Wednesday 20 October 2010

Thought Picnic: Prospects to a company

Exploring a prospect

The difference between mentors and protégé could not be starker as they were corporation men and he, a man in some corporation and many at that.

The regularity of the pay-check as the politics of the firm determined stagnation, promotion, ejection or resignation, the hope for a boss that did not set your blood pressure off to the wrong readings at the risk of shortening your life.

The irregularity of great rewards of risk as your great utility at onset diminishes in significance as problems fall to solutions you proffer and the absence of panic suddenly points you out as too luxurious – a wave of austere angst is the tide that sweeps you back onto the street which becomes the treadmill again.

The talk

Before the last sunset there was a talk, a discussion, a possibility and opportunity, maybe a change to the unusual with the prospect of the interesting.

A deposition like an interview, exchanges that speak of you and who you are, whether the change is good or not, one cannot tell but until explored that land remains undiscovered.

After another sunset one would know if the path is to corporation man or one remains a fireman good for emergencies but never in the garden.

Friday 8 October 2010

Nigeria: One look at our Dutch website - Ewww!

Another website to cry about

I suppose by now I already have a reputation for being a nit-picking imperfectionist of sorts who has a penchant for finding errors and atrocious mistakes in official documents but almost always ends up with problems in my exposés.

As I have tried to make the keener observers understand, my blog and comments about websites are personal, but those websites under review are official, they are the public face of the institutions that commission them, someone gets paid to provide that service and at the least before publication somebody should proofread the stuff before it goes online.

I am beginning to think that the issue of attention to detail is systemic and endemic in Nigerian officialdom and it is not restricted to the confines of Nigeria’s borders. After Babcock University [1] and The Nigeria @ 50 website [2].

Nigeria showing in the Netherlands

I paid a visit to the website [3] of the embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in The Netherlands this morning and the first impressions could not be more amateurish, the site looked like the mock-up creation of a kindergarten school finger-painting class, it was appalling – but that is beside the point.

The home page had an important notice of an event that took place between the 5th and 16th of July, 2010, I think today is the 8th of October, 2010. It was titled “e-Passport Intervention Exercise for Nigerians”, I am getting ahead of myself here, but what I have done is taken a snapshot of the page and presented it as graphic with the numbered parts being the particular issues I want to concentrate on.

Detailing the itemised points

Item 1; shows how addresses are written and spoken out in The Netherlands and usually in most of continental Europe, the street comes first and then the house number. Nothing wrong with this.

Item 2; “Intervention Exercise”, whilst I agree Nigerians are given to verbosity, myself included at times, giving verbosity vacuity such that context is implied from redundancy is just an excess. However, maybe the “Intervention” implies the normally smooth process of obtaining an e-Passport does not work for all sorts of reasons and the ambassador has decided to intervene.

Otherwise, it is just a registration or validation exercise, the use of intervention confers on the word irrelevance pretending to official importance.

Item 3; speaks for itself, the spelling checker on the author’s computer even if set to Dutch would have flagged that as incorrect. Any public relations department MUST ALWAYS have their copy spell-checked before publication, I dare say, it is a sin not to. Hereby, whack the miscreant across the knuckles.

Item 4; as I stated in Item 1, addresses are written in a particular way in The Netherlands, it helps the post get to its destination and even GPS systems ask for addresses in that order.

I will be as uncharitable as to suggest that some greenhorn who has just been brought over from Nigeria to probably lord it over those who have a clue about things here has thrown their weight about and come up with this nonsense. It might well be the Nigerian Embassy but it is located in The Netherlands, you promote Nigerian culture and values whilst adhering to Dutch standards of communication.

That address should have been The Embassy of Nigeria, Wagenaarweg 5, 2597 LL, The Hague. The use of Post Code No. is redundant but proves my point, a tyro wrote this.

Item 5; English, I believe is still the language for the dissemination of official documents in Nigeria. If that be the case, it is not too exacting to expect the usage of correct grammar and number agreement. Would “who have satisfied” be better than “who satisfied”?

In the same sentence, the indefinite article “a passport” would have been preferred to the definite article “the passport”, I suppose the excuse of English not being the author’s first language might suffice in Nigeria, but surely not in The Netherlands, relatively, Nigerians should and must be better speakers, writers and users of the English language than the Dutch.

