An example of bad development…

I recently received an email from a company that’s doing questionnaires. And well, I subscribed to this and did some of their questionnaires before, so I wanted to do this new one too. Unfortunately, the page loaded quite slow, only to return a very nasty error message. A message that told me that this organisation is using amateurs for developers and administrators.

Let me be clear about one thing: errors will happen. Every developer should expect weird things to happen, but this case is not an error but evidence of amateurs. So, let’s start with analyzing the message…

Server Error in ‘/’ Application.

Timeout expired.  The timeout period elapsed prior to obtaining a connection from the pool.  This may have occurred because all pooled connections were in use and max pool size was reached.

So, what’s wrong with this? Users should never see these messages! When you develop in ASP.NET you can just tell the system to just keep these error messages only when the user is connected locally. A remote user should see a much simpler message.

This is something the administrator of the website should have known, and checked. He did not. By failing at this simple configuration setting the organisation is leaking some sensitive information about their website. Information that’s enough for me to convince they’re amateurs.

This error is also a quite common error message. Basically, it’s telling me that the system is having too many database connection open. One common cause for this error is when the code fails to close a connection after opening them. Keep that in mind, because I will show that this is what caused the error…

Description: An unhandled exception occurred during the execution of the current web request. Please review the stack trace for more information about the error and where it originated in the code.

This is a standard follow-up message. The fact that users of the site would see this stack trace too is just bad.

Exception Details: System.InvalidOperationException: Timeout expired.  The timeout period elapsed prior to obtaining a connection from the pool.  This may have occurred because all pooled connections were in use and max pool size was reached.

A timeout error. A reference to the connection pool and the max pool size. This already indicates that there are more connections are opened than closed and the system can’t handle that correctly. There are frameworks for .NET that are better suited for this to prevent these kinds of errors. That’s because these errors happened to be very common with ASP.NET applications. And with generic database applications written in .NET.

Basically, the top of the error message is just repeating itself. Blame Microsoft for that since this is a generic message from ASP.NET itself. Developers can change the way it looks but that’s not very common. Actually, developers should prevent users from seeing these kinds of messages to begin with. Preferably, the error should be caught by an exception handler which would write it to a log file or database and send an alert out to the administrator.

Considering that I received this error on a Friday afternoon, I bet the developer and administrators are already back home, watching television like I do now. Law & Order is just on…

Source Error:

Line 1578:
Line 1579:        cmSQL = New SqlCommand(strSQL, cnSQLconfig)
Line 1580:        cnSQLconfig.Open()
Line 1581:
Line 1582:        Try

This is interesting… The use of SqlCommand is a bit old-fashioned. Modern developers would have switched to e.g. the Entity Framework or other, more modern solution for database access. But the developers of this site are just connecting to the database in code, probably to execute a query and collect the data and then should close the connection again. The developers are clearly using ADO.NET for this site. And I can’t help but wonder why. They could have used more modern techniques instead. But probably they just need to keep up an existing site and aren’t they allowed to use more modern solutions.

But it seems to me that closing the database is not going to happen here. There are too many connections already open thus this red line of code fails. The code has an existing connection called cnSQLConfig which is already open. It then tries to open and execute an SQL command that fails. Unfortunately, opening that command happens outside a try-except block and if this fails, it is very likely that the connection won’t be closed either.

If this happens once or twice, then it still would not be a big problem. The connection pool is big enough. But here it just happened too often.

Another problem is that the ADO.NET technique used here is also vulnerable for SQL Injection. This would also be a good reason to use a different framework for database access. It could still be that they’re using secure code to protect against this but what I see here doesn’t give me much confidence.

Source File: E:\wwwroot\beta.example.com\index.aspx.vb    Line: 1580

A few interesting, other facts. First of all, the code was written in Visual Basic. That was already clear from the code but this just confirms it. Personally, I prefer C# over Visual Basic, even though I’ve developed in both myself. And in a few other languages. Language should not matter much, especially with .NET, but C# is often considered more professional than BASIC. (Because the ‘B’ in BASIC stands for ‘Beginners’.)

Second of all, this piece of code has over 1580 lines of code. I don’t know what the rest of the code is doing but it’s probably a lot of code. Again, this is an old-fashioned way of software development. Nowadays, you see more usage of frameworks that allow developers to write a lot less code. This makes code more readable. Even in a main index of a web site, the amount of code should be reasonable low. You can use views to display the pages, models to handle the data and controllers to connect both.

Yes, that’s Model-View-Controller, or MVC. A technique that’s practical in reducing the amount of code, if used well enough.

And one more thing is strange. While I replaced the name of the site with ‘example.com’, I kept the word ‘beta’ in front of it. I, a user, am using a beta-version of their website! That’s bad. Users should not be used as testers because it will scare them off when things go wrong. Like in this case, where the error might even last the whole weekend because developers and administrators are at home, enjoying their weekend.

Never let users use your beta versions! That’s what testers are for. You can ask users to become testers, but then users know they can expect errors like these.

