Hacker Myths and Realities in Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Have you seen the movie Girl With the Dragon Tattoo? The movie is based on the book of the same title by Swedish author Stieg Larsson. The main character is a girl who lives with asperger’s syndrome and has an amazing ability to hack information. She uses her skills to help a journalist solve a mystery. This representation of a computer hacker is realistic in some ways, but misses the mark in others.

Poster from the Girl With the Dragon TattooReality: The young hacker, Lisbeth Salander, goes by the alias “Wasp” when she’s involved in computer hacking. Some hackers, especially notorious ones that have been caught and publicized or those who use their skills to point out flaws in security systems (known as “white hat” hackers), are known by their legal names. However, many hackers have an internet “handle” or code name that they’re known by.

Reality+Myth: Lisbeth has a “lone wolf” sort of hacking persona but does communicate with other hackers in what seems to be a vey loosely organized context. They know each other by their handles and communicate mostly via the internet, sharing tips and helping one another occasionally. According to “The social organization of a criminal hacker network: a case study” by Yong Lu, this sort of hacker community does exist in some cases. However, there are also networks that are far more akin to a professional crime ring, where a hierarchy exists and and the work load is very specifically shared among members.

Lu characterizes this sort of network as being a fairly recent phenomena. While hackers of old tended to use their skills for Continue reading Hacker Myths and Realities in Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Wikileaks becomes a movie: ‘The Fifth Estate’

Daniel BrŸhl

“The Fifth Estate” will open in U.S. theaters on November 15, 2013.  This film is based based on the Wikileaks saga and stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange and Daniel Brühl as Daniel Domscheit-Berg, as well as Laura Linney, Anthony Mackie, David Thewlis, Peter Capaldi, Dan Stevens, Alicia Vikander and Carice van Houten.

Following Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Brühl), an early supporter and eventual colleague of Julian Assange (Cumberbatch), “The Fifth Estate” reviews the early days of WikiLeaks, culminating in the release of a series of controversial and history changing information leaks. It has been said that the website’s overnight success brought instant fame to its principal architects, not to mention quite a few legal problems too.  There are also claims that Wikileaks transformed the flow of information to news media and the world at large.

Immediately following Julian Assante’s arrest “cyber activists” hacked into many popular online sites such as PayPal, Amazon and VISA just to name a few to “punish” these organizations for their sanctions to Assante and Wikileaks.

WikiLeaks, as we earlier reported is an “anti-government, (not so secret) secrecy organization that collects  information and then releases it to the public (where and how they get this information is part of an ongoing investigation). Their founder and organizer was arrested in Great Britain after releasing 250,000 State Department documents in which US diplomats were, quite frankly less than complimentary towards their counterparts throughout the world. WikiLeaks’s Web site was reportedly responsible for posting of hundreds of thousands of secret Pentagon documents on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Once released, many other news organizations started picking up the story and began publishing articles based on the archived documents WikiLeaks released to them.”

Bill Condon (“Kinsey,” “Dreamgirls,” “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn”) will direct “The Fifth Estate” from a screenplay by Josh Singer (TV’s “Fringe,” “The West Wing”), based on “Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website” by Daniel Domscheit-Berg and “WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy” by David Leigh and Luke Harding.  The producers are Steve Golin and Michael Sugar, with Participant’s Jeff Skoll and Jonathan King joining Richard Sharkey as executive producers.  “The Fifth Estate” is a coproduction between Afterworks and FBO, with Hilde De Laere co-producing for FBO. The film is supported by the Belgian Tax Shelter for Audiovisual Production.

 Director Bill Condon comments, “It may be decades before we understand the full impact of WikiLeaks and how it’s revolutionized the spread of information. So this film won’t claim any long view authority on its subject, or attempt any final judgment. We want to explore the complexities and challenges of transparency in the information age and, we hope, enliven and enrich the conversations WikiLeaks has already provoked.”

