Imagine life without chocolate. Forrest Gump’s mum said life is all about a box of chocolates and now it has been proven to be true.

Those pesky Eastern Europeans have now used their ransomware to take control of the Cadbury chocolate factory in Tasmania, Australia.

The company has been forced to shut down their systems after being hit by ransomware. In mid-May 300,000 computers were hit by the virus known as WannaCry ransomware.

This attack appears similar this time taking out servers at Russia’s biggest oil company, disrupting operations at Ukrainian banks and shutting down computers at multinational shipping and advertising firms.

When you’re attacked this is what you see.

“If you see this text then your files are no longer accessible, because they have been encrypted.” 

“Perhaps you are busy looking for a way to recover your files, but don’t waste your time.”

“Please follow the instructions: 1. Send $300 worth of Bitcoin to following address: 1Mz7153HMuxXTur2Rit78mGSdzaAtNbBWX.

“2. Send your Bitcoin wallet ID and personal installation key to e-mail

“If you already purchased your key, please enter it below.”

These ransomware guys are so polite and provide better customer support than most IT companies.

Our Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has declared cyber security “the new frontier of warfare.” No, Mister Prime Minister  it’s worse than that. When people from the other side of the world shut down the chocolate factory it’s a real Willy Wonka moment.

If you suffer a chocolate factory “cyber-attack” who do you call? I don’t know his name but I know he’s a Chocoholics Anonymous dropout, he never eats more chocolate than he can lift and his mantra is ‘Money talks but Chocolate sings!’

He is the Souperhero known as Chocolatier. And he’s the one you call.

He recently said “I’m not in it for the money like those ransom criminals ….but simply put… everyone has a price, mine is chocolate!

His wife confided in me that she liked her men like her chocolate RICH! Well maybe her RICH male friends can take up a collection and free our chocolate forever.


The Chocolatier’s advice.

Before you open any attachment or click on links:

Check the sender’s address; avoid email overseas, e-mail addresses or domain names not known to you. Keep in mind, your friends or associate’s computer might have been infected with a virus and their e-mail may not be safe.

Check the subject; learn to recognise emails with no subject or keywords that are out of place.

Read the email; look for anything unusual.

Beware of any web links request sign-in with your username and password; Before open any web links, check the URL or web address, for example if you get an email from Ticketek, AGL, Australia Post, Commonwealth Bank…etc. But the link or URL indicates it may take you to another website, such as or http://tinyurl/8u98uo then do not go there nor supply your login details.

photo AAP

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June 21 2017

On Wednesday Honda announced that it was forced to shut down production at one of its plants after it was hit by the WannaCry ransomware.

In mid-May when the virus appeared efforts were made to secure its systems but these efforts were not enough to avert a further attack.

Companies struck by WannaCry either had a backup strategy in place, or rolled out patches It has been said some have even paid ransoms. Recently a company based in South Korea made headlines by announcing it had paid a $1 million ransom to recover data encrypted by ransomware.

The company said it was originally asked to pay 5 billion Won (South Korea’s official currency) which is about $4.3 million USD to get its data back. The scope of the infection was stated to be 153 of its Linux servers and 3,400 customer websites. It has been reported that the company was able to negotiate with hackers and get the payment reduced to 397 bitcoin, or $1 million.

The WannaCry virus was first spotted on May 12 this year, when over 200,000 machines in 150 countries were infected The UK’s National Health Service was among the worst hit, with 47 NHS Trusts in England and 13 in Scotland infected, forcing surgical operations to be cancelled and staff to use pen and paper to record patient data.

I’d like to remind everyone to be vigilante when opening e-mail. Before you open any attachment or click on links:

Check the sender’s address; avoid email overseas, e-mail addresses or domain names not known to you. Keep in mind, your friends or associate’s computer might have been infected with a virus and their e-mail may not be safe.

Check the subject; learn to recognise emails with no subject or keywords that are out of place.

Read the email; look for anything unusual.

Beware of any web links request sign-in with your username and password; Before open any web links, check the URL or web address, for example if you get an email from Ticketek, AGL, Australia Post, Commonwealth Bank…etc. But the link or URL indicates it may take you to another website, such as or http://tinyurl/8u98uo then do not go there nor supply your login details.

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ar-14-15-web-cvrThe Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) is Australia’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) regulator. The regulator says that Australian jihadists have taken to getting small bank loans with no intention of paying them back and maxing out credit cards or overdraft limits immediately before travelling to Syria and Iraq.

In addition to these small loans and maxing out credit cards, banks are also struggling with an increasing number of customers who open bank accounts and provide the debit or credit card to a member of a terrorist group to allow them to make withdrawals from overseas ATMs.

In its recent report AUSTRAC, said that there was a 300 per cent increase in reports to the national financial intelligence agency, of suspicious transactions relating to terrorism. This totalled $53 million that had moved through Australian financial institutions.

As is the case with all Governments, Australia is determined to detect and disrupt terrorism financing and take action against people who provide support to terrorist organizations.

