HUMAN - Extended version - Volume 1

Google always pimps good videos. Here is one. In breathtaking 1080p, its awesome quality to watch.

What is it that makes us human? Is it that we love, that we fight ? That we laugh ? Cry ? Our curiosity ? The quest for discovery ? Driven by these questions, filmmaker and artist Yann Arthus-Bertrand spent three years collecting real-life stories from 2,000 women and men in 60 countries. Working with a dedicated team of translators, journalists and cameramen, Yann captures deeply personal and emotional accounts of topics that unite us all; struggles with poverty, war, homophobia, and the future of our planet mixed with moments of love and happiness.

Site goes IPv6 enabled

Some of you may have noticed (but most probably haven't) that this site is now native IPv6 enabled.

Interestingly, I can see some traffic already going to the IPv6 address.

If you have any issues, let me know as I'm still getting my head around it all.

DNS Oops. Crashing bind from remote

It's been a while since my last post - and this one is a doozey.

So Bind is one of the most popular DNS servers on the planet. Just about everyone runs it. So when news breaks that a specially crafted request can cause the named process to exit, then a problem is presented.

Enter CVE-2015-5477.

The official report says:

named in ISC BIND 9.x before 9.9.7-P2 and 9.10.x before 9.10.2-P3 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (REQUIRE assertion failure and daemon exit) via TKEY queries.

This doesn't really convey the severity of the issue. Thankfully, the ISC elaborate more. In it, they say:

The practical effect of this is that this bug is difficult to defend against (except by patching, which is completely effective) and will not be particularly difficult to reverse-engineer. I have already been told by one expert that they have successfully reverse-engineered an attack kit from what has been divulged and from analyzing the code changes, and while I have complete confidence that the individual who told me this is not intending to use his kit in a malicious manner, there are others who will do so who may not be far behind. Please take steps to patch or download a secure version immediately.   This bug is designated “Critical” and it deserves that designation.

Essentially, "You're screwed. Upgrade now".

If you're a system admin, and you're reading this, check your bind version now, make a coffee, then dig in for the long haul.

Google steals money from its Ad network?

I stumbled across this text - which does come from an anonymous source, but seems to be credible enough to have at least somewhat valid information. I removed Google Adsense from my site months ago - simply because I had a feeling that something going on - when I compared Google's information against my own statistics, they were miles apart.

Interestingly enough though, there is quite a bit of information that states it might be a fake. This may well be the case, but the interesting part is this: If this is true, how would someone know? Further, what actual action can a publisher take on a company in another country?

As always with information on the internet, take it with a grain of salt - because at the end of the day, it may just be a nice story...

Anyhow here's the full text - completely unedited:

I am a former Google employee and I am writing this to leak information to the public of what I witnessed and took part in while being an employee. My position was to deal with AdSense accounts, more specifically the accounts of publishers (not advertisers). I was employed at Google for a period of several years in this capacity.

Having signed many documents such as NDA's and non-competes, there are many repercussions for me, especially in the form of legal retribution from Google. I have carefully planned this leak to coincide with certain factors in Google such as waiting for the appropriate employee turn around so that my identity could not be discovered.

To sum it up for everyone, I took part in what I (and many others) would consider theft of money from the publishers by Google, and from direct orders of management. There were many AdSense employees involved, and it spanned many years, and I hear it still is happening today except on a much wider scale. No one on the outside knows it, if they did, the FBI and possibly IRS would immediately launch an investigation, because what they are doing is so inherently illegal and they are flying completely under the radar.

It began in 2009. Everything was perfectly fine prior to 2009, and in fact it couldn’t be more perfect from an AdSense employees perspective, but something changed.

