Jul 21, 2008

Work from Home

These days with all the information at one's fingertips and devices that enable mobility, it's inevitable that the possibility of working from home arises. One normally pictures sitting in pyjamas at home tapping away on the work computer keyboard with the kids running around in the background.

When the idea was joked about in our office meeting, there were two groans - and both from guys married with kids. I was one of them. I find it hard to imagine how one can be serious about doing work surrounded by the distractions of domestic bliss.

However it seems one US company has implemented just that plan, potentially saving a lot of money.
Rick Boyd used to spend US$500 (NZ$648) a month on petrol and road tolls commuting between his home and office in New York state. Now Boyd doesn't commute any more because his company, Chorus, which provides clinical and management software for community health centres, has gone virtual.

Chorus closed its headquarters in Hasbrouck Heights, New York in early June and its other office, in Texas, a month later. Now all of the company's 35 employees and full-time consultants work at home. For the most part, they love it.

Chorus CIO Rick Boyd says existing technology made it easy for his company to go virtual.

Boyd says the company decided to close its offices to save money and spare employees the hassle and rising cost of commuting and because it had the necessary technology to support such a move. President and CEO AJ Schreiber says Chorus can continue to serve customers while simultaneously saving US$400,000 a year simply by closing its 15,000 square feet of office space.

There's a catch - the following constraints were implemented to make this work:
  1. employee needs to have separate space in home, separated from rest of house and denizens. (Sorry no TV)
  2. employee needs to have work desk
  3. employee needs to be on desk during work hours, odd hours not allowed
  4. employees provided with computing and telecommunications equipment - laptops, monitors, keyboards, headsets, internet service, IP Communicators, Blackberry/Windows smartphones
  5. employee can buy office supplies (Paper, Ink, Post It notes etc.) and bill it to company
  6. right infrastructure, with backup plans in case something goes down

So in other words - you take your office cubicle and put it at home - no escape, really.

Read more in the Computerworld article.

Jul 20, 2008

Gmail vulnerability being exploited by spammers

I knew something was fishy, when I started getting emails from my father inviting me to desktopdating.net. Doing a closer inspection of the email properties, I found it was not sent from Gmail, but from desktopdating.net.

There have been quite a few cases of emails being sent in the name of Gmail (Google Email) users to their contacts which have not been authored by the holders of those Gmail accounts. Known websites that have beeing using this technique are desktopdating.net, yaari.com & gazzag.com. These websites send invites and other spam in someone else's name to their contacts. An easy way to spot such a false email is to see the details or properties - it will show the from address as someone@gmail.com, but the mailed by server will not be gmail, for example it may be desktopdating.net.

These sites have also been mentioned in a blog post of 'Ill-mannered websites'.

If you can, block or filter these websites in your email accounts, web servers an any other online channels. If you have become a member on these, I would strongly recommend that you unregister and remove any personal or social contact details. Finally, if you do recieve any email mentioning links to these websites, do not click on any of these links, as that will start a program that attempts to read through your entire contact list and store it for spamming purposes. Simply delete such email, marking as spam may be tricky as that may block the email address.

Gmail vulnerability

Gmail used to carry all the contact address for an account in its active Javascript for a logged-in email account. Other sites found that in today's multi-tab browsers, if a user is presuaded to visit another web page while keeping their Gmail accounts open, it would be possible to extract those contact list addresses from the Javascript using the new web page. There is more information on this vulnerability in this blog post - GMail Vulnerable To Contact List Hijacking.

Though this vulnerability has since been fixed by Gmail, in the time window that was open some spammers had been able to harvest and collect contact lists for many email holders.