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Auto Assembly Spam Attack – Update #3

Hi everyone,

We just want to bring you another short update on the spam emails that many of you have been receiving over the last few days that have given the impression that they have come from us here at Auto Assembly. While our team is still working away vigilantly to take whatever steps we can to reduce the impact these have on all of you, we wanted to let you know how things are progressing from this end.

  1. Viruses – As you know we asked all of you to run full virus scans of your own systems if you were a recipient of one of these spoof emails. Naturally, we have also done this ourselves with the system our emails are stored on and after a thorough scan of almost 3 million files lasting 24 hours, our system is clean and was 100% virus free.
  2. Email Addresses – we appreciate that many of you are concerned about your details being shared with others Auto Assembly attendees. We have been able to confirm that unfortunately while these emails have been sent out in bulk and email addresses have been included openly, each has only been circulated to a small group limiting distribution of your details.
  3. Current Attacks and Expected Duration – as we have said before the current attacks seem to be coming from well outside of the UK using bulk mailing software and using the Auto Assembly email address as a “fake” return address. Without having direct access to the server sending these emails we can’t currently block these, what we do know is that these email attacks generally only last for a short period of time until the email list is exhausted before the attackers move on to the next mailing list that they have appropriated. While we appreciate that this doesn’t offer an immediate solution what it does mean is that very shortly we expect these emails to stop almost completely before unfortunately another list will be targeted.
  4. Future Attacks – we have been in talks with our ISP regarding long-term security. Not only have we strengthened security our end regarding our email account generally to prevent attacks from other sources, but we are also attempting to tighten up future controls regarding bulk mail from our account. We already have clearance from our ISP for bulk mailing because of the convention but we are now revalidating this process and adding additional safety measures to this to ensure that unauthorised ISPs can be blocked that attempt to use our account for bulk mail.
  5. Confirmation Emails – we are still placing a temporary hold on sending confirmation emails and other mail to attendees from us here at Auto Assembly. We don’t anticipate these spam attacks to continue for more than a few more days and at that point we we lift this ban and resume normal service. Please keep checking this site, Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr for updates.
  6. Hotel Bookings – for those of you who have booked for the convention recently or who are planning on doing so, please remember that the link for booking accommodation at the Hilton is provided just after the checkout stage when purchasing tickets for Auto Assembly 2014 as part of the “thankyou” page. If you no longer have this link or are awaiting your confirmation email, please be assured that the Hilton still has rooms available at the convention rate so you will still be able to book your rooms once normal email service resumes.
  7. Financial Information – while we have stated this before, please rest assured that Auto Assembly does not store anyone’s financial details on record. All our transactions are handled via PayPal and as such we see no details of your credit or debit cards when we receive details of your ticket bookings for the convention.

We will bring you all another update as soon as we have it but all being well this will be resolved shortly and we will email everyone directly with another convention update and resume despatch of confirmation emails.

Simon Plumbe
Auto Assembly Committee Head

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Auto Assembly Spam Attack Update #2

A very minor update on the flood of emails that have been going out under the Auto Assembly name. Many of you who are tech-savvy may have heard about a security flaw known as Heartbleed that has been discovered in the encryption systems used by many websites. Users across the globe are being actively encouraged to change their passwords on all affected systems to prevent their personal details from being stolen and used for unauthorised purposes.

Understandably, we have been concerned about this and whether this would have contributed to the problem we have encountered but on further investigation we have found that not only is our email provider one of those that had ensured that it’s system was safe from this security vulnerability (the flaw is based on a loophole the site’s SSL code) as is our payment handling site PayPal, some are not so fortunate. While Facebook and Tumblr are both in the process of having this bug fixed it is advisable to update your passwords immediately, as is the same for your Twitter accounts. Google and Yahoo (and their associated email services) are also likely to be affected so we recommend that you updated these as a matter of urgency as well. Finally, for those of you who use DropBox, we would also suggest that you update your accounts.