Stack Trace:

[InvalidOperationException: Timeout expired.  The timeout period elapsed prior to obtaining a connection from the pool.  This may have occurred because all pooled connections were in use and max pool size was reached.]
   System.Data.ProviderBase.DbConnectionFactory.GetConnection(DbConnection owningConnection) +4863482
   System.Data.ProviderBase.DbConnectionClosed.OpenConnection(DbConnection outerConnection, DbConnectionFactory connectionFactory) +117
   System.Data.SqlClient.SqlConnection.Open() +122
   _Default.XmlLangCountry(String FileName) in E:\wwwroot\beta.example.com\index.aspx.vb:1580
   _Default.selectCountry() in E:\wwwroot\beta.example.com\index.aspx.vb:1706
   _Default.Page_Load(Object sender, EventArgs e) in E:\wwwroot\beta.example.com\index.aspx.vb:251
   System.Web.UI.Control.OnLoad(EventArgs e) +99
   System.Web.UI.Control.LoadRecursive() +50
   System.Web.UI.Page.ProcessRequestMain(Boolean includeStagesBeforeAsyncPoint, Boolean includeStagesAfterAsyncPoint) +627

And that’s the stack trace. We see the site loading its controls and resources and the ‘Page_Load’ method is called at line 251. At line 1706 the system is apparently loading country-information which would be needed to set the proper language. Then it returns to line 1580 where it probably opens some table based on information from the language file.

Again, this is a lot of code for basically loading the main page. I even wonder why it needs to load data from the database based on the country information. Then again, I was about to fill in a questionnaire so it probably wanted to load the questionnaire in the proper language. If the questionnaire is multi-lingual then that would make sense.

Version Information: Microsoft .NET Framework Version:2.0.50727.3655; ASP.NET Version:2.0.50727.3658

And here’s one more bad thing. This site still uses .NET version 2.0 while the modern version is 4.5 and we’re close to version 5.0… It would not surprise me if these developers still use Visual Studio 2005 or 2008 for this all. If that’s the case then their budget for development is probably quite low. I wonder if the developers who are maintaining this site are even experts at software development. It’s not a lot of information that I can base this upon but in short:

  • The administrator did not prevent error messages to show up for users.
  • The use of ADO.NET adds vulnerabilities related to the connection pool and SQL injection.
  • The use of VB.NET is generally associated to less experienced developers.
  • The amount of code is quite long but common for sites that are developed years ago.
  • Not using a more modern framework makes the site more vulnerable.
  • Country information seems to be stored in XML while the questionnaire is most likely stored inside the database.
  • The .NET version has been out-of-date for a few years now.

My advice would be to just rewrite the whole site from scratch. Use the Entity Framework for the database and MVC 4 for the site itself. Rewrite it in C# and hire more professional developers to do the work.

TipsViaMail keeps spamming me…

On October 3, 2013 Adobe’s Database was hacked and about 150,000,000 Adobe users have their data exposed to a bunch of hackers. Anyone who even registered a single Adobe product , like I did,now has to deal with some extra spam in their mailbox. Unfortunately for the spammers, I used an alias that was used for just Adobe and after the hack, I provided them a new alias. As a result, any email on this old alias is now considered spam.

The hacked database was published and several companies have been datamining it to find their own users inside the database and to warn those users. In my case, only Adobe gave me a warning since only Adobe knew my alias. However, some companies are misusing the same database to pretend people have subscribed to their services and are sending spam to those people. And one of those companies calls itself TipsViaEmail.

First of all, if I did subscribe to their services, I would have used a different alias for them. Instead, they’re spamming me on my Adobe alias. Why? Not really sure but I guess they’re trying to make some profit this way.

Today I received a spam message from TipsViaEmail about some new way to chat with random people through Whatsapp. A bit like “Chat roulette” but on top of the Whatsapp engine. I’m not going to post the URL to this app because my virus scanner warned me about possible malware on their site. It seems extremely unreliable to me and is likely part of a trick to collect phone numbers, email addresses and perhaps even to infect mobile phones with malware. Don’t even try their stuff!

I think TipsViaEmail makes profit because they’re paid by these malicious companies to spam a lot of people. TipsViaEmail has a source of legitimate email accounts and claims these people subscribed to their service. So, people have to prove they never subscribed, which is difficult to do. How do you prove it? Well, I can because I have a habit of assigning aliases to every company I contact. And I can show how they got my address since they used my Adobe alias that was stolen by hackers.

They keep sending me emails once in a while but in low quantities so they won’t get a bad reputation with their providers. They send these spam messages through vistomail.com, which happens to offer ways to send email anonymously. Thus Vistomail is enabling spammers to send spam.

TipsViaEmail also allows a way to unsubscribe from their services by sending an email to an address at simpel-nieuwsbrief.com or by following a link at simpeltracking2.nl. In both cases, doing so would confirm your email address to TipsForEmail, making it profitable to sell to other spammers. They might stop spamming you, but those other spammers will start spamming you afterwards. At WhatCounts they calculated how much they could make by selling an email address and they earned about $17.34 per address! So we’re not talking about pennies when we’re talking about the value of email addresses.

