Tag Archives: online security

Cyber security awareness: The Facebook feature you will love

facebookprivacytab

 

This month as part of Cyber Security Awareness Month I had the opportunity to talk to expert, Jennifer Jolly about cyber security, especially about being safer and protecting my privacy on Facebook.

“President Obama designated October as National Cyber Security Awareness Month. National Cyber Security Awareness Month is designed to engage and educate public and private sector partners through events and initiatives with the goal of raising awareness about cybersecurity and increasing the resiliency of the nation in the event of a cyber incident.”

Jennifer and I discussed:

  • What are three quick steps you can take to help make sure only the people you want can see your stuff?
  • What are some security controls that are available to protect our accounts and privacy?
  • How can login approvals help to keep our Facebook account safe?
  • Why is it so important to have unique passwords for our social media accounts?
  • How can we control what information we share with apps when we login using our Facebook account?
  • Why do we need to periodically review the apps connected to our accounts and clean house? What is an easy way to do this?
  • Where can we go to for more information?

Our interview is audio, so grab a pen and paper and take a few notes. I was surprised at how fast and easy I was able to tighten up the security and privacy settings on my personal Facebook page – and how many apps I had actually given access to. You will be too!

 

Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy award-winning consumer tech journalist and “geek speak translator.” She’s one of the nation’s most trusted experts when it comes to reviewing and explaining consumer electronics and the days’ top tech trends. A 20-year broadcast industry veteran, Jennifer writes the weekly New York Times Wired Well column and is the host and syndicated columnist of TechNow. Jennifer is also frequent guest contributor for the Today Show, The Meredith Vieira Show, The Talk, CNN, HLN, Dr. Oz, and the Rachel Ray Show.

When a purchase order email is not what it seems

Image By: Ian Lamont
Image By: Ian Lamont

Today’s award for the least convincing spam message goes to the “purchase order” I received. The funny thing is I don’t sell anything so I’m not sure how it could possibly pertain to me. It just goes to show they grab, harvest or purchase email addresses and then send them out in bulk, sort of like fishing with a bucket of bait. With that much bait you are sure to catch something.

If you receive something like this one, which also has a “zip” file to download my suggestion is to send it to spam and keep going. What are the keys to knowing this isn’t a real purchase interest?

  1. It was in my spam folder – which I do check regularly since sometimes items are mistakenly marked as spam.
  2. The problems with grammar and punctuation.
  3. The fact that I don’t sell any items.
  4. And, that it’s “near” somewhere in Egypt.
  5. That it has a zip file. Beware of downloadable files, links, and images, especially those that come from those you don’t know.

Sample Email below

A dead giveaway is when my spam filler has this in the RE:

****SPAM**** HIGH * Purchase order-
Dear Sir

We are interested to Purchase your product, i got your contact information

from two of our customers.

Please contact us with the following below:-

– Your minimum order quantity.

– Your FOB Prices and FOB Port.

– Your estimated delivery time.

Please fine attached company details and requirements below to preview the samples/specifications needed.

Best Regard
—————————————————————————————————————–
GMCC LTD  IMPORT & EXPORT
Address deleted
Sheraton Bldgs. Heliopolis,Cairo
Landmark:Near To Radisson Blu Cairo Egypt

Hackers Win Round Against Sony: The Interview Pulled from Theaters

Hackers have won a round against Sony Pictures Entertainment this week after a devastating cyber attact. Sony pulled “The Interview” from theaters nation wide after the hackers spread fear throughout the entertainment industry. “The Interview” was to be released in theaters on Christmas Day. Sony said they would no longer hold screenings of the film in any of their theaters.

U.S. intelligence has linked the cyber attack on Sony to the North Korean government. The film portrays the fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. It is believed that the hackers from North Korea were given the order to hack Sony’s computer system targetting sensitive data including emails, financial records and salaries of Sony’s top stars.

It is unclear whether “The Interview” will be released soon. The hackers made threats against Sony by promising movie goers with a “bitter fate” should they head to theaters to screen the film. The hackers threated a 9/11-like attack on all movie theaters that screen the Seth Rogen and James Franco comedy.

The warning reads:

“We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places “The Interview” be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to.

  • Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made.
  • The world will be full of fear.
  • Remember the 11th of September 2001.
  • We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time.
  • (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.)
  • Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
  • All the world will denounce the SONY.”

In addition to the terroristic threat, the hackers released the content of files called “Michael Lynton” (CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment) which included embarrassing emails and sensitive personal data. The tactics used by the hackers worked to caused the nations three largest movie chains to cancel showings of “The Interview” with an unknown release date.

Sony has no current plans to release the film either to theaters or direct to video.

Make YouTube Safer for Your Kids

 

By: m anima

YouTube has just about anything a kid could want to watch. It also has just about anything an adult would want to watch to. A simple search for “Mickey Mouse” will bring up thousands of videos including ones that are not appropriate for children. It is even possible that your child could be watching a perfectly acceptable YouTube video for his/her age group but then a completely inappropriate one comes up in the suggested video watching section that looks enticing.

Parents can easily prevent their children from seeing inappropriate videos by following a few simple steps to make YouTube safer for children. Google has a built in security filter on YouTube. The first thing parents should do is go to the YouTube homepage, scroll all the way down to the bottom and click on the toggle that says “safety: off”. Turn the safety section to “on”. This will activate Google’s safety filter. It will hide adult content videos and may hide some videos that have graphic violence.

A drawback to the method above is that it will automatically default to the “safety: off” method as soon as the browser is closed. To prevent the default from occuring a parent should log in to YouTube with their Google account. Once there an option for “save and safety lock mode” that will keep YouTube from defaulting back to the “safety: off” option.