Based on information from AUSTRAC. A full copy of the annual report is available at

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sbfraserBroadly speaking if your personal information is used to steal from you or carry out other crimes then you’re a victim of identity fraud.

A common example of the crime is to steal personal information, open a credit card account and commence buying merchandise.

We all are potential targets in fact millions are affected each year and it costs the economy billions of dollars.

So how do we avoid becoming a victim:

Safeguard your bank and credit card statements, tax returns, passports and driving license.

Shred all documents prior to throwing them away.

Be careful who you give your personal information to especially online or over the phone.

Never share your PIN numbers.

Review you bank and card statements each month.

If you use your phone or tablet to carry out financial transactions make sure you have adequate security programmes installed.

It goes without saying ensure your computer has an up-to-date anti-virus software.

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Gina Amos

Gina I know you attended the Michael Connelly conversation at the Sydney Writers Festival recently and I’d like to ask you a few questions about what you as an emerging author takes home from an encounter such as this.
If I could point to just one moment that reinforced my desire to be a writer it was when Michael Robotham asked Michael Connelly what was his initial motivation to write crime? Connelly replied without hesitation. ‘Negative motivation.’

Apparently when he was a crime reporter with the Los Angeles Times, his editor told him he could not write. With more than 58 million copies of his books sold worldwide, I think he has proven him wrong.

As writers, we are filled with self-doubt and it takes a certain personality and strength of character to endure editorial criticism and complete a manuscript. Connelly gave my self-belief a shot in the arm.
Choose not to believe what negative people tell you and keep on writing, that’s the message I took home.
It must be refreshing to come from a discussion between two great authors and feel energized about your own projects. So tell me a little about your latest book.
It’s the third novel in the Detective Jill Brennan series, and it’s called Asylum. It is set in the grounds of Callan Park which was once a mental asylum. There’s a few months work left but I’m happy with the current progress.
We know Michael Connelly began writing a series featuring the police detective Harry Bosch in 1992 and he’s explored Harry’s life for the last twenty odd years. Do your books explore the one protagonist in great depth.
Yes, (Gina laughs), but he’s the master of it. Nineteen books in the series! When you write your first novel the characters are being developed but then as the work progresses the main character takes on a life of their own. Although creating a successful series is somewhere in the back of your mind, it’s not uppermost when you start out. You just work hard to finish that first book.

My two protagonists Detective Jill Brennan and Detective Inspector Nick Rimis age through each of the books so I guess I’m following Connelly’s approach especially Killing Sunday.
One of the great aspects of Connelly’s development of his character is that not only does Harry age through the series but he reflects the changes of Los Angeles.
I think Harry is now 63 and he loves and knows his character well. It was interesting to hear him say that when the TV series was being produced, he stipulated it must be shot in LA. That’s how close he feels the tie between his character and the city. He also mentioned Harry Bosch, in some way, has become the mouthpiece for his own social concerns.

Place and character are intrinsic in his books and I think I strive to achieve that outcome as well. The location for my crime novels is very important to me, so too, the description of the crime scene because it is here the truth about the murder is played out.
So how did you come to be a crime writer?
I’ve always had a fierce attraction to the written word but I convinced myself that it was better to stick to what I knew. It’s easier being a reader than a writer.

Strangely it was the death of a neighbour that finally ignited my desire to start writing. There were some unusual circumstances surrounding her death and I couldn’t stop thinking about scenarios of misadventure and intrigue. The nagging thoughts eventually wore me down and I sat at my desk and was on the way to completing the first chapter of Secrets and Lies.

What do you feel you have in common with Michael Connelly as a writer?
Well, he is the best of his kind, 58 million copies sold, so there is no comparison, but both the Harry Bosch books and my books might be classified as police procedurals and that’s as far as it goes at the moment, so I think I’ll be happy with that thin claim.

Really I just get inspiration from authors like Michael who share their time, experiences and journeys to success with their readers and aspiring writers.
Gina thanks so much for your time and all the best and great success with your writing.
Thank you Sean. I’ve just finished reading Michael Connelly’s latest book in the Harry Bosch series The Burning Room. Another great read from the master of crime.
You can find out more about Gina Amos at her web site DEATH BY GINA

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I have always read to do research, or to learn how to do things but to read for the sheer pleasure and enjoyment, well that’s another thing. But I’m giving it a go.

In my post A Journey of Reading I mentioned that as a starter I chose Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal to read. My aim was to visit Sydney’s’ bookstores and read a chapter in each store.

In that way I would see more of the city, meet people and enjoy many cups of coffee. With only a dozen or more visits left to do I’ll soon finish that task.

Along the way I was pleasantly sidetracked and attended a course with Mark Tredinnick (celebrated Australian poet, essayist and teacher-and a bloody good one at that.)

As part of the course we discussed weekly readings and I found that talking about stories and writing styles added layers of perspective on the experience. I found I didn’t have to like the writing I just had to accept it for what is was; writing as an art form, as an expression of conversation and as a way of communicating at a deeper level. You speak a thought once but you deliberate, edit and rewrite and then rewrite again the written word.

