Oct 30, 2008

Google Android

British gadget fans will be able to get their hands on the first mobile phone powered by Google today, as the much-anticipated G1 goes on sale in the UK for the first time.

The G1, which is being sold by the phone network T-Mobile, will be available from the company's shops from as early as 7am – with thousands of people expected to queue in order be among the first buyers.

A T-Mobile spokeswoman told the Guardian that the company was not sure how great demand would be today, but said 25,000 people had registered their interest since the phone was unveiled in New York last month.

The G1 comes free with a £40-a-month contract and boasts a number of high-end features including global satellite positioning, wireless internet access and built-in support for a number of Google applications.

Hospital bungles leave trail of harm

About 260 people died or suffered serious harm from major mistakes in public hospitals, according to a new report that suggests such errors are on the rise.

The report also estimates that each year 200,000 Australians get infections such as golden staph associated with their treatment.

More than 1.5 million Australians experience problems with their medications annually, resulting in 400,000 visits to GPs, 140,000 admissions to hospitals and ''significant'' costs.

The figures are from Windows into Safety and Quality in Health Care 2008, a report issued yesterday by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care.

The commission's chief executive, Professor Chris Baggoley, said there were clearly ''safety challenges in health care''.

''It would be nice to think that health care would be trouble-free but even ... our own illnesses are complex.

''What we need to do is take advantage of [the] best systems to improve that.''

Health departments report so-called ''sentinel events'' where procedures are performed on the wrong patient or body part, an inpatient commits suicide or patients need a second operation to remove instruments or material left inside their bodies during the first operation.

Other sentinel events are when babies are sent home with the wrong family, women die or suffer serious complications during childbirth, patients are given the wrong blood type or they die because of medication errors or gas embolisms in their blood vessels.

In 2006-07, public hospitals recorded 257 sentinel events almost 120 more than the figure for 2005-06.

Oct 29, 2008

Nick McKenzie: Money trail goes global

FEDERAL and state police are being outgunned by sophisticated crime syndicates, drug imports are rising and authorities must take on new crime-fighting techniques, according to a Federal Government report.

The Australian Government Jurisdictional Report — prepared for an inter-governmental meeting on money laundering held in Sri Lanka this week — delivers a damning assessment of the national struggle to combat "highly resilient" crime groups that funnel billions in dirty money offshore.

The report also warns of organised crime's infiltration of the sharemarket and the need for authorities to use new ways of "identifying the money trail".

The report says "investigations conducted by the ACC (Australian Crime Commission) suggest that most profit-driven organised crime-related activities continue to escape the detection of state, territory and federal law enforcement agencies".

"Most criminal proceeds also escape the detection of AML (anti-money laundering regulators) and there is a significant gap between the known values of proceeds of crime being transferred abroad and what is identified by law enforcement, AUSTRAC and the financial sector," the report says.

The amount of illicit drugs imported into Australia "may have previously been underestimated by a significant margin", the report warns, noting that cocaine trafficking is rising fast and ecstasy is in high demand.

The report was tabled this week at the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering in Colombo, Sri Lanka, whose co-chairman is Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty.

It was compiled by several police agencies, including financial watchdog AUSTRAC and the ACC, the nation's peak criminal intelligence agency.

In a swipe at traditional anti-drug law enforcement, the report says the recent work of the ACC and AUSTRAC "proves that intelligence-driven investigations into large-scale money laundering are highly successful", and has led to the arrest of criminals who had "previously been undetectable".

The report says a recent ACC operation focusing on criminals working with four money remitters in Sydney and Melbourne found that $300 million of drug money had been sent offshore.

"The value of funds currently being remitted to high-risk countries is today higher than immediately before the (operation's) arrest phase," the report says.

ACC modelling reveals that up to $12 billion in dirty money is being pumped overseas annually, much of it to Asian-based criminal syndicates.

The report says corrupt money movers are devising ways to circumvent Australia's new laws on money laundering and terrorist financing. The ACC has "serious concerns" about the self-reporting standards of hundreds of small money remitters.

The report warns that the Australian sharemarket can be illegally manipulated by organised criminals or terrorist financiers. The "money laundering and terrorism financing techniques (that) exist within the securities sector" include the use of front companies and pump-and-dump schemes, in which share prices are artificially forced up via assaults on stocks with criminal funds.

"In instances such as this, criminals may profit twice: once from their initial criminal activity, then again from the increased share prices."

The report also says the introduction of a carbon emissions trading scheme "will provide opportunities for exploitation by organised crime groups".

Among the case studies in the report are cocaine importers who created bank accounts in the names of their infant grandchildren to buy luxury cars and properties. Investigators also found that a drug trafficking group had used online soccer betting to offset their drug debts and earnings.

Google phone hits Australia via eBay

As with the first iPhone, eBay has created a grey market for Australians looking to buy the Google mobile phone, which is only available in the US with no clear local launch date in sight.

The HTC G1, the first phone based on Google's Android platform, is selling on the auction site for about $1000.

Mark Novosel, telecommunications analyst at IDC, said the devices bought through eBay, which are listed as being "unlocked", should work perfectly on local networks in metropolitan areas but would work only on slower 2G networks in regional areas.

The only exception is Telstra's Next G network, which isn't supported by the handset.

One seller shipping the phones from Hong Kong is offering them for $1025, while US-based sellers have them listed for about $940.

These prices are significantly inflated compared with those enjoyed by Americans.

The Google phones were launched in the US a week ago exclusively on the T-Mobile network for $US179 on a two-year contract. This week Wal-Mart announced it would be selling the phone at a discount for $US148.88.

Australian carriers Telstra, Vodafone, Optus and Three have said they are examining the device with interest following rave reviews from critics. But none have announced launch plans.

