lulz security logoAt 00:03 (BST), 26 June 2011, Lulz Security has claimed to be shutting down. With a statement saying that their 50 day voyage is over, they have announced that they no longer plan to continue.

This claim to have planned only to run for 50 days is rubbish. Hell, their claim that they’re just wanting to get on with their lives now, is rubbish.

The fact is, Lulz Security is/was just a group of six people, probably kids, that performed hacks that are not new. They likely used freely available software to any high school child with a fetish for hacking. Under no circumstance should they be seen as hacking master minds. They only wanted the fame that comes from knocking out a few high profile sites.

So what’s really caused them to close down. Well, to use Lul’z favoured nautical puns, that’s simple, they got into water that was too deep. With rival hacking groups out to expose them and law enforcement agencies the world over desperate to get their hands on them, they realise that they simply do not have the know how to hide themselves much longer.

I think a reaction from the public has assisted too. I doubt I’m the only one who questions Lulz motives, as I did in this previous blog. No, I think Lulz will have seen that people do not support a hacking group that’s just out for the fun of it, just out for the fame. People who support hacktivist groups like Anonymous don’t want fun or a new set of celebrities, they want the world to be a better place.

Here’s Lulz Security’s statement.

Friends around the globe,

We are Lulz Security, and this is our final release, as today marks something meaningful to us. 50 days ago, we set sail with our humble ship on an uneasy and brutal ocean: the Internet. The hate machine, the love machine, the machine powered by many machines. We are all part of it, helping it grow, and helping it grow on us.

For the past 50 days we’ve been disrupting and exposing corporations, governments, often the general population itself, and quite possibly everything in between, just because we could. All to selflessly entertain others – vanity, fame, recognition, all of these things are shadowed by our desire for that which we all love. The raw, uninterrupted, chaotic thrill of entertainment and anarchy. It’s what we all crave, even the seemingly lifeless politicians and emotionless, middle-aged self-titled failures. You are not failures. You have not blown away. You can get what you want and you are worth having it, believe in yourself.

While we are responsible for everything that The Lulz Boat is, we are not tied to this identity permanently. Behind this jolly visage of rainbows and top hats, we are people. People with a preference for music, a preference for food; we have varying taste in clothes and television, we are just like you. Even Hitler and Osama Bin Laden had these unique variations and style, and isn’t that interesting to know? The mediocre painter turned supervillain liked cats more than we did.

Again, behind the mask, behind the insanity and mayhem, we truly believe in the AntiSec movement. We believe in it so strongly that we brought it back, much to the dismay of those looking for more anarchic lulz. We hope, wish, even beg, that the movement manifests itself into a revolution that can continue on without us. The support we’ve gathered for it in such a short space of time is truly overwhelming, and not to mention humbling. Please don’t stop. Together, united, we can stomp down our common oppressors and imbue ourselves with the power and freedom we deserve.

So with those last thoughts, it’s time to say bon voyage. Our planned 50 day cruise has expired, and we must now sail into the distance, leaving behind – we hope – inspiration, fear, denial, happiness, approval, disapproval, mockery, embarrassment, thoughtfulness, jealousy, hate, even love. If anything, we hope we had a microscopic impact on someone, somewhere. Anywhere.

Thank you for sailing with us. The breeze is fresh and the sun is setting, so now we head for the horizon.

Let it flow…

Lulz Security – our crew of six wishes you a happy 2011, and a shout-out to all of our battlefleet members and supporters across the globe

——————————————————————————————————

Our mayhem: http://lulzsecurity.com/releases/
Our chaos: http://thepiratebay.org/user/LulzSec/
Our final release: http://thepiratebay.org/torrent/6495523/50_Days_of_Lulz

Please make mirrors of material on the website, because we’re not renewing the hosting. Goodbye. <3

This WordPress has been failing to send email notifications of your comments to myself for some time now, the issue has been solved, let me explain how and probably more importantly, explain what was causing the issue.

First of all, I’ve fixed it using Callum Macdonald’s WP Mail SMTP plugin. This basically allows you to enter your own SMTP settings for sending mail rather than using the php mail() function.

Now I was unsure about using a third party plugin to do this but let me explain why it was necessary.

Like many people, I use Google Apps to host my emails, rather than my web hoster. This means that the MX records for the domain andybarratt.co.uk point to Gmail.

