The BitCoin Sex Trap Email Extortion Scam


An Odd and Very Demanding Message

Last Friday night, I received a note from “Hyman Cipolletta” using the Outlook.com account rriivoryorz@hotmail.com. The message header shows that the message originated in a North American server (Namprd12.prod.outlook.com) in the common Office 365 infrastructure shared by Exchange Online and Outlook.com.

My interest was tweaked by the subject, composed of an old password and my Gmail account name. The message (Figure 1) started off:

“I won’t beat around the bush. I am aware xxxx is your password. Moreover, I know about your secret and I’ve evidence of your secret. You do not know me personally and nobody hired me to investigate you.”

Porn bitcoin email scam

Figure 1: The message demanding a Bitcoin payment

The Scam

0.75 BTC is EUR5,276 or US$6,147 at today’s rate, so the sender of this note had serious intentions. They demonstrated that they knew something about me (my Gmail address and an old password) and laid out a rational explanation for what might had happened. The flaw in the argument was that I knew I hadn’t been near any adult video sites, so the description of a keylogger being installed on my PC couldn’t have happened. And without the keylogger, no contacts from Facebook, Messenger, and email could have been gathered.

But if you had been tempted to go near such sites, it’s possible that what was described might have happened, which is why scammers lay out a plausible story in the hope that some of the millions of people they send email to will panic and believe that their watching habits would soon become public.

Internet to the Rescue

You might blame the internet for making porn easy to access. When it comes to scam, the internet is pretty fast at reporting their techniques and letting people know what’s really happening. A quick search revealed many descriptions of similar emails. Here are two:

Brian Krebs broke the story on July 12 and it seems like since then scammers have been working their way through a store of stolen email addresses and passwords to try and convince as many as they can to send them various sums of money. I guess I should feel good that my demand was at the high end of the spectrum as others have been asked for far less.

Payments Flowing In

What’s distressing is that some people are paying the scammers. @SecGuru has been able to keep track on some payments (Figure 2) and it seems like the scam is profitable.

Bitcoin sex email scam results

Figure 2: Cash flows in for the scammers

How Did the Scammers Get My Data?

If you go to Troy Hunt’s Have I Been Pwned site, you can find a list of sites where attackers have stolen email addresses and passwords. Looking through the list, I find sites that I use, like LinkedIn, where over 164 million addresses were compromised, and Disqus, also with sites that I occasionally used, like Ancestry.com. A simple check revealed that my email address is on 4 breached sites, so the scammers have a choice of sources where they can find my address.

What to Do

In any case, the password cited in the email is an old one that I don’t use today.  This means that the combination isn’t worth much to hackers, especially as I use multi-factor authentication (MFA) whenever possible to protect any important site that I use.

If you receive an email that contains a password you still use, you should obviously change that password on any site where it is still active. And if possible, take the choice to use multi-factor authentication to improve security. Services like Gmail, LinkedIn, and Office 365 support MFA.

Above all, don’t respond to the scam. Ignore the message, unless you feel that you should report it to the local police force (as recommended by some experts). Personally, I don’t think that most police forces can do much about this kind of scam. I reported the email to Microsoft (use Outlook’s Report Message add-in) so that they can improve their ability to block rubbish like this in their anti-malware tools.

Scams are a Pain

The popularity of email as the lingua franca for communication across the internet means that attackers like finding new ways of poking at human vulnerability to make money. This is just another example of a scam that’s popular right now. Do the right thing and secure your passwords and you’ll be fine. Stay safe!

Follow Tony on Twitter @12Knocksinna.

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Update Log for Office 365 for IT Pros (2019 Edition)


Changes and updates made to “Office 365 for IT Pros (2019 edition)

Original release: July 1, 2018.

This document describes the changes made to the book since its original release. The document is up-to-date as of the version released on August 4, 2018. We try and release an updated version regularly, usually on a Saturday unless something like a major conference disrupts our ability to produce an update.

Changes per Chapter

Chapter Number (bold) and number of changes
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
1 1   1   2 2 3 2 1
11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
1 3 4 1     1   2 1
21 22 23 24 25          
  1   2            

Table 1: Distribution of chapter updates

We have released 4 updates for the 2019 edition since its publication: 7 July, 14 July, 28 July, 4 August.

You can find update information on the inside cover of the book.

Amazon notified purchasers that an updated file for the Kindle version:

We can only ask Amazon to update monthly and even so, sometimes they do not agree that we make enough changes to justify them sending a notification to customers that they can download the updated file.

Chapter Changes for Office 365 for IT Pros, 2019 ed.