Industry sources said that Google, not HTC, had the power to decide when to launch the phone in markets outside the US, including Australia.

Google refused to comment, although other manufacturers are also working on Android-based phones, which could be launched in Australia independently of Google.

Novosel said the imported G1 phones would work on all Australian carriers if all that was required was slower 2G connectivity. For 3G connectivity, the G1 will work only if the carrier's network uses the 2100MHz frequency band.

"Currently Three's entire network is 2100MHz, Optus and Vodafone's in capital cities and major regional centres is 2100MHz, but rural areas and beyond is 900MHz, so it will not work on the 900MHz components," he said.

Telstra's Next G network runs on the 850MHz frequency so would not be supported either, Novosel said.

Dithering over the local Google phone launch could provide ample opportunity for other manufacturers to launch competing offerings.

Three is working on its own brand of smartphone called INQ, which will compete with the iPhone, Android and handsets from Nokia and Motorola. Three's local spokeswoman Sarah Virtue said the company planned to launch INQ in Australia "prior to Christmas".

Research released by Telesyte last week revealed Australia's annual smartphone shipments have grown almost 40 times from five years ago and that nearly three in 10 mobile phones sold this year would be smartphones

Microsoft Introduces Windows 7, Ending Vista Brand

Microsoft introduced what it said would be a slimmer and more responsive version of its Windows operating system on Tuesday, while unceremoniously dropping the brand name Vista for the new product. The new version will instead be branded Windows 7, because it is the seventh of a long line of operating systems for PCs developed by the company since the 1980s. The company did not say when it would sell Windows 7 to the public.

The company also said that it was planning to introduce a Web-based version of its Office programs, which is aimed at heading off a new wave of competitors like Google Docs and Zoho, which have deployed word processors, spreadsheets and presentation programs that run on a Web browser. The company was vague, however, about how it would price the programs and acknowledged that it would face skeptical Wall Street analysts who think the strategy would cannibalize the company’s profitable Office franchise.

After almost two years, Windows Vista is still getting a lackluster reception from consumers and facing a relentless marketing barrage from Apple.

Oct 22, 2008

Dutch teens convicted of virtual theft

A Dutch court has convicted two teenagers of theft for stealing virtual items in a computer game and sentenced them to community service.

Radio Netherlands reports that the two teenagers - a 15 and a 14-year-old - were found guilty of using violence to rob a 13-year-old classmate of virtual property in the multiplayer online game RuneScape.

The Dutch broadcaster's English language news services reported that the victim was coerced into transferring the item to the older boys after they "kicked and struck the victim and threatened him with a knife"on several occasions last year.

Only a handful of such cases have been heard in the world, and they have reached varying conclusions about the legal status of "virtual goods".

The Leeuwarden District Court said described the virtual goods as an amulet and a mask.

"These virtual goods are goods (under Dutch law), so this is theft," the court said on Tuesday in a summary of its ruling.

Identities of the minors were not released.

The 15-year-old was sentenced to 200 hours service, and the 14-year-old to 160 hours.

Oct 18, 2008

Internet fraudsters busted

A secret ring of internet fraudsters who bought and sold credit card details online has been smashed by police.

Officers from the elite Serious Organised Crime Agency arrested 11 people in Leics, Manchester, Humberside, South Yorks and London who were members of the DarkMarket site. They set up a forum offering guides on how to hack into a computer to steal account details and read the data in the magnetic strip on credit cards. They also sold passwords to virtual games, social networking and online email sites. The FBI estimated the scale of potential fraud and loss at £40million.

Nearly 60 people traced through the forum have been arrested in the US, Germany, Turkey and Britain. Soca deputy director Sharon Lemon said: "These aren't geeks we're talking about. These are serious and organised criminals."

Oct 12, 2008

Good bye Greed; Hello Fear

Greed is gone, fear is here | Herald Sun: "THE oldest adage on Wall Street is that only two emotions count in driving the stock market: fear and greed.

Greed seems to have got us into trouble, but right now fear is winning.

So far this year fear has wiped almost 40 per cent off stock markets from Tokyo to Frankfurt. And there is no end in sight, with Wall Street this week registering two of its biggest daily falls of the post-war era.

The latest monster falls on stock markets across the globe are ratcheting up the pressure on the world's leading financial ministers and central bankers meeting in Washington this weekend.

Most of these leaders demand the US government abandon its centuries of free market principles and provide direct investment into the US banking system in a bid to strike at the heart of the problem: frozen credit markets.

About a month ago, after the collapse of the giant investment bank Lehman Brothers, the world's banks, already reluctant to lend to each other, virtually ceased lending altogether.

Until recently, lending among the banks in the credit market was a vital but behind-the-scenes activity, overshadowed by the more sexy equity markets and dramatic Mergers and Acquisitions activity."

Life of the party may be at risk

YOUNG professionals who use alcohol and recreational drugs to cope with stressful jobs and long hours have been warned they risk addiction and serious illness.

Experts say some people are more susceptible to developing serious psychological conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, which can be triggered by drug and alcohol abuse.

The Garvan Institute of Medical Research is targeting professional Sydney men and women aged between 20 and 35, cautioning that as yet there is no set of tests to pinpoint which individuals are more likely to develop a mental illness.

But David Gilfillan, a clinical psychologist at the Black Dog Institute, said problem drinking and smoking cannabis were often symptoms of an underlying psychological disorder, including depression and anxiety.

Evidence shows people with bipolar disorder are five times more likely to be alcoholics than the general population.

"Very often these people would have been the life of the party, able to get high for hours and hours, but this behaviour may be masking something else," Mr Gilfillan said.