And TipsViaEmail got their list for free because those hackers, who published the whole database!

So first, if you ever subscribed to an Adobe product then change your password immediately! Not just the password for your Adobe account but for all other accounts you have that used the same password! The passwords in the Adobe database were encrypted, but this encryption is being broken now so they will soon be exposed.

Next, find a way to use your own aliases with your mail provider. I did this by just getting my domain name, which costs me EUR 9.95 per year. I also use Google Apps so Google handles my email, even though it’s on my domain. And no, I don’t fear the NSA spying in my mailboxes. I just won’t send top-secret stuff by email anyways. It costs me another EUR 40,00 per year. But Microsoft Outlook and Yahoo Mail also offer similar services to connect your own domain to their email services. I just prefer Google since I think they have the best spam filter.

Finally, if you notice spam arriving at any alias, contact the company responsible for leaking your alias. (Adobe in my case.) They might not know their system has been hacked. And feel free to report the email to the proper channels. SpamCop is a good option internationally. (Do be aware that their URL ends at .net, since there are many copycats misusing their name!) For Dutch people you can report them too at SpamKlacht and people in Belgium can report spam to E-Cops.

(And don’t get fooled by spammers claiming you subscribed and who offer you an unsubscribe option. Unsubscribing will confirm your address, making it more valuable!)

Tricky spammer!

As usual, spammers trying to fool me and many others, and the best way to protect you against them is by sharing how they operate. (And by using a proper spam filter, which is part of Google mail. And today some message was in my spam folder which seemed to be legitimate. Well, okay… There was another hint telling me something wasn’t right. Multiple hints even.

Delivered-To: 
Received: by 10.50.83.72 with SMTP id o8csp50152igy;
        Thu, 5 Jun 2014 10:35:17 -0700 (PDT)
X-Received: by 10.180.76.210 with SMTP id m18mr17979380wiw.49.1401989716698;
        Thu, 05 Jun 2014 10:35:16 -0700 (PDT)
Return-Path: 
Received: from sm1.white-lines.net (sm1.white-lines.net. [188.65.149.28])
        by mx.google.com with ESMTP id cn1si16467631wib.60.2014.06.05.10.35.16
        for <vip@watb.nl>;
        Thu, 05 Jun 2014 10:35:16 -0700 (PDT)
Received-SPF: pass (google.com: domain of  designates 188.65.149.28 as permitted sender) client-ip=188.65.149.28;
Received: by sm1.white-lines.net id hi2736000dsi for ; Thu, 5 Jun 2014 17:35:15 +0200 (envelope-from )
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1
Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable
From: Security Team <security@security-fix-required.com>
Return-Path: bounce-
To: 
Subject: Your website has a security leak!
Message-ID: 
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:24.0) Gecko/20100101
 Thunderbird/24.3.0
Date: Thu, 05 Jun 2014 17:35:15 +0200

Hello,

during a routine check, we discovered that the server hosting your domain h=
as a security leak and is currently vulnerable. Your website is at risk of =
being hacked! It's also running an outdated PHP version.

For further security details and secure managed server offers, please visit=
 our website:

http://www.security-fix-required.com//

Thank you,

Security Division
Managed Root Server

So, what did they do to make it seem legitimate? Well, it was a simple plain-text email with just a small amount of text. Apparently someone discovered a security leak in my website and is warning me about it. Since there are always white-hat hackers on the Internet who search for such things to warn the site owners, it could be legitimate. It even seems an automated message from an automated vulnerability scanner. So, it will probably fool a few people into clicking on the link in the email.

And that was the first thing that set me off. The domain name is a bit long and the URL ends with what seems to be a GUID or other identifier. If I would click on it, the site would confirm my address as legitimate and perhaps it would redirect me to some online advertisement or even a malware site. So, first lesson: If a URL has a weird number in it, it should be automatically suspicious!

Of course, the message doesn’t give me any information, just a warning. If they had detected something, they could have included a few more details. At least, they could have named the domain that they’ve checked. I have multiple domain names so this warning tells me nothing about the site.

They also mentioned a leak in an older version of PHP in my website, but my website doesn’t use PHP. I know this blog does, but this blog is hosted. It’s not on my server. And the host is making sure it stays safe with the latest updates. (At least, I hope they do but fortunately they have many other customers too.) If they had left away the remark about PHP, it might have looked more legitimate.

The fact that they don’t leave a name is reasonable, since hackers prefer to be anonymous. But hackers would use an alias instead, not some name of some server.

Of course, it also helped that this email ended up in my spam folder. Reporting spam thus helps protect others.If it had not been in my spam folder I would have reported it as spam myself, so Google would recognise it as spam in the future.

Some further analysis by using RobTex tells me the domain is very new. It was registered today, so probably not blacklisted yet. A Google search for the domain name is also interesting. These two should offer plenty of warnings about the site.