Simon Plumbe
Committee Head, Auto Assembly

AA2014 Logo

Auto Assembly Spam Attack Update #1

Hi everyone,

Many of us here at the convention (myself, Deputy and supremo Billy Edwards and our tech-wizard Steve Mapes) have been working hard behind the scenes to track down the source of the spam attacks that many of you have been suffering from since last night from one of our email addresses that we use for Auto Assembly and rather than staying silent we want to try to keep all of you updated as much as possible with regards to how things are progressing.

  1. While we are still trying to identity how everyone’s email details have been obtained, we have taken steps to ensure that we have tightened security on our email account with a complete reset of all of our passwords.
  2. We do know that none of the emails themselves have been sent directly from this end so what we have managed to do is identify the fact that they are being sent from an external site / source that is using the Auto Assembly email address as a mask for their real address, in the same way that many forums assign a contact email address which is then used as the apparent email address that all communications are sent from. We have been receiving error reports from failed emails but this is the only record that we have seen of these.
  3. In looking at some of the emails that have been sent, these have not been sent from a secure system and we have already identified at least two different countries where they have been sent from – Germany and Africa – and we will be contacting our ISP shortly to ascertain what additional security measures can be put in place with our account to block any use of our email address unless it is from an authorised location.
  4. While we do have documents waiting to be emailed to all of our attendees, we will not be sending out any further bulk emails to attendees from autoassembly@aol.com until we make a further announcement here on the website so if you receive such an email, please delete it without opening it.
  5. If any of you have accidentally clicked on any links in emails you have received, please run a full scan of your system using any virus checkers you may have installed on your PC. While these spam emails may be just advertising links, we would still advise a full virus check as a precaution.
  6. We will not be sending out any further confirmation emails for the next few days until we have tightened up security on our outgoing mail. While we don’t anticipate any particular issues here, we would prefer to play things safe in this respect.
  7. If you need to contact us urgently, or wish to report further spam attacks, please do so via Facebook or preferably through the Auto Assembly Forum where our team will be on hand to answer any other questions you may have about the convention.
  8. As you will all be aware, all emails that are sent out from the convention – whichever email address we use -  all feature our standard email “signature” at the end of them and many emails often contain detailed information from us. If you ever receive emails claiming to be from Auto Assembly but you are suspicious, please get in touch.

Please keep an eye on the website, Twitter and Facebook for regular updates over the next few days as we keep you posted on our progress to rectifying this and please share with as many people as possible so we can keep all our attendees – past, present, and future – abreast of what is happening.

Regards,

Simon Plumbe
Auto Assembly Committee Head

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Important Update – Auto Assembly Spam Emails

Hi everyone. It’s been brought to my attention that earlier tonight an attempt has been made to send emails out using one of our two primary email addresses that we use for Auto Assembly. From what we can tell from this end, an email has been sent out (or has been in the process of being sent) to everyone who is in our email address book with the email subject “News” and containing nothing but a weblink in it.

While we obviously don’t know the nature of this link, we obviously advise everyone against clicking on this and if you have received one of these emails, please delete it immediately. Unfortunately, as well as this it appears that a large number of emails have been included in the circulation list for each email meaning that many of your email addresses have been seen by other people and for this I can not apologise enough.

I have taken measures to stop the spread of this already so no further emails should be sent out from this end. One thing that I would like to reassure everyone is that our convention booking system is kept completely separate from our email system. While we do receive details of your bookings for the convention via email and naturally send your booking confirmation to you the same way, we store no financial details for any of our attendees in any way shape or form. All of our bookings are handled via PayPal and only they have access to your specific payment details so no matter what happens with our emails, we never see your debit or credit card information.

Once again, I want to apologise for any distress this may have caused to any of you but rest assured that we have taken all steps possible to minimise any risks of further spam attacks and we have tightened security on our email accounts.