Date Chapter Change
4 Aug 4 Customer lockbox approver role now available.
4 Aug 6 New workflow to delete users in the Office 365 Admin Center.
4 Aug 8 Modern team sites can be created without being connected to an Office 365 Group.
4 Aug 11 Some UI changes for Office 365 Group creation in OWA, so we updated our figures.
4 Aug 13 Meeting settings for a tenant have been transferred from the Office 365 Admin Center to the Teams and Skype for Business Admin Center.
4 Aug 20 Inserted text dealing with non-English characters in search keywords.
28 July 1 Microsoft stores some AAD attributes for user accounts in the U.S.  Added number for commercial cloud annualized run rate after Microsoft Q4 FY18 results.
28 July 2 Updated statistics about Microsoft cloud network.
28 July 8 Microsoft has paused the roll-out of the increase of versions for SharePoint and OneDrive document libraries.
28 July 12 Added more text about how to update photos for guest users.
28 July 13 Microsoft announced that Teams has reached feature parity with Skype for Business Online. Meetings now support up to 250 participants. Added text to describe how the inline translation of messages feature works.
28 July 14 Discussion about how to mark Office 365 Groups as team-enabled.
28 July 19 Minor wording changes.
28 July 24 Rewrote section explaining how to apply protection to messages with transport rules and included text to explain how to insert AIP labels with transport rules. Also, technical editor picked up a couple of things that we fixed or improved.
14 July 7 Improved the script to report shared mailboxes.
14 July 8 SharePoint Online now supports page metadata.
14 July 9 Added link to Microsoft Graph training available on GitHub.
14 July 12 Rewrote section about Classifications in the Groups policy.
14 July 13 Teams supports keyboard shortcuts to zoom in and zoom out. Information about the free version of Teams announced on July 12.
14 July 17 Added new statistics for email usage in 2018-2022. Added sections on Mail Flow Insights (new dashboard) and SIR rewriting for P1 addresses to avoid SPF failures on forwarding.
14 July 19 Added clarification about tracking holds placed on inactive mailboxes.
14 July 21 Be more specific about the audit events generated for SharePoint Online. Also, Microsoft has announced that they will enable mailbox auditing by default within Office 365 by the end of 2018.
14 July 22 Tracked down some bad hyperlinks and fixed them. Refreshed some graphics.
7 July 6 Fixed some typos and improved some PowerShell.
7 July 7 Several updates after a technical review of content that we couldn’t complete before publication.
7 July 8 Idle session timeout policy for SharePoint and OneDrive is now GA. Also, 8 new cmdlets are available to help with SharePoint migrations. Added new section covering features that Microsoft has deprecated in SharePoint Online.
7 July 9 Minor clarifications in text.
7 July 10 Microsoft will remove the old OME app from the Apple and Android stores on August 1, 2018. Also, Microsoft is making some changes to EWS for Exchange Online.
7 July 12 Added information about how to add photos for guest accounts.
7 July 13 Added some extra context about hiding teams from Exchange clients.
7 July 24 Microsoft will enable rights management automatically for eligible tenants from August 1, 2018. Also, a change in how Exchange transport processes email sent to Teams channels means that you cannot send encrypted messages to this destination.

 

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Office 365 for IT Pros (2019 Edition) is Now Available


Office 365 for IT Pros

The Fifth Edition is Here!

All good things come to and end and it’s time to finish up with the 4th edition of Office 365 for IT Pros. We will cease work on the 4th edition on July 1, 2018 and retire the edition soon afterwards.

Originally released on June 1, 2017, we have updated the 4th edition 51 times since to keep pace with changes inside Office 365. We added a net total of over 150 pages of new content during the year. We hope that you enjoyed the book and found it helpful in your work.

Introducing the 2019 Edition

We are now preparing for the release of the 2019 edition of Office 365 for IT Pros. Why 2019? Well, Microsoft’s 2018-19 fiscal year starts on July 1, 2018 and we want to align our release to their fiscal year. We also call this book the fifth edition, so you can use that name if you prefer.

Although we added a lot of new content to the 4th edition, we know that we needed to expand into new areas of Office 365. The 2019 edition includes a chapter on Flow for the first time, has a dedicated chapter for the basics of SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business, together with in-depth coverage of the transition of Skype for Business Online to the Microsoft Phone System and Teams. We have restructured the book to create a more natural flow and taken the opportunity to slim the book a little by removing older (but still valuable) content to a companion volume that will be available separately.

