I don’t get Twitter.

And it’s not just because I’m a long-winded bastard, though that’s definitely true. (I can remember my elementary school days, when I’d come back to face another school year after a glorious summer of building rockets, tinkering with electronics, and shunning my peers, and the teacher would ask us to write a 250 word essay about what we did over summer vacation. “Two hundred and fifty words!” I’d wail. “How can I ever write two hundred and fifty words??!“. Nowadays, two hundred and fifty words isn’t even enough to write the introduction to what I did last weekend. But I digress.)

It’s more that I don’t really understand what the value is in sending out regular blips to the world explaining what I’m doing. It seems to me that if I’m doing something interesting, like tying someone to the bed and fisting her, I’m unlikely to stop what I’m doing to Twitter about it (and wouldn’t you really rather read the full version later, anyway?), and if what I’m doing allows me to stop and Twitter about it, it probably isn’t very interesting. “Waiting for potatoes to boil,” for example. (Which is, honestly, what I’m doing right now. figmentj has drafted me to help with the Thanksgiving cooking; those of you who know my cooking skills are probably reeling in stark raving terror right about now. But again, I digress.)

It seems to me that Twitter is really only ideal for those times when you’re doing something interesting but you also can type about it on your cell phone, and I can’t think of very many cases like that. Falling out of a burning airplane, maybe:

Mixed blessing. Survived the explosion, but…

Wow. Sure is cold. The ground is very far away.

Falling faster now. 9.8m/sec2 is a bitch.

hard 2 type. hands stiff. lots of wind.


So, those of you who use Twitter, what am I missing?

It’s almost Thanksgiving!

Heading out in a little less than five hours to hop on a jet plane to go see figmentj for Thanksgiving.

Actually, I take that back. I’m not hopping on a jet plane, I’m hopping in a jet plane. Screw riding on the plane; it’s too cold for that.

I’m told it’s rather cold in New Jersey at the moment as well, so apparently a good part of the vacation will be spent watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In my entire life, I’ve seen one episode all the way through, and parts of another two or maybe three episodes; this is apparently a horrifying and appalling state of affairs which figmentj intends to set to rights.

In the past, I’ve tended to be a little cynical about Thanksgiving–that national holiday where we celebrate the arrogance and poor planning of the early Pilgrims, who came to this land in search of freedom from religious tyranny so that they could impose their own, even more brutal brand of religious tyranny, and whose spectacular failures to make any sort of reasonable preparation for the winter meant that their sorry asses needed to be saved by the generosity and good will of their local neighbors, whom they would one day repay in kind by exterminating. This early experiment with socialism is mirrored today in a government that’s hanging out $1.5 trillion dollars, or nearly $5,000 for every American man, woman, and child, to financial institutions in order to reward them for a decade of corruption, greed, and recklessness on a scale that would make Ken Lay blush.

So, yeah. Down on Thanksgiving.

But really, the fact is there’s a great deal in my life that I am thankful for, and I don’t always acknowledge those things. So maybe a day of thanksgiving isn’t necessarily such a bad idea, religious persecution and extermination of entire classes of indigenous people aside.

In no particular order, the things I am thankful for include:

– My sweeties, each of whom enriches my life and each of whom I am privileged and honored to be able to share some part of my life with. figmentj, for her constant reality checks that help keep me intellectually and emotionally honest. zaiah, for opening doors that I never even knew existed and for teaching me things about myself even as she has allowed me to explore her. Shelly, one of my own personal heros, simply for being who she is, and for acting as a shining light of courage, dedication, and resolve that helps to show us some of the best of the human condition. joreth, for an unswerving dedication to intellectual rigor in a society awash with anti-intellectualism. Gina, for being an unexpected treasure in my life who’s helped show me whole new interests. dayo, for exploring with me, dancing with me, traveling with me, and just generally being one hell of a sexy woman.