Item 6; There might be some disagreement about the use of hyphens in this phrase, which means there would be no preferential treatment or reservations. It is a contraction of “the first to come is the first served”. Hence, it should be first-come first-serveD, not forgetting the essential “D” at the end. Phew!

Item 7; “The Her Excellency”, our pre-occupation with obsequiousness and predilection for titles can get us into serious trouble. Perish the thought that the ambassador is being addressed as such. I swoon with a backhand to my tilted forehead.

Going back to the caption that accompanies the photograph of Dr. (Mrs.) N. N. Akanbi – She is the Nigerian Ambassador to the Royal Kingdom of the Netherlands in The Hague if we are to follow with consistency the way the president has been addressed in the photograph to the left of the ambassador – maybe I am just being pedantic, but surely, it is not too much to ask for.

It is also my desire that all publications from the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria have a modicum of professionalism, attention to detail and show us all in better light than this.

Honestly, I am appalled.


[1] Akin: Nigeria: Ike follows the Babcock University cock-up too

[2] Akin: Nigeria: Reviewing the Nigeria @ 50 website

[3] the embassy of nigeria in the hague, the netherlands

Monday 13 September 2010

Social Engineering: Appealing to my vanity

So much spam

The process of moving my blog to has been slow and fraught but it is beginning to gain some traffic and recognition. Hopefully, with time it would become the primary reference point of searches that have usually gone to

One thing I have noticed about hosting my new blog on Google’s Blogger facility is the amount of spam that comes round most of which seems to appeal to different aspects of one’s masculine vanity.

One good look in the folder of spam messages captured on my gmail email account shows about 75% of the emails recommending some augmentation to the male protuberance either for length or stamina to be able to as it were satisfy your partner.

Appealing to my physical vanity

Indeed erectile dysfunction can be an issue when pleasure is truncated by the premature incidence of orgasm just when you thought you could go on for longer, it probably dwells on many a mind and it could be frustrating.

For those who are otherwise blessed the receipt of such odious and unflattering emails is annoying but the spam filters seem to be putting in their hours.

On the blog front however, each comment logged each particular blog creates a notification which does not end up in the spam folder and incurs the additional work of management even though the blog commenting system might well recognise the comment as spam.

Appealing to my mental vanity

That is just one side of appealing to ones vanity, the other part came in a comment I received on my blog this morning.

As follows: Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Thought Picnic: Vulnerability offering opportunity...":

I usually do not leave a comment, but the ideas really rocks, also I have a few questions like to ask, what's your contact details?


Anonymous who has signed off as Johnson probably does not have a Google blog, nor does he (if a first name) or her (if a surname) have a website they are willing to publish as part of receiving feedback for the comments they have left.

Comments appealing to vanity

There is probably nothing to read from the comment but the basic compliment until one has a second or third reading and then it begins to matter a lot more than it seems. This is a generic comment can be left on any and every blog with one singular aim in mind.

Indeed, one of the signs of having a following comes from people commenting on your blogs and this supposed fan rarely leaves comments but now decides to do so in the quest for something other than the views expressed in the blog.

Given that the person does offer the passing opinion masquerading as praise that “the ideas really rocks”, I am really confused about the urban language with the apparent number confusion as to the idea and the context that the person is referring to.

Having appealed to my vanity with the notion of my rocking ideas, the person has a few questions to ask, fair enough and somehow expects me with the additional request to publish my contact details in response.

One can only wonder what questions that person has to ask that cannot be put in the comments or forwarded as an email, because those details are not that difficult to get if the person does try.

Generic comments as social engineering

Between you are me, this is another classic case of social engineering; having appealed to my vanity and flattered me in some way, just as the title of the blog goes, it has provided a window of vulnerability offering the opportunity to request my contact details which I am supposed to foolishly volunteer to some non-descript stranger to ask personal questions.

It was a good try but this will not work with me and it really should not work on anyone else too, if anyone wants to engage you on matters so personal the need for full-disclosure is paramount and it should be initiated by the enquirer and not by you.

Otherwise, this is just another case of Johnson probably leaving a similar generic comment on as many blogs as he/she can to harvest details for some nefarious activity beyond which the victim has little control.

Beware of the flattery that leaves you vulnerable to volunteering information you should best keep for your protection and safety.

