Several years ago, I purchased a domain for our family. Upon doing the prerequisite search, we ultimately settled on a .net name. Not our first choice, but it was what was available.

On 1 January, I got an email from a company called Zip Domains on my admin email address:

Our company specializes in acquiring expired domain names to help individuals and businesses protect their brand online.

The domain name XXXXXX.COM is expired and will become available soon.

We noticed that you own XXXXXX.NET and felt that you may be interested in acquiring the .COM version of your existing domain name.

We can assist in trying to acquire the domain name, as there are likely many interested parties competing for it.

There are no upfront costs, and the fee if we are successful is only $199 USD.

If you are interested, please let us know by January 3 at the latest.

Sorry, but someone tried to sell me the domain earlier in the year for less than that. Think I'm going to pay $199 to some company that spammed me? Fat chance!

At that point, I checked the whois registry and found the domain was about to be removed from DNS, just like they said. I figured, I'll wait a few days for it to be removed from the whois registry and try to purchase it through 1&1.

On the 9th, I got another email from Zip Domains telling me they had secured the rights to the domain and I could purchase it from them for only $99!

Our company specializes in acquiring expired domain names to help individuals and businesses protect their brand online.

The domain name XXXXXX.COM expired recently and we were able to secure it.

We noticed the you own XXXXXX.COM and felt that you may be interested in acquiring the .COM version of your existing domain name.

It is available for a one-time fee of only $99.00 USD.

To purchase or learn more, please visit http://zipdomains.com/buy.php?domain=xxxxxx.com

While the domain was still showing as being deleted in whois, when I checked the next day, it was available. I went into my domain control panel on 1&1 and ordered the .com domain for $8.99, saving me over 1000% what Zip Domains wanted to charge!

I thank Zip Domains for making me aware of the expired domain. However, there was zero chance I was going to pay above the typical registration cost for a domain, particularly for my family where the value of having "the right" domain is relatively low.

I have to wonder how many people fall for zipdomains "scam," buying a domain they could have had for the nominal cost if they waited a few days. It's not clear to me ZipDomains actually does anything to secure a domain name. The domain was either marked as "being deleted" or "not present" in whois when Zip Domains told me they had secured it for my purchase, so I question their legitimacy. (If someone from Zip Domains wants to rebut my statements, leave a comment below)

In short, beware of companies that are trying to scare you into buying a domain from them or send you "renewal" notices in the postal mail--that's my favorite one.

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At one time, I thought about doing my own site for "home user" network security. Nice to see my buddies over at The Academy doing it with The Academy Home. While the site is relatively new, they do have a few how-to videos available already, including installing a program I recommend wholeheartedly: K9 Web Protection from Blue Coat Systems.

I'd like to see some stuff on configuring Windows XP with non-admin users for your kids. I have to do this for my friends all the time. That right there makes it more difficult for a piece of malware that does get in to do any damage.

As I write this, I am still a Nokia employee. Yesterday's announcement did not change that, at least until the deal closes sometime in the next three months. Meanwhile, here are a few of the more interesting pieces that appeared online regarding the announcement.

I've been thinking about the compromise of President-Elect Barack Obama's mobile phone records at Verizon Wireless. Verizon Wireless recently fired the guilty parties, as they should. However, this is not the end of the problem. In fact, it's only the beginning.

As I work in a customer service organization, I understand the business need for customer service agents to have access to customer records. In order to provide quality service to a customer, access to their relevant data is vital.

How much access to that data is needed? Does every rep need access to all that data 24x7, anytime? The CISSP in me says absolutely not. Do companies properly control access to this data? Not in my opinion.

There are always going to be people who need access to all customer data, e.g. management or management designates. However, the number of people who have that level of access should be relatively small. All access to that data should be heavily audited.

For the lowly customer service rep--the people who typically answer the phone when a customer calls in--they should have access to the customer's records unless the customer provides a PIN of some sort. Without a valid phone number and the appropriate PIN, the customer service reps should not be able to pull up the records at all.

Of course, there are going to be exceptions to this rule, for example if a specific rep is working with a specific customer on a specific issue, but as a rule, only people with a valid business reason to have access to the customer data right now should have that access. This needs to be enforced by business process as well as the tools themselves.

Really, though, it's a simple matter. If you don't have a legitimate business reason for looking at customer data, don't do it. This has always been my policy back from when I was a systems administrator. Reputable customer service agents follow this rule, the good ones don't even have to be told.

Back to Verizon Wireless for a moment. While I know it is a matter of a few rogue employees and I feel they responded to the situation appropriately, it shouldn't have happened in the first place. A large telecom like Verizon Wireless should have systems in place to prevent this kind of "data leakage" already. Clearly, whatever measures they employ either weren't followed or were ineffective.

I hope that all telecommunications carriers learn from this experience.

Andrew Hay and Warren Verbanec, two of my former co-workers, along with Peter Giannoulis and Keli Hay have come together to make the Nokia Firewall, VPN, and IPSO Configuration Guide. These folks have put together a comprehensive tome covering all of Nokia's network security solutions, though the primary focus is on Nokia IPSO and Check Point VPN-1. I also played a small role in this book by writing the foreward for it, as well as helping both Andrew and Warren with various things over the years.

Of course, since the time this book was finished, but before it was printed and bound, and available on amazom.com and other places, Nokia announced it was selling off the Security Appliance business. Even if the boxes have a different name on them, which must happen eventually as result of new ownership, they'll still be the same high-quality systems you've come to know and love from Nokia.