Google Bans and Ban Criteria

Before December 2012:

In the first quarter of 2009 there was a "sit-down" from the AdSense division higher ups to talk about new emerging issues and the role we (the employees in the AdSense division needed to play. It was a very long meeting, and it was very detailed and intense. What it boiled down to was that Google had suffered some very serious losses in the financial department several months earlier. They kept saying how we "needed to tighten the belts" and they didn’t want it to come from Google employees pockets. So they were going to (in their words) "carry out extreme quality control on AdSense publishers". When one of my fellow co-workers asked what they meant by that. Their response was that AdSense itself hands out too many checks each month to publishers, and that the checks were too large and that needed to end right away. Many of the employees were not pleased about this (like myself). But they were successful in scaring the rest into thinking it would be their jobs and their money that would be on the line if they didn’t participate. The meeting left many confused as to how this was going to happen. What did they mean by extreme quality control? A few other smaller meetings occur with certain key people in the AdSense division that furthered the idea and procedure they planned on implementing. There were lots of rumors and quiet talking amongst the employees, there was lots of speculations, some came true and some didn’t. But the word was that they were planning to cut off a large portion of publisher’s payments.

After that point there was a running gag amongst fellow co-workers where we would walk by each other and whisper "Don't be evil, pft!" and roll our eyes.

What happened afterwards became much worse. Their "quality control" came into full effect. Managers pushed for wide scale account bans, and the first big batch of bans happened in March of 2009. The main reason, the publishers made too much money. But something quite devious happened. We were told to begin banning accounts that were close to their payout period (which is why account bans never occur immediately after a payout). The purpose was to get that money owed to publishers back to Google AdSense, while having already served up the ads to the public.

This way the advertiser’s couldn’t claim we did not do our part in delivering their ads and ask for money back. So in a sense, we had thousands upon thousands of publishers deliver ads we knew they were never going to get paid for.

Google reaped both sides of the coin, got money from the advertisers, used the publishers, and didn’t have to pay them a single penny. We were told to go and look into the publishers accounts, and if any publisher had accumulated earnings exceeding $5000 and was near a payout or in the process of a payout, we were to ban the account right away and reverse the earnings back. They kept saying it was needed for the company, and that most of these publishers were ripping Google off anyways, and that their gravy train needed to end. Many employees were not happy about this. A few resigned over it. I did not. I stayed because I had a family to support, and secondly I wanted to see how far they would go.

From 2009 to 2012 there were many more big batches of bans. The biggest of all the banning sessions occurred in April of 2012. The AdSense division had enormous pressure from the company to make up for financial losses, and for Google's lack of reaching certain internal financial goals for the quarter prior. So the push was on. The employees felt really uneasy about the whole thing, but we were threatened with job losses if we didn’t enforce the company's wishes. Those who voiced concerned or issue were basically ridiculed with "not having the company's best interest in mind" and not being "team players". Morale in the division was at an all-time low. The mood of the whole place changed quite rapidly. It no longer was a fun place to work.

The bans of April 2012 came fast and furious. Absolutely none of them were investigated, nor were they justified in any way. We were told to get rid of as many of the accounts with the largest checks/payouts/earnings waiting to happen. No reason, just do it, and don’t question it. It was heart wrenching seeing all that money people had earned all get stolen from them. And that’s what I saw it as, it was a robbery of the AdSense publishers. Many launched appeals, complaints, but it was futile because absolutely no one actually took the time to review the appeals or complaints. Most were simply erased without even being opened, the rest were deposited into the database, never to be touched again.

Several publishers launched legal actions which were settled, but Google had come up with a new policy to deal with situations such as that because it was perceived as a serious problem to be avoided. So they came up with a new policy.

After December 2012: The New Policy

The new policy; "shelter the possible problem makers, and fuck the rest" (those words were actually said by a Google AdSense exec) when he spoke about the new procedure and policy for "Account Quality Control".

The new policy was officially called AdSense Quality Control Color Codes (commonly called AQ3C by employees). What it basically was a categorization of publisher accounts. Those publisher’s that could do the most damage by having their account banned were placed in a VIP group that was to be left alone. The rest of the publishers would be placed into other groupings accordingly. The new AQ3C also implemented "quality control" quotas for the account auditors, so if you didn’t meet the "quality control" target (aka account bans) you would be called in for a performance review. There were four "groups" publishers could fall into if they reached certain milestones.

