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FBI uses e-mail viruses to collect intelligence

In his regular column Alister Black looks at the how the FBI uses viruses, how big corporations try to control the web and how the anti-globalisation movement uses it.

You may remember an earlier column where I outlined how the FBI and CIA are using new methods with codenames such as Carnivore and Echelon to monitor the e-mail of, well, anyone they feel like. A new twist is that they are now trying to use the e-mail viruses that regularily sweep the planet to help their monitoring.

The virus Bad-Trans B like many other viruses spread by exploiting weak points in Microsoft email software Outlook Express. It then takes a record of the key strokes undertaken in every application, including passwords, and sends the info to one of a selection of email addresses. The owner of one of the servers hosting one of these addresses has alleged that the FBI approached him. They wanted access to the information gathered. This would not help them find the creator of the virus, but it would give them access to massive amounts of confidential information, including passwords which could be used for other spying purposes.

The bureau are now working on their own virus (or depending which rumours you believe, 'Trojan Horse' software which remotely controls the user's computer), codenamed Magic Lantern. The smokescreen of the 'war against terrorism' may well mean that they will get whatever they want, regardless of what those pesky human-rights people say.

KPMG versus the web

Big corporations push us about. In the workplace they make the rules. But they can't stop us taking the piss. Can they? Giant multinational accountancy firm KPMG tried to enthuse its workers with a jolly company song - 'our vision of global strategy'. Undoubtedly this was one of the worst pieces of drivel ever written, marketing speak put to a 'hi-nrg' beat. Web designer Chris Reattig recognised this and created a site ( to display this and similar efforts from other companies. The site was especially popular with the workers for these corporations who gleefully sent in their own cheesy company anthems. But KPMG were not amused and they have sent Chris a scary legal letter. The strange thing about this letter is that it attempts to put legal restrictions on linking to the KPMG site.

Now there is absolutely nothing to prevent anyone from linking to another site, indeed this is in the nature of the web. As Chris noted in his reply to KPMG "if every hyperlink used on the web required parties at both sides of the link to enter into a formal agreement, I sincerely doubt that the web would be in existence today." ( KPMG's action backfired on them and there was a campaign on the web to link to KPMG, with thousands creating 'unauthorised' links to KPMG. KPMG also found that their anthem was given a jungle remix and hard rock remix. So if you are reading this online please surf to and read all about the $11.7 billion profit they made this year and how to "do business in China". Altogether now: "we go for the gold/together we hold/onto our vision of global strategy...!"

Anti-Globalisation info and the web

The web is a fantastic resource to get the latest information as it happens. Sites such as Indymedia ( are becoming well-known and for many activists are the first port of call for world news. But if you are looking for a little more in-depth analysis there are also plenty of sites to choose from. The French group Attac was set up to campaign for the Tobin Tax, a tax on the international transfer of capital. Their site at has extensive in-depth information on the process of capitalist globalisation. You can also sign up for a regular English language e-mail which gives you essential information on the latest outrages perpetrated by the IMF, World Bank and WTO, as well as the campaigns against them. Another great site is that of investigative journalist Greg Palast ( whose reports you may have seen on Newsnight or elsewhere. He has all of his journalism available on-line. This includes whistle-blowing interviews with the former IMF chief economist, exclusives on how Bush rigged the US elections and insights into how the IMF are waging war on the poor worldwide. Finally another interesting site is Guerrilla News Network ( which features the best exposés by writers and journalists who get only restricted access to the 'mainstream' media, such as Noam Chomsky.