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Thursday, June 30

Play it again, Sam

I have declared this official Silly Day here in Pundita-land. This was after receiving an email yesterday from someone making the unlikely claim to be Tariq Ramadan. Much of the letter was taken up with saying unkind things about Collounsbury, a Western expat stationed in Casablanca.

For readers who are still trying to find their first cup of caffeine for the day, Collounsbury's ringing defense of the Muslim Brotherhood set in motion events that led to the antipundita blog, which exploded into Antipunditagate when a blogger discovered malicious software on his computer after visiting the antipundita blog.

To pick up the thread, the writer complained, in part, that "we don't need drunken American donkeys who don't even know what day it is coming to the defense of Muslims."

I interject that Pundita is not sure Collounsbury is American. In any case I was mystified by the wording of the writer's insult until an alert reader sent a passage from a recent entry on Collounsbury's blog, which Pundita passes along without editorial comment:
Last night, working late on this bloody data issue, I suddenly recall I am invited to something at the Briths Consul's club. Since there are people there I want to schmooze with, I close the laptop and make off in haste to the Consul's club down near the Corniche, irritatingly located among a maze of old 1940s era villas (the development being then outside of the city retreat). Arriving late, I am puzzled that there are no fancy cars and the like. Indeed it is all quite dark.

No matter, I dash into the club and find... nobody, well hardly anyone. Just two women dining in the garden. Walking over to ask about the event I suddenly realise, bloody hell, today is Tuesday, not Wednesday. I actually slapped my forehead I confess, in a quasi theatrical fit of stupidity.
The writer also noted that he enjoyed reading Pundita's Barney and the Theoretical Bubble Machine.

Then there was the letter this morning from someone identifying himself (or herself, for all Pundita knows) as "No nails Arbitrage." He asked Pundita to reveal the name of the financial institution in New York mentioned in my warning post about the antipundita blog. He continued to pester Pundita, even after I explained that there was no possible way it could have been his company computer. This decided me to publish the following public service announcement:

Dear Nail Biter:
It would not be right for Pundita to give out the name of the financial firm in New York City. But realize the number of situations that would have to be in effect, before you should worry:

> You would need to have been logged onto your company computer this past weekend.

> You would have needed to be a first-time visitor to Pundita's blog because no one logged on from that firm had ever visited before the weekend.

> You would have needed to be a member of Live Journal blogspot on the weekend.

> You would have needed to visit the antipundita blogspot.

> Then your company's firewall would have needed to be insufficient to block the spyware that ZenPundit blogger reported finding on his computer.

> You would not have seen the warning Pundita posted about the financial institution because the person who logged on from the firm did not return to visit Pundita after the weekend -- or if the person did visit again, it was not from the company computer in question.

Of course it's not been definitely established that the spyware was installed by a program connected with the antipundita blogspot. But looking at the worst-case scenario, only if all five criteria fit should you wonder whether it was your computer.

> In short, it is impossible within the Newtonian universe for the computer in question to be yours, unless perhaps you are one of those people who sign their anonymous emails with the same words they use for a passcode.

> However, if you are still biting your nails after reading this, ask your company's computer security people to check out your computer, as Pundita advised before.

Google Responds
Google's eBlogger help desk also has some advice. They responded to my email and are continuing to investigate the situation. They wrote in part:
Blogger gives people a lot of room for creativity on their blogs, but unfortunately, some people take advantage of that. We are working on ways to protect our users from this kind of thing and to prevent this abuse of our system, without restricting legitimate uses. [...]

We also suggest that you try the Mozilla Firefox browser, since it can help protect you from many malicious sites which tend to target Internet Explorer. More information can be found here:

http://www.mozilla.org/firefox/
It is possible that ZenPundit's computer did not have Firefox, which might have explained how the spyware, which was attached to some particularly "nasty code," infected his computer.

Then there was the very odd letter from someone claiming to be both a Nazi war criminal and a CIA section chief. He accused "Dubai Person" (the anonymous creator of antipundita blog) of being "a RAW defector who the CIA was too stupid to check for ties to Russian mobs."

Why is Pundita getting the impression that we've been dragged into an intelligence community food fight?

More Silly Day festivities are planned, so you might want to check back after 3:00 PM. By that time Pundita should be recovered from Batchelor Double Whammy Night.
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