The problem I had was quite simple, everytime wordpress sent an email to my email address, it tried to send it through my web hoster. Well the server, trying to be a clever little server saw my domain name and immediately took that as meaning it didn’t need to leave the server, so it checked for my email address on the server, couldn’t find it and gave up. Now I have Macdonald’s Mail SMTP plugin to direct outgoing emails through Gmail’s server. Problem solved.

Hopefully this will help you, even though many had found this fix, I hadn’t seen many discuss this explanation, even though I could tell that many were using Google Apps for their emails.

Accessibility Module In Action

Accessibility Module In Action

Many users find it difficult to read black text on a plain white background, or indeed in other combinations. By changing the background colour and text size, they can enjoy an easier online experience.

While working at Tayside Police on my Summer Work Placement as a Student Intern, I have taken it on myself to improve the accessibility options of their website, in doing so, I have written a javascript that allows the user to change the page style and increases the text size of the site.

The script works by changing the ID or the text size attributes of the page body and storing this in a cookie on the clients browser. This way, the user’s options are reflected across the site, where ever the module is included and not just the page they selected it on.

Ok, the title may be a little deceptive, while you only need to insert one line of code to insert the module and get the text size options to work, you will need to type several lines of CSS into your spreadsheet, something that any good web designer will have no difficulty with.

The module requires you to add CSS Style IDs for the following five options which will be applied to the body tag of your page: whiteOnBlack, yellowOnBlack, blackOnYellow, blackOnPink.

This could be as simple as creating an ID for each one and specifying the text and background colours however, you’re likely to find that some elements of your page will require a little more tweaking. For instance, for this site, I also had to specify colours for links and to create different background images to fit in with the new themes.

#whiteOnBlack {background-color:#000000; background-image:url(images/Side-Banner-Inverse.png); color:#ffffff;}
#whiteOnBlack #twitter_feed {list-style-image:url(twitter-inverse.gif)};
#whiteOnBlack a {color:#ffffff;}
#whiteOnBlack a:link {color:#ffffff;}
#whiteOnBlack a:visited {color:#ffffff;}
#whiteOnBlack a:hover {color:#919396;}
#whiteOnBlack a:active {color:#ffffff;}
#whiteOnBlack a:visited:hover {color:#919396;}

#yellowOnBlack {background-color:#000000; background-image:url(images/Side-Banner-Inverse.png); color:#ffff66;}
#yellowOnBlack #twitter_feed {list-style-image:url(twitter-inverse.gif)};
#yellowOnBlack a {color:#FFFF00;}
#yellowOnBlack a:link {color:#ffff66;}
#yellowOnBlack a:visited {color:#ffff66;}
#yellowOnBlack a:hover {color:#FFFF00;}
#yellowOnBlack a:active {color:#ffff66;}
#yellowOnBlack a:visited:hover {color:#ffff00;}

#blackOnYellow {background-color:#FFFF66; background-image:url(images/Side-Banner-Transparent.png);}

#blackOnPink {background-color:#ffdddd; background-image:url(images/Side-Banner-Transparent.png);}

In the case of the much more complex Tayside Police site, nearly 100 lines of CSS were required for each colour scheme.

One thing to remember is that absolute text sizes cannot be changed by the module, so if you’re wanting a text size to change properly, make sure you specify it’s normal size in your css as em or percentages, not at points or pixel sizes. That said, this can work to your benefit. I didn’t want the module to change the large title text at the top of my site so I’ve set these with absolute pixel values.

Once you’ve created your new styles, download the package linked below, which includes the script as well as the images for the buttons, then all you need to do is insert the one line below to add the javascript to the pages where ever you want it to appear.

<script type="text/javascript" src="/Accessibility/Accessibility.js"></script>

Good luck and please comment if you’ve used this script, I’d love to hear how it’s being used.

Click to download accessibility module.

lulz security logoSome of you may have heard that over the summer I’ve got an Internship with Tayside Police as part of my degree, helping to improve their online presence not just on their website but through Social Networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to better engage with the community. With that said, I’d like to point out that like always, my views expressed here may not necessarily reflect those of any group whether it be corporation, public sector body or educational institute or indeed anyone. These are my personal ramblings as an individual and a computer scientist.