Friday 30 July 2010

Social Engineering Skype Trusted Contact Inquiry

Even if it was, I don’t care
Yesterday night, I was almost a victim of social engineering based on trusted connections with a contact on Skype.
The question came, “is this you on picc??..” Then a URL constructed to have Facebook in the address.
I should have been suspicious of this because my friend from whom this apparently came does his punctuation and rarely uses strange words, but my basic feeling of trust overrode the logic to my thinking.
I clicked on the link and rather than it going to a page it downloaded a file with the .exe extension, which really got me suspicious – How could he have asked if I was on a picc or picture and then send an executable file rather than a picture or a webpage?
Persuasion of the friendly kind
The genius of social engineering here is that I was first persuaded by reason of the fact that this message came from a trusted contact asking a question that would rouse ones curiosity regardless of if you were on Facebook or not.
He had apparently received this code through his Yahoo email from a trusted contact and inadvertently ran the code but not realised that he had infected his system despite the warning he received from his Antivirus utility. It is possible that the utility might just have said opening a file of that type is unsafe rather than that it was malicious.
The clean-up
We all have the tendency to override such warnings and almost always have to pay dearly for it. His Antivirus utility did not detect the problem after a full scan, however, I also asked him to download Destroy which is a free utility that inoculates web browsers and searches for malware.
The utility detected Bredolab.fb which is a kind of credential logger, it was removed and we can safely assume the system is clean. However, I happen to be one of two people whose Skype profile was online on my friend’s system who received this stuff and like me, we reacted before we questioned the real provenance.
The significance of the second link is that, when I did not fall for the redirect URL on the first inquiry it used the TinyURL link shrinker to give the same reference but deceptively named like a picture (JPG) on Facebook, but I was not taking that bait twice.
The graphic of the situation appears below.
Skype Malware

Wednesday 14 July 2010

A recall I obtain

No faffing about
I did not waste my time in deciding to go on holiday immediately after learning that the project I was on was suspended literally without warning or notice; things were just up in the air.
It meant bringing my holiday forward a good 6 weeks in the height of summer heat as I had planned that Gran Canaria would be the place to return to.
The general idea was whilst the companies sorted out the considerations and goals of the project we had the freewill to seek other opportunities or wait out the possibility of recall for the month of August.
Courtesies with recalls
This morning I got notice that we were being recalled to the project but I missed the basic courtesy of expressed regret at the way matters were handled, those in permanent employment would simply have been reassigned to other duties, and people like me in self-employment were just left high and dry.
Surely, there should be a sense of gentlemanliness in the conduct of business and it appears certain conditions will be written into the recall to ensure we are not met with this kind of situation again.
The Englishman in me was a bit miffed but again glad that I did not have to visit the job market so soon seeking new opportunities.
Expectations and abilities
We expect the details to be fine-tuned and finalise over the next couple of weeks and hopefully we can return to doing what we know best to do; take on challenging projects, offer working solutions and deliver excellent results.
One question remains for me though, should I retain my Wednesdays off or stretch myself for the 40-hour week – it has been over 5 months after chemotherapy, I feel good and strong though still not as fit as I once was – it might just be smart to take things easy, doing my best over 4 days is probably better than petering out over 5 days.
Meanwhile, a week of holidays still remains with a trip to the island of Tenerife tomorrow, the alarm is going off at 04:45 hours, surely, I should still be in bed then.

