Sunday, October 30, 2011

Report from MCM Forward–ISAF Division

Today Marines all over the planet are participating in a tradition that is almost as sacred as the Marine Corps Birthday Ball. That tradition is the Marine Corps Marathon.  Here at Headquarters International Security Assistance Forces, Kabul, Afghanistan the tradition is carried forward with pride.

Twenty two runners from the different nations and services here at ISAF registered for the twenty six plus mile run inside the compound. Marine Corps four star General John Allen, Commander ISAF addressed the runners just prior to the playing of the US National Anthem and posing for group photos.


As noted by General Allen, the thirty five year old Marine Corps Marathon is the fifth largest marathon in the United States and the ninth largest race in the world. The MCM is THE largest marathon that awards no cash prizes. That little factoid didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the racers waiting for the starting whistle.

Several participants were running for charity, one being the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. The man ran in memory of Major Doug Zembiec, USMC who was killed 11 May 2007 while leading a raid in Baghdad, Iraq.



The first MCM Forward was held in 2006 at Al Asad Airbase which hosted 109 finishers. MCM Forward is the name given to any Marine Corp Marathon event held outside of the United States.

Annually the MCM registers 30,000 participants.

While the participants here at ISAF will make up just a small fraction of the overall number of runners in this year’s MCM, these twenty two racers run for the same feeling of accomplishment and pride of service and country that motivate all the others.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The return of the Spammers

Several of the email groups I read have recently been hit with bouts of spam. No, not the kind that comes in a can that you buy in the grocery; the type that arrives in your email inbox and can carry all sorts of nastiness with it.

What was unsettling about these recent bouts were that they all came from members of the list. A number of the lists members were concerned that their ISP accounts had been hacked. While that is always a possibility, especially with hack groups targeting the larger application as a service providers, Google, Yahoo, Hotmail and others, it was more likely that the user’s email address was hijacked, rather than the account itself being broken into.

Spammers love valid e-mail addresses. One way that they gather valid email addresses is sit in groups like the ones I receive and harvest valid addresses. The larger the groups, the more addresses they get. They also launch spiders onto the web to read web pages and gather the contact addresses of webmasters and the like. It’s a big reason why you see more and more sites using fill in the blank web forms to contact the owners/support staff rather than just a simple email address.

Once a spammer gets your address, they use a simple mailing program to launch mail out into the internet. Electronic mail is not secure, so there is no checking to ensure that the address the spammer is using actually belongs to him or her. As long as it’s a valid format it flies down the wires just like normal mail into the recipient’s mailbox.

The spammer is hoping that if the recipient sees an address they are familiar with, they are more likely to open the message, click on the link or open the attachment. Sometimes that will get you an advertisement to make a body part larger, or for cheap drugs from Canada or Mexico. A lot of times now that link or attachment will compromise your computer, connecting you to a botnet or worst.

Protection isn’t that hard, but you do have to be vigilant. If you don’t have an anti-virus product on your computers, get one. Scan your machine on a regular basis, once a week at least. Good AV programs have a scheduler for this that will kick off a scan during your down hours. Your Internet Service Provider may have excellent software from brand name providers available as part of your subscription to their service. Check out the ISP’s website for more information.

Look at the email you’re receiving. If it looks suspicious, hit the delete key. If sweet Auntie May is sending you a link for a drug that supposed to make body parts that neither of you have, BIGGER STRONGER AND LAST LONGER hit the delete key.  If hubbie/boyfriend/guy next door is sending you an attachment that promises “hunky guys and beautiful beach babes for your wallpaper” Do Not Touch the attachment. Hit the delete key.

The bottom line on all of this is, get protected, use the protection and if it’s unexpected, be suspicious.

Practice safe hex, it’s a dangerous world online.