 

 

Sources:

IMDB – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1837703/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

Dreamworks Press Release

Is Your Status Drawing Homeland Security’s Attention? Keywords Revealed

Have you ever wondered which words posted on social networks can draw the attention of Homeland Security and federal analysts? Now, because of the Freedom of Information Act, the list of keywords has now been posted for public view. Many of the keywords are actually pretty self explanatory, although there are a few that are relatively innocent. So the next time you post about an earthquake, are you going to have federal agents knocking down your door?

Actually that’s pretty unlikely. Although these words can trigger an additional look at your profile by investigators, they say they’re really only looking for threats, not general discontent. Unless you make a habit of posting inflammatory tweets and status updates that either suggest the government needs to be punished or seem to be using code words to cover your true intent, the analysts will probably just rubber-stamp you as investigated and nothing more will happen.

What are the disadvantages of social media monitoring? Continue reading Is Your Status Drawing Homeland Security’s Attention? Keywords Revealed

Fear of the FBI hopes to make you respond to this identity theft email

As one of the not so lucky people affected by the Yahoo security break, my email in box and spam box get a lot more work than they used to and some of the plots, plans and scams make me laugh.  Other’s could cause a reader to rapidly respond out of fear.  One thing they all have in common, they are lying to me to get information.  Here is the most recent one you should know about and how you can know this email is fake when and if you get one.

————————-Email stated below

RE:  Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) !!! !!! !!! (I am pretty sure that 1) the FBI would not email me and 2) that they would know that it is bad manners and bad writing to use all 9 of those exclamation points.)

Federal Bureau of Investigation
Intelligence Field Unit
J. Edgar Hoover Building
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, D.C.
(Pretty convincing – I give them credit for looking it up)
URGENT ATTENTION: BENEFICIARY
I AM SPECIAL AGENT _____________ (I’ve deleted just in case this Agent truly does exist)  FROM THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (FBI) INTELLIGENCE UNIT, WE HAVE JUST INTERCEPTED AND CONFISCATED TWO (2) TRUNK BOXES AT JFK AIRPORT IN NEW YORK, AND ARE ON THE VERGE OF MOVING IT TO OUR BUREAU HEADQUARTER.
 WE HAVE SCANNED THE SAID BOXES, AND HAVE FOUND IT TO CONTAIN A TOTAL SUM OF $4.1 MILLION AND ALSO BACKUP DOCUMENT WHICH BEARS YOUR NAME AS THE RECEIVER OF THE MONEY CONTAINED IN THE BOXES, INVESTIGATIONS CARRIED OUT ON THE DIPLOMAT WHICH ACCOMPANIED THE BOXES INTO THE UNITED STATES HAS IT THAT HE WAS TO DELIVER THIS FUNDS TO YOUR RESIDENCE AS PAYMENT WHICH WAS DUE YOU FROM THE OFFICE OF FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA FROM UNPAID CONTRACT SUMS.
WE CROSS-CHECKED ALL LEGAL DOCUMENTATION IN THE BOXES, AND WERE ABOUT TO RELEASE THE CONSIGNMENT TO THE DIPLOMAT,WHEN WE FOUND OUT THAT THE BOXES IS LACKING ONE VERY IMPORTANT DOCUMENTATION WHICH AS A RESULT, THE BOXES HAS BEEN CONFISCATED.
 ACCORDING TO SECTION 229 SUBSECTION 31 OF THE 1991 CONSTITUTION IN TAX PAYMENT, YOUR CONSIGNMENT LACKS PROOF OF OWNERSHIP CERTIFICATE FROM THE JOINT TEAM OF THE IRS AND HOMELAND SECURITY, AND THERE FOR, YOU MUST CONTACT US FOR DIRECTION ON HOW TO PROCURE THIS CERTIFICATE, SO THAT YOU CAN BE RELIEVED OF THE CHARGES OF EVADING TAX WHICH IS A PUNISHABLE OFFENSE UNDER SECTION 12 SUBSECTION 441 OF CONSTITUTION ON TAX EVASION. Continue reading Fear of the FBI hopes to make you respond to this identity theft email