Tuesday 13 July 2010

Nigeria: Facebook Watch on Goodluck Jonathan I

A Facebook phenomenon
President Goodluck Jonathan has been on Facebook for all of 15 days and the numbers are staggering from basic observation.
Since then, at the time of this write-up he has acquired 113,910 fans which in Facebook terminology is listed as “Likes”, in other words, that many people like his Facebook page.
He has in each day posted a comment which represents what is on his mind at the time of his writing, some of his statements have been characteristic of identifying problems and issues that concern Nigerians and others have been in reaction to the feedback that he has been getting from his new found audience and followership.
The numbers on the times
For the 16 statements posted, all those have now garnered a total of 36,663 likes and 32,415 comments – this has no doubt become unwieldy, the President himself along with all his other duties cannot afford to become a Facebook addict, I would think like I suggested in my NigeriansTalk review of his Facebook advent he has a number of readers who filter through these comments.
Another thing to note is that the President appears to be an early riser in that at least one statement was posted at 06:06 hours and he retires quite late, maybe there is some therapeutic or soporific quality to Facebook that allows him to post between 22:30 hours and 01:20 hours though a majority of the posts have been around the midnight hour.
Reactions from the President
Obviously, this Facebook phenomenon would help us appreciate what the President has on his mind, but most critically, without having to wade through the comments, the real effect of this Facebook forum would be in what the President does in response to all the views expressed either in reaction or as information that he has not been able to gather from other sources.
In that respect, I think the Facebook forum is working, at first, he created a Facebook page as he promised at convocation 6 week before, he directed the Nigerian Ambassador to the US to review the status of an abandoned Nigerian property in California, he has asked personnel from his office to contact someone with an idea to help solve the power crisis, it influenced his decision to rescind the ban of Nigerian participation in football, he has defined the strictures of our federalism in terms of what he can do with regards to the states on living wages.
Facebook Watch on Goodluck Jonathan
In the words of the comment left by Bayomi Williams on the blog I posted about Goodluck Jonathan on Facebook, the conclusion is best elicited as – “While a lot might be naive to think the President will read each massage or are too excited about the virtual proximity to power to leave only praises … it has virtually left most feeling as if they have a friend they can trust.
I would regularly post a Nigeria: Facebook Watch on Goodluck Jonathan observing trends, ideas, reactions and views of the President but reading the comments is a full-time job not for me or the President, how the President responds is what matters in the end.

Saturday 10 July 2010

Nigeria: Goodluck Jonathan on Facebook

This blog was first published on as Nigeria: Goodluck Jonathan on Facebook, please leave your views and comments there.
Goodluck Jonathan on Facebook
The news that President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria had created a Facebook page eventually got to me through Google Buzz where comments had been made to the effect that the power infrastructure issue should be easy to solve.
Apparently, the President had zeroed in on a comment and arranged for his aides to contact some “visionary” who appeared to have a sort of solution to the power problem.
Power is a tough nut
Whilst some comments on Google Buzz were less than charitable about this crowd-sourcing approach to problem resolution, I felt for the first time we had a leader who was seeking advice, ready to listen and responding positively to suggestions.
More importantly, the power infrastructure problem is really a difficult one for too many reasons to recount here as I threw the idea that if it were easy to solve the least competent leader would have done it and the most political leader would have built on it – The fact is radical ideas are needed on that matter and it would do well that we restrain our criticism and cynicism for an opportunity to listen first and keep our peace for a while.
A new leadership approach
Meanwhile, Goodluck Jonathan as he has plainly identified himself on Facebook has the profession of a politician rather than a zoologist, I suppose, that is what he had become now has 100,335 people who like him since he joined just 11 days ago on the 28th of June 2010.
His first status post was - Today, in fulfillment of the promise I made at the 26th convocation of the University of Port Harcourt on Saturday, 15 May 2010, I have created a facebook fan page to interact with Nigerians. As I said on that day, there is an unchallengeable power of good in the Nigerian nation and her youth and through this medium I want Nigerians to give me the privilege of relating with them without the trappings of office. GEJ
This is a laudable goal, in the main that he first kept the promise and in recognising that the trappings of office might prevent him from getting a feel of the people he leads.
More humility than hubris
For his profile, he writes - My life has always been about service. I am focused on serving my Creator, family and my country to the best of my ability and with your help I aim to be better at doing that.
This probably is something Nigerians can relate to as a very religious country; it does appear to say a lot in terms of his priorities which puts his faith and immediate responsibilities first and then the country for the greater good.
He recognises that his abilities are not omnipotent or omniscient as many African leaders tend to demonstrate by never allowing others in power thinking they only have the wherewithal to rule like emperors whilst failing to mentor suitable successors to their “thrones”, with our help, President Jonathan hopes to improve on what he is doing – for once, a sense of humility rather than hubris is expressed by leadership.
A voice in the wilderness
I cannot help but think after reading many of the postings by the president than they all sound quite professorial almost to the extent that it is impossible to identity the substance of his statements. The voice is too collective sometimes relayed in platitudes that border on the rhetorical, where the 1st person is used there is almost a conflict between the assertive and the acquiescent – it makes you wonder if you are being lead or you are half-persuaded to follow.
I would think that the president does read many of the comments but he would definitely have to engage a Facebook management team that weeds out the chaff and highlights the wheat.
Yes sir, yes sir, 3 bags full sir
The comments are presaged with unnecessary and flowery obsequiousness each one seeming to try to out-praise the other with all the religious padding that detracts from getting straight to the point – verbosity is our undoing in many cases being succinct, concise or precise is too good for our expression.
With an average of over 1,500 comments per status, this a Facebook page I neither want to like or leave a comment on, for this one page the responsible thing would be to switch off all notifications or streamline your settings to take notifications from lists of friends whilst excluding the traffic generated at the President’s page.
There are ways in which this looks like taking suggestions from a crowd at a political rally, the noise, the heckling, the robust supporters who will listen to no one but their patron and much worse – this is for a particular followership and audience that needs to extend their Facebook footprint to include politicians, celebrities and passing fads or trends.
The new talk shop
As a forum for ordinary Nigerians to engage with their president, this a welcome development; as an opportunity to glean new ideas for issues that Nigeria faces, this widens the resource and talent pool beyond the fossils that crowd the political space in Nigeria – it would become the new Nigerian talking shop but for the wise, this is best observed from afar.
You probably need to be a member of Facebook to visit
As the first wired President of Nigeria on a popular social network, all one can say is Goodluck Jonathan – welcome to Facebook.