They were:

Red Group: Urgent Attention Required Any AdSense account that reaches the $10,000/month mark is immediately flagged (unless they are part of the Green Group). - In the beginning there were many in this category, and most were seen as problematic and were seen as abusing the system by Google. So every effort was taken to bring their numbers down. - They are placed in what employees termed "The Eagle Eye", where the "AdSense Eagle Eye Team" would actively and constantly audit their accounts and look for any absolute reason for a ban. Even if the reason was far-fetched, or unsubstantiated, and unprovable, the ban would occur. The "Eagle Eye Team" referred to a group of internal account auditors whose main role was to constantly monitor publisher’s accounts and sites. - A reason has to be internally attached to the account ban. The problem was that notifying the publisher for the reason is not a requirement, even if the publisher asks. The exception: The exact reason must be provided if a legal representative contacts Google on behalf of the account holder. - But again, if a ban is to occur, it must occur as close to a payout period as possible with the most amount of money accrued/earned.

Yellow Group: Serious Attention Required Any AdSense account that reaches the $5,000/month mark is flagged for review (unless they are part of the Green Group). - All of the publisher’s site(s)/account will be placed in queue for an audit. - Most of the time the queue is quite full so most are delayed their audit in a timely fashion. - The second highest amount of bans occur at this level. - A reason has to be internally attached to the account ban. Notifiying the publisher for the reason is not a requirement, even if the publisher asks. The exception: The exact reason must be provided if a legal representative contacts Google on behalf of the account holder. - But again, if a ban is to occur, it must occur as close to a payout period as possible with the most amount of money accrued/earned.

Blue Group: Moderate Attention Required Any AdSense account that reaches the $1,000/month mark is flagged for possible review (unless they are part of the Green Group). - Only the main site and account will be place in queue for what is called a quick audit. - Most bans that occur happen at this level. Main reason is that a reason doesn’t have to be attached to the ban, so the employees use these bans to fill their monthly quotas. So many are simply a random pick and click. - A reason does not have to be internally attached to the account ban. Notifying the publisher for the reason is not a requirement, even if the publisher asks. - But again, if a ban is to occur, it must occur as close to a payout period as possible with the most amount of money accrued.

Green Group: VIP Status (what employees refer to as the "untouchables") Any AdSense account associated with an incorporated entity or individual that can inflict serious damage onto Google by negative media information, rallying large amounts of anti-AdSense support, or cause mass loss of AdSense publisher support. - Google employees wanting to use AdSense on their websites were automatically placed in the Green group. So the database contained many Google insiders and their family members. If you work or worked for Google and were placed in the category, you stayed in it, even if you left Google. So it included many former employees. Employees simply had to submit a form with site specific details and their account info. - Sites in the Green Group were basically given "carte blanche" to do anything they wanted, even if they flagrantly went against the AdSense TOS and Policies. That is why you will encounter sites with AdSense, but yet have and do things completely against AdSense rules. - Extra care is taken not to interrupt or disrupt these accounts. - If an employee makes a mistake with a Green Level account they can lose their job. Since it seen as very grievous mistake.

New Policy 2012 Part 2:

Internal changes to the policy were constant. They wanted to make it more efficient and streamlined. They saw its current process as having too much human involvement and oversight. They wanted it more automated and less involved.

So the other part of the new policy change was to incorporate other Google services into assisting the "quality control" program. What they came up with will anger many users when they find out. It involved skewing data in Google Analytics. They decided it was a good idea to alter the statistical data shown for websites. It first began with just altering data reports for Analytics account holders that also had an AdSense account, but they ran into too many issues and decided it would be simpler just to skew the report data across the board to remain consistent and implement features globally. So what this means is that the statistical data for a website using Google Analytics is not even close to being accurate. The numbers are incredibly deflated. The reasoning behind their decision is that if an individual links their AdSense account and their Analytics account, the Analytics account can be used to deflate the earnings automatically without any human intervention. They discovered that if an individual had an AdSense account then they were also likely to use Google Analytics. So Google used it to their advantage.