Another thing that surprised me was reading poetry. It was a new and enjoyable experience. The words sing, they dance off the page and for the first time they make sense. It has rhythm and aesthetics.

Here’s part of the list of the course readings. We didn’t read the books completely because of time constraints however over the six weeks we had plenty of time to review a wide selection of stories and poetry.

Kent Haruf from Plainsong
Ernest Hemingway Indian Camp
James Slater Last Night
John Updike The Disposable Rocket
Herman Melville Moby Dick
Norman Maclean A River Runs Through It
Annie Dillard An American Childhood
Robert Gray A Day at Bellingen
Graham Greene The End of the Affair

I found it helpful to read a bit about the author’s background and the way their books were brought into being. I still read magazines, newspapers, websites, etc. but now I love real reading as well. I might even join a book club.

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The Day of The JackalI don’t get a lot of time for reading so I decided to find a way to inject extra enthusiasm into this pastime.

I chose a book, searched it out and acquired it from one of the many great bookstores in my city. I chose Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal a near pristine copy from a 1995 print run. Twenty one chapters, 412 pages

My quest is to visit as many stores as possible, taking my chosen book with me and along the way reading a few chapters in each store until the read is completed. The rules are simple in that I can only read the chosen book in a book store, not at home, not on the train and definitely not at the cafe.

I can have coffee at the bookstore and if possible a glass of wine. I can take friends with me, perhaps they could bring their favorite book and revisit its excitement. We may even discuss their taste.

I’ve visited four stores so far and have completed chapter 1, so I’m up to page 27. This is shaping up to be a long and rewarding journey. I look forward to meeting new friends, discovering authors and of course enjoying the company of all those wonderful books.

Today I read at Elizabeth’s Bookshop Newtown. It’s one of my favourite bookstores. Everyone is welcoming and helpful. In fact that’s where I purchased my copy of The Day of the Jackal.

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sbfraserBritons lose more than £670m a year, from online fraud.

In response to a recent survey over half those questioned said they had been a victim of online crime. This class of crime includes internet-based fraud, ID theft and hacking. The survey also found that less than a third of the victims said they had reported the incident.

On the other hand almost half of those who had suffered some form of cybercrime changed their behaviour for the better. Stronger passwords and being more vigilant when shopping online were two of the most popular changes.

Simple steps including putting a password on your computer or mobile device, never clicking on a link sent by a stranger, using strong passwords and always logging off from an account or website when you are finished go toward providing a higher level of protection.

For additional help visit the Get Safe Online Week, site.

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About 15 million people a year fall victim to identity theft and although the methods that scammers use to steal your information are high-tech, it isn’t that difficult.

In some instances a search of the internet can enable criminals to gain access to your personal information and this can be done by sifting through databases and details already available on the internet.

One of the easiest ways to protect yourself is to keep the information posted on social media to a minimum and change your passwords regularly. In the wake of the recent well publicized large scale data breaches, and the recent Home Depot breach, watching your credit and debit cards is essential.

They say that hackers, believed to be from the Ukraine or Russia, captured credit and debit account numbers and other personal information belonging to a number of Home Depot shoppers. If you’re one of the tens of millions who shopped at Home Depot the last five months and paid with plastic, you are eligible for identity theft protection and I suggest you should take up the offer.

To help prevent ID theft, you should monitor your own accounts for suspicious activity by checking your monthly statement line by line for unusual charges. You should set up an alert with your credit or debit card, where you get an email for any large purchases, say, over $250. As an additional measure check your credit report every year and shred all statements that contain account numbers.

Also these events create further opportunities for scammers. So be suspicious of any email, phone call, letter or text you get that claims to be from your bank, Home Depot or law enforcement. Do not click on any links or reply with any personal information such as your password, account number, Social Security number, address or other details.

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In my novel, my character has to deal with the consequences of identity theft, don’t you become a victim too.

We all know about Phishing which is when hackers attempt to acquire information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by pretending to be someone or some trustworthy entity.

This is still a growing threat but for some time now there have been warnings relating to the amount of personal information we make available on social media such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Hackers use these sites to take personal and security information that can damage the user or the user’s employer if a breach happens in a workplace environment.

Scammers have the chance to access personal information such as passwords, usernames, security codes, and credit card numbers among other things. Their access can then spread through your social networks so be careful and think through decisions as to whom to ‘friend.’

Once the scammer friends you, each of your friends may receive a request and think the scammer is a real person. Getting a friend request from a friend-of-a-friend is not uncommon and in this way attacks spread in a very short time through a process of upward contamination, in which the scammer will steal information from your real online friends, then their online friends, and so on. Your actions can inadvertently expose dozens of your friends and contacts to aggressive identity thieves.

My advice is, be much more careful when you make friending decisions. Only friend people you actually know. And of course limit the amount and types of personal information you share on social media.

Internet related scams are on the rise and will continue to increase as the popularity of social media grows. Do not believe that financial harm cannot be caused by Facebook and other social media usage.

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