Simon Plumbe
Auto Assembly Committee Head

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Auto Assembly 2013 Non-Attendee Pack Update

We know that those of you who ordered the Auto Assembly 2013 Non-Attendee Packs have been waiting patiently for some time for these to arrive and and have been frustrated over the delays we have encountered in shipping these out to all of you. As you know, we have been plagued with countless problems with the 2013 Packs that have delayed them but as of this morning we are able to bring you an update on these…

For the last couple of months, we have been waiting for the delivery of the t-shirts that are included as part of the packs. While these were paid for and sent to be printed by our business partner, the printers have still not delivered them and are currently not communicating regarding the delays. However, after chasing this situation up today we have been assured that our partner does have a limited supply of convention exclusive t-shirts left in stock that will allow us to meet an initial run of the Non-Attendee Packs while the printers are chased further.

What this means is that by the end of this week we will be receiving a partial delivery of t-shirts and will be able to start packing and shipping some of the Non-Attendee Packs out. At the moment, we do not know what t-shirts are being sent to us so we can’t confirm whose packs will be sent out but we will aim to ship these out as quickly as possible.

While we have looked at what additional items we can include in the packs as extra bonus gifts, we are also looking into more long-term forms of compensation to make up for this delay and we will announce this shortly.

One final thing we do want to add however, is that as a result of the stress and frustration the packs have caused over the last 8 months and difficulties we have been faced with in producing and distributing them, sadly we will not be offering Non-Attendee Packages from Auto Assembly 2014 onwards.

Simon Plumbe
Committee Head, Auto Assembly

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Auto Assembly 2014 Attendee Information Pack Available Now

As regular Auto Assembly attendees know, every year we produce an Information Pack for the convention giving all of you tips and advice about Auto Assembly to help you all make the most out of the event. The Pack also contains all of the important information you need for the convention weekend including travel details, all of the convention rules and guidelines, details on what you need to do when you arrive at the convention and much more besides making for essential pre-convention reading.

We are pleased to say that we have now finished producing the latest version so you can now download the Auto Assembly 2014 Attendee Information Pack to read at your leisure. It’s available here in PDF format but if you do have trouble reading this, please let us know and we will make it available in other formats as well.

If you are planning on attending Europe’s Largest Transformers Convention but haven’t booked yet, you may find the information in this guide useful as well and it could well help persuade you to join us this year too!

Finally, for those of you who have booked, we will be emailing a copy of this directly to each of you later this week.

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Auto Assembly 2014 Volunteer Pack Online Now!

Every year, we ask for volunteers to come forward to help us with the convention to help make it run as smoothly as possible for everyone attending and Auto Assembly 2014 is no exception. We need people to help with all areas of the convention throughout the weekend from assisting us running programme items, keeping queues in order when attendees are entering the halls, helping with setting the convention up, assisting running our Fan Sales Table… the list goes on!

All we ask is that you can spare a few hours of your time over the weekend and in return we try to offer all of you a package of rewards including early access to the dealers room and – depending on the amount of time you spend volunteering over the weekend – reduced rates or even free passes for future Auto Assembly events! If you’re interested in helping out or just want to know more about what volunteering for Auto Assembly 2014, Europe’s Largest Transformers Convention is all about, you can download the Auto Assembly 2014 Volunteer Pack (Word format).

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Auto Assembly Forum Problems

We just wanted to let you all know that over the weekend we’ve encountered a few problems with the official Auto Assembly Forum. It appears that a software update to the forum failed which has now frozen the board completely to the extend that it has rendered the board unusable and even locked our own team out of using it!

As a result, we will be taking the old forum offline and replacing it with a brand new board in the next couple of days in preparation for Auto Assembly 2014. We hope to have this ready for new signups in the next 24 hours if not sooner but we’ll keep you all posted!

UPDATE

The new forum is now LIVE! We’re still updating it and working on getting all of the areas set up and adding categories and planning out content for it, but we thought that it was important to have the forum online as quickly as possible rather than leaving it offline for too long so feel free to sign up to the new board! Unfortunately, as we have had to start this from scratch all previous forum members will have to join again.