Emergency medicine specialist Michael Novy spent nine years treating substance abuse patients at St Vincent's Hospital and is an adviser to many Sydney dance parties.

He says the slide into dependence or psychosis can be sudden and unexpected, even among "weekend" users.

"It doesn't take long to go from a recreational drug use, which a lot of young people experiment with, to something that dominates your life and destroys your career," he said.

A survey released last week by industry magazine B&T found almost one-fifth of people who work in Australia's media, advertising and marketing industry mix recreational drugs and work to cope with stressful jobs and long hours.

Leonora Long, from the Schizophrenia Research Institute, says there is a link between cannabis and schizophrenia, although it appears to affect healthy people differently from people who have a genetic or environmental predisposition to schizophrenia.

Tougher drink-spike laws on way

Victorians who spike people's drinks risk up to two years' jail under new laws introduced in State Parliament today. The legislation makes it an offence to spike a person's food or drink with alcohol or drugs and aims to protect young people from harm and sexual assault. Victoria's current drink-spiking laws do not apply to a drink that has not been consumed. The new bill will make spiking a drink an offence whether or not is it consumed.

The offence is not restricted to spiking with drugs but will include spiking a person's drink with alcohol. Attorney-General Rob Hulls says it adds to existing drink spiking legislation by making it an offence whether or not the drink's consumed.

Victoria Police have no solid statistics on drink-spiking offences because the current legislation is listed under the Crimes Act. The new bill allows for statistics to be accumulated.

Doctors at Perth's Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital reported in a study of 97 patients there was only four definite cases of drink spiking with the other 93 patients mistaking their drunkenness for drink spiking. Of the four patients who had their drinks spiked, none involved sedatives, alcohol was the drug used. The Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine found out of 76 cases of drug facilitated sexual assault, alcohol was present in 37% of cases and of 85% of cases, the offender was known to the victim.

Drinking zones to be made permanent at suburban football grounds

DESIGNATED drinking zones are to be made permanent at suburban football grounds to curb anti-social behaviour by intoxicated fans.

Amateur Victorian clubs have been urged to set up wet and dry areas.

The move is backed by police, drug and alcohol agencies, the Brumby Government and the Victorian Country Football League.

Many leagues are adopting the strategy, confining drinkers to certain parts of the ground.

Drinking fans at the Mornington Peninsula Nepean Football League finals had to wear pink wrist bands while in a segregated zone to help manage crowd behaviour.

League chief Steve Pallas said the concept had the potential to be adopted statewide.

"It's certainly not taking away the enjoyment of football. It's allowing a whole new group of people to enjoy coming to the game," he said.

The strategy involves roping off sections of sports grounds as areas for drinkers.

A pilot program in four football leagues in Melbourne's east proved such a success police are urging cricket, rugby and soccer clubs to adopt the same policy.

VCFL chief Glenn Scott said all clubs should have designated drinking areas.

"It's not an idea, it's not a left-field theory -- it's a reality that there need to be plans in place where they have a designated drinking area," he said.

"It's too good a family day to think people can do their own thing, bring in their grog or misbehave.

"Those days are gone."

Sen-Sgt Alan McCarthy, of Pakenham Police, said the move encouraged responsible behaviour and freed up police to focus on other problems.

Sport and Recreation Minister James Merlino said he was pleased action was being taken to eliminate dangerous drinking environments.

Police warn alcohol fuelled violence in Melbourne will worsen

The warning comes after a 24-year-old Cranbourne man died in hospital after an altercation at the QBH nightclub in Southbank early yesterday.

* Crackdown: Hummers to join booze blitz |Alcohol ban for sleazy clubs (exclusive) |Ban 'a last resort' - Govt
* Tragedy: Death sparks memories of a lost son
* Pressure: Just 26 new cops | Drunk assaults paramedic
* Random assault: Man bashed on 60th birthday
* Pictures: City erupts | Your comments on this issue

Police believe the man was punched in the head and knocked unconscious allegedly following an argument with another man in the nightclub's smoking area.

Two men were due to appear in court today charged over the attack.

Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Gary Jamieson today urged the community to support efforts to tackle the problem, including the state government's trial 2am lockout, adding the problem could worsen as summer approached and the days became longer.

“That's always our concern, that we haven't hit rock bottom,'' Mr Jamieson said.

“I would hope that we're turning it around. It's certainly of a concern to government - they wouldn't have done the lockout proposal if they weren't concerned at trying some fixes.

“There isn't a simple solution to this. If there was it would already have been put in place by us.

“The licensees themselves have a lot to answer for in not supporting the (2am lockout) proposal.''

Mr Jamieson said the fatal attack was the second involving QBH in two years, following the death of Shannon McCormack, 22, in April 2007.

The latest victim was declared brain dead yesterday but his life support machine remained on long enough for surgeons to save various organs for transplant.

“This is the second major offence that's occurred on their (QBH) licensed premises. They've got to clean up their act, it's clear about that,'' he added.

“It's very, very clear that too many intoxicated people are on licensed premises.

Melbourne clubber dies following assault

The Melbourne club scene has come under fire once again after a 24 year old man was attacked at Queensbridge Hotel over the weekend, sustaining injuries that lead to his death. Two men were arrested and charged with the attack, and news reports indicate they’ll face Melbourne Magistrates’ Court today. The victim died on Sunday evening after suffering a heart attack when he fell during the assault.

With the controversial 2am lockout now finished it’s no surprise this latest incident is being widely reported by mainstream media, as acts of violence continue to occur across Melbourne venues. “The (2am) lockout finished last week. The violence hasn’t finished. The lockout has done nothing to prevent violence,” the Herald Sun reported state opposition leader Ted Baillieu as saying.

