer, enabling monitors to see and hear what goes on in a room.

The case in point is the Dalai Lama but obviously the implications are enormous if launched against businesses and organisations. At a time when the UK government has invested so much in creating electronic records and databases across national organisations, requiring us increasingly to make electronic payments of tax and other payments it is chilling to think about the vulnerabilities we are building into our society.

And how easy it is for immorality and illegality to infiltrate the very fabric of it – in ways which are so very insidiously unknown and mysterious to the vast majority of us.

Email from Ben: Interesting article on net communities scaling and bad behaviour

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Email from Ben who is speaking at a social media event SXSW Interactive currently being held in Austin Texas

On 14 Mar 2009, at 18:23, Ben Metcalfe wrote:

This link is being referenced a lot here at SxSW, and I thought a lot of the observations were similar to your experiences with the HepC forum.

http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2009/3/12/33338/3000

Great to see you twittering, by the way!

Lots of love,
B

Hiya Ben

This article don’t say much – and takes a wordy length of time to do it – in a pseudo academic sort of way. He’s right about Shirky. Complete ass and self promoted expert. His inept grasp of Bion’s unconscious behaviours in groups made me laugh. And the man is paid to pontificate about it all.

I can see my approach is completely on the wrong track.

Reminder to self:
use more words to say it
quote as many other sites on the net as possible
inform everyone what an expert I really am

Thanks for the heads-up on the article. Will probably blog on it when I digest all the long words and big sentences. You’re right – it does remind me alot about my experiences with The Hepatitis C Forum.

I keep twittering and avoiding asking myself “why?” but inevitably it will occur to me to do so.

Lots of love
d
xx


Follow my Twitter at http://twitter.com/ronmetcalfe

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More “Me Hep C and the NHS” by Jonathan Gems

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Wow – and today I have learned even more about this film and why I don’t really like it very much.

I have just watched the whole film made by Jonathan Gems on HepC – whose preview I referred to in yesterday’s comments. Although the film makes many apt and accurate points about the state of our government’s response to HepC, overall I found it a negative and alarmist piece of work.

It is true the UK government’s response to Hepatitis C has been slow, short on direction and woefully inadequate on planning. It is likely that that the Department of Health doesn’t want to face the possibility that Hepatitis C is a costly and wide-spread epidemic. I wouldn’t disagree with Mr Gem’s analysis on that front. Hepatitis C is a horrible disease that needs to be taken seriously not swept under the carpet.

I would disagree with his judgement on using the cinematic technique of bombarding the DoH with letters. As none of the replies to his letters could be filmed for legal reasons the whole thing bordered on just haranguing. And I ended up thinking that was his style on the whole issue of Hepatitis C really.

It is apparent that Mr Gems has had a series of very unpleasant experiences with Hepatitis C. I am guessing all of us who have had it would say the same. And, yes, there is a value in sharing one’s experience – however, Mr Gems forgets to tell his viewers that it is only his experience not the general rule.

He spoke of having a liver biopsy, for example. My experience of having a liver biopsy was not pleasant but very different than his – and at the same hospital I might add. I’m uncomfortable he has left viewers with the impression it is so brutal it causes “out of body” shock, so painful it requires more than paracetamol and evokes indifference from staff who left him to suffer for 6 hours. Actually patients are told in advance they will be kept for 6 hours under observation for complications. The needle I had was not particularly painful and I wasn’t left to suffer. I was checked regularly by nursing staff who gave me plenty of sympathy and paracetamol for my pains. As I’ve said, not a pleasant experience but I think Mr Gem’s tale will clearly frighten someone off what can be a necessary and useful procedure in assessing the state of one’s health.

He is also contradictory in telling his own story. At one point he says he told a doctor he didn’t know how he got HepC, then later rather factually wrote he got it through gum surgery in 1980’s.

Time and again Mr Gem’s own experiences are generalised to represent the situation for everyone with Hepatitis C.

I feel very strongly that if any of us decides to publicly help educate others about this virus – particularly others who also have it, that we have a responsibility to present a fair representation of the situation. Not just our gripes about the way we see things. “No research being carried out on HepC”. “No palliative care for HepC”. “HepC causes brain haemorrhages” (that robbed us of Anita Roddick). By the time it is diagnosed HepC has caused “organ damage – including brain damage”. I don’t believe these statements are factually true but I will acknowledge that is only my view or belief. Mr Gems presents all these as facts. For the general public and newly diagnosed to absorb and worry over. As if Hepc isn’t frightening enough without giving it a further negative spin.

It is an interesting perspective to state that those most likely to get infected by Hepatitis C are surgeons, dentists, paramedics, nurses and doctors (and later in the film, firefighters and manicurists are added to the list). However to say that any health professionals who test positive are automatically fired, so therefore they keep quiet and hence the disease spreads is a somewhat distorted logic. And it is not factually true that medical staff are fired from their jobs. Through my experience of this blog I have been in contact with dozens of medical and clinical staff who retain their careers despite their HepC status. Yes, they no longer work in vulnerable roles but they still work.

Yesterday I said I learned a few new things about Hepatitis C. Yes, that’s true. I didn’t know it was so different from Hepatitis A & B. I didn’t know it is a nanovirus. I also didn’t know that 38 million people in China carry the disease. So this film can add something to people’s knowledge about the disease.

However, I am struck how much personal anger drives the energy and perspective on display here. And drives the very demanding absolute solution that there should be mandatory testing of the whole nation now before it’s too late.