Of course, this wasn’t the only spam message, but it was the most tempting. Another message I received tried to sell me a specific kind of blue pills. A third one tempted me with some video but not only did Google detect it as spam, My virus scanner detected the URL inside the spam as potentially malicious. And Ruby Palace wants me as visitor, even though online gambling sites are illegal in the Netherlands if they target Dutch consumers. Since the email was in Dutch, one extra law was broken.

Again, the best weapon against spam is educating people about all the tricks spammers use and to make sure spam gets reported as such. If you use Yahoo mail, Windows Live email or Google mail, reporting spam as such should be a simple option.

Why social media aren’t happy with topless women in pictures…

People generally wonder why Facebook and Twitter seem to ban all forms of nudity, including the display of bare breasts. (Well, female breasts anyways.) Other sites have less troubles with displaying a bit of nudity. And people will always wonder why e.g. Facebook is that prudish. They even have troubles with pictures of women who are breastfeeding. Raevin WhiteBut on other sites they tend to have less troubles with the same type of content.

For example Tumblr has almost no restrictions to the material posted there, as long as it is legal to publish. On Twitter you’re allowed a bit more, like posting nipples in tweets. They won’t allow pornography, though. Many sites won’t, anyways. Still, there’s a good reason for this. The people who will join a specific site do so because of the generic content of the site.

Many social sites are aiming at teens and young adults and this means that the content needs to qualify to specific rules, especially if the site operates in the USA. For example, most people won’t be happy when their teens are visiting sites that has the occasional nude image. (Like this blog, for example.) They would block those sites, thus the site can’t target those teens with advertisements.

For Facebook, this would be a problem. Facebook has plenty of advertisements but also plenty of games that attract teens and young adults. They use Facebook to meet with friends, play games and whatever more. Thus, Facebook depends on this group of people and thus has to respond when people report “inappropriate material”. And because they have plenty of teens, they are extremely strict at that. Tumblr has less troubles with this. They make money from the bloggers themselves by offering premium services and premium themes. They also provide advertisements, although those are barely noticeable.

Tumblr doesn’t really target teens so the content can include nudity and even pornography. Because of that, it’s no surprise that you can find plenty of those on Tumblr.

And WordPress? Well, WordPress is available in several versions. You can host it on your own server, you can have it hosted by a service provider or you do as I do and let it be hosted by WordPress themselves. The hosted versions might be a bit more strict because the hosting provider has a reputation to keep up. Worse, since the blogger is paying the provider, the provider might prefer to have less visitors instead of many, to save bandwidth. Nude pictures are often large amounts of data and with many visitors the provider loses bandwidth.

Self-hosted WordPress sites have no restrictions, though. The worst thing that could happen is that police will confiscate your hardware and arrest you if you happened to host some illegal content.

So, one main reason to block nudity is because people don’t want their teen children being exposed to it. (While plenty of teens might actually be specifically looking for this material and might even exchange nude selfies with friends.) Social sites will have to know the type of visitors they generally have and adjust their content to those visitors.

At SecondLife, for example, the rules for content within the game were mostly quite relaxed. People were allowed a lot in their own lands, as long as it was marked as mature or adult. But SecondLife got into troubles after it was discovered that many underage teens would play the game too. And those teens were suddenly exposed to nudity, sex and a lot of other things. So they decided to create a separate version just for teens and kicked every teen from the adult world to the “nicer” teen world. And if new teens are discovered in the adult world, they too are kicked to the “kindergarten”.

And they banned most of the adult stuff from most areas except for the adult areas. Since you have to pay a lot to have an adult area, this meant that many people just left the game. SecondLife now has some competition because some developers started to create the OpenSimulator where people could just host their own second world on their own system.

This became even more complex after some groups started to combine forces and started hosting virtual world similar to SecondLife, but for much less money or even free. Because of this and the ban on adult material, SecondLife has lost a lot of people.

There are, of course, more reasons. Sites that want to have viewers in e.g. China need to be aware of the restrictions the Chinese government puts on content. No pornography and preferably no bashing of the government itself. Sites focussing on the USA might also block pornography because there are a lot of people in the USA whose religious views are against such images.

In the UK they’re even demanding that providers just block all pornography and adult sites, which led to plenty of protests because too much was blocked. So, sites who want to target citizens in the UK better clean themselves up so they will get past those (faulty) porn filters.

Again, Facebook belongs to those, thus they definitely want to stay clean. Basically, social sites have to choose between those who claim there’s too much nudity versus those who want to have more nudity. Some want more, others want less. And social sites just tend to listen to those who have the most power. Not the majority but those who have the biggest influence. And those would be the lawmakers.

For example, mentioning the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 will likely get you banned in China. Not practical if you want to trade with people in China. Facebook has similar problems but all over the world. In too many countries the law puts some very strict restrictions on nudity. The USA and UK aren’t even the worst of them.