Do you think the lockout had any effect on violence in Melbourne clubs, or is there a greater social issue that needs to be addressed in curbing such aggressive behaviour?

Police warn clubs on alcohol violence

Victoria Police say they are determined to crack down on alcohol-fuelled violence in Melbourne's pubs and clubs after another brawl overnight. Two men were injured when a scuffle broke out at the Geebung Polo Club in Hawthorn after one patron was ejected.

One man was struck in the face and suffered a suspected broken nose. Another man suffered facial injuries. Both were taken to hospital. Deputy Commissioner, Kieran Walshe says he is sick and tired of police officers being used as punching bags.

"When we look at last night, another classic example of alcohol fuelled violence that's occurring around licensed premises," he said. "We are determined, we are going to take action on licensed premises to ensure they comply with legislation and serve alcohol in a responsible manner."

He says clubs that continue to serve alcohol to drunken patrons could be shut down. "We will put licensees before VCAT, we have the support and co-operation from Liquor Licensing Victoria and we going to go in a joint partnership to ensure that we are able to clean up these venues and make sure they're more responsible..

Beyond 'drink spiking': drug and alcohol facilitated sexual assault

Publications from the Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault (ACSSA) are available from the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS). If you would like to receive future publications as they are released please register your details for the ACSSA mailing list.

The full version of this paper can be downloaded in pdf format or accessed as html below. To view or download individual sections of the paper click on the relevant link in Contents.

More brain injury assaults blamed on alcohol

Alcohol is being blamed for an increase in the number of brain injuries caused by assaults across Australia.

The organisation Brain Injury Australia says last year assaults caused more than 3,000 hospital admissions and nearly 150 deaths from brain injury.

It says nearly 6 per cent of all women are assaulted each year and the rate of assault among Indigenous women is 70 times higher.

Brain Injury Australia's Nick Rushworth says alcohol-fuelled violence at pubs and clubs is becoming commonplace.

"One hundred and thirty two infant boys were admitted to hospital because of assault, 123 infant girls," he said.

"There's a pattern of violence generally through the community, but when it comes to traumatic brain injury, I still think the biggest concern is in the young age groups, where the alcohol is involved."

No. 169: Alcohol-related assault: time and place

This study aims to determine the strength of a variety of sociodemographic risk factors for being a victim of alcohol related violence. In particular, it examines the hypothesis that places where alcohol is usually consumed, times of absences from the home, and the frequency of such absences are more important factors in the likelihood of experiencing alcohol related violence than being young and male.

Assaults epidemic hits Alfred Hospital

THE number of emergency patients admitted to Victorian hospitals with major injuries from assault has tripled since 2001, the Victorian State Trauma Registry says.

The disturbing trend was revealed as Leader continues its awareness campaign about the dangers of alcohol-fuelled street violence.

The main increase is in trauma injuries caused by blunt instruments, including fists and baseballs bats.

Registry head Dr Peter Cameron, who has worked in the Alfred hospital’s emergency department for the past five years, said most injuries were inflicted during drug- and alcohol-fuelled street violence.

“A lot of it is related to late-night drinking,” he said.

“Younger males are by far the majority, but there are some older patients.”

Dr Cameron said 803 cases of major trauma resulting from an assault were recorded between July 2001 and June 2007.

Major trauma includes patients who are admitted to intensive care, require urgent surgery, have multiple serious wounds or die.

“If you look at assaults, they have increased three-fold across Melbourne in five years,” Dr Cameron said. “Contrary to media reports, the vast majority involve fists, baseball bats and other blunt instruments.”

Dr Cameron said injuries received in fist fights were as serious as injuries from weapons.

“If you are punched in the head and get knocked to the ground, you could get a primary brain injury,” he said.

“There are now a large number of people with acquired brain injuries.”

Brain injuries could impose life-long disabilities including paralysis and a mentally vegetative state, he said.

The registry shows 92 per cent of patients are male, with an average age of 30. They usually present to emergency between 9pm and 4am.

Just Think: Sport stars voice concerns

Melbourne's Booze

ALCOHOL fuels as many as one in two assaults in Victoria, a State Government report says.

The report includes a range of actions to reduce the impact excessive drinking is having on rates of crime and our health system.

Its responsible drinking message is echoed in Leader Newspapers’ Just Think awareness campaign on the dangers of alcohol-fuelled street violence, supported by the State Government, Victoria Police, peak entertainment industry bodies, the AFL and 2008 Brownlow medallist Adam Cooney.

The report, Victoria’s Alcohol Action Plan 2008-2013 - Restoring the Balance, reveals:

* up to 47 per cent of people behind assaults are intoxicated before the assaults happen;

* hospital emergency departments in Victoria admitted 2045 victims of alcohol-fuelled violence in 2005-06, equivalent to six a day;

* 43 per cent of assault victims are also intoxicated; and

* alcohol made up almost 40 per cent of drug-related incidents attended by ambulance paramedics.

Ministerial Taskforce on Alcohol and Public Safety chairwoman, Victorian MP Lisa Neville, said: “The ugly side of this inappropriate use of alcohol is being played out all too frequently in city, suburban and regional streets on most evenings of most weekends.”

She said joint action by governments, industry, the community, schools and police was required to tackle the problem.

To take part in the campaign, email justthink@leadernewspapers.com.au

Oct 10, 2008

Midwives found to aid babies' survival

Women who are cared for by midwives rather than GPs or obstetricians are less likely to lose their babies within the first six months of their pregnancies, an international review of maternity services has found.

Researchers gave no reasons for the shock finding, taken from an analysis of 11 trials involving more than 12,200 women in four countries, but a spokeswoman for the Australian College of Midwives, Hannah Dahlen, said women who were seen by the same midwife during pregnancy, labour and birth usually felt more supported and less anxious, leading to reduced risk of miscarriage.