– The small handful of IT abuse people who actually care about their networks and their servers, and who restore my faith in humanity so badly battered by the likes of iPower and ESTdomains.

– The fact that I live in a time, in a society, and in a position where I need not fear going hungry, and have enough leisure time to pursue those things that interest me. This is something that the overwhelming majority of human beings who have ever lived can not say, and even today the bulk of the people on the planet can not say.

– The fact that I have not (yet) been imprisoned for my religious, political, or sexual views, which is something that even today many people can’t say. (Though it would seem that, particularly for sexual views, that’s something that is best not taken for granted; apparently, cartoon drawings of sex can sometimes get one prosecuted in this country.)

– My circle of friends, even though most of you are long-distance now; I have surrounded myself with smart, independent people of the highest integrity and character imaginable, and I’m grateful for it.

-The existence of an instantaneous, always-on global communication network that allows me to disseminate ideas and connect with like-minded people in a way that has for almost all of human history been impossible.

– The existence of the James Randi Educational Foundation and other efforts to free society of flim-flam, superstition, and anti-intellectual gobbledygook in all its many guises.

– Bacon. Mmm, bacon.

– Infrastructure. We spend far too little time acknowledging the efforts of the people who make our toilets flush and our garbage go away, even though, in a direct and literal sense, our lives depend on what they do.

Fracking bloody LiveJournal anyway

I’ve got the setting turned on on LJ to email me when someone posts a comment to one of my posts or posts a reply to one of my comments. It usually works okay; I get about 90% of the notifications, most of the time, and things go pretty well. Occasionally a notification never makes it to my email, when the Intertubes get clogged or something.

Over the last 48 hours, I have received between three and five copies of every notification email for posts going back several weeks.

Now, just to give you an idea of what that means, my post about tattoos, porn, and respect for women has received, at the time of this writing, 119 comments (including mine). I’ve received at least three emailed copies of every one of those comments in the last two days–as well as multiple copies of every post made in the last week or two, including my post from my iPhone this morning.

Is it just me? Have I done something to offend the God of IMAP? Do I need to dance widdershins naked around a router, Ethernet cables braided through my hair, to appease the offended deities? Should I meditate at a temple dedicated to BIND, hoping to learn through introspection of the folly of my ways? Or is this a more general calamity, like a digital plague of locusts, signaling the Tribulation and the End Times?

Biochemistry and sex…and hey, multiple orgasms!

A few days ago, someone on my flist posted something that had a casual mention of a drug that is used to cause lactation. I don’t remember who it was, or what the post was actually about, see, but I ended up getting sucked down the Intertubes for hours because if ot, and it was some hours before I re-surfaced in the middle of a lake many miles away.

Lactation in human beings is largely mediated by a hormone called, naturally enough, “prolactin.” But that’s not the interesting bit. The interesting bit is about sex.

This is prolactin. It’s a hormone produced by human beings in the breast during breast feeding (it causes the production of milk) and in the brain during orgasm. As is typical with many hormones, it serves double duty and has a number of different roles; evolutionary biology never starts with a clean slate, so we get hormones in one part of the body repurposed to do something completely different in another part of the body (and we also get fucked-up design night mares like the knee…but I digress).

Its role in the brain is interesting. it’s what keeps you from wanting to fuck all the time.

When (most) people have an orgasm, there’s a drop in sexual arousal immediately afterward. There’s usually a refractory period, during which you can’t get off again, and there’s a generalized, overall decrease in libido. The length of time it lasts varies all over the map; for some folks it’s a few minutes, for other folks it’s the rest of the day, or at least until the rerun of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is over. Prolactin is the cause.

When it’s released in the brain during and after orgasm, the role of prolactin is to stomp all over your arousal like it was a narc at a biker rally. A while ago, a bunch of scientists far better at getting funded than I am worked out a way to get paid for watching people masturbate; they found some heroic volunters, hooked them up to blood sampling equipment, then monitored the levels of various hormones in their blood while the volunteers masturbated to orgasm. The experiment was repeated with volunteers who could experience multiple orgasms.

