naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (cascade)
I'm trying not to be political right now, but I'm really disappointed that this multibeaurocratic beast that we call the USA has failed so blatantly to take care of our fellow humans, and I have to say this:

I "lose sleep" all the time. That's a strange little saying, isn't it? It's not like I've misplaced hours of rest, that they're just sitting somewhere I've overlooked because I happened not to notice where I'd put them or why.

I think about all sorts of things, and I worry about all sorts of things. When I do manage to sleep when I'm really worried, I have pretty spectacular nightmares that are more exhausting than staying awake.

Usually, I cope... I'm not posting this just to wail and gnash my teeth. What I'm trying to say is that when I know badness is happening somewhere, it bothers me, and as a coping skill, rather than just worrying and awfulizing, I try to brainstorm things I can do to make a difference, do some research, make a checklist, and get off my butt about it, doing what I can. If I had to sum up my goals on this earth, in this life, it would be to leave this place in the black rather than in the red.

So how furious do you think I am to read that after getting a call from Governor Kathleen Blanco at 8:00 pm Monday night (the day the hurricane hit), asking him to send them "everything you've got", the President of these United States went to bed?

I'm somehow supposed to have sympathy for poor George. Having to cut short yet another five-freakin' week vacation to deal with the biggest natural disaster in the US in recent memory... but apparently still going to bed by 9pm. Not bothering to figure out what exactly was happening, how dire the sitation was.

By the way? I thought long and hard about taking a three day vacation right around Labor Day. Things have been really busy at work this summer and if I took any time off the catch-up would have been more brutal than just plowing through. I'm not saving anyone's life, I'm not doing groundbreaking scientific research... I'm just doing my part on a team keeping a university's central computing infrastructure working. I'm not deciding where and when to wage war, I'm not deciding who lives and who dies, I'm not deciding where to send limited military and civic resources to respond to disasters both natural and man-made. I'm just little ol' me.

And I'm furious.

I realize that disasters happen all the time, and that human suffering worldwide is a huge and ongoing problem. I realize that the scenes of refugees trying to get to safety on the Gulf Coast are no more or less poignant than similar scenes that happen around the world... and that American lives are no more and no less valuable than lives anywhere else. But it is frustrating and disheartening to see such poor coping skills, such lack of empathy and capability, such piss-poor organization of immediate assistance in crisis in my country. We have so many resources, there are so many of us, we should have been able to do more, sooner, to assist those in the path of Katrina. Mismanagement, miscommunication, lack of leadership, lack of planning, disaster plans that ignored the needs of the poor and the elderly and the ill... at this point, I don't know where all the various bits of blame should be laid, and I'm sure there are enough faults to go around about this, but I do know that there's one place where the buck stops for federal aid... the White House. At the end of the day, the captain of the ship has ultimate responsibility for his or her sailors and where the heck the boat has gone, you know?

I do my best to make a difference where I can. I work and I pay my taxes and I volunteer and donate where I can, and I doublecheck before I give of my money and my time to know it will be well-spent. I think about the big picture and what we as a species are doing to ourselves and our world. It's more and more obvious that though individuals may be like me, they're not the ones in charge of the power structures in this country.

MSNBC Newsweek: How Bush Blew It

Read [livejournal.com profile] plaidder. Read [livejournal.com profile] twistedchick. Read (...Parenthetically Speaking). And please, don't ask me how angry I am that many if not most of the rebuilding contracts for the damaged Gulf Coast region have been awarded by the US Government to Bush's friends at places like Haliburton.

I hope someone has the guts and the opportunity to speak truth to power. In the mean time, I'll try not to vent too much of my frustration here... that's not the purpose of this journal, and besides, I have work to do orienting all the new students so they don't infest the network with viruses, spyware, worms and spambots, plus my other job duties, and I'm digging into my second class of my graduate school program to get my MSIS.

Which reminds me... (...Parenthetically Speaking) linked to an article on computer security that I want to finish reading when I get a moment.

I hope the Red Cross and other relief organizations and simple heroic individuals can make the differences where our goverment has not. I made what donations I could this month as the hurricane made landfall. And now I've got to get back to work...
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (cascade)
Yes, there's a new email-travelling virus which is Just Nasty. Get the latest virus definitions and do not open unexpected attachments, even ones which appear to come from your Internet Service Provider. Most ISPs do not send security-improvement-related attachments to their customers, ever.