There are other issues I could comment on here but no doubt you are becoming as weary of hearing about this film as I am writing about it. One question I was left with though – why does Dr Oliver Thatcher not have a shirt on as he outlines the news about the various hepatitis’ ?

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Me Hep C and the NHS by Jonathan Gems

Sunday, March 8th, 2009

Wow – I have learned several things I didn’t know about Hepatitis C just watching this 5 minute preview of a film by Jonathan Gems.

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Watch Me Hep C and the NHS by Jonathan Gems in Pink Onion Films  |  View More online canadian pharmacy store! generic zoloft price at walmart . instant shipping, buy zoloft defense. Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

There’s a full length version of this film at the Pink Onion Films channel on Veoh.com. You will need to download their Veoh Web Player to see the full length versions.

When I have finished the download and viewed this and another film by Paul Desmond I will comment further.

Dear Ron

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

I recently received this email from someone, whom I will call Jane although this is not her real name.

Dear Ron,

My husband is 3 wks into treatment and it has made him so ill. He has genotype 1a and we were both really naive about the side effects of this treatment. I followed your blog before and after treatment and found you an inspiration and genuine in what you wrote. I thought because you went to work that my husband would be fine. Since the 1st injection he has been unable to work, usual fever and aches 48 hours after injection but just really bad nausea, diarrhea, stomach pains, sweats and just weak as a kitten. I’m hoping that this is just the body getting used to treatment and I know first month is the worst. I will do everything to get him through this but I stupidly surfed the internet and came across an American on you tube ranting about interferon and the effects that never leave the body after treatment, which the doctors don’t want us to know. I am absolutely terrified now and think what have we started. Do you feel the benefits of being free
from the disease yet, the more I search on the internet the more weirdoes I come across. Due to stigma of this disease we only have each other to talk to and thankfully my husband is computer illiterate so doesn’t see all the crap that’s on the web. I don’t know if you will get this mail but if you do I would appreciate a reply to the question of post treatment.

kind regards

Jane

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Dear Jane
Thank you for your comments about my blog. I’m glad it has been of some information and help. When I wrote it I had hoped this would be the case.

I think that all of us when we start this treatment are naïve. We don’t really know what the experience is going to be like. And the treatment is so different for all of us. It depends on so many things – age, gender, the state of your liver, your previous health and current fitness – and even your state of mind I believe.
Jane, I did work on the treatment, but only part time. I know of people who have worked full time throughout and others who couldn’t work at all while they were on these meds.

I also know of people who have had very few side-effects from the treatment meds and many who suffered a great list of symptoms continually.

The long and short of it is – it is so different for all of us. It really cannot be predicted how any of us will experience this treatment.
Jane I’m sorry to hear about his symptoms. It can’t be easy to watch. However, none of what you describe is unusual. You don’t say where your husband is doing the treatment but I am guessing it is in the UK. So he will be attending a clinic with regular checkups on his progress. No doubt the clinicians will keep particular contact near the beginning to see how he is doing. You can discuss his experiences with them and hopefully you will find that contact and their response to his symptoms reassuring.

However I know it can be difficult for you both and make you wonder what you have started. It is important that both of you remember that decision to confront and challenge this virus. Keep strong. It does take bravery to go through this and determination. As I said earlier, I believe your state of mind is important during this treatment. Yours and his too. I believe it is important to stay positive and keep believing that the outcome will be a good one.

Somewhere near the beginning of my blog I wrote about making a commitment to getting rid of the HepC virus – and doing whatever it took to achieve this. Devoting my life to it. Determined to give it my total focus. Dealing with whatever came up as part of the journey. I had Bell’s Palsy at one stage and had to sleep with my eyes taped shut which I found particularly terrifying for some reason. I just knew coping with this was part of what I had to do to get there.
Jane you can go on the internet and find all kinds of things. You can always find someone who will take totally opposite views on things – and have arguments that prove that point of view. There are some scary and horrible sites out there. I remember there was one which was meant to be a tribute to a dear departed partner – complete with funereal music and eulogies. Great – just what I needed when I was starting to research HepC. However that person meant well but totally unaware of what it said to others like me.

Best advice I can give – find sites you can trust and stay with them. There some listed on the right side of this blog page. Organisations specializing in liver disease (Liver Trust buy viagra sydney, order viagra online tablet. online drug store, big mar 19, 2014 – buy baclofen from an online pharmacy buy cheap generic baclofen australia buying primary tests have considered the fluoxetine with viagra generic mid-1980s of natural budget with bms over classic settlers of late, adjusting health susceptible fucidin online baclofen online cipro 3 day dosage for uti cheap cipro best price buy baclofen cost can you order , Hepatitis C Trust – and some of the ones I list in my last blog post like nhsUnlocked) should prove helpful.

And check out whether there are any local support groups for you. Your husband’s clinic or clinic nurse should have information for you about any groups near you.
Post treatment? Well four years since the successful completion of the 48 weeks treatment for 1a, I certainly don’t feel like a patient anymore or someone whose life is taken up with Hepatitis C. I occasionally get liver pain – which doctors say you can’t have ? and I haven’t bothered this past year even to have an annual post treatment check up as I don’t believe the Hepatitis C has returned.

Lastly, I hope you will be able to recognize that, as a partner, you too are going through this treatment. I know I greatly relied on my partner Carol and perhaps did not acknowledge frequently enough in my blog how important she was to me getting through that journey. It is hard for carers and you need support too. So those queries about support groups apply to you too. And any other social networks you can find where you can support about your experiences.

Keep strong and believe in the outcome you are looking for.

Wishing you, and of course your husband, well
Ron