When it Comes to Phishing, is Honesty the Best Policy?

Those of us in the anti-spam business have been scratching our heads recently as the number of messages getting through some of the best spam filters has jumped in recent weeks.  Many of these messages are phishing attempts with something in common.

The phishing messages do not attempt to hide their motive.


That’s right.  The majority of the message is classic phishing.  Realistic sounding text (often without the grammatical issues) about account validation requirements and legitimate links to a real institution’s web sites.  The “action” link, however, is not hidden.  Recipients see that the link is to some weird URL that in no way looks like the organization supposedly sending the message.

Since spam filters are on the lookout for obfuscated URLs, having the URLs in the open seems to let the phishing messages fly just under the radar.

And clearly, those behind the phishing attack believe the enough recipients will click on the bad URL even though it doesn’t even look safe.  And, the sad fact is, they are probably right.

Recipient Beware.

Google Increments Security Settings

Back in January, Google announced that for Gmail, default access would shift to https (using SSL).   This change, impacting all versions of Google Apps, is a welcome move to ensure secure communication data in-transit as well as at-rest.

Our recommendation remains that all Google Apps Premier and Education Edition users force SSL use for ALL Google Apps services.  While this may complication connecting older scanning devices, the additional security is worth the need for the occasional work-around.

Google Docs’ “Upload Any File” Has Limitations

In January, Google announced that users can upload files of any time and save them in Google Docs.  With 1GB of space per user, the feature provides limited ability to begin using Google Docs as a file server.

The API implementation — the interface used by programmers — has limitations beyond those in the end user web interface.

  • Only Google Apps Premier Edition allows uploading files of any type, without conversion, to Google Docs.  Somewhat surprisingly, this feature is not available for the Education Edition users.
  • File sizes are limited to 250 MB

What this means is that programs built for the commercial sector will not work for educational institutions and non-profits using Google Apps Education Edition.

W e suspect there are many factors in this decision.  One such issue may be that the Education Edition is free and Google has not yet announced if/how Education Edition users will be able to purchase more space.   Time will tell if this limitation is temporary or part of a larger plan.

If it weren’t for the customers …

… the job would be easy.

Earlier this week, Ning (a service that creates networking-based private communities) announced that it was rapidly terminating its free services.  Making real the fears of many users of free services, Ning is hoping that keep its revenue stream in tact knowing that 80% of revenues come from 20% of its users that pay for services.

Ning’s mistake is not forcing users from a free model to a paid service.  Ning’s mistake is in how it communicated and is managing the change.  Rather than a migration to paid services, Ning’s free service users heard: “Pay or Leave! And, Ning will help you leave!”

If the 80/20 rule is true, maybe Ning will really be happy shrinking its customer base by 80% in order to keep 80% of its revenue.  How may of the paying customers are also in free communities and will leave because of the treatment?  I wonder.

When Google wanted to boost paid usage of Google Apps among SMBs, they cut off free services at 50 users and rapidly added new features to the paid versions.  For many businesses forced to go from free to paid, the carrot of better features and functions mitigated the pain of the stick.

It will be interesting to see if “We don’t want you” is a good business model for Ning.

Horizon Joins Google in Push to Bring Cloud Computing to SMBs

Horizon Info Services is partnering with Google to offer webinars for small and mid-size businesses.  The webinars, scheduled at multiple times on May 6, 2010 and May 12, 2010, will focus on how businesses can save 30% or more on IT costs while improving productivity and reducing their ecological footprints.

More information and registration links are available by clicking here.