Not even an epidemic will stop the scammers

The other day I got a request to book my Airbnb spare room. I had completely forgot that I had blocked it out for my holiday to South Korean and Japan, which were cancelled. But hadn’t done anything after those dates, not really thinking my airbnb was still technically open.

The message was a mess…

Hello! Due to the situation in the country, I was sent from my company as a nurse to your city. I really liked your place, it seems really nice. It will be very suitable for me. I’m already waiting for this trip. But I have a couple questions. Please text me in Vhat is a * pp number + F0-ur, tvvo and z-еrrо, then sееve’ntys even, then goes tth_ree, 1’ 5” and 0ne, thre;e, ends with 98. See you soon!

Of course I could smell a scam from a mile away and responded, why don’t you ask the questions you have in Airbnb chat? Then added its lockdown in the UK and I won’t be taking any guests till things change with Covid19.

No reply of course and I rejected the request. But a week later airbnb contacted me.

Hi, Ian,

We’re reaching out because you were recently in contact with an account that was removed for violating the Airbnb Terms of Service.

Airbnb will never ask you to verify a listing or pay for anything outside of our site, through email, or through a third-party booker. If you sent money outside of Airbnb, you may have paid for a fraudulent reservation. Let us know what happened, and we’ll recommend next steps.

If someone asked you to communicate directly by email or through Facebook, or copy and paste a URL (http://www…) into a new browser window, or otherwise pay or communicate outside of the Airbnb website or app, we ask that you stop communication with them immediately.

If you did share personal information, like a password, please update your password immediately. If you use that same password for any other accounts (like your email), we recommend changing your password there too.

Of course I shared zero but I did find it interesting the scammer pulled on the strings with some urgency and being a nurse. Of course they had only signed up to be on Airbnb that same Month of April (meaning they had only signed up a few days before), had no vertifications, no reviews and the pretext of whatsapping them was straight from the airbnb scammers book.

I imagine there is a lot of desperate Airbnb hosts who might have sent a message to see whats possible?

Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (Mar 2020)

Microphones on a desk

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed by looking at the sorry state of the UK during our EU withdrawal or the tech press panic over the corona-virus.

To quote Buckminster Fuller “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

You are seeing aspects of this happening with the rise in unions and labor rights in the gig economy.


Google users in UK dropped into GDPR limbo

Ian thinks: I always thought this was going to happen, once out of the EU our data privacy laws won’t be respected by the GAFFA’s and why would they?

Signaling to the masses, leave whatsapp

Ian thinks: Signal as a behemoth is concerning but its clearly made the best use of open source licenses to keep itself in check. Love the new systems which are being built on the protocol, real opportunity for something very new.

A future without public service media?

Ian thinks: All public service is under treat and hearing the words of the CEO of the CBC, really sends the message loud and clear

Governments who lockout their Public service broadcasters

Ian thinks: Following the previous link, a look at the sorry state of American’s public service broadcasting. The up lift of donations is good but for how long, how sustainable is public donations?

Making the digital economy working for the 99%

Ian thinks: 3 words – Transparency, auditing, diversity.

Spotify’s plans to take over podcasting?

Ian thinks: The comparisons are spot on and its clear podcasting is going through a massive change right now. Spotify’s play to commodify and dominate is hard to break unless there is experiences they can not own.

Centralising podcasting with trapping techniques

Ian thinks: The writer makes a good point about Spotify taking decentralised open media and locking inside a closed proprietary system. Lessons to be learned for future services we use.

The utopian vision of Airbnb vs the harsh reality

Ian thinks: I like Airbnb, I’m even a host but its clear there isn’t just a problem but its fundamentally broken and actively exploited by too many.

Could containers for web browsing benefit you too?

Ian thinks: Been using Firefox containers for the last 6-8 months and find them incredibly useful. The user experience is a mess and provides an opportunity for design disruption.

If you are using whatsapp… update now and consider swapping to Signal!

Whatsapp on a mobile phone

Whatsapp, never used it never will. But I know many many of my friends do – please do update! Or even better dump it and use Signal messenger.

A security flaw in WhatsApp can be, and has been, exploited to inject spyware into victims’ smartphones: all a snoop needs to do is make a booby-trapped voice call to a target’s number, and they’re in. The victim doesn’t need to do a thing other than leave their phone on.

The Facebook-owned software suffers from a classic buffer overflow weakness. This means a successful hacker can hijack the application to run malicious code that pores over encrypted chats, eavesdrops on calls, turns on the microphone and camera, accesses photos, contacts, and other information on a handheld, and potentially further compromises the device. Call logs can be altered, too, to hide the method of infection.

The issue affects WhatsApp for Android prior to v2.19.134, WhatsApp Business for Android prior to v2.19.44, WhatsApp for iOS prior to v2.19.51, WhatsApp Business for iOS prior to v2.19.51, WhatsApp for Windows Phone prior to v2.18.348, and WhatsApp for Tizen prior to v2.18.15.

Whats that? Peer pressure?

Whatsapp on a phone

I recently came back from mobile roaming in Sarajevo; its been a while since I’ve been to a county where data roaming wasn’t as straight forward as its become. Even doing the standard replying to the automatic text didn’t work. (Although this isn’t about roaming data, although I have a long history when it comes to international roaming data).