The Basics: Secured Credit Cards Versus Unsecured

There are two types of credit cards – secured and unsecured. But what’s the difference?

macro money Image by Flickr creative commons user kevin dooley

About Secured Credit Cards:

What makes it “secured” is that you will put a deposit down on this card. Your credit limit will generally be equal to the deposit that you make. So if you deposit $500, your limit will be $500. Banks can also choose to reward you for responsible management of the card by extending your line of credit beyond the amount of your deposit. The point is to improve bad credit or to establish nonexistent credit. This may be a good idea for people who would likely be turned down for an unsecured card.

You can apply for a secured card at many different banks or credit unions. To choose your card wisely, you should look at widely varying factors such as:

  • Application fees
  • Monthly or annual fees
  • Interest rate

Beware of cards that charge you an “insurance” fee every month. You should pay off your total balance on a secured card every month, rather than allowing a balance. Secured cards are generally not supposed to be used for the long-term, but only until you build credit and then are offered a reasonable unsecured card. After you close the secured card, you’ll get your deposit back.

 Unsecured Credit Cards:

Continue reading The Basics: Secured Credit Cards Versus Unsecured

Will New Innovations From 2013 International CES Put Your Information at Risk?

The 2013 International CES was host to plenty of exciting exhibits to choose.  Revenues for consumer electronics are expected to keep growing to new record levels! At the show, over 20,000 new products were launched from more than 3,250 exhibitors, making it a sure bet that there is something for everyone being revealed. There’s always a lot of excitement for CES because it’s often a first look at the years’ best new innovations.

Going Wireless in More Ways

There were more than 1,200 exhibitors showing off their wireless technology this year. Wireless technology is taking center stage at CES this year, including new and improved smartphones and tablets, making it more important than ever that people understand how to protect their information and identity when using these devices.

With that many exhibitions, there are bound to be plenty of awesome gadgets and programs, but Continue reading Will New Innovations From 2013 International CES Put Your Information at Risk?

ATM Safety: What You Need to Know

Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) can give you easy, fast access to the money in your bank account. When you insert your card into the machine, it reads the information on the card’s magnetic strip. It then asks you for your pin number and, voila! You have the ability to withdraw money from your checking or savings account. According to statistics published in 2012 by Statistic Brain, there are 2.2 million ATM machines in service, with a new ATM machine being installed every 5 or so minutes. It’s important to note that most of these machines charge a fee for their service, but with modern-day thieves focusing on ATM technology in order to steal your cash, a fee might be the least of your worries.

What Security Measures Are In Place?

Many ATMs are monitored by surveillance cameras to prevent identity thieves from tampering with machines and also to discourage muggers from targeting people who are withdrawing cash. ATM customers are cautioned not to write their pin number down where passers-by can see it and to take precautions against allowing others to see the number that they punch into the keypad.

Unfortunately, there are ways that scammers target ATM machines that render these security measures useless.

ATM Skimming:

Incidents of ATM skimming are on the rise. Skimming occurs when identity thieves modify ATM machines. They insert a phony card reader over the legitimate card reader. This will read the magnetic strip. The information that it reads off of a debit card is either stored in the device or transmitted via wireless to another location. This is combined with either a spy cam or a device fitted over the keypad to read the users’ pin numbers. With these two bits of information, thieves will have easy access to a user’s checking account. They will either remove funds from the account, or sell the information online. The highest bidder will receive your sensitive information.

To prevent this from happening to you, it’s advised that you use only ATM machines located inside a bank, where it is less likely that scammers will have tampered with a machine unnoticed. Also, look out for keypads and card readers that look slightly off. They may be protruding oddly from the machine or a slightly different color than the rest of the ATM.