What they found, aside from the fact that getting paid to watch women masturbate is really hot, is that the production of prolactin is directly correlated to the post-orgasmic crash; the prolactin remains in the body for hours (or longer); while the level of prolactin is high, arousal is difficult or impossible; and people who have multiple orgasms don’t have this spike in prolactin in their blood after they get off.

All this, I already knew.

Being the transhumanist that I am, which is often just a way of saying being the pragmatist that I am, I’ve long thought that the easiest path to becoming multiply orgasmic would probably be to develop a drug that blocks the action of prolactin. Snap, job done. Take a pill, get off again and again and again and again. And then some more after that.

What I didn’t realize was that such drugs already exist.

So here I am, reading LJ, and I find a passing reference to a drug that induces lactation. Since I hadn’t heard of it before, I do what I always do with novel words or ideas–I consulted the Oracle at Google.

The Oracle at Google is wise and all-knowing, but she can also be a temperamental and difficult oracle, for she often sows her information with the seeds of more things you didn’t know, which in turn lead to more things you didnt know, and still more things you didn’t know, inducing you to submerge yourself in the waters of human knowledge and not come up for air until you’re reading about the history of Hadrian’s Wall when all you’d asked for was perhaps the best ways to trim a cat’s claws.

Anyway, lactation can be induced in women by means of drugs that enhance the action of prolactin, or that stimulate prolactin production. Lactation can also be prevented, naturally enough, by drugs which block the effects of prolactin, of which there are two, cabergoline and bromocriptine.

Now, there are a lot of other reasons why you might want to block prolactin, which have nothing to do with lactation. Excess prolactin is responsible for a number of other conditions; certain forms of pituitary disease cause excess levels of prolactin, which can lead to cancers, arthritis and other autoimmune diseases, and a whole host of other stuff you don’t want. So there’s a medical need for drugs that block prolactin.

As it turns out, there’s a relationship between prolactin and a completely different compound, the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine also serves multiple functions. It’s the neurotransmitter that signals nerves in your voluntary motor centers of your brain; when you think about moving your arm, your motor centers produce dopamine, which turns into the nerve impulses that make your arm actually move.

It’s also a key component of the so-called “reward center” of the brain that mediates feelings of pleasure; when you delight in anything from a beautiful painting to the knowledge that you’re getting paid to watch people masturbate, dopamine is the reason. And dopamine mediates much of the sexual system of the brain, including the functions that cause physical arousal.

Dopamine and prolactin are mutually antagonistic. Dopamine tends to inhibit the function and production of prolactin, and excess prolactin tends to inhibit the function of dopamine. For that reasons, things that are antagonistic to prolactin tend to enhance the function or quantity of dopamine in the brain, and vice-versa.

Okay, so here’s where things get really cool.

There is a devastating disease called Parkinson’s disease which results in gradual, irreversible destruction of the dopamine-producing cells in the motor area of the brain, which leads to gradual, creeping paralysis. Because it’s caused by the loss of dopamine-producing cells, anything which acts to stimulate the production of dopamine in the brain will tend to reverse the paralysis, so dopamine-enhancing drugs are often used to treat Parkinson’s.

Now, as I’ve already mentioned, drugs that block prolactin tend to enhance dopamine, and vice versa. The drug bromocriptine is a prolactin antagonist and a dopamine agonist; for that reason, it’s often used to treat both Parkinson’s disease and certain pituitary disorders that cause excess prolactin production. The down side is that it has a number of fairly nasty side effects in some people, including such unpleasantness as psychosis.

Cabergoline is another drug that works the same way as bromocriptine; like bromocriptine, cabergoline is used to treat Parkinson’s disease and pituitary disease. It, too, blocks prolactin and enhances dopamine, and it has fewer nasty side effects.