That explanation has frustrated the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, which says its members provide the same level of continuous care to their patients and could not be held accountable for miscarriages or stillbirths that occurred so early in pregnancy.

"One third of women see private obstetricians and we all give continuity of care," the college's president, Christine Tippett, said yesterday.

"I am on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week and I deliver about 90 per cent of my women. I think it is drawing a very long bow to link miscarriages before 24 weeks with continuity of care. Most miscarriages occur because of foetal or chromosomal abnormalities and there is no evidence to suggest the mode of care makes any difference."

The analysis, which is the largest undertaken in the world, also found that women in midwife-led models of care were less likely to be admitted to hospital during pregnancy, have instrumental deliveries, episiotomies or require analgesia and were more likely to have spontaneous vaginal births, feel in control during labour and better able to initiate breastfeeding.

Dr Dahlen said the analysis, published by the Cochrane collaboration, considered the gold standard of assessing medical evidence, proved that midwife-led models of care had no adverse outcomes and many benefits.

"If this was a tablet, it would be mandatory that all women have it, but instead we have to deal with all this shroud waving by obstetricians. Now we know the evidence for their claims just isn't there," she said.

The Australian College of Midwives has long argued that better use of midwives would reduce the national caesarean rate, now at 31 per cent, cutting the number of people taking up operating theatres and beds in wards. However, the analysis showed there was no significant difference between the two groups when it came to caesareans, despite a recent Australian study which indicated surgery in midwife-led care occurred 4 per cent less often than under medical models.

"Not many people realise that women having babies accounts for the largest single use of our hospitals every year, so if we want to … look after people on waiting lists, we should be looking at how we can provide good primary care to healthy pregnant women instead of channelling them into surgical theatres in their tens of thousands," the Australian College of Midwives vice president, Chris Cornwall, said.

The analysis also showed there was no significant difference between the two groups when it came to foetal deaths after six months gestation, length of labour, induction, intervention, premature births and admissions to neonatal intensive care units.

Oct 9, 2008

Cyberscams exploit consumers' financial unease

The rippling financial crisis has sent consumers scurrying to the Internet for answers and advice. Online fraudsters are right behind, devising ways to steal personal information.

Cybercrooks are creating fake websites, spam, phishing attacks and malicious software code to take advantage of anxiety during the economic calamity. Like other extraordinary news events, the crisis has heightened fears and made people desperate for information, say computer-security experts.

"It's a new spin on old tactics," says Andre Gold, an independent security consultant who formerly was head of information security and risk management at ING.

•Spam and phishing. Most of the scams center on spam and phishing against the backdrop of bank failures, mergers and takeovers. Current and former customers of JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Washington Mutual are being inundated with phishing attempts as Chase navigates an acquisition of Washington Mutual.

One example is an e-mail that appears to come from Chase. It asks customers to go to what is purportedly a Chase website, but is a fake, and provide personal information, such as user ID, password, name, address, phone number and Chase credit card number.

Conrad Walters: Door opens on game of cat and mouse

FRAUDSTERS require anonymity to stay out of jail, but in the cat-and-mouse world of financial security the good guys often live in the shadows too.

Every credit card company employs analysts to pore over daily transactions and look for suspicious activity.

They rarely discuss their work in public, but with permission from his company and on the condition of anonymity, the top Australian security officer for one international credit card issuer agreed to explain how his team tries to stay ahead of the thieves.

A former inspector in the NSW fraud squad, the analyst has attended university courses in forensic accounting in Australia and overseas. His team operates from a Sydney office with a fingerprint reader at the entrance.

Inside, there are fewer than 12 workstations, with up to three computer screens on each desk to monitor programs that scour millions of transactions for signs of fraud.

The Sydney office is one of several the firm operates around the globe to provide 24-hour protection for its cardholders.

Inside the hackers' den

HUNCHED over a computer terminal in his pyjamas, "Frank" makes more money than a small-time drug dealer without ever having to worry about being caught or even leaving the house.

Constantly covering his tracks via a complex web of internet servers, he is part of a global network of cyber thieves who together fleece billions of dollars from unsuspecting internet users every year - using little more than an internet connection, free software and some spare time.

Speaking to the Herald on the condition of anonymity, he and other experienced hackers say banks' attempts to stamp out credit card theft are doomed due to the ease with which clients' computers can be compromised.

In today's e-commerce world, you can have your bank details stolen just by visiting your favourite websites. Hackers use automated tools to scan websites for vulnerabilities, injecting databases with a few lines of tainted code.

Whenever someone visits the compromised site, in the background their computer is redirected to a site hosting malicious code and infected with a virus, giving hackers backdoor access to the computer.

Among a plethora of nasty features, the virus reports back to the hacker with a log of every keystroke the victim makes.

The BusinessWeek website was the most recent high-profile victim in September, but security companies estimate hundreds of thousands of other reputable web pages, including some belonging to the United Nations, have been infected in recent months.

BusinessWeek fixed the problem after widespread publicity but not before thousands of visitors were potentially exposed.

Oct 8, 2008

Nick Galvin: MySpace a new fraud market

HUGELY popular services such as Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn are being blamed for a boom in sophisticated email scams in which criminals mining the information on social networking sites to create personalised attacks.

These so-called spear phishing emails appear to come from a trusted source and aim to persuade the victim to hand over valuable data such as banking details or passwords to corp- orate networks.

Rob McAdam is the chief executive of Pure Hacking, an Australian "ethical hacking" company. Companies contract him and his team to test their defences by trying to break into their networks - and business is brisk.

