Friday, 26 September 2014

Job Hunting

There is a new kind of scam about these days, more of an annoyance than a real problem but still a bit of a bar to finding work.

Imagine, you’re looking for a job back in IT, though it could be any industry. You’ve gone through the official process signed on via (and various agencies) even though you’re not entitled to any money because you have savings and your partner is earning above the threshold the Dole money/job seekers allowance is paid out, to the most discriminated against majority in the UK, those that get the full on slap in the face for all their hard work and contributions for the previous twenty eight years ... the working age white male.

Search Optimised Engines SEOs are clever pieces of software that crawl through the internet picking up morsels of information from cookies and other data that’s been deemed available by you, and from you when you are stupid enough not to read through a websites T&C’s and tick the box that says the website can’t sell your details to all and sundry if you tell them not to. 

So that’s the technology. Effectively a software robot that has many tendrils covered in ears and hands that can wander freely and grab any information specified by the programmer, and the rules as specified by the Data Protection Act and others etc in the world of the legitimate.

None of this of course takes account of the criminal who will steal your information if you leave a window or door open (just like at home), or the unscrupulous and immoral (the accidently on purpose abusers of your details). The chances of you finding which turd leaked your details is difficult if not impossible by dint of the expense of running down the perpetrator. However BT salespersons definitely fall into the category of accidently on purpose, didn’t tick the box when you asked them to, when you ordered your new phone line. Then having righted it once, then accidently forgot to tick the box again `when you asked them to’ when you subsequently upgraded your service. Thus you found that your inbox is filling with junk mail, likewise your letter box, your SMS inbox and the odd random call asking you if you want double glazing, a loan, or to upgrade your BT service to include TV and god knows what else ... Barclays Bank were another bunch who used this tactic, they are no longer my bank. 

You know it was BT because when you go back through the sales people (not the offshored helpline because they will do nothing but annoy you), the sales person will invariably say `Oh it looks like the spare me from the bullshit box wasn’t ticked. I’ve sorted it out. Is there anything else I can do for you today’? `Er no ... fuck off, I’ve wasted enough time on your company already’.

Where the internet is concerned it is even more difficult to protect yourself from this kind of scamming and apart from following links to UNSUBSCRIBE from mail out services you are pretty much buggered and should use a service like identity safe from Norton you keep yourself armoured out in the electrical eather (I may have said this before in another post). 

The sophisticated methods used are beyond the mere mortals ability to comprehend. But imagine if you will, this Search Optimised Engine WebBot; it is a software robot hence Bot it reports back to a server somewhere and you would be hard pressed to find that server. It lives on a server or on multiple servers, distributed so it can rebuild itself if it’s attacked (this is real not a science fiction plot). A server that is one of millions of potential homes in places where data protection laws don’t exist, or maybe more sinisterly exist to allow state sponsored control and spying on their own citizens and others, China for instance. Russia is another, but the issue in Russia is far more towards the criminal activity that old cliché `Cyber Crime’. This said there are plenty of unscrupulous people hosting these evil Webbot/SEO software devices in the United States, Canada and South America and probably in the UK as well.

How does this affect the job seeker? 

When do you post the most detail about yourself online? 

Is it on Facebook or Twitter or Linkedin or any of the other social media platforms? When you sign up for you BT extras, your Mobile Phone add-ons, or when you get your first email account?

No. None of these. They’re all fairly well protected and legislated for in Data Protection (accidently on purpose arseholes aside). And if you’re negligent in maintaining your privacy, or in allowing these companies to share your details with their `preferred partners’, in the main you have only yourself to blame (but of course you can resolve the issue by altering your privacy settings). Even this blog I have set in a moderated mode, anyone can read anywhere, anyone can comment, but as for us the authors, if you contact us, you go through Google ... not direct. When I look at the traffic that scans these pages most of it comes from places where Cyber Crime comes from. Bots out scanning for holes in security, to either rip off the site, or rip off visitors to the site or to spam it with advertising.

The place you place the most information about yourself now is on job sites. You put your CV online, your contact details etc etc etc. You have no choice if you’re applying for a role. 