Facebook is also popular among Arab people, India and plenty of other cultures that frown upon female nipples. They want advertisers everywhere to pay them so they make a lot of profit and thus they have to give in to the demands of those lawmakers. Fortunately they also want to be in Europe so they can’t be too strict on their content, but still…

Nipples are banned because it might offend advertisers in certain areas. That would even apply to pictures of women breastfeeding their child. Male nipples are generally less offensive, though. So yes, there’s discrimination in the Facebook policies. But giving in to the demand to allow more nudity would cost them some of their advertisers, thus some of their revenue. It would only be worth their trouble if people would ban Facebook because of this strict policy.

Unfortunately, no advertiser is blocking Facebook because they don’t show enough nipples. And that’s why social media block nipples…

MtGox is close to bankrupt.

TodaY I received a PDF file called “Announcement of Commencement of Bankruptcy Proceedings_212014” And basically, it tells me that MtGox, a bitcoin market, is definitely going bankrupt. But that was to be expected. I have less than a single euro in bitcoins at MtGox I have no regrets for trying out their service. But plenty of other people have made big investments in bitcoins and stored them at MtGox. Chances are that they will have lost it all, since MtGox has plenty of bills it needs to pay first.

To make it more complex, its unclear if bitcoins can be considered equal to money or not. They’re just a collection of bytes in a specific order and format and they’re worth exactly what people are willing to pay for them. It will be interesting to see what the Japanese court system will think of the value of bitcoins. People might still get their bitcoins if the Liquidator thinks they’re worthless. But if the system in Japan is similar to the Netherlands, that Liquidator could just auction off all bitcoins that MtGox still have to pay off the debts. The remaining cash would then be compensation for anyone who had their bitcoins stored there.

Of course, plenty of other countries (the USA and UK) are probably willing to dig into the action and try to get some financial compensation too. Plenty of American people have lost a lot of money because of this. But the Japanese government goes first and all others have to pick the remaining bones. And I don’t think there will be a lot of meat left on those bones…

The lesson learned from this is, of course, that bitcoins aren’t that safe. Especially if you have them stored at some bitcoin site as MtGox. You are losing control over your money and considering how much bitcoins have been worth in the past, being careless with them can cause a big financial blow. Then again, people can also lose bitcoins if they store them on their own systems. Bitcoins on your phone can get lost if your phone is stolen or damaged. Bitcoins on your computer are always at risk of getting wiped away. I’ve heard of one guy who threw away his old laptop and later learned that he had a few thousands of bitcoins on it, each worth over $1,000 in cash! A very expensive mistake, although he had mined them himself so he did not really lose money. He just made no profits from the mining.

So, please consider what you’re doing when you will use some crypto-money like bitcoins. Make sure you’re well-informed and don’t buy them in large quantities if you just want to save your money somehow. It’s better to just start mining them yourself so your losses can be under control.

And yes, banks can go bankrupt too, but crypto-currency is a bit more riskier since there’s no proof to tell that you really owned them. Once they’re gone, you won’t get them back. This is still something that you should leave to true pioneers who are willing to take risks.

The email itself:

関係人各位

株式会社MTGOX(以下「MTGOX」といいます。)につき、平成26年4月24日午後5時00分、東京地方裁判所より破産手続開始決定がなされ、当職が破産管財人に選任されました(東京地方裁判所平成26年(フ)第3830号)。
今後、破産管財人において、MTGOXの財産管理換価、債権調査等の破産手続を遂行していきます。
つきましては、関係者に対する情報提供を目的として、破産手続に関する基本的事項を添付のとおりお知らせいたしますので、ご確認ください。

なお、このメールアドレス(mtgox_trustee@noandt.com )は破産管財人からの送信専用であり、貴殿が本メールアドレス宛の返信等をされても内容確認及び回答などの対応はできません。
破産手続の進行等については、ウェブサイト( http://www.mtgox.com/ )で情報提供をする予定ですので、当該ウェブサイトをご確認ください。
宜しくお願いいたします。

破産者株式会社MTGOX  破産管財人弁護士小林信明


To whom it may concern,

At 5:00 p.m. on April 24, 2014, the Tokyo District Court granted the order for the commencement of the bankruptcy proceedings vis-à-vis MtGox Co., Ltd. (“MtGox”), and based upon such order, I was appointed as the bankruptcy trustee (Tokyo District Court 2014 (fu) no. 3830).
The bankruptcy trustee will implement the bankruptcy proceedings, including the administration and realization of the assets and investigation of the claims.
For the purpose of providing information to the related parties, we hereby inform you of the basic matters regarding the bankruptcy proceedings as attached.

This email address(mtgox_trustee@noandt.com) is used only for the purpose of sending messages, and we are unable to check and respond to any replies to this email address.
Since we plan to provide the information regarding the bankruptcy proceedings by posting it on the website hosted by the bankruptcy trustee ( http://www.mtgox.com/ ), please check this website.

Bankrupt MtGox Co., Ltd. Bankruptcy trustee Attorney-at-law Nobuaki Kobayashi

Betaalverzoek inzake CJIB

Once more some stupid spammer trying to get people to pay them lots of money. It was sent to my sister who could not understand how she had to pay so she asked me how. I quickly discovered that this is a big scam and told her so. And I’m posting it here to warn other people about this scam too and how scammers try new tricks every time hoping for the suckers who are scared enough to pay.