One interesting side effect reported in both men and women being treated for things like Parkinson’s is multiple orgasms.

Which is a hell of a side effect, if you ask me.

In fact, cabergoline (and, to a lesser extent, bromocriptine) are sometimes prescribed off-label to counteract the sexual side effects of antidepressants (which modify the action of dopamine), and as treatments for sexual dysfunction.

So it turns out, as is often the case, that not only was I right in thinking that a prolactin-blocking drug might allow folks to have multiple orgasms, but that, as usual, other folks had already beaten me to the punch.

The moral lesson here is to be careful what you write about in your LiveJournal. The simple mention of an unfamiliar word can suck someone down into the bowels of the Internet for hours on end, and not only that, can spread viral-like through LiveJournal psts to other folks, who may get sucked down for hours on end plumbing the depths of biochemistry or stellar nucleosynthesis, as this post in shiva-kun‘s journal so aptly shows. In the interests of getting things done in the office, I hereby ask that all the folks on my friends list refrain from posting anything interesting, and instead confine themselves to discussions of reruns of “Friends” for the next three days, kay?

Coping with the Cold

It’s been obnoxiously, brutally cold1 here the past few days.

David and I shut off the heater when we leave for work, to save money on the gas bill. Liam the kittycat stays home all day and gets into trouble, usually of the “knocking stuff off of shelves and rummaging around on the counter looking for shiny balls of aluminum foil to play with” variety.

I think even he’s been feeling a bit chilly lately, though. When I got home from work yesterday and logged on to WoW, Liam went to sleep next to me under the covers, with his nose buried beneath a pillow:

Poor li’l guy.

1 “Obnoxiously cold” meaning “in the 30s and 40s.” Yeah, I’m a Florida boy. Shut up.

Some thoughts on tattoos, porn, and respect for women

So I admit it. I’m so not up on the common vernacular these days that it wasn’t until early last year I’d ever heard of lower back tattoos on women described as “tramp stamps.”

I’ve always liked tattoos; the right tattoo on a woman can be very beautiful indeed. (The definition of “right” is highly subjective, of course, and will no doubt very from person to person. I tend to think that any tattoo involving pictures of Jesus nailed to a cross, or to anything else for that matter, or hearts with “Mother” written across them in fancy script, are not the right tattoo by any definition–but the end of the day, the only definition of ‘right’ that matters is that of the person who owns the tattoo. But I digress.

But until quite recently, I was blissfully unaware that tattoos on certain parts of the body were generally considered to be markers of questionable moral character, or that those who had tattoos were generally assumed to be sexually promiscuous.

The term ‘tramp stamp,’ as clever as it sounds (“Oooh! It rhymes! It must be true if it rhymes! If the glove don’t fit, the tramp stamp sits!” Or something) betrays what seems to me to be a very interesting idea about women. It’s a short, simple, 21st-century slang term that packages sixteenth-century ideas about sex and sexuality in a handy, bite-sized piece.

It’s hard to know where to begin. The notion that women who like sex are ‘tramps’ and therefore less worthy as human beings is pretty odious. On top of that is layered another blanket prejudice–the notion that a woman who wants to decorate a certain part of her body must necessarily be a woman who likes sex. (The tendency of human beings to invent stories in their heads to explain the motivations of other human beings, and the profound disconnect that exists between the stories we invent and the actual motivations of the people we invent these stories about, never ceases to amaze me.) Then, resting atop that like the cherry on a layer cake of stereotypes and prejudice, comes the notion that such a woman must not only enjoy sex, but be unselective about her choice of sex partners.

Now, when I first heard the expression ‘tramp stamp,’ I was like, “Okay, it rhymes, ha ha, very funny.” It’s only been recently that I’ve come to understand that there are folks who actually believe, like, for reals, that women who tattoo their backs are sexually promiscuous.

On another forum I read, there’s a conversation going on about anal sex, and specifically about whether or not there are any women who actually enjoy it.