Mr McAdam regularly performs spear phishing "attacks" on clients, tailoring the email to a company's employees by using details from online sources.

"We'll try to trick them into giving up their username and password into the organisation," Mr McAdam says. "Every single time bar one that we have run that exercise we have been able to get people to cough up their details. It's as if they are expecting it as a consumer but aren't expecting their business to be attacked. It was surprising first up, but now we expect to be able to do it every time."

Nitesh Dhanjani is a US online security expert who specialises in the phishing underworld and its inhabitants. He says the most sophisticated spear phishers may work on an attack for months, using information found online to create so-called influence graphs that plot the target's social networks in an effort to work out who the target is most likely to trust.

They will even research the style of writing to use so as to add authenticity to the attack email.

"It not only has to seem to come from somebody they trust but also to sound like somebody they trust," Mr Dhanjani says. "If the email is formed and written like it was from a trusted person then I am more likely to say, 'Yeah, it must be this guy'."

In one exercise Mr Dhanjani set up an account for a friend on the business networking site LinkedIn. "Two days later I had 86 requests from other people who realised he had joined LinkedIn," he says. "So suddenly out of nowhere I know all the other powerful people he knows.

Oct 7, 2008

Governor Palin's Email Hack: Federal Statutory Law

In the midst of an FBI investigation and convening of a grand jury, it is still not clear if there will be a prosecution on the email hack of Governor Sarah Palin, US vice presidential nominee. Palin's Yahoo account was breached, and her private emails posted online, before authorities tracked down the hacker's ISP fingerprint to Knoxville, Tennessee, connected to college student David Kernell.

In a previous article, IBLS examined Alaska law against the crime of unauthorized computer access. Now we investigate Federal Statutes against the same crime. Analyzed are the statutes that could apply, but it is ironic that Alaska law appears to have stronger statutes against hacking than the US Code does. This underscores the need for the US to update its hacking and illegal access laws, since this has become such a common crime that causes great cost, both in financial and human terms, for acts such as ID theft, and also the civil issue of invasion of privacy.

The following questions will be answered to better understand the issues involved for the Federal crime of email hacking: What is Hacking? What Federal Laws did Governor Palin's Hacker Break? What Other Statutes Could Apply? What Punishment Could be Given? Does the US Need Better Email Hacking Laws?

Police to punish online gossipers

SOUTH Korean police plan a crackdown on people who spread malicious rumours on the internet, a practice they blame for last week's suicide of a local actress. The National Police Agency said it would have 900 officers investigating online as part of a month-long operation beginning tomorrow to hunt, arrest and punish those who spread false and vicious rumours on the internet. The agency said in a statement "the spread of malicious and groundless messages on the internet recently led to their victim's suicide'', referring to the death of Choi Jin-sil on Thursday.

Choi, 40, a mother of two, committed suicide and was found hanging from a length of elastic at her Seoul home. Police investigators, citing her relatives and friends, said Choi had been upset by internet rumours that she had lent a huge sum of money to a local actor who killed himself in early September under heavy debts.

Identity theft: Former ID thief comes clean

Frank Abagnale, is the man who as a teenager fooled people into thinking he was a Pan Am pilot (he never actually flew a plane) cashed bogus cheques to the tune of $2.5m in 26 countries and whose memoirs were the inspiration for the hit movie set in the late 1960s Catch Me If You Can which starred Leonardo di Caprio.

"Theives can get a loan in your name, credit cards in your name, mortgages, employment and worst of all, commit a crime in your name," says Abagnale. "The Federal Trade Commission reported that nearly 15 million Americans have been victims of identity theft, costing consumers $5billion and banks and businesses $56 billion every year. Because this crime is so simple to commit, I believe identity theft will become one of the most profitable criminal activities in history. Identity theft is a worldwide problem because no matter what country you live in, if someone steals your identity they can become you."

ID theft in Britain is still in its infancy. In fact the number of identity fraud victims filed by CIFAS Members has fallen - there were 28,500 victims were recorded between January and June 2008, compared with 33,466 in the first-half of 2007.

But CIFAS, which is backing this week's National Identity Fraud Prevention Week, reckons that most people know someone who has been affected.

"Even single instances can cause very real anxiety in those affected because, once discovered, the fear of further fraud undermines an individual's sense of privacy and financial security," says Kate Beddington-Brown, head of communications for CIFAS. "Previously, fraud was often thought of as a victimless crime, but for those whose identity has been compromised, the effects can be devastating. From discovering that your financial details have been stolen, through to the hassles experienced when trying to resolve matters, identity fraud attacks the very things that we can never put a price on: attacking not only our sense of well-being but our very names as well."

Abagnale talked to the Telegraph a couple of years ago to inform readers how to protect yourself from identity theft. He claimed he could get 22 pieces of personal private information on a person by simply knowing their address. Within a couple of hours he claimed he could find out the person's salary details, bank account numbers, marital status and national insurance number.

This is what he had to say. "It's all publicly available on the internet. But actually I only need three pieces of information to get credit in someone's name," he says. "Their name, date of birth and national insurance number." It may sound a bit far-fetched, but if anyone should know how to steal an identity, then 57-year-old Abagnale should.

Mark Schliebs: Global credit card theft - how it is done

IT took only a few minutes for news.com.au to find stolen credit card numbers using a simple Google search.

Criminals are making a small fortune out of "franchising" stolen credit card details online, news.com.au reported today.

Using targeted Google searches, news.com.au was able to find "demo" credit card details, which the legal owners say were used to make thousands of dollars worth of purchases.

The profits made by the sellers has turned into a major industry for criminals – and one which is growing, says Detective Inspector John Potter from Victoria Police’s Fraud Squad.