Since this scam was written in Dutch, I will continue in the Dutch language.


Clip

Mijn zus ontving vandaag deze email van het “CJIB” betreffende een verkeersboete van 155 euro. Het dreigt ermee dat haar bankrekening wordt geblokkeerd met ingang van 13 mei, wat dus al gebeurd zou zijn. Ze moet voor 19 mei betalen, dus op de dag dat ze de email ontving. En ja, dat is de manier waarop spammers proberen om hun slachtoffers mee onder druk te zetten zodat ze betalen zonder na te denken.

Wat belangrijk is, is hoe de spammers aanwijzingen geven om een prepaid credit card aan te schaffen om zo de boete mee te betalen. Vervolgens moet je naar een site toe, waar geeneens een domeinnaam aan hangt. Het is een URL met IP adres 153.122.39.197 en daarbinnen een folder. Daar zie je vervolgend een vrij kaal scherm met een betaalknop.

Clip_2Clip_3Clip_5Klik je vervolgens verder dan krijg ik met Google Chrome al een waarschuwing dat de site is geblokkeerd wegens phishing. Ik neem even het risico en kom bij het volgende plaatje. Daar moet de 3B pincode worden ingevuld, waarna de oplichter de gehele creditcard kan leeghalen. Wie uiteindelijk een 19-cijferig nummer invoert krijgt vervolgens een pagina te zien die aangeeft dat de betaling succesvol was (terwijl ik een willekeurig nummer gebruikte) en ik zal binnen drie tot 5 dagen bericht krijgen van de belastingdienst.

Belastingdienst?

Het bedrag van 155 euro komt mooi overeen met de hoogste waarde van de betreffende maatschappij. Gelukkig hebben ze al door dat er dergelijke nepmails over het Internet gaan zodat iedereen op Beltegoed Opwaarderen daar nog eens de waarschuwing over deze oplichterij te zien krijgt.

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Jammer dat de waarschuwing onder de betaalknoppen staat en niet erboven, waar ze nog beter opvallen. Maar iedereen zou dit toch als een waarschuwing moeten zien. Hopelijk is het duidelijk genoeg maar er zullen altijd mensen zijn die in dit soort oplichterij trappen.

Hoe komt het dat er zoveel mensen in trappen? Dat is heel simpel. Dergelijke berichten worden vaak naar grote aantallen adressen verstuurd. Als 1% van de bevolking er in trapt en ze versturen het naar 100.000 adressen dan zijn dat toch al weer 1.000 slachtoffers. En dat maal 150 euro maakt het een winstgevende actie, maar wel illegaal. Gelukkig is het percentage slachtoffers nog veel lager dan 1% maar al zijn er 10 slachtoffers in die grote groep, het geld komt dan wel binnen met relatief weinig moeite.

Hoe kun je je wapenen tegen deze oplichters? Eigenlijk moet je daarvoor gewoon goed opletten en goed weten hoe bepaalde bedrijven en organisaties werken. Het CJIB zal echt niet via prepaid creditcards betaald willen worden. Het CJIB zal sowieso nooit via het Internet boetes proberen te innen.

Dergelijke constructies zijn vooral bedoeld om geld weg te sluizen zodat het slachtoffer er niet meer bij komt. Je bent het geld gewoon kwijt zodra je op deze manier hebt betaald. Ook de creditcard maatschappij kan het niet terugkrijgen omdat ze het beltegoed erop gebruiken om bijvoorbeeld een duur 06-nummer mee te bellen. Dan is de creditcard leeg en ligt het geld bij een telefoon maatschappij die het weer moet doorbetalen aan een bel-bedrijf. En van daar gaat het geld weer verder weg van het slachtoffer.

Wat ook van belang is, is dat de site nergens om mijn persoonlijke gegevens vraagt. Deze staan zelfs niet in de email. Het is gericht aan de bestuurder, zonder zelfs een nummer van een kentekenplaat te vermelden. Dat kunnen de oplichters ook niet want ze hebben deze gegevens niet. Als iemand een rekening per email verstuurt dan zou je toch meer gegevens in de email verwachten. Het gebrek aan deze persoonlijke gegevens is ook een waarschuwing.

Wie technisch iets handiger is kan ook nog eens naar de ‘headers’ van de email kijken om te bepalen waar de email vandaan komt. En dan blijkt dat de email afkomstig is van hetzelfde IP adres als de site zelf. Een adres dat ergens in Japan te vinden is. Mogelijk een Japanse computer die onderdeel is geworden van een botnet en dus misbruikt wordt zonder dat de eigenaar dit beseft. Om de oplichter te vinden is dit dus geen behulpzame manier. Daarvoor zul je het geld moeten volgen…

Maar sowieso moet je altijd oppassen met verzoeken tot betalen per email. Eigenlijk zou je dat standaard moeten weigeren, tenzij je zeker bent dat het iets betreft dat je nog moet betalen.