Quite aside from the fact that I know rather a lot of women who enjoy giving it as well as receiving it (and thank God for that!), a surprising number of people maintain, often rather vigorously, that the woman who likes taking it up the ass doesn’t exist. A handful of folks opine that women do it only to please their mates, and that this makes them sad and pathetic creatures (on the idea, apparently, that doing something that makes your lover happy is one of the most stupid things any sad wretch could ever want). Those folks are merely ignorant of the full range and depth of the human sexual experience, which is sad but not surprising.

Another vocal handful, however, were unable to maintain this notion in the face of a considerable number of posters who said “Hey, I like getting jiggy up the butt!” and finally conceded that there are women whofavor anal–but then insisted that these women are inferior as human beings. One poster even wrote, I was brought up to treat woman especially lovers as on a pedestal. All this time, by these statistics I could have been treating half of them like whores.

And I think that speaks volumes, too, about the prejudices that some people carry around with thim regarding the ‘proper’ way for women to be.

It would seem that this man treats women with respect only as far as they behave the way he wants them to, and the moment they deviate from his expectations about how they should be, he tears them down off that pedestal and judges them ‘whores.’ Which is pretty fucked up, if you ask me.

I can’t quite rightly wrap my brain around the notion that a person’s value centers on the way that person acts in bed, nor around the idea that a woman who digs it up the ass, no matter what other qualities she may have as a human being, determines her eligibility for respect.

Yes, I know that there was a time when a woman’s value quite literally depended on her sex; that women were essentially bartered away by their fathers for use as breeding stock, and that in a day without paternity testing and with strict, if goofy, notions of inheritance and property rights, tracking a woman’s sexual activity was important to issues of estate. That’s also fucked up, and it hasn’t been true (at least in the First World) for…err, rather a long time now.

What baffles me is how tenaciously these ideas cling to life.

The guy who wrote the aforementioned bigoted nonsense defended this nonsense with a great deal of heat, at one point comparing anyone who thinks that anal sex is okay with the German Nazi party (I kid you not, though I seem to remember that the Nazis had their own views on anal sex, and it was probably more in line with this guy’s than he might realize).

I wrote recently that when a person holds on to some idea in the face of contradictory evidence, it’s usually because the idea is a distorted reflection of some part of that person’s underlying emotional landscape, but in this particular case I’m quite flummoxed about what that emotional landscape might be. I simply can not figure out why someone would care so passionately, and become so emotionally upset, over the notion that a bunch of women he doesn’t know and will never meet like taking a hard cock up the butt every now and then…or even don’t like teh analz, but think it’s okay if other women do.

Now we get to the part that might make some folks angry. This is the part where I say that, while musing on these notions that women who like sex are bad, women who get lower back tattoos are women who like sex, and therefore women who get lower tattoos are bad, and on the sorts of faulty wiring that can exist inside a person’s head to make him believe that a woman who likes any kind of sex that he thinks she shouldn’t like no longer deserves respect, I have reached the conclusion that there’s a certain brand of feminism that seems bent on keeping things this way.

In a completely different conversation on a completely unrelated forum, the topic came up, as it often does, about pornography and relationships. Several folks, many of whom identify as feminists, weighed in on the subject with the usual laundry list of criticisms–porn is coercive, porn is degrading to women, porn commoditizes women’s sexuality, that sort of thing. One woman even went so far as to say, without apparent irony, that she has no respect for any woman who would be in porn.

Which, to my mind, is no different from the guy who says he has no respect for any woman who would receive anal sex.

Now, I know that feminism is often sharply divided over issues of porn and sex, with some feminists ardently opposed to it and other feminists ardently in favor of it. I’ve written about my own views on the subject in the form of a parody Socratic dialog on the virtues of porn, but the woman who claimed not to be able to respect anyone who did porn brought up an entirely new absurdity in my mind–the idea that anti-porn feminists have internalized the very patriarchal ideas they claim to oppose, and as a result are swallowing the very same patriarchal ideas about women and sex that they claim to refute.