"We’re seeing a degree of organisation with this activity," Insp Potter said.

"A lot of this stuff comes from overseas... we’re talking about organised crime.

"They’re set up as businesses and we also know that this type of product is used in Australia by criminals."

CHOICE warns of online fraud

Consumer watchdog CHOICE has outlined a list of online identity fraud techniques to protect consumers against the growing threat.

CHOICE estimates identity fraud costs Australians roughly $1 billion affecting 500,000 people every year. Most are hit by credit card and bank card fraud while a third of that number have had their identities stolen.

"There's no way to guarantee protection but despite the huge cost in time and money this fraud can inflict, most people are not taking precautions to even reduce the risk," said Christopher Zinn, CHOICE spokesperson.

The firm warns all criminals require is your name, date of birth and address.

Simply surfing the internet can leave users open to identity threat as a recent Google analysis of 4.5 million sites found 10 per cent contained code that installs software to record your keystrokes and steal personal information.

Personal information is also kept on a number of government, bank, employer or video shop databases, however it is not clear how safe this information is and Australian organizations are not required to notify anyone if data is stolen.

CHOICE warns of online fraud

Consumer watchdog CHOICE has outlined a list of online identity fraud techniques to protect consumers against the growing threat.

CHOICE estimates identity fraud costs Australians roughly $1 billion affecting 500,000 people every year. Most are hit by credit card and bank card fraud while a third of that number have had their identities stolen.

"There's no way to guarantee protection but despite the huge cost in time and money this fraud can inflict, most people are not taking precautions to even reduce the risk," said Christopher Zinn, CHOICE spokesperson.

The firm warns all criminals require is your name, date of birth and address.

Simply surfing the internet can leave users open to identity threat as a recent Google analysis of 4.5 million sites found 10 per cent contained code that installs software to record your keystrokes and steal personal information.

Personal information is also kept on a number of government, bank, employer or video shop databases, however it is not clear how safe this information is and Australian organizations are not required to notify anyone if data is stolen.

Mark Schliebs: Aussie credit card details sold online by fraudsters

A MELBOURNE man is one of many Aussies whose credit card details are being flaunted for sale online, with crims able to "try before they buy".
Many Australian victims had no idea their credit card and personal information was being traded online until contacted by a reporter.

“You are joking,” said Melbourne man Henry Gaughan when told his banking details were easily found online.

On one scam website, a spruiker supplied the personal and credit card details of five Australians as evidence that he would sell “correct” information to the highest bidder.

The Australians’ names, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses and credit card details – including the three-digit card verification code (CVC) required for some online transactions – were available on a public website.

Four victims contacted by a reporter were shocked to find out their Visa and MasterCard details had been freely available online for nearly five months.

Mr Gaughan said more $2000 worth of illegal transactions had been made on his Visa card, but he did not realise that any number of fraudsters could have used it.

Conrad Walters: No names: inside the fake identity racket

WANT to buy enough information about a stranger's credit card to steal their money? All it takes is one email and a transfer of funds through Western Union.

The Herald found it was remarkably easy to unearth the online locations where hackers conduct a global trade in stolen credit card information.

If you want the data from a standard Australian credit card, it will cost you just $US1.50 ($1.80). Rather rob from a gold card holder? That'll be $2.50, thanks.

For accounts in Britain and the United States, the salesmen claim even to be able to bypass some of the latest anti-fraud protection, including Verified by Visa. And if your needs are great, bulk deals are available.

Some hackers offer free samples of the stolen data. Although key information is kept hidden to preserve its resale value, the names of the victims are often present.

The hackers offer a surprising level of detail about their victims. One vendor showed a sample customer's bank account number, complete with mother's maiden name, American Social Security number, date of birth, driver's licence number and most of the 16 digits on an ATM card.

Also listed were the customer's answers to security questions, such as the first name of their maternal grandmother, their favourite hobby, and the city where their mother was born.

That particular hacker conveniently offers three methods of contact: a Yahoo! email account or two popular online messaging programs, Instant Messenger and ICQ.

Ironically, Google advertising on another webpage selling compromised credit cards contained promotions for the reward programs available through American Express c

Oct 6, 2008

Identity fraud fastest growing crime

IDENTITY fraud is becoming the nation's fastest-growing crime due to Australians throwing personal information into rubbish bins.
Identity fraud has claimed half-a-million victims in the last 12 months at an estimated cost of $1 billion to the national economy, says the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Professional women in their 20s and 30s are most at risk.

Despite the danger, a Newspoll survey shows nearly 70 per cent of people throw away bank and credit card statements, social security and tax file number details, utility bills and other personal information.

Ahead of national identity fraud awareness week, Crime Stoppers has urged Australians to shred their statements and personal information, as well as digital information held on CDs, before throwing it away.

"This is the only safe way to ensure that your personal information is secure from dumpster divers," Crime Stoppers chairman Peter Price said.

Over the past year, 383,300 people experienced at least one unauthorised, fraudulent transaction using their credit card or account details, the ABS said.

Solariums 'killing 43 people a year'

New research suggests tanning beds might be responsible for killing more than 40 Australians a year.

A team at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) has used a British mathematical model to estimate the number of cases of melanoma skin cancer cases each year that are linked to the use of sun beds.

It found there were 281 cases a year, with 43 melanoma-related deaths believed to be attributed to tanning beds.

The researchers have used the findings to make a case for tough federal government regulations that either ban or restrict access to solariums.

Flexible screen could lead to foldable computers

Researchers have demonstrated a flexible television screen which could result in people folding up their computer and putting it in their pocket.

The design could be used for television and posters, as well as computers, while it could also pave the way for the development of newspaper display technology which would allow readers to upload daily news to an easy-to-carry display contraption.

