Thursday, October 18, 2007

Lord & Taylor's CAPTCHA takes the cake!*

Efforts to can spam, foil phishers, and baffle bots are becoming increasingly creative. One delicious example is Lord & Taylor's CAPTCHA technique, which really takes the cake!

SIDEBAR: If you're wondering WTH (What The Heck)?! I've got some 'splainin' to do. CAPTCHA is an acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. CAPTCHA applications combat fraud perpetrated by humans and bots. Bots, in this context (as opposed to the biological, musical, economic, or thermomagnetic), are described by>>CAPTCHA as "software agents [...] developed to automatically perform illegitimate transactions over the Web, including overloading online opinion polls, performing dictionary attacks to find names and passwords as well as grabbing thousands of free e-mail accounts for sending spam."

Are you with me?

BACK ON TRACK: One creative use of CAPTCHA is employed by Yahoo! to combat phishers. Yahoo!'s login page offers an option to create a text or image badge to authenticate the login form and distinguish it from those of imposters seeking to steal Yahoo! login information. One enters a three-part alphanumeric phrase (e.g., ABC-123-xoxo or I-Eat-Cake), or uploads an image from their hard drive, et voila! one's created a unique, authenticatable [yes, that's a word!] sign-in form.

Lord & Taylor's CAPTCHA application, on the other hand, presents an image - in my case, the tasty tidbit pictured above - to registrants at Credit Services, and instructions to create a caption. Subsequently, account access requires: (1) entering one's email address, (2) verifying one's unique Site Key Image [i.e., picture-caption combination], and (3) entering one's password. Piece o' cake!

The process protects users' accounts from hackers and scammers, and is actually fun to follow. As Ralph Kramden would say: how sweet it is!

Monday, October 15, 2007


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Intrusive registration process requests cellular number, and makes me mad as hell

As Howard Beale (Peter Finch) said in Network: "I'm mad as hell and I'm just not taking anymore!"* (NOTE: I'm not suicidal (as Beale was), just spitting mad.)

"Cell, no! I say." And I say it again as my bottom line.

What's gotten my goat is the proliferation of purveyor and solictor intrusions. I encountered the latest, this morning, from a company I otherwise trust. had invited me to join askville, which benefits Associates (i.e., affiliate marketers). Step one was painless: entering my login details. However, the intrusive next screen in the registration process stopped me dead in my tracks.

Enter my cell(ular) phone number and provider/carrier? Heck no, Joe!

I'm already sick of spam in my e-mail boxes, junk mail in my mailboxes, and unwelcome, unsolicited phone calls on my land lines. However, those are mere nuisances compared with unwanted, unsolicited cellular calls that waste time, distract, and squander precious peak-time minutes. If time is money, the first three buggers are costly; the fourth: a double dipper.

Thankfully, good spam filters, junk busters and do not call registries screen and stem many unwanted communications, and it's illegal for telemarketers to dial most cell phone numbers (except those furnished voluntarily or unwittingly). Goodie for us who don't want to be bothered. TDB (Too Darn Bad) for scammers and solictors biting the bit to breach others' privacy and wallets.

Of course, creative, persistent intruders have found other ways to skin the proverbial cat. For example, scammers have gone phishing, and solicitors have set their sites on mobile devices.

Don't get me wrong. I trust (unlike some other companies) not to spam me or bombard my mobile phone. Moreover, is only one of an increasing number of service providers to request cellular numbers; e.g., vendors that proffer made-to-order maps, directions, ring tones and many other wares do, too.

To reassure potential registrants, askville, by shares its FAQ, Privacy Policy, Terms of Service, and answers to the following questions here:
  • Why do you want my phone number?
  • Okay, but will you ever call or text me again?
  • Will receiving a text message cost me any money?
I believe askville's answers. What I don't trust, however, is ANY entities' ability to secure my sensitive 411. Credit card companies, hospitals, academic institutions, Google, and heck, even Uncle Sam, have been hacked and their clients' identities and sensitive information compromised. Consequently, I'm in no rush to weaken my already-permeable privacy by dipping my cellular number into one of the world's largest marketing pools.

To most who ask for my mobile number, here's my answer: "Cell, no!"###

* My source: Wikipedia >> Network (film). Wikipedia's source: Quotation and screenshot for the film, Copyright MGM, and possibly also Copyright Peter Finch. It is believed that the use of a limited number of web-resolution screenshots for identification and critical commentary on the film and its contents on the English-language Wikipedia, hosted on servers in the United States by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law. Any other uses of this image, on Wikipedia or elsewhere, may be copyright infringement. See Wikipedia:Non-free content for more information.To the uploader: please add a detailed fair use rationale for each use, as described on Wikipedia:Image description page, as well as the source of the work and copyright information.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Lindsay Lohan sez rehab was a "sobering experience"

According to print and electronic media, Lindsay Lohan sez rehab was "a sobering experience." What a bloggable statement! I'm glad to hear it, and hope it's true. (I wonder if Lindsay was aware of the pun, and if so, whether she or one of her flacks crafted that quotable line.)###

Monday, October 08, 2007

Visiting aquariums creates a craving for seafood, but visiting zoos activates an appetite for popcorn

Is it just I, or does anyone share this experience? Visiting aquariums creates a craving for seafood, but visiting zoos activates an appetite for popcorn (not meat or fowl, as one might expect).

The Seaside Cafe at New York Aquarium (near Coney Island) caters to the first craving. (See their sign, above.) Vending carts and cafes scattered around venues, such as the Bronx Zoo, tame hungry human appetites.