Our author team has changed too, as we say goodbye to Paul Cunningham and Michael Van Horenbeeck and welcome Paul Robichaux, Jussi Roine, Juan Carlos González Martín, Gustavo Valez, and Brian Reid. We thank Paul and MVH for their work on the last four editions of the book and welcome our new contributors, all of whom are MVPs and well qualified to take up the challenge.

Release cadence

Our plans for the 2019 edition are to follow a somewhat more relaxed update cadence. Some of our readers are uncomfortable with a weekly update, so we are focusing on a monthly update now. This does not mean that we will not release more frequent updates to cover important news from Microsoft, but in general, we’re not going to be as hectic as we were over the last year.

Book Variants

We plan to offer the same subscription service for the 2019 edition. You can buy the book from our online store for $49.95 and will receive two volumes:

  • Office 365 for IT Pros (2019 edition): This is the book we will update regularly. You can download a sample chapter (2) here.
  • Office 365 for IT Pros (2019 companion volume): A separate 250-page eBook with information that changes less often than the topics covered in the main book. Most of the current text in the companion volume is taken from the 4th edition We think the information is still useful, so we’ve moved it into the companion volume.

When you buy online, you get the books in PDF and EPUB formats. We will continue our arrangement with Amazon to publish a Kindle edition too. However, because you cannot use the same “two books in one” arrangement for Kindle, each book is available separately.

As a special launch offer, you can get a $10 discount until 8 July 2018 by using this code. If you bought a copy of the 4th edition from Practical365.com, please wait to receive the email from Practical365.com with an even better offer for you.

Subscriptions and Subscribers

When you buy a book, you also get a subscription that last for at least one year from July 1, 2018. Subscribers can download updates as they are released during the subscription period. The subscription model enables us to dedicate the time necessary to track, document, and debug (sometimes) change as it happens inside Office 365. We think that our subscription represents extraordinary value because you get a great book (worth the price on its own) and its updates.

If you subscribed through Practical365.com, you should download update 51 of the 4th edition using your Practical365.com account to make sure that you have the latest files.

Office 365 Never Stops Changing

The thing about a cloud service like Office 365 is that it never stops changing. We’ve already started the process of tracking updates for the 2019 edition. We expect lots of announcements and interesting changes to happen at the Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando in September. The challenge now is to keep pace and keep writing. You can get news about what we do by checking in here or on our Facebook page.

Or follow me on Twitter @12Knocksinna.

Posted in Cloud, Exchange Online, Microsoft Teams, Office 365, Office 365 Groups, SharePoint Online, Writing | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Office 365 for IT Pros, 5th Edition (2019)


A New Edition

We launched the first edition of the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook at the Microsoft Ignite conference in Chicago in May 2015. At that time, the book was called Office 365 for Exchange Professionals and it was some 600 pages long. Indeed, it was short enough for Microsoft to print 500 copies for distribution to Ignite attendees.

Progress Since 2015

Like Office 365, we’ve come a long way in three years. The 4th edition has grown to 1,150 pages and covers much more than Exchange Online. In 2015, it was natural to focus on Exchange at the start because email was, by far, the biggest workload within Office 365. Things are different now and we’ve seen the advent of applications like Teams and Planner and the growing popularity of SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business. To match this change, we have invested enormous effort to transform and expand coverage to the current position. As we transformed, we continued to focus on giving administrators insight into how Office 365 works the way that it does, with lots of practical examples of how to solve common deployment and management issues.

We published the 4th edition on June 1, 2017. We are now approaching the release of the 5th edition in early July 2018. The 2019 in the title refers to Microsoft’s 2018-2019 fiscal year (usually called FY19), which begins on July 1. When the 5th edition is available, we will stop updating the 4th edition. The 4th edition will remain online until October 1, 2018 to allow people who bought this edition to update their copies with the latest files.

Author Team

Apart from being able to restructure the book to reflect developments inside Office 365, one of the reasons why we create new versions is to bring new authors into the writing team.

After four editions, MVPs Paul Cunningham and Michael Van Horenbeeck are stepping down from the author team to take up new challenges. I am delighted to announce that Office 365 MVPs Paul Robichaux, Brian Reid, Juan Carlos González Martín, Gustavo Velez, and Jussi Roine have joined the author team to expand the pool of expertise available to generate great content. I’m sure that many of you will have had the chance to read previous books and articles by these authors or listen to them speaking at conferences such as Ignite, TechEd, and Office 365 Engage.

Ståle Hansen and I continue as authors and Vasil Michev continues as our technical editor.

