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Michael Gracie

Consumer Confidence Index

As gauged by talking points memos the news media …

Say something enough and … well, you get the idea.

MG signing off (happy new year, happy new year, happy new year, happy new year, happy new year, happy new year, happy new year …)

The Daily Show on “Pmail”

Depending on your political persuasion, you may laugh, cry, tout it, or feign ignorance. But if you are a stakeholder in any of the “news” outlets portrayed in this Jon Stewart masterpiece, you might want to start thinking about a new model.

Because the one you’re rolling with now isn’t particularly impressive.

The Conficker April Fool

Tomorrow is April Fools Day. There will be plenty of jokes played, and many people bamboozled. Be ready, and believe nothing you hear. Well, almost nothing.

The Conficker worm (a.k.a Downup, Downadup and Kido), is a nasty piece of computer malware that has been on the move (i.e. spreading) since late last year, infecting Windows machines far and wide. It calls out to website domains, looking for payloads, and utilizes encryption/signing technology (to prevent its little gifts from being hijacked) which is some of the most sophisticated around. It connects around like your internet browser does (via HTTP), and on April 1st one of its variants is going to massively expand the size of it’s seek-and-infect scope. That may create some network congestion.

But other than the possibility of being infected, there’s actually not a heck of a lot more to say about Conficker (except that if your at-work Facebook browsing gets slow on Wednesday, you may want to just keep mum about it). Microsoft, ICANN, Verisign and many others have been working on the problem for more than a month. Further, Microsoft released a patch for the vulnerability the virus exploits back in October, before Conficker was released. So if you’ve kept your system updated, you probably don’t have much to worry about anyway. That is, unless, you’re CBS’s 60 Minutes.

But what’s the real joke of all this? Well it’s not that Conficker isn’t actually doing anything right now – it’s just waiting for further instructions. Meanwhile researchers are working diligently on solutions. No, what’s hilarious is that there is an entirely different threat lingering – one that has received much less attention, and could potentially be much much more damaging.

Researchers are calling it GhostNet, and it’s already stolen vast amounts of data from government and private offices around the world. It ran completely undetected until the office of the Dalai Lama suspected foul play, and asked Toronto researchers to investigate. Some are blaming the Chinese, but they are denying all.

By the way, GhostNet, which runs via another piece of malware called gh0st RAT (RAT stands for ‘Remote Access Tool’), isn’t waiting around for instructions; it’s still digging away. I conclude that the media is steering info-tech security priorities in the wrong direction – generating fear for headlines belays no crisis.

Within a few years, every bit of data on every computer on the planet will be encrypted. And every bit of data circulated the web (including email, instant messaging, and even select portions of the web sites you view daily) will be encrypted. Dig all you want, boogieman.

“What they can’t read won’t hurt you.” – MG 3/31/09

Post-Thanksgiving things to be thankful for

A list not worth saving

  • I’m thankful one of my guests yesterday was an attorney.  He’s already threatened to sue me over my cooking and I need a good lawsuit to keep my mind off work this holiday season.
  • US investors should be thankful for the SEC. They’re keeping their priorities straight.
  • The fishing industry should be thankful that nobody weighed this roosterfish.  They’re gonna save a lot of endorsement money as a result.
  • Retailers should be thankful gas prices are plummeting.  Consumer confidence is on the rise, just in time for the holidays.
  • Social network addicts should be thankful they have so many online friends, and that getting rid of them is such a good laugh for the rest of us.
  • And…

  • Those that have written off the mainstream media and its associated lackeys as toddlers in constant need of a new binky should be thankful that there are still some real grownups around.
  • Adieu.

    Crude oil off 67%

    The Jan ’09 contract hit a high of $148.35 on July 11th. Just quoted at $48.60, it’s making new lows everyday.


    Love thy Barchart

    Over the summer the media was SCREAMING about high gas prices, and auto dealers were flooded with oversized trade-ins at rock bottom prices. Oil executives were marched into Congress at gunpoint to explain.

    Call it an oil bubble, or the Yaris-Mini-Smart-Rio-Fit-Elantra-Aveo-Versa-SX4-Astra bubble. Either way, the media is now decidedly mum.

    Media Gets Pending Home Sales Wrong (Again!)

    Barry Ritholtz:

    The Pending Home Sales Index is down 12.3%. According the the NAR’s statement about the PHSI, that is a negative for the next two months. While their press release emphasizes the 5.3% monthly gain in June, we have demonstrated in the past why that amount to little more than the usual seasonality, as families who are moving try to get into the new homes before the new school year starts.

    Most people only read the headlines. If you point out the error, you’re labeled a “Negative Nellie” – but it’s the perfect sign that you are facing someone who lacks even a modicum of intelligence – the attacker is refusing to process any logic because they have reached the crescendo of denial.

    While these NAR jokers having been calling bottoms in perpetuity, real estate brokers are likely so distressed about the situation that even they aren’t going to get pissed off about it anymore.

    UPDATE: Follow up by Ritholtz…the media was either completely duped, or they’re all about to get foreclosed on so they’re collaborating with the NAR to dupe someone else.

    Traditional media’s security stories could use some forethought

    Spam, phishing and other internet security issues are increasingly being pounded by the mainstream press. Unfortunately for the press, these issues have been around for some time, meaning there are people outside their tight little circle who actually should be doing the talking (Spamroll excluded of course, and there is nothing remotely worth reading over here).

    Nonetheless, I think the press should start thinking a bit more before they blab….
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