It was kinda weird the assumption that everyone would be on Whatsapp. I understand the limitations of text messages and the greed of the mobile operators in the past around MMS and EMS, has crippled its use. Especially at 50p per message when internationally roaming on EE.

My colleagues ask over and over again, why am I not on Whatsapp? To be fair many others have asked the same question. So here’s some of my reasons.

  1. I simply don’t trust Facebook (owners of Whatsapp); I removed FB from my mobile devices and only put the lite version of messenger with all its permissions removed (inlcuding contact access)
  2. I read the Whatsapp End User Licence Agreement, a few years ago and then didn’t  agree with the terms especially around who they share the metadata with. I assume its changed but I don’t see a compelling reason to do it again.
  3. I don’t trust Whatsapp’s security implentation of Signals end to end message encryption; and is it all mute if Whatsapp is sharing the metadata anyway?
  4. This isn’t just because its FB; I don’t use Googe Allo either. I use certain systems for certain things. I get for most people Whatsapp is their ICQ but the benefit isn’t enough to make me use it.
  5. I don’t like the net neutrality issue, with certain mobile operators giving it priority over other services.

End of the day, everyone needs to make their own decision based on real information; not on social & peer pressure. Happy for you to be on Whatsapp but I won’t be joining you.

I wonder about the effect of Instagram on our minds

I have been having a discussion with Tim about Instagram recently. Interestingly its also the launch of Ingrid Goes West.

From tmdb

Ingrid becomes obsessed with a social network star named Taylor Sloane who seemingly has a perfect life. But when Ingrid decides to drop everything and move west to be Taylor’s friend, her behaviour turns unsettling and dangerous.

It doesn’t sound great, something like Friend Request and Unfriended.

Anyway…

I don’t use it because I have issues with the whole setup of instagram. Without going into too much detail, here’s the main points.

  1. I don’t agree with Instagram’s end user licence, which includes using your photos in almost anyway they like.
  2. I don’t like the creation of instagrams is all within the same app (for example I use a Plume on Android and Corebird on Ubuntu) to access Twiter and I create, edit and post to twitter not within twitter (it a important distinction)
  3. I don’t like the fact Instagram isn’t really public, indexable or accessible unless you are on instagram.
  4. I have a problem with filtered views of real life. Its bad enough that every photo you see has been doctored/photoshopped/filtered/algorithmicilly messed. But I don’t want to see them everyday.

Photoshopping

And the last point is a key one, as its clear there are serious problems with seeing this level of fakeness everywhere. Like it or not, it becomes normalised.

I hear some of you say this is no more than what Twitter or Facebook do/enable? and I would somewhat agree… but I have built ways to deal with this partly due to being able to use other apps or types of behaviours which run against the way it was engineered.

For example I don’t really look at the Facebook timeline, as I know its trying to lock me into a filter bubble, somewhat of my own making. Yes I could do a Robert Scoble and manage it into a better bubble, but I just don’t think its worthy of attention; plus Facebook doesn’t share this data in their data portability exports meaning all that work isn’t transferable at all. I know being without Facebook makes things very tricky but I can manage my activity within it right now, this might change of course as FB gets more greedy

Its easy to blame Instagram for all types of ills but its not solely them. Its a combination of Instagram and its share holders, the silicon valley push for winner takes all adoption of everything (dare I say anything about Uber in London) but most of all; ourselves for being suckers to peer pressure, advertising and patterns which are so established others are telling us exactly how they work!

We blindly follow suit without thinking about the long term effects. Mark Manson suggests the smartphone is going to be this generations cigarettes. When thinking about most peoples experience of the smartphone with Instagram, Facebook and Whatsapp preloaded, I can’t help but think actually he’s got a good point. Its the perfect Black Mirror episode, total fantasy as Rachel said!

Black MIrror s3ep1

We seem to be playing with fire without a true understanding of the consequences. Even if we do, how do you make this clear to others who are suckered in? How do you make this clear in the face of peer & social pressure? How do we make this clear to the next generation, the ones born with visions of a unattainable perfection all around them?

I’m not a sucker and won’t be joining to be a poster or lurker just so I can scroll through my friends fake reality pictures.

How to run two Whisper systems Signal clients on Linux side by side

Running two signal clients on Ubuntu
Running two signal clients on Ubuntu without the stress, made one d.ark and other light themed to remind me which one is which

I’m very sure I’m not the only one with 2 mobile phones (heck I really have 3 actual active SIM cards in 3 phones but thats another story).

I have chosen not to use WhatsApp as their EULA doesn’t fit well with me, so instead I always suggest Whisper Systems Signal client. I have many reasons including a linux web client but I have been wondering why one client couldn’t support multiple accounts? Especially since you can easily and securely verify the phone to the desktop client, using a generated token.

I’ve been wondering if I could run two signal apps or run them under different system users… then it dawned on me, its using Google Chrome’s app framework, maybe I could use Open Source Chrome aka Chromium to do the same? Surprisingly without having to setup another user account for the Chrome store, I was able to download Signal again and make Chromium launch it.

Now I have 2 completely separate signal apps which are linked to different phones but using the same Ubuntu desktop environment.

I know it might seem obvious but there seems to be a few people asking for multiple users using a single signal desktop app. I also saw if it could be installed in Firefox, but it looks more tricky that just hitting install from an app store. Sure my tip will work for MacOSX and likely Windows too?

Little tip for friends and followers which I thought was worth sharing… Now get yourself on Signal