Two Fifth Edition Books

To make it easier to manage our content, we will split the 5th edition into two volumes.

  • The “main book” is our focus for ongoing updates. It covers new topics like Flow, the transformation of Skype for Business Online to Teams, and includes big updates for SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business. It continues to deliver comprehensive and updated content about Office 365 Groups, Teams, Compliance, and other emerging areas within Office 365.
  • We have moved content that does not change as often into the “companion volume.” Here you’ll find chapters on hybrid connectivity, public folders, and so on. With the introduction of the companion volume, we are dropping the “bonus material” that we had for the fourth edition.

Subscribers will have access to both books and all updates issued for both books during the lifetime of the 5th edition. Together, the two books amount to roughly 1,250 pages (PDF).

Subscriber Upgrade

Our normal practice is to offer previous subscribers who bought the book through Practical365.com a low-cost upgrade to the new edition. We will be in contact with subscribers soon to outline these arrangements. The upgrade fee covers all updates that we will issue for the 5th edition.

Unfortunately, we cannot offer an upgrade for the Kindle version. Amazon doesn’t have the facility to allow this to happen.

Book Updates

Like previous editions, you can buy the fifth edition in two ways. You can treat the book like any other traditional volume, buy it as a one-time purchase, and never update the content. You’ll still get great value, but given that Office 365 keeps on changing, we think that the traditional model is old-fashioned and not well suited to coverage of subjects like cloud technology where change happens all the time. This is why we adopted a subscription-based ongoing-update model from the start.

We plan to update the 5th edition for at least a year. We updated the 4th edition very frequently (51 updates for the book covering 315 separate chapter updates) to keep pace with change within Office 365. At times, it seemed like we were updating text as quickly as Microsoft updated features. The upshot was a constantly evolving, always changing book charting the progress of Office 365 over time.

Although we issue completely new books in PDF, EPUB, and Kindle formats for each update instead of forcing people to read original text alongside addendums and errata, some of our readers told us that a weekly update cadence is too frequent and that they were unable to keep track of changes. Accordingly, we will move to more of a monthly update cadence for the 5th edition. Subscribers will be able to download updated files as often as they want.

Kindle continues to be a challenge when it comes to making updates available. Amazon’s perspective is that they do not like asking customers to download updates because people lose bookmarks. This approach works well for novels and other material that does not change often. It’s obviously different when you have a book about a cloud service like Office 365. Before Amazon informs customers that they can download updated Kindle files, we must convince Amazon that sufficient change exists. We try to do this roughly once a month. Sometimes Amazon agrees, and sometimes they decline. We will continue to work with Amazon to make sure that customers have access to updates as quickly as possible.

Thanks

We could not have executed this project without a great deal of help from fellow MVPs, Microsoft, and Quadrotech Solutions, our sponsor. Most of all, we appreciate the support we have received from people who bought copies of the book, including many who have purchased every edition. Without support like this, we would have no reason to keep pushing ahead to understand and document Office 365, to write the PowerShell examples, investigate hidden corners of the service, and push out regular updates. We hope that you will join us on the next stage of our journey.

Follow Tony on Twitter @12Knocksinna.

Posted in Office 365, Writing | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

European Collaboration Summit 2018


Speaking at ECS, May 2018

This week I was in Mainz, Germany for the European Collaboration Summit (ECS). This was a community rather than a commercial event, the difference being that the event is run on a non-profit basis by members of the Office 365 community instead of a for-profit company. However, given that 1,600 people attended (with over 300 on the waiting list), I think ECS is in the category of a super-community event.

ECS Summary

The quality of most of the conference sessions stood up to comparison with any other event in this space, including Microsoft’s headline Ignite conference. Like any conference, some speakers were weaker than others, and some struggled to deliver sessions in English. It’s also true that some better coordination could have happened to avoid content duplication, but generally, you couldn’t complain about the content-rich nature of the sessions.

Because ECS has grown out of the SharePoint community, it’s unsurprising that much of the content focuses on SharePoint. SharePoint is important to Office 365, but it’s only one of the basic workloads and there’s lots more to talk about in an Office 365 context, including Azure Active Directory and the many Azure services that surround and enhance Office 365 applications. I hope that future ECS events will embrace the opportunity to create a more holistic and expansive agenda that covers the whole of Office 365.

But these are minor observations that don’t take away from an extremely well-run and enjoyable conference. Sessions ran to time, the Wi-Fi was generally very good, the audio-visual support worked very well, and the rooms were generally large enough to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend a session. The conference food disappointed some, but I thought it was well up to the expected standard (and there was plenty of it).

