Blog posts written during December 2013

How to cut the amount of spam you receive and counter intelligence.

Friday Friday, December 20, 2013 by Ian Pettman

The UK has a fine record of counter intelligence. Part of this is the skill of extracting valuable information from what otherwise seems like a torrent of noise. Historically computer based analysis was led by a team at Bletchley park with central members of Alan Turing, Andy Flowers and Bill Tutte.

Today one of the largest efforts is to gather valid email addresses (yours!). This process is sometimes referred to as phishing. 

Phishing takes two forms:

  • Get you to re-enter your email, password, credit card details and other details on a bogus web form which looks like your bank / major on line shop etc.
  • Get you simply to click on any link in an email which says "to show images from xyz click here" or "Email not displaying properly? Click here to see full version"

This is why with Christmas spirit, the number of emails which contain "special offers" and a "blank" image which is not yet displayed has once again increased.

Why do spammers send such emails?

Surely if they are going to entice you to click on the ad, they want you to see something attractive? How does simply clicking increase spam sent to me?

It all depends who "they" are.  More often than not these images contain a hidden unique reference which the sender can use to find which of the multitude of emails they send has been the source of your click. This information is also sent when you just accept that you want to see the image.  So by responding in any way to that otherwise blank unsolicited email you will probably be confirming to them that the email address they used ends up with a human being viewing it.

The economics of sending emails mean that they can turn a profit on even such slender pickings, so perpetuating spam.

If you use Gmail or many other popular email providers, then in Google's own words:

"Have you ever wondered why Gmail asks you before showing images in emails? We did this to protect you from unknown senders who might try to use images to compromise the security of your computer or mobile device."

Well if you don't display the image, the sender ('s sever) will never receive a request for it and so not get confirmation that it's been received by a valid email address.  Google does not do email marketing. So it is good and helpful that Google download all images and then any link determining a valid or an invalid email addresses is broken for the sender.

Of course Google is where it is today because it's awfully good at using various bits of information to target you with "appropriate" or "high return" adverts. If for some reason it was stopped from "not reading your emails" but scanning them for appropriate phrases" to target ads, then may be it could just use the fact that you downloaded the image instead?

So the next time an email asks you to click on a link or see a picture…just say no.


Links that may be of interest.

Google is storing the images for your email

Impact for email marketers

Impact for email marketers another view

The national Museum of Computing (This webpage only exists as a standard insecure webpage however you may navigate to it by pasting the following url in your address bar:

Alan Turing (New Scientist)

Alan Turing (Wiki)

Tommy Flowers (Independent) (This webpage only exists as a standard insecure webpage however you may navigate to it by pasting the following url in your address bar:

Bill Tutte (Wiki)

Bletchley Park (BBC)

Codes and Cyphers (This webpage only exists as a standard insecure webpage however you may navigate to it by pasting the following url in your address bar:




Be as good as Google

Thursday Thursday, December 19, 2013 by Ian Pettman

Google probably have the most extensive and best performing web pages of any. So when we can measure our response time in the same breath as that of Google, we feel we are providing a service to our customers which is second to none. Google also gives points towards page ranking depending on how quicly a site responds. So our web pages and importantly to us, those of our customers' web sites we host do as well as they can for all their web content.

We also monitor both our websites and our customers' and a week ago we moved everything to new (Rackspace) performance servers. It was therefore very gratifying that the speed of both our sites and our customers is to all intents and purposes as good as Google.

Monitoring Location : UK / Europe
Test Name Type Uptime(%) Avg Resp Time(ms) Failures(#) Benchmark 100 52.19 0
ava web site_http Rackspace Ava Web Server 100 52.28 0
Customer 1 Rackspace Ava Web Server 100 51.07 0


Links which may be of interest

 To read more about the state of the art Web Servers we use and provide for our customers



Pros and cons of combining an existing Recruitment Web site with the Ava Advanced Agency web site

Wednesday Wednesday, December 11, 2013 by Administrator


You want to make the best choice of combining your back office with your web site?



New support article: moving OpenVPN to new ip address

Sunday Sunday, December 8, 2013 by Administrator

Occasionally there may be a need to move your back office temporary staff recuitment software database to a new server with a new IP address.

At Ava we will typically configure your first server to give around 5 years of usage and may be more.

In the happy circumstance that our software helps you grow very quickly, this move may occur earlier. The software does not change: from experience it is scalable to tens of back office consultants, hundreds of customers and thousands of your temporary staff employees.

However to maintain the highest level of performance we may need to change your server allocation.



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