Get Rich Quick – and Poor Even Faster

A pretty odd tale of Internet fraud in today’s press. An Australian man decided to check out one of the many spam money making emails. He wound up stumbling on what looks like a neat money laundering operation. He handed over details of a bank account (one which he had not used for ages). Lo and behold $23,000 arrived in the account, with instructions to forward 90% of the funds via Western Union to another account.

He got in touch with the Australian Federal Police, and the bank, although seems disapointed with the bank’s response – or lack of it.

What’s quite bizarre is the response from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission:

“A spokesman from the ACCC said it was not the responsibility of the organisation to issue warnings about such scams; if people were charged or there were court proceedings resulting from such activity, a mention would be made, he said. Else, such matters did not come within its purview.”

Because they publish a Little Black Book of scams on their web site, and lots of other general scam related con merchant warnings.

Pick a Jurisdiction

Don’t like the rules in your country – move to another one! It does all seem rather obvious. The operators of “The Official Home of Australian Cricket” have move its hosting to the UK. Who runs it? ninemsn – Kerry Packer and Microsoft. ninemsn says “the UK move was carried out for performance reasons”. Pity nobody told the current host – Hostworks in Adelaide. Hostworks says “None of the discussions we’ve had with them have involved performance”. Which is understandable. Hostworks is one of the largest hosters in the country, and looks after all the other ninemsn sites, none of which are moving.

The Australian newspaper today is quoting sources as saying “ninemsn wanted to avoid the risk of being involved with an illegal operation after being contacted by the AFP”.

Why was ninemsn contacted by the Federal Police? Because of complaints about Baggy Green running online gambling advertisements had been referred to the police by the Department of Communications, IT and the Arts.

Who’s tried an online gambling business in Australia? Kerry Packer. Except, because Australian laws prevent online gambling, he based his site offshore in Vanuatu. He did close it in May 2003, after a reported $5.6 million loss.

All this highlights is how easy it is for businesses to simply ignore the rules in any particular country. If they don’t like the regieme in one jurisdiction, they simply move operations to another, taking advantage of local conditions.

And no this is not a symptom of the internet. Businesses have always sought to exploit local conditions, whether it’s as benign as locating call centres off short in India, or more pragmatic, like McDonalds continuing to use foam packaging in any country where environment laws aren’t so strict, or chemical manufacturers shifting plants to third world countries where local authorities turn a blind eye to the side effects.

Check Your Links

Studio giant Miramax is standing by a cease and desist letter it sent to the owner of, claiming the King Fu site was selling copies of a movie the studio has the rights to. Trouble is, the site doesn’t sell films, it just linked to the legitimate distributor of the film, although the link was old in that the distributor no longer sells the film. And therein was the basis of Miramax’s problem.

This is an interesting microcosm. Kung Fu Cinema is a site providing reviews and information about a particular movie genre, established by a passionate individual, and no threat commercially to a company like Miramax – not that it even sees itself as a threat in the first place.

How many fan sites are there on the Net? How many link, as a courtesy to their readers, to other sites retailing movies? Does Miramax intend to threaten them all? A ridiculous thought. But the parallel with the music end of the business is clearly apparent. Teenagers in Sydney now have a criminal record after being found guilty of an offence – operating a web site which linked to music content. Sure, some of that content may or may not have been legitimately offered for download by the linked sites. And that’s why the teens have a rap sheet.

But put all this together, and the inevitable conclusion is that anyone who operates a web site as part of their passion or hobby, better make damn sure they don’t link to web sites which aren’t legitimately distributing copyrighted content.

Sounds so easy to say. Now try and make it a reality.

The Matrix – Open Source or Microsoft

Has it occured to anyone the Matrix would never work! I started to wonder, was the Matrix built on an open source or Microsoft platform? Because, of course, if it’s open source, once the original programmer moves on, noone’ll be able to figure out how it works; and if it’s Microsoft, they’d never keep up with the patches.

Rewards to Dob In a Virus Author

Microsoft is now offering rewards to catch virus authors.

They’ve announced the creation of the Anti-Virus Reward Program, initially funded with $5 million to “help law enforcement agencies identify and bring to justice those who illegally release damaging worms, viruses and other types of malicious code on the Internet. Microsoft will provide the monetary rewards for information resulting in the arrest and conviction of those responsible for launching malicious viruses and worms on the Internet. Residents of any country are eligible for the reward, according to the laws of that country, because Internet viruses affect the Internet community worldwide.”

You Can’t Teach Old Public Servants New Operating Systems

The Australian Capital Territory is wearing its I Hate Bill Gates T-Shirts in parliament now. They are just about to adopt a bill which says that public bodies should, as far as practicable, consider the use of open source software when procuring computer software. Which means not Microsoft basically – because they’ve already handed over $15 million to the Billmeister this year, and think they could spend the money more wisely. Can’t wait for all those beaurocratic funsters to sit at their desks one day to find their Windows desktops replaced with some other GUI. Let’s see how long it takes them to change their wallpaper, and learn how to print a document all over again. And more interestingly, the bill for technical support throughout any transition period from Windows to open source. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and I suspect, you can’t teach old public servants new operating systems.

320,000 Australians Looking For Love Online

Well we Australians are a love-lacking mob. “The country’s internet dating websites have experienced a 93 per cent increase in use in the last year, according to internet monitoring service Hitwise. ” Web site reckons they’ve hit 320,000 members. That’s a whole lot of people using online for a single purpose – an interesting market segment now I come to think of it. And this is just one of the dating services, there are several others.

Be interesting to know just how many Australians all up and signed onto these site. The technology is really pretty simple – content management on a medium scale. And the sites all work pretty much the same way (as far as I can tell, having not actually had the need to employ their services). It’s an age old formula, boy meets girl. The online sites just replicate that other most honourable tradition, the blind date.

Makes you think there must be a killer app around the corner somewhere, which could exploit this pool of registrants, in the nicest commerical way.

ISP Employees Responsible for Web Site Content

Not content with pursuing teenagers in court, the Australian music industry is now suing the employee of an ISP, who was unluckily the assigned staffer for an MP3 download web site, hosted by his employer.

Chris Takoushis was the sales person who handled the ISP’s client. He’s one of several people involved with the ISP, including two of the company’s directors, now named in court action taken by six record labels over the site

The site only linked to music content, and did not host the songs. The Music Piracy Investigation Force reckons 140 million songs were downloaded as a result of the site’s links in a 12 month period.

The MPIF says: “employees of ISPs who were aware of illegal activities being carried out at work would be targeted in future if this case was successful, but would be granted “amnesty” if they informed the music industry. “

So now employees of ISPs are going to be held responsible for what the owners of hosted web site do? How can this just stop at music? If the principle is established the sky’s the limit in terms of taking legal action against ISP functionaries for all manner of copyright and legal breaches.

Bit like suing the bloke who runs the printing press at the local newspaper because of a libelous article!