All-in-all, if you’re based in Europe, you could do worse than plan to be at the 2019 event, which will also be held in Mainz (June 3-5). You’ll spend far less on your ticket (less than a hundred Euros), Mainz is easy to reach (25 minutes by train from Frankfurt airport), and you’ll enjoy meeting the great and the good of Office 365 at ECS.

Personal Sessions

I gave two sessions at the conference. First, I spoke about the opportunities that exist after a tenant completes their initial migration to Office 365 (usually moving mailboxes) and described some of the areas that tenant administrators might want to investigate. After all, they have to do something to replace the hours previously occupied patching servers and installing hardware. Here’s a download link for the session deck.

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Sketchnote of Office 365 session (credit: @LuiseFreese)

My second session explored how to use PowerShell to work with Office 365 Groups and Microsoft Teams. Given that the ECS sessions are only 55 minutes long, I guess it was inevitable that a topic like this would run long, and that’s exactly what happened. In any case, I had some fun with the audience, who tolerated my amateur attempts at coding. And here’s a link to Managing Groups and Teams with PowerShell.

SpeakingPowerShell

Explaining why server-side filtering is such a good idea when dealing with hundreds of Office 365 Groups (photo: @meetdux)

Like any experienced presenter, I put in some effort to make sure that all the code examples worked when executed in live time. In other words, I had a Word document full of examples that I cut and pasted into the PowerShell command window. I’m not going to publish my cheat sheet here because all the examples and much more are described in Office 365 for IT Pros and some have been used as the basis for my regular column about Office 365 on Petri.com. Go to either place to get the latest version of the code.

In addition, I also moderated a panel session covering all aspects of on-premises and cloud Exchange. No one managed to stump the panelists, so that’s always a good thing… and there were many good questions asked.

Now back to the day job…

Follow Tony on Twitter @12Knocksinna.

Want to know more about how to manage Office 365? Find what you need to know in “Office 365 for IT Pros”, the most comprehensive eBook covering all aspects of Office 365. Available in PDF and EPUB formats (suitable for iBooks) or for Amazon Kindle.

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Galapagos Photo Experiences


Galapagos iguana

My wife and I recently had the privilege of travelling to the Galapagos islands to spend seven days looking around. The Galapagos is a very special place where the vast majority of the land area is preserved by Ecuador as a national park. Humans are confined to small settlements near the coasts. Because so little territory is available to tourists (more is available to scientists and researchers), many people who go to the Galapagos follow a well-worn track between the different places that they are allowed to visit. This doesn’t take away from the joy of the trip; it’s just something you have to accept must exist for good reasons.

In any case, this blog post is my attempt to capture some of the interesting animals and sights that visitors can experience in the Galapagos. I hope you enjoy it.

The Big 15

Anyone going to the Galapagos will probably want to see the wildlife. After all, the islands are a protected ecosystem full of plants, animals, and birds that have remained pretty undisturbed by human activity, so it’s a special place. Some of the touring companies talk about seeing the “Big 15,” which include iguanas, tortoises, boobies, sea lions, and penguins. Because some of the species are only present on certain islands, your ability to see all of the Big 15 is dictated by your tour itinerary. Being an avid photographer, I wanted to photograph as many species as I could during our week in the Galapagos. We didn’t get to see them all(my count is 8 of 15), but we enjoyed what we saw. Here’s some shots to show what I mean.

Marine Iguanas

Marine iguanas are very common. Whether it’s strolling around beaches like Tortuga Bay (Figure 1), just hanging out on rocks (Figure 2), or baby iguanas relaxing on rocks as they shed their old skins (Figure 3), you’ll meet iguanas everywhere.

Marine Iguanas Tortuga Bay

Figure 1: Marine Iguanas strolling at Tortuga Bay

Galapagos marine iguanas

Figure 2: Marine iguanas chilling on rocks

Galapagos baby iguanas

Figure 3: Baby marine iguanas close to Puerto Villamil (Isabella)

Best of all, the iguanas care very little about human presence, meaning that it is possible to get very close. The authorities would like you to stay at least three feet away from the animals, but sometimes they come nearer. Or you can stay away and use a telephoto lens to capture the colors and texture of the iguanas (Figure 4). In whatever case, the excitement of seeing your first iguana soon reduces to a blasé nod when someone says “oh look, there’s an iguana…”  They are really that common.