Thursday 8 July 2010

Social Engineering UPS delivery

Showing fishy emails
I have decided that each time I see receive an email that threatens to expose me to scamming by reason of the genius of its construction, I will post the email and annotate it to expose the suspect activity, without getting too technical.
Looking through my inbox that receives close to 80 emails a day from so many email accounts there was one that appeared to arrive at my business account from UPS, the courier company.
From the header, I noticed there was no subject – No business with any sort of organised system should ever send a customer an email with a subject, on a personal basis, it is rude, in a business setting it is unprofessional.
Appearances and realities
The email appeared to come from UPS Support with a name of the sender, it looked official enough with a email address too.
If you get an email from any organisation and the email domain does not reflect the organisation or business name, the sender is an impostor. Many lottery wins and collect emails do not use company email domains are they can be classed as scams no matter how too good to be true the content might be. Yahoo, Hotmail, MSN addresses should be ignored.
Where is my name in this email, they should know who they are delivering to, this is a delivery company for crying out loud. It looks like a fishing exercise.
PDF or broke
This email had an attachment with the name invoice. Be careful with attachments, the safest ones to open are ones with the PDF extension, anything else treat as suspicious, probably a virus or a keylogger ready to steal your passwords to email or bank accounts. It would be safe to just delete those emails.
Nowadays, invoices must be emailed in PDF format, they are never too large to be undeliverable because of email service restrictions. ZIP files are like Trojan horses, open them and you can end up running a program that ruins your system or worse. EXE files, just NEVER open them. If they are TXT files, sometimes it is best to save the attachment first then observe that they are really the format they say they are before you open them.
You must always have an up-to-date virus scanner on your system that scans emails too. AVG offers a free edition but the professional editions are inexpensive too.
Drawing you by the bait
Now to the social engineering part of this email; I have been informed that “Unfortunate we failed to deliv” then the rest of the text is obscured by an opaque grey box.
Out of frustration or curiosity you will be tempted to find out what this was all about and find yourself opening the suspect attachment and you have been had – hook, line and sinker.
I think it is a work of evil genius because many would end up opening the attachment, I did not; there were two separate messages in this email.
The first was the text about a delivery and one I was not expecting, the second was an invoice for something I cannot say I paid for.
No effect without cause
The invoice if I paid for anything should have come from the company I bought stuff from and not from UPS except if I had engaged the services of UPS which I did not.
So, on balance of probability, this is a scam, if UPS were unable to deliver a product, it would have arrived at my address and a note left in my postbox not an email sent to me.
The more this email looks authentic the more I am suspicious of its origins. In the worst case scenario, I have replied to this email asking for it to be sent in legible text, with a PDF invoice and a letter sent by post explaining why they could not deliver the service. If your name is not in the email you received, do not sign off with your name.
Don’t give them more
They do not need my name or address in the reply, they should already have it – do not volunteer excess information to suspect situations.
People are looking to have you, ensure you are not had by innocuous emails masquerading as authentic customer support email. Benign as this might seem, it screams scamming to the rafters at best, I cannot think of what the worst of their intentions might be.
The graphic of that email appears below.

UPS Email Scam