Nu nog even de volledige email zoals deze is ontvangen via de hotmail account van mijn zuster:

x-store-info:4r51+eLowCe79NzwdU2kRyU+pBy2R9QCj0/8P6fDMVumMo6iGJG5XQGQsGw4y+KC5jGdX6A7+/ZVHRw3c8psWXtc+cAfssqe5kw3LdG9RbC+kh049fg5aL5vFishJNonRedbn/JCR2Y=
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Reply-To: <noreply@cjib.nl>
From: “Centraal Justitieel Incassobureau”<cjibnoreply@cjib.nl>
Subject: Betaalverzoek inzake CJIB
Date: Sat, 17 May 2014 03:15:51 +0200
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<HTML><HEAD><TITLE></TITLE>
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<FONT size=2 color=#000000 face=”Arial”>
<DIV>
<IMG align=middle border=0 width=400 height=69 src=”cid:00E9BAC800C5$03195E81$0100007f@uhxyhwczmgwjdgc”></DIV>
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&nbsp;</DIV>
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Geachte bestuurder,</DIV>
<DIV>
&nbsp;</DIV>
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<DIV>
U hebt een beschikking en vervolgens twee aanmaningen ontvangen voor het overtreden van een verkeersvoorschrift.</DIV>
<DIV>
Het openstaande bedrag is niet volledig op de rekening van het Centraal Justitieel Incassobureau (CJIB) bijgeschreven.</DIV>
<DIV>
Daarom zullen wij de bank opdracht gegeven uw rekening te blokkeren per dinsdag 13 mei 2014.</DIV>
<DIV>
Alleen persoonlijk bij het BKR zelf kunt u inzage krijgen in de informatie die het BKR over u ontvangt.</DIV>
<DIV>
Het blokkeren van rekening betekent dat de toegang tot uw rekening geblokkkeerd is met ingang 13-05-2014 voor een periode van vier werken.</DIV>
<DIV>
&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>
&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>
Met de 3v online krediet kunt u online op onze website de betaling voldoen. U dient hieronder te klikken op<B><I> </B></I><I>3v credit kopen</I> .</DIV>
<DIV>
<B>&nbsp;</B></DIV>
<DIV>
<B> </B></DIV>
<DIV>
<A href=”http://beltegoedopwaarderen.nl/3v”><FONT color=#0000FF><B><U>3v</B></U></FONT></A><A href=”http://beltegoedopwaarderen.nl/3v”><FONT color=#0000FF><B><U> credit
kopen</B></U></FONT></A></DIV>
<DIV>
<B> </B></DIV>
<DIV>
Let op: nadat uw de 3v (prepaid credit) heeft gekocht dient u de 19 cijferige nummercode hieronder te activeren om de betaling te voldoen.</DIV>
<DIV>
Klik hieronder op <I>aanmaning betalen</I><B><I>.</B></I></DIV>
<DIV>
<B>&nbsp;</B></DIV>
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<B>&nbsp;</B></DIV>
<DIV>
<A href=”http://153.122.39.197/~newran/”><FONT color=#0000FF><B><U>Aanmaning betalen</B></U></FONT></A></DIV>
<DIV>
Het volledige bedrag van Eur 155,00 (inclusief kosten) moet uiterlijk 19-05-2013 worden betaald. Doet u dit niet, dan wordt u per 19-05-2014 geregisteerd bij BKR.</DIV>
<DIV>
Voorkom blokkade van uw rekening.</DIV>
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&nbsp;</DIV>
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<B> </B></DIV>
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<B> </B></DIV>
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Hoogachtend,</DIV>
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<IMG align=middle border=0 width=120 height=60 src=”cid:00C18EFDDDDC$00C87F7D$0100007f@uhxyhwczmgwjdgc”></DIV>
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Centraal Justitieel Incassobureau.</DIV>
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<B>&nbsp;</B></DIV>
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A very generic datamodel.

I’ve come up with several projects in the past and a few have been mentioned here before. For example, the Garagesale project which was based on a system I called “CART”. Or the WordChain project that was a bit similar in structure. And because those similarities, I’ve been thinking about a very generic datamodel that should be handled to almost any project.

The advantage of a generic database is that you can focus on the business layer while you don’t need to change much in the database itself. The datamodel would still need development but by using the existing model, mapping to existing entities, you could keep it all very simple. And it resulted in this Datamodel:ClassDiagram(Click the image to see a bigger version.)

The top class is ‘Identifier’ which is just an ID of type GUID to find the records. Which will work fine in derived classes too. Since I’m using the Entity Framework 6 I can just use POCO to keep it all very simple. All I have to do is define a DBContext that tells me which tables (classes) I want. If I don’t create an entry for ‘Identifier’, the table won’t be created either.

The next class is the ‘DataContent’ class, which can hold any XML. That way, this class can contain all information that I define in code without the need to create new tables. I also linked it to a ‘DataTemplate’ class which can be used to validate the content of the XML with an XML schema or special style sheet. (I still need to work out how, exactly.) The template can be used to validate the data inside the content.