This led to many publishers to actively display ads, without earning any money at all (even to this day). Even if their actual website traffic was high, and had high click-throughs the data would be automatically skewed in favor of Google, and at a total loss of publishers. This successfully made it almost impossible for anyone to earn amounts even remotely close what individuals with similar sites were earning prior to 2012, and most definitely nowhere near pre-2009 earnings. Other policy changes also included how to deal with appeals, which still to this day, the large majority are completely ignored, and why you will rarely get an actual answer as to why your account was banned and absolutely no way to resolve it.

The BIG Problem (which Google is aware of) There is an enormous problem that existed for a long time in Google's AdSense accounts. Many of the upper management are aware of this problem but do not want to acknowledge or attempt to come up with a solution to the problem.

It is regarding false clicks on ads. Many accounts get banned for "invalid clicks" on ads. In the past this was caused by a publisher trying to self inflate click-throughs by clicking on the ads featured on their website. The servers automatically detect self-clicking with comparison to IP addresses and other such information, and the persons account would get banned for invalid clicking.

But there was something forming under the surface. A competitor or malicious person would actively go to their competitor’s website(s) or pick a random website running AdSense and begin multiple-clicking and overclicking ads, which they would do over and over again. Of course this would trigger an invalid clicking related ban, mainly because it could not be proven if the publisher was actually behind the clicking. This was internally referred to as "Click-Bombing". Many innocent publishers would get caught up in bans for invalid clicks which they were not involved in and were never told about.

This issue has been in the awareness of Google for a very long time but nothing was done to rectify the issue and probably never will be. Thus if someone wants to ruin a Google AdSense publishers account, all you would have to do is go to their website, and start click-bombing their Google Ads over and over again, it will lead the servers to detect invalid clicks and poof, they get banned. The publisher would be completely innocent and unaware of the occurrence but be blamed for it anyways.

Their BIG Fear The biggest fear that Google has about these AdSense procedures and policies is that it will be publicly discovered by their former publishers who were banned, and that those publishers unite together and launch an class-action lawsuit.

They also fear those whose primary monthly earnings are from AdSense, because in many countries if a person claims the monthly amount to their tax agency and they state the monthly amount and that they are earning money from Google on a monthly basis, in certain nations technically Google can be seen as an employer. Thus, an employer who withholds payment of earnings, can be heavily fined by government bodies dealing with labor and employment. And if these government bodies dealing with labor and employment decide to go after Google, then it would get very ugly, very quickly ..... that is on top of a class-action lawsuit.

Tony Abbott and the Australian flag

Tony Abbott (our illustrious Fuckwit-in-Chief) has a problem. One could call it an addiction. He seems to find comfort in the Australian flag. The bigger the problem, the more heat he is feeling, the more flags appear. This story is much better explained in pictures.

On the 15-16th of December 2014, there was a siege in Martin Place, Sydney. Tony Abbott was quick to jump on it and call it a terrorist attack, but quickly started to back pedal when agencies 'corrected' him. Three other hostages and a police officer were injured by police gunfire during the raid. The inquest after the siege ended found "No shot fired by Mr Monis, other than the one that struck and killed Mr Johnson, struck anyone." Whoops. Tony had to calm the nation - so that meant going on TV with the Australian flags for comfort.

Photo thanks to NY Post

On the 23rd Feb 2015, Tony was still on his terrorist war path. The headlines were bold, and the quotes even bolder. "Prime minister plans to name antiterrorism czar as part of crackdown on ‘hate preachers’" We then see Tony Abbott again addressing the nation at an Australian Federal Police media room. We know this is serious shit. SIX flags serious.

2015-02-23 - 6 Flags

We forward a little more to recent times, and Tony has continued to put his foot in it. He's exposed confidential documents while having a brainwave and holding a press conference while meeting with ASIO chiefs to combat terrorism at home. The cover up was swift - of course the documents were suddenly classified as 'not confidential'. The diversion tactics went into overtime. Tony starts attacking the media regarding Q&A saying "Heads need to roll" (I covered this previously).

In all this frenzy - Tony is feeling the pressure. He wants to ram through laws in Parliament to cover what is seen as exposure in practices that may end up being overturned and ministers being spanked by the High Court - and rising talk of an early election.

Tony has to address the nation. This shit is serious.