Symantec's writeup of mydoom.m

Here are some articles about what some of the new types of viruses and worms are doing.

From the Register:
Zombie PCs spew out 80% of spam

From PC Advisor:
Zombie PCs: a silent, growing threat

Update your virus definitions, everyone.
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (path less traveled)
Remember that RPC DCOM vulnerability I told you to run Windows Update about back here? Well, if you didn't patch, your systems are still vulnerable, and now there's a self-propagating worm that will make your computer-life miserable.

Systems are affected all over, and it really, really isn't pretty.

All unpatched Windows systems from NT4 on up are vulnerable:
- Microsoft Windows NT® 4.0
- Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 Terminal Services Edition
- Microsoft Windows 2000
- Microsoft Windows XP
- Microsoft Windows Serverâ„¢ 2003

And the worm will install itself, sometimes causing a rebooting loop for a while, and then spread to other computers across the internet from the infected computer. Can you say "exponential growth," boys and girls? I knew you could... Also, any system with the unpatched RPC vulnerability is somewhat likely to be under the complete control of a hacker, and you have no way of knowing easily what else they might have done to the system. Alternatively, sometimes the worm just manages to crash your system, over and over again.

Further information, containment and cleanup instructions:
http://www.cert.org/advisories/CA-2003-20.html
http://securityresponse.symantec.com/avcenter/venc/data/w32.blaster.worm.html
http://securityresponse.symantec.com/avcenter/security/Content/8205.html
http://www.microsoft.com/technet/treeview/default.asp?url=/technet/security/bulletin/MS03-026.asp
http://news.zdnet.co.uk/0,39020330,39115630,00.htm

As always, good security practices are:
- regularly patching your OS with critical updates
- regularly patching your software (like Internet Explorer)
- turning off all unnecessary services on your machine
- regularly updating your virus definitions
- running a full system virus scan regularly
- running real-time protection with your virus software
- installing/configuring a firewall (XP's built-in version, Norton Internet Security, ZoneAlarm, etc.)
- backing up your files regularly
- choosing good passwords for everything, and changing them regularly

If you suspect that a hacker has done a lot of damage to your system, including installing back doors, trojaned software, or keystroke loggers, the more surefire way to deal with it is to back up all of your files, reinstall your OS, patch it, reinstall all of your software, restore your files from backup, and institute a coherent and systematic security practices plan, as listed above.

Hope this helps someone...
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (path less traveled)
If you are running WinNT, Win2K or WinXP, please protect your systems according to the instructions at Microsoft's bulletin here. Attacks using this exploit have been extremely successful, and can result in total compromise of Windows systems.

The simplest way to protect your Windows computer against this exploit is to run Windows Update and be sure that all critical and security patches are installed. If for some reason you do not choose to do that, there are two other ways to protect against this exploit, both detailed in the Microsoft bulletin linked above.

If your Windows machine unexpectedly rebooted itself within the past few days, chances are fairly high that some hacker now has complete control of your system.

As the bulletin says, "An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability would be able to run code with Local System privileges on an affected system. The attacker would be able to take any action on the system, including installing programs, viewing changing or deleting data, or creating new accounts with full privileges."

As always:
- make sure you back up your critical files
- have your OS and software installation and licensing information available and well-organized in case you need to do a complete system rebuild and reinstall
- turn off all inbound services you do not use
- regularly run Windows Update (or whatever the equivalent is for your operating system) so that patches to your OS are up to date
- run anti-virus software like Symantec's Norton AntiVirus or McAfee
- regularly run LiveUpdate (or whatever the equivalent is for your anti-virus software) so that your software is using the latest virus definitions to protect your computer.
- turn on Real Time Protection (or whatever the equivalent is for your anti-virus software) so that as you send and receive files, they are scanned by your anti-virus software before they can do any harm.
- also consider running a firewall and/or logging system like Norton Internet Security, Windows' native firewall, or ZoneAlarm, so your computer can block malicious inbound network attacks, and so you have a log of what may have happened if your computer is compromised.

The hackers likely have more time and more effort to spend trying to break into your computer than you want to spend recovering from an attack. Protection is much easier than cleanup.

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