Hard News by Russell Brown

The Westpac scam

Public service message: if you received an email headed 'Westpac Bank E-mail Verification' today, don't act on its contents. It's a phishing scam and its perpetrators want to empty your bank account.

As it happens, I am a Westpac customer, but the scam itself is unlikely to have been targeted in that way. I copped it on three different email addresses this morning, including the one that's not normally such a spam-trap. The body of the email is thus:

Dear Westpac Bank Member,

This email was sent by the Westpac server to verify your e-mail address. You must complete this process by clicking on the link below and entering in the small window your Westpac Banking Customer ID and Password.

This is done for your protection --- because some of our members no longer have access to their email addresses and we must verify it.

To verify your e-mail address and access your bank account, click on the link below. If nothing happens when you click on the link, copy and paste the link into the address bar of your web browser.

No genuine organisation of any competence is ever going to send out an email like this, but there will doubtless be a few punters who click the link.

The scam uses a WWW redirect service run at da.ru - the same Russian-registered, US-hosted site implicated in at least one of the PayPal scams, which ran along similar lines. That sends you through to the fake Westpac site (turn cookies off in your browser if you feel inclined to look at it), which pops a little window inviting you to enter your Westpac customer ID and password and click "verify". The spoofed page seems to be based on last year's site design - the real Westpac site looks different now, although I wonder what sort of metaphor a happy customer with her eyes shut makes for.

So anyway, I'm back from a week in Wellington where, ironically, I was so busy that the week's political dramas pretty much passed me by - although my taxi driver on Tuesday correctly predicted that Don Brash would win the leadership vote.

Brash will be neither quite the horrowshow his detractors claim, or the saviour that some wishful thinkers expect. However much he denies his, his policy inclinations are absolutely to pick up on the unfinished business of the 1990s: more tax cuts, more privatisation (including in health, education and even welfare) and a far less accomodating social safety net.

The problem is that once you've reformed the economy, driven out cost and achieved price stability, this sort of thing starts to look markedly less desirable to the public. National in the 90s foundered in part because carrying on with The Project was going to cause enormous social division and make people unhappy (for their own good, you understand) and insecure, yet it was philosophically ill-equipped to do anything else. Cavalier macroeconomic reform is one thing when you're trying to bring a basket-case back to life, quite another now, as Rod Oram pointed out in the Sunday Star Times.

The funniest thing about the whole business is that Act, a considerable force behind the Brash bid, appears to be finding out what its supporters really think of it, if the SST poll is anything to go by. About half of Act's support appears to be wedded to neo-liberal economics, rather than the grubby little populists at Act and now that National appears to have moved away from fudgy centrism, they're outta there. Hilarious.

But the idea that a Brash-led parliamentary party will take the dry and moral high road appears to have been dashed by the news that Murray McCully has been given a senior strategic role, and a promise to abolish the Ministry of Women's Affairs (with the scrapping of a spokesperson for a start) isn't going to play well with the female vote, even if Brash does appear to have Jenny Gibbs in his camp.

Of course, the National Party's problem remains the National Party. The Brash regime last all of three days before bitterness spilled over and Nick Smith was shipped away to try and calm down. It's hard to see that sore being healed over, especially if and when Brash's poll honeymoon fades.

And then there's the Greens, who are, it seems, back to making threats they really wouldn't want to carry out. Jeanette Fitzsimons says the party would be prepared to deliver an Act-National government to power unless Labour "negotiates" on GM. The aim is clearly to procure some legislative change that would have the effect of restoring a total ban on GM field work. Rather than play a game of genetically-modified chicken with the Greens - again - it's likely that Labour is already wooing Winston Peters should it need him and his slightly silly party. Don't be too surprised if the next government involves New Zealand First in some fashion.

Meanwhile, anti-GM groups continue to demand more research into the technology, then furiously oppose the research when it's proposed - the proposal in this case, being a 10-year trial of locally-developed RoundUp-resistant onions on two 7m-square plots near Crop and Food in Lincoln. Given the way that conventional onions have to be doused in multiple chemicals, and the fact that onions are not at all promiscuous pollinators, this would seem to me really worth investigating. But no. Apparently we shouldn't investigate anything. Ever.

Has anybody noticed that way self-professed "realists" aren't delivering quite so many lectures to us lesser mortals about foreign policy these days? This no doubt has quite a lot to do with the fact that realism appears to have played a regrettably small part in policy and preparation over Iraq. The New York Times' Blueprint for a Mess looks at the extent to which zealots in the Bush administration were willing to lie to themselves and others about what was really going to happen in Iraq.

I'm also a little tired of being told - against all reason and humanity - that not only does Israel have the right to defend its interests by keeping its foot on the throat of an occupied people, but that it actually has a chance in hell of working. Now, the Israeli Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon has said the unsayable - that the Sharon government's policy is not only immoral, it is making things much, much worse for everyone.

But, of course, objecting to Israeli government policy is, per se, anti-semitic, according to some people in this Guardian story. It's hard to be optimistic in the face of that sort of thinking.

Anyway, thanks to all in Wellington - the Tuanz Interactive Awards went very well, and it was a real pleasure to be able to pick Sidhe Interactive's Stacey Jones Rugby League - for PlayStation, Xbox and PC - as the winner of the Craft Award. The game has achieved the highest pre-sales into Australia of any console game, ever - more than 30,000. How cool is that?