When your ideological enemy agrees with you about the proper conduct of people, in the very areas where your ideological differences lie, I think it might be time to re-evaluate your ideas.

In a sense, the anti-porn feminists are accepting the core values of patriarchy, merely dressing them in different garments. They are, in fact, accepting the notion that a woman’s sexual choices and sexual expressions should be limited, that women who make sexual choices that they don’t agree with are inferior, and that some part of a woman’s value does indeed rest on her sexuality. They are seeking to abridge both a woman’s right to choose her own sexual expression and her freedom and range of sexual action, by labeling certain forms of sexual expression off-limits.

And perhaps most ironically, the entire argument that porn is inherently objectifying and commoditizing is based on flawed assumptions.

Many anti-porn feminists argue that porn caters to men and reinforces oppressive male-centered sexual roles. Leaving aside the inconvenient fact that many, many women like porn (a fact that anti-porn feminists will often handwave away by the process of inventing stories to explain their motivations, saying things like ‘they only believe they like porn because they’ve been brainwashed by patriarchal society into accepting subservient sexual roles’–that is, when they bother to acknowledge the fact at all), in reality if you look at the most patriarchal, the most repressive, the most rigidly conservative men out there, you will see that those men don’t like porn either.

The idea that porn is the byproduct of repression and patriarchy does not stand up to scrutiny. Socially conservative men, those who most strongly subscribe to the notion of prescribed sexual roles for women, are quite often ardent opponents of porn themselves. These social conservatives–the ones who seek to control women’s sexuality and who feel that women should be ‘pure’ and ‘proper’ and stay within rigid social norms–often will go so far as to say porn should be outlawed.

In fact, the Taliban, arguably the single most sexually repressive, patriarchal, anti-woman group the world has ever seen, ruled that possession of pornography was punishable by death.

The more patriarchal a society is, the more likely that society is to prohibit porn. The more socially conservative a person is and the more a person believes that women must obey rigid gender roles, the more likely it is that that person is opposed to porn. The more threatened a person is by women expressing their sexuality in non-traditional ways, the more likely it is that that person opposes porn. Porn is the byproduct of oppressive male patriarchy? Far from it; oppressive male patriarchy despises porn, and the more strictly a society seeks to impose gender roles on its members, the more strictly that society forbids pornography!

The same holds true for religion; the more socially conservative, sexually repressive a religious doctrine is, the more vigorously that doctrine opposes pornography. Look at the Southern Baptists, whose core doctrine says that a woman’s place is to submit gracefully to the divine authority of her husband. How do you think the Southern Baptist Convention feels about pornography? (Let me give you a hint.)

It doesn’t help, of course, that nobody can even define what porn is. “I can’t define porn, but I know it when I see it,” when it comes to brass tacks, is basically nothing but a way of saying “If it makes me feel a certain way, then it must be bad. If I see something and I don’t feel that certain way, then it isn’t porn, but if it causes certain feelings in me, then it is.” Which is, I rather think, a piss-poor way of defining anything, especially for the purpose of determining if it should be socially accepted or not. (Anti-porn activist Catherine MacKinnon helped author Canada’s anti-porn laws…laws which have enough subjective wiggle room that, in practice, they are routinely applied to gay and lesbian erotica but rarely or never applied to heterosexual erotica.)

There are, it would seem, many feminists who would like to live in a progressive, egalitarian society that treats women fairly, as full and equal citizens whose standing is identical to that of men…yet at the same time like to see this society free of porn.

And I don’t think that’s even possible.

A society which respects women as the equal of men, and which does not value its members on the basis of their sexual activities, will be a society in which there is porn. The more egalitarian that society is, the more mainstream that society is likely to be, for the very simple and obvious reason that there are people who dig making porn.