Galapagos marine iguana

Figure 4: Close-up of marine iguana

Land Iguanas

Land iguanas are rarer than marine iguanas, but you’ll still see plenty of them in places like South Plaza island, which is commonly used for tours. Land iguanas are more colorful than their marine cousins and are often found sitting under cactii, waiting for flowers to drop to eat (Figure 5).

Galapagos land iguanas

Figure 5: Land iguanas under a cactus on South Plaza island

Sometimes you see hybrid iguanas, the product of mating between marine and land iguanas. In Figure 6, a regular land iguana is to the left and a hybrid iguana to the right. You recognize the hybrid by its coloring and lack of the dorsal fin seen on marine iguanas.

Galapagos hybrid iguana

Figure 6: Land iguana (left) and a hybrid cousin (right)

Giant Tortoises

The giant tortoises are another “must-see” Galapagos species. We visited a tortoise reserve near Puerto Villamil, where a breeding program is in place to help repopulate areas where tortoises have been wiped out due to human-introduced pests like rats, donkeys, and cattle. There are plenty of tortoises to be seen (Figure 7), including tons of young tortoises at different stages of development, but you always know that the animals are in captivity.

Galapagos giant tortoise

Figure 7: Giant tortoise at the breeding center

Obviously, it is much better to see an animal in its natural habit. Our first glimpse came on a walk to the “Wall of Tears” (Muro de las Lágrimas) on Isabella. The walk is about a 10 km round-trip trek and it’s not something to do without having good shoes, sun cream, and lots of water. Our guide said that we might see one or two tortoises en route, but we were lucky to see twelve, including some deep in the undergrowth. The easiest to see where those on the roadway (Figure 8).

Giant tortoise Galapagos

Figure 8: Giant tortoise on the road to Muro de las Lágrimas

Some of the tortoises were under impressed at meeting walkers and others were nonplussed and got on with the job of finding the next meal (Figure 9). According to our guide, after a careful examination of tortoise poop, the tortoises in this location liked eating cactii.

Galapagos giant tortoise

Figure 9: Galapagos traffic

Even better was a visit to the Rancho Manzanillo Tortoise Preserve on Santa Cruz. Apart from having a pretty good restaurant on site, the Ranch has lots of tortoises roaming free across fields and ponds. This is a great place to stroll (avoiding all the poop and other mucky places) and have a tortoise encounter (Figure 10), including the chance to see how tortoises use pond water to cool down and remove parasites (Figure 11).

Giant Tortoise Galapagos

Figure 10: Giant tortoise at Rancho El Manzanillo

Galapagos giant tortoises pond

Figure 11: Giant tortoises around a pond

Sea Lions

The Galapagos sea lions are related to the Californian sea lions, only smaller. Again, after a while you stop noticing sea lions because they are everywhere, including on park benches (Figure 12).

Galapagos sea lion

Figure 12: Sea lion takes a nap on a part bench

A trip to South Plaza island provided a more natural encounter with sea lions, including the chance to watch a shark patrol offshore waiting for one of the sea lions to make a mistake (none did while we watched). Many of the animals we saw were pups, as their mothers were off fishing for food (Figure 13), while the bulls that were present patrolled their territories to warn off any potential invaders.

Figure 13: Sea lion pup on South Plaza island

Being young, the pups were playful and the local crabs served as available toys. It was interesting to watch the pups pick up the crabs and toss them between each other (Figure 14). Things weren’t so good for the crabs because invariably the sharp teeth of the sea lions cracked their shells.

Galapagos sea lion pups

Figure 14: Sea lion pups playing with red crabs

But mostly the sea lion pups wanted to rest and did so without taking much notice of nearby humans. Figure 15 shows a typical pose and also shows the kind of lava rocks that are so common in the Galapagos.

Galapagos sea lion pup

Figure 15: Sea lion pup relaxing on South Plaza

Dolphins

Many of the activities in the Galapagos involve transits from one island to another. If the trip is short, it will probably be in a “panga” (dinghy). If long, you’ll probably end up in a motor yacht, which turned out to be a nice place to spend the two hours or so needed to get from the Ibabaca Channel (between the islands of Baltra and Santa Cruz) to Bartolemé, an islet off Santiago island. En route, a pod of dolphins turned up to play at the bow of the boat. The pod put on quite a show (Figure 16) and were a highlight of the visit, even if dolphins aren’t in the Big 15.

Dophins Galapagos

Figure 16: Dolphins playing off the bow of a boat

Blue Footed Boobies

Blue footed boobies are definitely part of the Big 15 and also feature extensively on souvenir t-shirts sold throughout the islands (you can probably guess some of the slogans). We saw boobies on South Plaza and Bartolemé, but never saw a Nazca or red-footed boobie. Apparently, the bluer the feet, the more food the bird has consumed. If this is true, the boobie in Figure 17 has fed pretty well.