Sketchy ATM Purchases:

Did you know that used ATMs can be sold on eBay and Craigslist? If the machines are not properly wiped of data, the purchaser may be able to access users’ information electronically. Again, users are encouraged to stick to using only ATMs located at banks, rather than those at retail stores or in out-of-the-way spots, which may later be discarded or sold without being properly wiped of data.

Users should also monitor their checking account transactions closely. Some identity thieves may “test” a user account by making small transactions, sometimes for amounts less than a dollar. They assume that most users won’t notice small transactions like these.

Bank account holders can also be advised to withdraw money directly from a bank teller rather than an ATM to eliminate the risk of ATM-related identity theft and also to avoid ATM fees.

Sources:

http://www.nation.co.ke/Features/smartcompany/Banks-clients-grapple-with-card-skimmers/-/1226/1658812/-/dq6ok3z/-/index.html

Debit card safety: Think before you swipe

 

 

Resource for Learning about Security and Cybercrimes

In the last several years, cybercrime has become an increasing problem, especially with its ever evolving nature. The criminals using cyber methods to get what they want are smarter than your average thief, which means that to really protect yourself from this sort of crime, it’s smart to learn as much as you can about how these crimes happen. One great place to start is at Master of Homeland Security list of the Top 100 National Security Resources.

While a list of one hundred different sites is an immense amount of information to explore, there are a few on the list that really stand out, either because they are very informative or just simply an interesting collection of information. Not all of the sites necessarily pertain to cybercrime, but they all are security related.

First on the list is In Homeland Security, a site which provides news and information about both terrorism and homeland defense. The information isn’t just limited to the US either. There are several international news articles.

Then, second on the list is a really interesting blog by the TSA which Continue reading Resource for Learning about Security and Cybercrimes

Your Grandparents May Be Victims of Identity Theft

Over the holidays, I did a lot of visiting with my grandparents. When I told my grandmother that I have been writing stories about identity theft protection, she mentioned a scam that she had heard about concerning identity thieves targeting senior citizens.

New Scam

Apparently, scammers are currently trying to steal from your grandparents. The new scam preys on unsuspecting grandparents who are concerned about the well-being of their loved ones. It works like this; senior citizens are sent an email or issued a phone call saying that their grandchild is in trouble and needs to be wired money.

The email or phone call will provide an address to wire money to, which thieves promptly intercept. And just like that, grams and pops are out a chunk of retirement money.

You’re a Winner! … Or Not

Another popular scam aimed at senior citizens is one that calls them to notify them that they have won a lottery or a prize and then asks them to provide checking account information so that their prize can be deposited. Thieves then clean out grandma’s checking account. A popular name used by scammers is one that is clearly recognizable by many older people – Publisher’s Clearing House.

Easy Target

Senior citizens are often targeted to by victims of identity theft for a number of reasons. First, because they are less likely to regularly monitor their credit report. Senior citizens are also less likely to be as

someone wants to steal from your grandma.  Image provided by Flickr creative commons user Beny Schlevich

tech-savvy, making them easier targets for online phishing. They also may have life-savings and other retirement funds that are attractive to thieves who are looking to make a buck.

A New York Times article from September of 2012 cites the FBI as warning that senior citizens are also targeted by identity thieves because, culturally, people who were raised in the 1940’s and 50’s were brought up to be polite to strangers and trusting.

Prevention

Senior citizens should be cautioned not to accept prizes that they are informed about over the phone or online, especially if they have not entered into any sweepstakes or contests. The caller or suspicious email may also ask for them to send money first to collect their prize or ask for sensitive information like a social security number. Phone calls like this should be considered especially suspicious if they originate from an overseas phone number or an unknown email sender.

They should also be in close contact with their bank to check on the status of their checking and savings accounts. Many senior citizens are not aware that they have become victims of identity theft until debt collectors start calling to demand payments for transactions that identity thieves have made in their name.

Talk to the older people in your life about the prevalence of identity theft and how to prevent scammers from taking their hard-earned money.

Sources:

http://www.identitytheft.info/seniors.aspx