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NEWS AND GOSSIP: March to April 2009
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Posted 16/04/2009: The message pad - what happened? [Updated 24/02/2013]The club's 'message pad' originally came into being about a year ago. The primary 'driver' for this facility lay in the realms of the club's 'Find a Partner' scheme. Up to that point, this scheme was totally reliant on me operating a message exchange scheme by phone or e-mail. That was all very well and good, but in May 2008 I was scheduled to be away on holiday for almost three weeks, and though I have been able to find cover for my absences for actually running the club, passing over responsibility for looking after 'Find a Partner' seemed like, well, a bridge too far!
My web-hosting service (UKHost4U) offers a number of add-on features, and one of these was a simple 'Guestbook' facility, which was amenable to adaptation to become a 'message pad', where visitors to the website could leave comments, queries, responses, and in particular could advertise for a partner.The original message pad attracted a lot of interest from a few technically-minded club members, but sadly the majority ignored it. But at least it was now possible for members to exchange messages about fill-in partnerships for the period I was away - and, indeed, any other time.
A few months later, a couple of Russians 'discovered' this feature and started using it as a pseudo 'chat-room', and the message pad started to fill up with unreadable comments in the Russian alphabet. I had to disable the message pad and re-think.It was at that point that I deployed another of the web-site's optional features - a password protected "Members' Area". A number of features were moved to the private area, including the message pad, and for quite some time all was well, apart from the fact that the use of the facility was disappointingly low, but at least it was there, available, and free of Russian messages.
In mid-December 2008 the message pad started getting filled up with messages that included web-links to recipes for dog food and other culinary delights. On investigation, it eventually became clear what had happened. The basic 'Guestbook' facility operates as a bit of a 'black box' and it transpired that though all the entry routes to the pad are in the password protected area of the website, the database itself lies in a public access area, over which I, as website administrator, have no control. That makes sense - most website administrators put a 'Guestbook' on their website hoping to collect hundreds of of messages full of glowing praise so that everyone else is enthused and joins the club, or buys their product, or whatever... Some unscrupulous individual had evidently 'discovered' the Guestbook database and worked out how to mimic the instruction for posting messages to it. They then programmed all that into a computer 'robot', and then found a poorly secured computer somewhere (it happened to be in Sweden, but that is by the by), and infected that computer with its robot. The effect has been that for four months that Swedish computer has been posting messages on the message pad at 35-minute intervals whenever it is switched on. By examining the log file left behind on my website I have been able to deduce when the owner of the infected PC apparently goes to bed, when he / she goes away for the weekend, etc, as every now and then there are breaks in the flow.The messages originally concerned recipes but as time went by their nature changed, and they started to include links to what sounded like out-and-out pornography. At that point once again I had to announce that the message pad was no longer available to club members.
Having identified by its 'IP Address' the computer from which all these messages arose I was able to use another website feature to block access to any part of the MBC website from that computer. Two things happened. Firstly it transpired that some of the messages came to the club's website via a complex route, so the source computer as identified on the log files was not the last one in the chain, and hence only around 30% of the attempted postings were blocked. Secondly, for about an hour last week things went a bit 'pear-shaped' such that EVERYONE was blocked from accessing any part of the website!My 'technical adviser' was home for the Easter Weekend and we set about sorting this problem out once and for all. We changed access permissions on the original database such that nobody (not even me) can write anything to it. If you or anyone else does discover the original message pad all you will be able to do is to read a message that tells you that the facility is not available. You will get an "Error 401 - ACCESS FORBIDDEN" if you try to write to it.
A new third party 'Guestbook' has been installed instead. User access to it is almost identical to the original message pad, though there are a few obvious changes. The good news is that we - or more correctly my technical advisor's more advanced skills - have much more control over the way this facility works, and in particular, the database at its heart is securely located within the password protected area of the website. It is only possible to read or write a message if you have presented a valid MBC username and password.So once again, the message pad is up and running. I do hope that after all this hassle members start to make use of it, and not only for 'Find a Partner' purposes... If you have read this far - thanks for your patience, and why not post something, but not in Russian, recipes or otherwise inappropriate!
See later news items for further changes made to the message pad in 2013
Updated 27/03/2009: LADIES' & MEN'S PAIRS, 26th February 2009
The completed results are available here. Congratulations
Posted 06/03/2009: HELLIAR TROPHY 2009The club enjoyed success in the Essex Invitational Event - the Helliar Trophy - on February 22nd. Mountnessing teams finished 1st, 6th, and 18th, and as a consequence qualified to represent Essex in the Regional Finals of the Garden Cities Trophy.
Earlier this year the club also won the Essex Invitational Fletcher Trophy. Though the club has won both the Helliar and the Fletcher Trophies several times in the past, it has never before won both of them in the same season.To return to the 'News Index' close this window