Galapagos Blue Footed Boobies

Figure 17: Blue Footed Boobie

On Bartolemé, the boobies were at the famous Pinnacle rock, which we approached in a panga, so it wasn’t quite so easy to see (Figure 18).

Galapagos boobie Pinnacle Rock

Figure 18: Blue footed boobie at Pinnacle Rock, Bartolemé island

Galapagos Penguin

The Galapagos penguin is a small breed that is the only species of penguin found north of the equator. We saw individual penguins on Isabella and Bartolemé. In most cases, the birds were sitting peacefully on rocks (Figure 19), but some were swimming (Figure 20).

Galapagos penguin on rock

Figure 19: Galapagos Penguin surveys the world going by

Galapagos penguin swimming

Figure 20: Galapagos Penguin swimming

Frigate Birds

Frigate Birds are part of the Big 15 because of the large red pouch displayed by male birds during the mating season. It wasn’t the right time or the birds were too busy flying to display pouches, but they were certainly present everywhere in the islands. Apparently, frigate birds like to cruise on air currents (Figure 21) looking for other birds who have food, in which case they swoop down to steal whatever’s going.

Galapagos Frigate Bird

Figure 21: Frigate Bird rides the air currents

American Flamingo

Near the tortoise reserve on Isabella, there are a series of briny lagoons where you see American Flamingos (and the compulsory iguanas). The deep pink color of the flamingos (Figure 22) is determined by their diet of carotene-rich shrimps, which they sieve through their large beaks. The pinker the bird, the older it is… or so we were told.

Galapagos American Flamingo

Figure 22: American Flamingo

Finches and Other Birds

Finches were the sources of many of Darwin’s observations about the origin of the species. There are many different types of finches, some of which are still evolving. Figure 23 shows a cactus finch photographed in a cactus forest close to Tortuga Bay, while Figure 24 shows a sharp-beaked ground finch found in a scalesia forest near the Los Gamelos sink holes on Santa Cruz.

Galapagos cactus finch

Figure 23: Cactus finch

Galapagos ground finch

Figure 24: Sharp-beaked ground finch

As you’d expect, there are many other species of birds to be seen. Not being a bird-watcher, I wasn’t very professional at recognizing and capturing the various types, but I liked the plumage of the Yellow Warber, photographed at the tortoise reserve at Santa Cruz (Figure 25) and the stance of the Mocking Bird, photographed on the edge of the caldera of the Sierra Negra volcano (Figure 26).

Galapagos Yellow Warbler

Figure 24: Yellow Warbler

Galapagos Mocking Bird

Figure 26: Mocking Bird

Moving closer to the sea, there were lots of brown pelicans to see. I like this shot (Figure 27) of a pelican sitting on top of a mangrove tree.

Galapagos Pelican mangrove

Figure 27: Pelican resting in a mangrove tree

Crabs

Crabs seemed to be much more obvious and brightly colored than they are in Ireland. Young crabs are dark to camouflage themselves against the black lava rocks, but the mature “Sally Lightfoot” crabs are bright red, which is thought to serve as a warning to would-be predators to avoid them. Not that it did much good when sea lion pups were around. The crabs are very agile and move across lava rocks with speed. They are also capable of jumping from rock to rock to find food to eat or escape from predators.

Galapagos red crab

Figure 28: Red crab

The Galapagos has lots of hermit crabs too. This one (Figure 29) was scurrying along the sand at Tortuga Bay looking for a new shell to call home.

Galapagos Hermit Crab

Figure 29: Hermit Crab

Flora and Fauna

The animals attracted most of our attention, but some walks through different areas of the Galapagos generated some nice shots of mosses (Figure 30 and 31) growing on trees. I don’t normally pay much attention to this kind of stuff, but I was attracted to the shapes and profusion of growth covering the trees.

Galapagos mosses

Figure 30: Different mosses growing on a tree

Galapagos mosses

Figure 31: Mosses

Landscapes

The Galapagos landscape changes from place to place and depends on whether you’re in the highlands (for example, on the side of a volcano), down by the shore, on a lava field, or elsewhere. One of the nicest landscapes we saw was looking down from the climb to the viewing platform on Bartolemé island towards Pinnacle Rock and the beaches that we later snorkeled around (Figure 32). The red appearance of the land is due to the relatively recent (in millions of years) age of the lava that created the island and the erosion and rust (of the iron in the lava) that generated the sand-like soil.