In recent weeks, a small hacking group has come to light known as Lulz Security. They have gained fame in hacking major internet based companies and releasing information to the public with the aim to highlight, what Lulz Security see as, their flawed security systems.

With hacktivist group Anonymous making headlines on a daily basis, Lulz Security’s attacks are not a new phenomenon however, I do believe their motives should not be seen in the same light.

While I have struggled to agree with some of the hacks that Anonymous have performed, I do agree that they are performing attacks based on a moral objective and I have to say, I have found myself agreeing to some of their recent targets. Anonymous have made great attempts to fraught the work of state run operations to censor and remove the human rights of people around the world, like in Tunisia where the people are being oppressed and are calling for freedom.

“We will not forgive corruption, we will not forget injustice, we will not tollerate the denial of our freedoms and we will not be silenced.” Anonymous Press Release

While I may not agree with every single action that Anonymous take, I do very much agree with what they stand for. I can not say the same for Lulz Security.

There are many suggesting that Anonymous has joined hands with Lulz in what they are calling operation AntiSec however I do not believe this to be entirely true. What we must remember is that Anonymous doesn’t have a leader, really, Anonymous could be anybody and everybody so while many who consider themselves to be part of Anonymous may support AntiSec, it is not my belief that the majority of them do.

Lulz Security is not following a moral purpose, they are not fighting organisations that seek to oppress and while they may be seeking to expose companies with poor security, I believe their targets may be poorly chosen.

Yesterday, the website of the Serious Organised Crimes Agency in Britain had to be taken down after receiving a massive Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack by Lulz Security and government organisation like our police forces have been left worrying about attacks on our own services.

However, while Lulz succeeded in attacking SOCA’s website, what did they really achieve? They achieved the feat of taking down a page that does not hold secure data but rather only offers information to us, the public. If anything, they succeeded in censoring information made available to all of us. Isn’t that the opposite of what Anonymous is aiming for?

Yes Lulz Security showed that this site was susceptible to being overloaded with requests but as someone working on a similar site, I’d be confident in assuming that most public websites of law enforcement agencies are just as susceptible as, in this economic climate in which tax payers money is to be spent sparingly, such protection is afforded only for mission critical systems.

Most websites run by police forces are not on expensive web servers like those of Facebook and Google but in fact, quite ordinary servers, not much different to those used by small businesses as they do not require major processing power to run and they do not hold secure data. They hold data that is online for the general public, to raise awareness of their missions to help the public.

I think Lulz Security, while they may believe what they’re doing is right, has become arrogant and have in recent weeks shifted away from aiming to be a force for good, but have instead moved to only work for fame through their ability to show off as they attack companies, showing “flaws” that are frankly, unimportant when greater issues exist else where in the world and online.

I’ve been wanting to try my hand at HDR photography for a while. For those of you who don’t know, HDR is a set of techniques used to capture as much detail in a photograph as possible through the use of different exposures, using photo editing software such as Photoshop.

Here is my first attempt, a picture of the Onyar River in Girona, Catalonia, Spain taken from the Plaça de Catalunya.

Onyar North

The image above is made up of four different exposures. One photo, for example, with a long shutter speed captured much of the detail in the buildings by the side of the river but the bright lights of the church spire, bridge and reflections from the water were burnt out leaving much our image washed out in places.

With a shorter shutter speed, the detail of the spire and other bright objects were in much greater detail but our houses, completely in the dark.

The solution is to take several photographs, under exposing and over exposing and all points in between. Using software like Photoshop, these can be merged together and played with to get the desired effect of a contrast ratio that as of yet, no camera is capable of.

Anywho, I’m not here to write a review or tutorial in HDR, just that I’ve given it a go, created the above image and being rather pleased with the result and think I shall spend much of tomorrow wandering around with my camera to see what else I can do.

Speak soon,

Andy :]

update: Have now started a set on Flickr for HDR photos here http://www.flickr.com/photos/andybarratt/sets/72157626924744476/

WinAppLin - Because I'm a computer scientist, not a fan boy.

Because I'm a computer scientist, not a fan boy.

After seeing yet another Windows Vs Apple Fanboys rant, I decided to give you some idea as to where I stand by making the above image.

I’ve made it available to use by anyone as defined here: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/