One anti-porn feminist argument is that porn is coercive. And this is true, in societies that don’t accept porn. It exists in every society, without exception, even in places once ruled by the Taliban–but the more repressive a society is, the more underground the manufacture and distribution of porn becomes. When something goes underground, it tends to become corrupt, driven by the sorts of people who will abuse and coerce for profit. If the making of porn is illegal, which is what tends to happen in patriarchal societies, then the production of porn falls into the hands of criminal enterprise.

Progressive societies tend not to have this problem; there is no need to force women into porn when porn is legal, because, like I said, some people dig being in porn. The human species is vast in its range of expression, and for some folks, being filmed in bed is fun. For other folks, it’s a job, no different than any other, and a damn sight better than some. (You really want to know what objectification and exploitation is all about? Try working at a chicken processing plant, where workers, often poor or minority women, may be forced to wear diapers or piss their pants because their bosses refuse to let them leave the line to use the bathroom.)

Point is, people do, and enjoy, different things. Some women like tattoos. Some women like taking naughty pictures of themselves. Some women like being filmed for Gang Bang All Stars VII. That’s all a normal and natural part of human expression, and like it or not, castigating entire classes of people or valuing them less because they do things that you don’t like does not empower women, nor serve in the interests of freeing women from social constraints on their range of action.

Respect, real respect, must include respecting folks whose choices aren’t like yours, so long as they do not seek to impose those choices on others. This is a test which the Taliban, the Southern Baptists, the folks who label women who like lower back tattoos as ‘tramps,’ and the anti-porn feminists all fail.

Woot! Score one for the good guys

Yesterday, I talked about how the Russian Zlob gang was abusing open redirectors on the Net to seed Google with links to malware. I’d made a list of such open redirectors over the past few days, and have been contacting the owners of the redirectors explaining the problem and how to fix it.

Last night, I found an open redirector on the usa.gov site, which was being used in Google links to spread malware. I fired off an email to the usa.gov Webmaster explaining the problem. This morning I got a very nice email reply saying they’d verified the problem and fixed it; the redirector now does referrer checking and refuses to redirect for non-local requests. Checked it out, and sure enough, it was fixed.

Woot! They had a patched script up within hours. Who says the government is always slow and inefficient?

Another day, another new computer virus distribution technique

I’ve spent quite a lot of time in this journal posting about a particular group of Russian computer virus writers, starting from when I first discovered last year that my name was being used to poison Google keyword searches and drive traffic to Web sites that attempt to download malware onto computers. (Does that make me an official net.celebrity?) I’ve made it something of a hobby to follow this particular group, and have written about how they have repeatedly hacked an ISP called iPower Web to spread viruses, and how they’ve built an elaborate underground computer network to funnel traffic to virus-infected Web sites.

Along the way, they’ve changed tactics a number of times. The hacks against iPowerWeb are still ongoing, though they seem to have slowed; at the height of the attack, iPower was hosting tens of thousands of newly-hacked Web sites per day, though now it’s slowed to a paltry trickle…at any given time these days, there are only a couple hundred hacked Web sites living on iPower’s servers. When the post about iPower first went live last December, I was flooded with emails from folks saying “My Web site is hosted by iPower and I’ve been hacked!” and I even got two phone calls from iPowewr customers whose Web sites had been penetrated. (Yes, my phone number is out there, for folks who want to dig it up. No, I’m not gonna tell you what it is.)

The interesting thing about this particular computer gang is their adaptability. They’re constantly changing targets, and as time goes on their underground network grows larger and more resilient.

In the past, they’ve planted redirectors to malware sites on hacked Web servers, they’ve exploited security flaws in software like phpBB and WordPress to redirect traffic to virus droppers, they’ve set up fake FaceBook profiles that redirect visitors to virus-infected sites, and they’ve even created fake Google Groups to direct traffic to virus sites.

In the past couple of weeks, though, I’ve seen a whole new approach, and it’s all about exploiting open redirectors.

We’re going to get technical under here!