Again if you look at the top end of recruitment the Hayes, the Ranstads and the Reeds you get a fairly robust security response. When you get to the Fish4Jobs, Monster, Jobserve, things get a little bit loose and you find that even though you’ve said `No I don’t want to receive alerts and emails about specifically tailored products and services from our preferred partners based on the information you have given us’ (I’ve read that stuff a lot lately it’s indelibly etched into my forebrain), that you must have missed something in the process because lo and behold your inbox starts filling up as if a biblical data flood has just tsunami’d over your firewall. And your only choice is to divert the flow to your junk email because you won’t actually be able to track down where your settings on these jobsites contradict your wish `not to be contacted’. You may have been botted read on.

Let’s do some illustrative numbers, the kind of numbers people give up on once they exceed the number of zeros in a Lottery jackpot.

There is a lot of data out there and this is a fairly unscientific approximation. Number of Zetabytes divided by human population. This is 4 Zytabytes, remember a million is only one plus six zeros (the bit in bold italics).
                  5.714.285.714.285: This is 5 trillion 714 billion 285 million 714 thousand 2 hundred and 85 bytes. In a Zetabyte you still have six more zeros to go.

As above very unscientific given that not everyone has a digital life by any means (that actually pushes the numbers per capita up). There is approximately 5.714.285.714.285 bytes of data for every person on the planet. I cribbed this from here: (and it’s quite old relatively speaking).
To put the data explosion in context, consider this. Every minute of every day we create:
- More than 204 million email messages
- Over 2 million Google search queries
-  48 hours of new YouTube videos (Tardis Numbers in 1 minute 48 hours of video is uploaded to Youtube).
- 684,000 bits of content shared on Facebook
- More than 100,000 tweets
- $272,000 spent on e-commerce

Some of this data is rogue, malicious and very cleverly put together. Data has a price, your details have a price and it may be a fraction of a penny, but if you’re selling billions of fractions of pennies, you’re going to make millions of pounds.

So back to our SEO Webbot. You’ve applied for a job through a legitimate portal; Universal Job Match .GOV.UK, or any of the others mentioned above. You’ve spent three maybe four hours filling in a application form, attaching your CV with your home address, Date of birth, email address, the companies you’ve worked for, how long you’ve been at work, your likes and interests, maybe hobbies (I don’t have mine on my CV for this reason). You’re marketing yourself. You’re sending out marketing information about you, and what you want. 

The fact that you’ve just sent an application to a company that only exists on a server somewhere, populated by SEO’s and Webbots, who then match your details with specific products and or services and then sell your details to all and sundry is just hard luck. The fact that some unscrupulous persons have reamed your posted CV and publicly visible details, then written a job description that is almost too good to be true and then posted that job ad with a legitimate looking company logo and details on a legitimate portal, is again hard luck. The fact that you the job seeker have in good faith applied for the role because you’re a dead ringer for it is just tough luck. The fact that literally as soon as you’ve clicked the submit button your email inbox and junk mail box start filling up is also tough luck. 

And here’s the real rub. You have to be so very careful about clicking that UNSUBSCRIBE button. Because likely as not, when you click on the UNSUBSCRIBE button, from your email, you are actually just confirming that there is someone at that mail address. Exactly the same as answering the phone to those marketing phone numbers that are just checking someone is in during the day, so that details can be sold/passed to companies that make marketing calls during the day to premises that are occupied.

It’s a bit daunting. Since I last needed to look for job in 2006, the world has changed. In 2006 Facebook was barely two years old, Youtube was only a year old. Many people still didn’t have technology at home. Tablet type devices were fairly pointless and clunky and required a stylus to do anything. Now that’s all changed technology has proliferated in ways that just twenty years ago no one except the science fiction community could have imagined. In 2006 looking for work on the internet was a painless process. In the six years since then the mess and melee that is the web has exploded, and hidden in plain sight of almost every legitimate service is an SEO or Webbbot listening like spider feeling its web for the vibration of a fly, and rushing and grabbing it ... but instead of killing it or paralysing its prey, it copies it, then lets the original move on freely. The copy though is encapsulated and recopied and devoured by multiple mouths in multiple locations.

So looking for work, no longer just a demoralising drudge post recession when you’re just one of millions looking to get back on the ladder. You’re now prey for internet scammers as well.

I’ll see if I get a response from the UK.GOV universal Jobmatch people, because of all the sites that suffer from this kind of `Spoofing’ they are the worst protected almost unsurprisingly.

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