The concept demo was unveiled by researchers from Sony and the Max Planck Institute in Germany who believe "Rigid television screens, bulky laptops and still image posters are to be a thing of the past".

It is all organic, flexible and transparent with an extremely low energy requirement, while it has an almost unlimited viewing angle and high efficiency.

There is no need for a backlight and response times are up to 10 times fast than LCDs (liquid crystal displays), meaning ultra-smooth motion without blurring.

Due to the transparency, it is thought multiple layers can be stacked possibly for some types of 3D effects.

Previous attempts at flexible screens are hampered by size and resolution problems, while the image was also affected when the screen was folded.

Moving images on posters, seen in films such as Minority Report could also be a possibility, as well as cereal boxes with talking images.

Oct 5, 2008

Teen health at risk from fat, lazy life

HEALTHY eating and exercise levels decline sharply at the age of 14, the largest nationwide study of children's diet and physical activity over a decade has found. A survey of 4400 children (aged two to 16) and their parents found 99percent of 14- to 16-year-olds do not eat enough fruit, while 95per cent don't eat enough vegetables.

The Australian National Children's Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey - jointly funded by the Department of Health and Ageing, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Australian Food and Grocery Council - also found 14- to 16-year-olds eat too much sugar and fail to get the recommended amounts of micronutrients such as calcium, sodium and magnesium. This age group also does too little exercise and spends the most time in front of a TV or computer screen. Professor Lynne Cobiacs, from Flinders University, said the results for teenage girls were particularly worrying, with 80percent of 14- to 16-year-olds not getting enough calcium.

Evonne Barry: Pets secretly treated at human hospital

A MAJOR Melbourne hospital has been treating pet animals as private cancer patients in secret after-hours appointments.
The Alfred struck a deal with at least one vet to treat cats and dogs with its multi-million-dollar radiation therapy machines in 2001.

The Government yesterday ordered an immediate ban on the practice after it was revealed by the Sunday Herald Sun.

The use of expensive equipment to treat dozens of pets in the William Buckland Radiotherapy Centre provoked an outcry.

"We had absolutely no knowledge of that. It's certainly not something we condone," Rowena Amin, of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists, said.

"Any reasonable person would have problems with that. That equipment is dedicated to the treatment of human patients."

Health Minister Daniel Andrews agreed, moving quickly to stop the practice yesterday.

"This is an inappropriate use of our vital health resources and it will not continue," Mr Andrews's spokesman said.

The Alfred spokeswoman, Fiona Gillies, said the deal, under which 22 animals had been treated since 2005, was a "public service" that came "at no cost to the hospital".

Oct 3, 2008

Ian Porter:Three-wheeler is motoring's air apparent

A DESIGN for a radical three-wheeled car that runs on compressed air and has no steering mechanism has won Deakin University a $30,000 prize in an international competition against five other universities.

The competition, organised by the Ford Motor Company, was to design a Model T Ford for the 21st century. It was part of the Ford's celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the release of the Model T.

Two of the six entries were selected to be displayed on Wednesday night in Detroit at Ford's Model T celebrations. The second winner was an entry from Aachen University in Germany.

"To come away with the win has just blown us away," said Deakin team member Tim de Souza.

The Deakin design, called T2, can carry two adults in front and two children or one adult on its back seat and was designed for the sustainable city of the future.

Mr de Souza said the team wanted to keep the car as simple and as cheap as possible and believes it could be mass produced and retailed for less than $9000.

The T2 has its compressed air motors mounted in the hubs of the front wheels, which are fixed in the straight-ahead position. The rear wheel hangs loose, like a castor wheel on furniture. Steering is achieved by directing more compressed air to one motor than the other.

Oct 2, 2008

US expert claims lack of sleep leads to depression, ADHD

LACK of sleep could be the reason more Australians are being diagnosed with depression and ADHD, a US expert claims.
The controversial theory comes from visiting Harvard psychiatry professor Robert Stickgold.

On Saturday, Professor Stickgold will tell the Australasian Sleep Conference in Adelaide that sleep deprivation is not just linked to, but actually causes, major psychiatric disorders in people.

"It could very well be that the increases we're seeing in some of these disorders are a direct reflection of the increasing loss of sleep in the general population," he told AAP.

"This is staggering if it's proven to be concrete and it suggests that taking a closer look at the sleeping habits of mentally-ill people could be key to treating their condition."

Prof Stickgold will present evidence to the conference backing his theory including studies of US children with the disrupted breathing condition, sleep apnoea, caused by enlarged tonsils.

"These children have massively disrupted sleep and are five times more likely to have ADHD but if you treat their condition by removing their tonsils their ADHD improves dramatically," he said.

"That shows the condition is at least partly caused by the problematic sleep."

He said sleep apnoea also was five times more common in people with major depression, suggesting a similar link.

"This isn't just a small corner of the depression population.

"This is a lot of people that might never have been diagnosed with depression if they were able to get a good night's sleep."

Prof Stickgold's theory extends to bipolar disorder, where he believes lack of sleep can switch a person from the depressed to manic cycle in their illness.

Vic hospitals drowning in patients: AMA

The latest report card on Victoria's public hospitals shows they are drowning in patients, head of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) Victoria, Doug Travis, says.

The Your Hospitals report shows more than 37,000 Victorians were on elective surgery waiting lists in June this year.

And state hospitals failed five out of nine key performance targets in the past year.

State president Dr Doug Travis said the report showed 363,000 Victorians were not receiving clinically appropriate care in the time they needed it - an 11 per cent increase on the same time last year.

"The hospital system in Victoria is drowning in patients," he told reporters.