The ‘BaseItem’ and ‘BaseLink’ classes are the more important here. ‘BaseItem’ contains all fixed data within my system. In the CART system, this would be the catalog. And ‘BaseLink’ defines transactions of a specific item from one item to another. And that’s basically three-fourth of the CART system. (The template is already defined in the ‘DataTemplate’ class.)

I also created two separate link types. One to deal with fixed numbers which is called ‘CountLink’ which you generally use for items. (One cup, two girls, etc.) The other is for fractional numbers like weights or money and is called ‘AmountLink’. These two transaction types will be the most used transaction types, although ‘BaseLink’ can be used to transfer unique items. Derived links could be created to support more special situations but I can’t think of any.

The ‘BaseItems’ class will be used to derive more special items. These special items will define the relations with other items in the system. The simplest of them being the ‘ChildItem’ class that will define more information related to a specific item. They are strongly linked to the parent item, like wheels on a car or keys on a keyboard.

The ‘Relation’ class is used to group multiple items together. For example, we can have ‘Books’ defined as relation with multiple book items linked to it. A second group called ‘Possessions’ could also be created to contain all things I own. Items that would be in both groups would be what is in my personal library.

A special relation type is ‘Property’ which indicates that all items in the relation are owned by a specific owner. No matter what happens with those items, their owner stays the same. Such a property could e.g. be a bank account with a bank as owner. Even though customers use such accounts, the account itself could not be transferred to some other bank.

But the ‘Asset’ class is more interesting since assets are the only items that we can transfer. Any transaction will be about an asset moving from one item to another. Assets can still be anything and this class doesn’t differ much from the ‘BaseItem’ class.

A special asset is a contract. Contracts have a special purpose in transactions. Transactions are always between an item and a contract. Either you put an asset into a contract or extract it from a contract. And contracts themselves can be part of bigger contracts. By checking how much has been sent or received to a contract you can check if all transactions combined are valid. Transactions will have to specify if they’re sending items to the contract or receiving them from the contract.

The ‘BaseContract’ class is the more generic contract type and manages a list of transactions. When it has several transactions, it is important that there are no more ‘phantom items’. (A phantom item would be something that’s sent to the contract but not received by another item, or vice versa.) These contracts will need to be balanced as a check to see if they can be closed or not. They should be temporary and last from the first transaction to the last.

The ‘Contract’ type derived from ‘BaseContract’ contains an extra owner. This owner will be the one who owns any phantom items in the contract. This reduces the amount of transactions and makes the contract everlasting. (Although it can still be closed.) Balancing these contracts is not required, making them ideal as e.g. bank accounts.

Yes, it’s a bit more advanced than my earlier CART system but I’ve considered how I could use this for various projects that I have in mind. Not just the GarageSale project, but also a simple banking application, a chess notation application, a project to keep track of sugar measurements for people with diabetics and my WordChain application.

The banking application would be interesting. It would start with two ‘Relation’ records: “Banks” and “Clients”. The Banks relation would contain Bank records with information of multiple banks. The Clients relation would contain the client records for those banks. And because of the datamodel, clients can have multiple banks.

Banks would be owners of bank accounts, and those accounts would be contracts. All the bank needs to do is keep track of all money going in our out the account. (Making money just another item and all transactions will be of type ‘AmountLink’.) But to link those accounts to the persons who are authorized to receive money from the account, each account would need to be owner of a Property record. The property record then has a list of clients authorized to manage the account.

And we will need six different methods to create transactions. Authorized clients can add or withdraw money from the account. Other clients can send or receive payments from the account, where any money received from the contract needs to be authorized. Finally, the bank would like to have interest, or pays interest. (Or not.) These interest transactions don’t need authorization from the client.

The Chess Notation project would also be interesting. It would start with a Board item and 64 squares items plus a bunch of pieces assets. The game itself would be a basic contract without owner. The Game contract would contain a collection of transactions transferring all pieces to their first locations. A collection of ‘Move’ contracts would also be needed where the Game Contract owns them. The Move would show which move it is (including branches of the game) and the transactions that take place on the board. (White Rook gone from A1, White Rook added to A4 and Black pawn removed from A4, which translates into rook takes pawn at A4.)

It would be a very complex way to store a chess game, but it can be done in the same datamodel as my banking application.

With the diabetes project, each transaction would be a measurement. The contract would be owned by the person who is measuring his or her blood and we don’t need to send or receive these measurements, just link them to the contract.

The WordChain project would be a bit more complex. It would be a bunch of items with relations, properties and children. Contracts and assets would be used to support updates to the texts with every edit of a WordChain item kicking the old item out of the contract and adding a new item into the contract. That would result in a contract per word in the database.

A lot of work is still required to make sure it works as well as I expect. It would not be the most ideal datamodel for all these projects but it helps me to focus more on the business layer and the GUI without worrying about any database changes. Once the business model becomes more advanced, I could create a second data layer with a better datamodel to improve the performance of the data management.