Pinnacle Rock Bartoleme Galapagos

Figure 32: Looking towards Pinnacle Rock from a high point on Bartolemé

You can’t avoid lava in the Galapagos because that’s how all the islands came into being. The last major flow on Isabella was in 2005 and the lava is now settling down in the caldera of the Sierra Negra volcano (Figure 33). Getting to the caldera involves a reasonable walk and the view is often disappointing because of cloud and mist. As you can see, the cloud cleared briefly to give a view. Recent volcanic activity has made the park authorities close off part of the walk, so this is about as close as you can get to the caldera.

Sierre Negra volcano Galapagos

Figure 33: Caldera of Sierra Negra volcano

Another recent outflow (in lava terms) is on Santiago island, where the lava forms some amazing shapes (Figure 34).

Galapagos Lava Santiago

Figure 34: Lava on Santiago Island

Yet another type of lava is on the small islet of Tintoreras, just off  Puerto Villamil (Figure 35). This lava is jagged rather than smooth and has razor-sharp edges that make it very unpleasant to fall against. The iguanas don’t seem to mind.

Lava fields Galapagos

Figure 35: Lava fields

The Wall of Tears on Isabella (Figure 36) offers another type of landscape. Built by political prisoners from lava rocks in the years after World War II, the wall sits in the middle of the countryside with nothing else around it.

Galapagos Wall of Tears

Figure 36: Wall of Tears

On the way back to Puerto Villamil from the Wall of Tears, you can climb a viewing platform (Cerro Orchilla) to get a nice view of the town, its beach, and Tintoreras (Figure 37).

Puerto Villamil Galapagos

Figure 37: Looking back to Puerto Villamil from close to the Wall of Tears

Technical Details

For those interested, I used a Nikon D5 with a Nikkor 28-300mm zoom to take all the photographs. No flash was used because this is forbidden when photographing animals in the Galapagos. Interestingly, some of the shots taken on my iPhone 8S were nearly as good, even if they never approached the quality of the optical zoom.

Figure 38: Galapagos map showing locations that we visited

Things I Wish We Had Brought

Many of the activities were water-based. I wish I had brought a waterproof camera suitable for snorkeling (waterproof to 10 feet or so) so that I could have taken photos of the sea turtles, reef sharks, and various forms of rays that we were able to swim with. I also wish I had brought a swim vest. The sea is a lot warmer than it is in Europe, but cold currents have a nasty habit of coming along to spoil the party. A swim vest would also help with sun protection. The Galapagos are close to the equator and it’s all too easy to get sun burned, even with factor 50. The rear of the knees are particularly sensitive if you snorkel. If I had been intelligent, I would have brought along a mask with a lens adjusted for my sight. The tour people give out masks with normal lens, which are fine if a fish comes up close, but rapidly become useless when the fish are more than a few feet away.

Like a fool, we left our excellent Tilley hats behind in Ireland. You need hats in the Galapagos, so if you make the same mistake, buy a hat (they are available in stores in Quito and Baltra airports).

If you do go to the Galapagos, enjoy the experience and go with the flow. The animals will do the rest.

Follow Tony on Twitter @12Knocksinna.

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Office 365 Exposed, Episode 11


Last week, I chatted with MVPs Paul Robichaux, Alan Byrne, and Vasil Michev in the palatial surroundings of the Continental Hotel in Budapest, and Paul taped the conversation as episode #11 in our “Office 365 Exposed” series. You can listen to the recording on Paul’s website or iTunes (sometimes it takes a day or so before iTunes picks up new episodes).

Paul and I do the podcast when we manage to carve out time in our diaries – or when we are in close geographic proximity. In this case, we were very happy to have Alan and Vasil join us to add their views to the mix.

Episode 11 covers some interesting topics (at least in my mind), including the impact of the Meltdown/Spectre vulnerability on on-premises Windows servers running Exchange and SharePoint (see Paul Cunningham’s excellent write-up on this topic), the nature of SharePoint Online and why Microsoft’s newly released free migration tool might be all you need, given the much simpler form SharePoint takes in the cloud, and the experiences in Quadrotech as the company moved from Slack to Microsoft Teams.  And yes, Teams didn’t replace email.

Enjoy!

Follow Tony on Twitter @12Knocksinna.

Want to know more about how to manage Office 365? Find what you need to know in “Office 365 for IT Pros”, the most comprehensive eBook covering all aspects of Office 365. Available in PDF and EPUB formats (suitable for iBooks) or for Amazon Kindle.

 

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