Hilton Birmingham Metropole

Auto Assembly 2014 Hilton Bookings Update – 14th February 2014

Following our update a couple of days ago regarding room bookings at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole Hotel for Auto Assembly 2014, you have been booking your accommodation for this year’s convention at an incredible rate, so much so that there have been times when the Hilton’s online booking system has struggled to cope! Not only that but rooms have been booking faster than ever before which has left some of you disappointed even though rooms have only been on sale for a couple of days so we wanted to bring you all this update…

  1. This year the Hilton has reserved more bedrooms for Auto Assembly than ever before. While this may not be reassuring to some of you experiencing problems this is a very positive step from the hotel and they have reassured us that the block they have reserved for the convention is not all the rooms that they have available.
  2. We are working closely with the Hilton regarding all of this and we’re monitoring things very closely on a daily basis to check on room sales and availability of all types.
  3. Because Auto Assembly 2014 is taking place on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the bulk of our allocation is for those three days. Many of our regulars for the last few years have joined us earlier and in the Hilton’s initial allocation days outside of this weekend are in lower supply. Please rest assured that this doesn’t mean that the Hilton is full, just that our block has been concentrated on the convention weekend. More rooms are being added to the pre and post-convention nights daily to ensure that people can get rooms.
  4. At the same time, the Hilton is adding more rooms of all types to the main weekend block to ensure that no-one is disappointed. A large portion of the original block has sold out TWICE since bookings went live but the Hilton has already provided us with additional rooms expanding our block considerably.
  5. The Hilton is a BIG hotel and has 790 bedrooms. If Auto Assembly attendees keep booking, the hotel will keep giving us rooms as long as they have them to give us. In theory, as long as there are bedrooms in the hotel that are not being used, they could be added to our block and we will be working with the hotel to ensure that this happens.
  6. In the absolute worst case scenario that the Hilton does get into a position that it is fully booked nearer to the convention then we will work with nearby hotels on the NEC complex or at Birmingham International Airport to arrange discount rates for attendees unable to get accommodation in the Hilton. For now, however, we do not see that anyone who has booked for Auto Assembly 2014 being unable to get a room in the Hilton.

If any of you do have difficulties with your room bookings online using the hotel microsite link provided in your confirmation emails, please do not ring the Hilton as their reservations team will not be able to take telephone bookings at the convention rate. Please email us at roombookings@autoassembly.org.uk where we will be able to work with you and the Hilton to ensure that you are able to book the rooms that you need. This also ensures that we have all the information we need to forward to the hotel about extra room requirements.

Finally, please keep checking here and on our Facebook and Twitter pages for all the latest updates on room bookings and availability.

 

Hilton Birmingham Metropole

Auto Assembly 2014 Hilton Accommodation Booking Details Coming Later Today!

We’re pleased to inform you that we will be releasing details of how to book your hotel rooms at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole Hotel for Auto Assembly 2014 later today! After talks with the Hilton and lots of hard work from Billy Edwards and Helen Lees from the Hilton, everything is now finalised and ready to go!

We’re just sending out the last few booking confirmations to everyone who has registered for the convention so far so once these have been completed today we will be sending an email to all of you who have booked up for Auto Assembly 2014 with the link to the micro website allowing you to book your rooms for the convention! We won’t be making details of this mini website public so the only way you will be able to obtain this link is to register for the convention.

The Hilton has set aside ample rooms for us for Auto Assembly attendees – considerably more than last year – but following the success of last year’s event and how busy the hotel was over the convention weekend, we would strongly advise all of you to book as soon as possible. Remember that you do not need to pay for your room when you book, just when you depart the hotel in August so there’s no need to worry about booking right now!

The Hilton has assured us that – subject to availability – should our initial allocation sell out that they will be able to give us extra rooms as we need them for our attendees as well!

Anyway, check your inboxes later today everyone!