2015-06-25 - 10 Flags

Of course, with the internet being, well, the internet - people picked up on this.



Ahhh Tony, you might be a crappy Prime Minister, but at least you give us something to laugh at.

Q&A causes people to lose their minds

I've been a long time viewer of Q&A. It really is a unique show which puts public figures in the hot seat to face the general public. Depending on your beliefs, this can be good or bad - and every vary during the course of a single episode - however nobody can deny that this weeks Q&A failed to get tongues - and keyboards - wagging.

Things got really interesting when Zaky Mallah appeared. The topic had just turned to the proposal by the Liberal Party to remove due process and have a minister make executive decisions about the status of peoples citizenship. I won't try to intrepret the discussion - its best viewed by yourself:

Now for a bit of background. Zaky was charged under new counter-terrorism laws - but acquitted in 2005 by a jury. Between being charged and being acquitted, he served 2 years in a maximum security prison. I'm not sure about you, but I'd be pretty pissed off at serving 2 years in a maximum security prison to only be acquitted and released.

Secondly, Zaky was born in Australia. The ministers both talk about 'removing him from the country' - however where exactly do they propose to remove him to? Has he committed a crime in another country that can have him deported? This commentary from two political leaders that are willing to state such a strong conviction on national television, yet have no idea on what the full story is.

With that in mind, we get to the really scary part - analysing the reactions from the politicians. Especially one - Grahame Morris actually appeared on national TV and stated that people "kick her to death" - referring to Australia's first female Prime Minister - Julia Gillard.

I won't get into the whole detail, nor will I get bogged down in that part any further - but I want to get one message across. Are you comfortable to have people like Grahame Morris have complete control over revoking citizenship of Australians? I know this thought scares the hell out of me.

'luddite censorship' comes to Australia

Well, the politicians have done it again. Officially, its called "The Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015" - which passed through the senate 37-13. Unofficially, its a flawed document that breaks on just about every technical level.

In a nutshell, what it allows is that the "Rights Holders" can go to the courts and say "ZOMG, THIS SITE PIRATES OUR SHIZNIT!". If the judge is able to check all the tickboxes required, the order will come out to ALL Australian ISPs to block access to the IP address hosting the site(s) in question. The ISPs comply and black-hole that specific IP address.

Now, the problem here is that a single IP address is normally used to host multiple web sites - so if you happen to use the same service provider as the judge orders to be dropped, then sorry, your site disappears as well. This has happened before when ASIC ordered the blocking of a small address range and killed around 250,000 web sites.

When laws like this pass, it shows that the people making these decisions have no basic understanding on how the itnernet works - nor have they been given the correct advice on the drastic consequences that can occur from what seem to be simple changes.

So what do we do about it? Bring this up with your local Members of Parliament and make your views known.

Challenges for road safety

I've been getting involved with the whole concept of Road Safety as of late - as I've noticed that more and more drivers have been completely ignoring the road rules with complete disregard of other road users. In a 20 minute drive, I saw:

1) A car split through the bus lane on Mickleham Rd to avoid waiting with other traffic at the roundabout on Mickleham and Broadmeadows Rds

2) A car turn right from the middle lane of Mickleham Rd into Greenvale Drive through a red turning arrow - cutting off oncoming traffic

3) A male driver in a 4WD drive over all curbs into a parking space at the old Woolworths at Craigieburn Shopping Centre so that he didn't have to wait for the other three cars in front of him to park - and in the process cut of a car reversing into the same spot.

Sadly, there is no excuse for this kind of behaviour on our roads. It isn't an accident. It isn't bad planning. Its pure arrogance to ignore the road rules that are designed to keep everyone safe. As a community - I'm not sure we should tolerate this behaviour from individuals.

An example of this senseless loss of life was recently covered in the news: 7 Digital - 31 May - 18.03.20

7 Digital - 31 May - 18.03.25

7 Digital - 31 May - 18.03.37

7 Digital - 31 May - 18.03.46

7 Digital - 31 May - 18.04.13

7 Digital - 31 May - 18.05.39

7 Digital - 31 May - 18.05.50

7 Digital - 31 May - 18.05.55