Parents should also be aware of what their children are watching. Making a playlist of videos that are acceptable and appropriate is simple to do through a YouTube account. Go into “playlists” and create a new playlist with videos that are age appropriate.

Parents can use a special search tool to find kid friendly results for webpages, videos, and more. Safe Search Kids is the “Google Kids Search Engine” which filters out things that are inappropriate for children. Safe Search Kids also offers a step by step guide to parental controls on various websites including YouTube, Google, and offers guides for parental controls when kids game online.

Lawsuit Claims BackPage.com Aids Sex Trafficking

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Three sex trafficking victims have brought a lawsuit against BackPage.com. The victims claim that the website helps promote the exploitation of children. Lawyers for the victims claim that the girls were sold as prostitutes through ads on BackPage.com. BackPage says that the lawsuit is an attempt at censorship and has asked a judge to dismiss the case. The judge declined, BackPage appealed.

The Washington Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday, October 21, 2014. BackPage believes the case should be thrown out because the Communications Decency Act of 1996 gives it immunity from the activities of its members. The victims say they were raped multiple times when they were teenagers and that the website is partially responsible for their sex trafficking.

KiroTV.com reported, “According to court documents, when pimps forced the women to offer sex on the controversial website, Backpage never verified their ages and instructed sex traffickers not to use certain words or graphics to avoid scrutiny from the public and police.”

During the arguments, the Supreme Court Justice’s asked both sides whether BackPage was part of contributing, developing or creating content for the website. The attorney for BackPage claimed that it was clear that his client did not create or develop the ads that allegedly harmed the plaintiffs. He argues that this is an effort to chill online speech.

The Communications Decency Act of 1996 was the first attempt by the United States to regulate pornographic material on the internet. It criminalized the transmission of materials that were “obscene or indecent” to persons known to be under 18. However, many portions of CDA have been struck down for violating the right to free speech.

The BackPage lawsuit could have a major effect on sex trafficking. The ruling in the case could also have a huge impact on free speech in the online world.

If you suspect child sex trafficking, it should be reported to the CyberTipline of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Your Teen is Talking to Strangers and Giving Out Too Much Info

By: Wen Tong Neo

McAfee released a study in June that exposed a shocking revelation for the parents of tweens and teens. The 2014 Teens and the Screen study: Exploring Online Privacy, Social Networking and Cyberbullying exposed that teens often over share personal information and are willing engage strangers online.

The survey highlighted some important findings. Private lives are not so private. Teens often seek social networks considered to be the “no parent zone.” Cyberbullying is still prevalent on the world wide web and teens are often the victim. Cyberbullying conflicts are also carried into offline altercations.

Some of the statistics are startling. Continue reading Your Teen is Talking to Strangers and Giving Out Too Much Info

Stand Against Spying- A Coalition Seeking to Stop Government Mass Spy Programs

By: Alan Cleaver

A coalition of organizations from across the political spectrum has joined forces to fight mass surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA). The group has launched a website called “Stand Against Spying” and has become a watchdog of Congress. Although the organizations are vastly different in terms of missions, goals, and communities they all agree that mass surveillance is a violation of the United States Constitution. Electronic Frontier Foundation, Tenth Amendment Center, Greenpeace, Freedom of the Press Foundation, and UpWorthy are all part of the coalition fighting back against the government spy programs created by the NSA.

Stand Against Spying allows users to put in their address and zipcode to see how their representative is voting on issues regarding mass surveillance. Each member of Congress is rated on his or her actions to end or promote mass surveillance.

The method used to rate members of Congress was different for the House and for the Senate. For the House, votes for the two strongest bills against mass spying were considered; the Surveillance State Repeal Act and the original version of the USA FREEDOM Act. Senate members were rated on whether they co-sponsored the original USA FREEDOM Act and if they have come out publicly claiming a commitment to cosponsoring the Act when Congress is back in session (July 7).

The website requests that users sign an open letter to President Obama. The letter sets out the goals, beliefs and mission of Stand Against Spying.

It reads:

“Dear Mr. President,

As citizens of the Internet, we believe that mass surveillance by the NSA and its global partners infringes on our civil liberties, runs contrary to democratic principles, and chills free expression.

We’re calling on you to take immediate steps to end the mass spying. Specifically, we urge you to stop the mass collection and retention of telephone records and Internet communications of hundreds of millions of people who are not suspected of a crime.

In addition, we call on you to provide a full public accounting of the intelligence community’s mass surveillance practices.”

Read the full letter here. Internet citizens are encouraged to sign the open letter to take a stand against spying.

 

Personal Data: Who Has Your Back?

By: byron alcantara

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published its fourth annual “Who Has Your Back?” report. You might be surprised about which companies have your back and which companies don’t. The report looks at the policies and practices of various technology companies and gives companies stars for certain items that address security concerns of consumers.  Stars are given out if companies “require a warrant for content,” “tell users about government data requests,” “fight for users’ privacy rights in courts,” etc. A maximum of six stars can be obtained by each company.

Some of the top technology companies received gold stars across the board for protecting your data. Google, Apple, and Twitter all have your back and will fight for your privacy rights both in the courts and in Congress.  EFF was pleased to find out that many companies, rocked by high-profile disclosures of the National Surveillance Agency (NSA) spying on online accounts, responded by increasing their commitment to transparency and pushed back against mass surveillance.

The companies with the lowest amount of stars included Snapchat, Amazon, and AT&T. Snapchat was ranked least likely to have your back protecting your personal data. It does not require a warrant for content, does not promise to tell users if their data is sought by the government, and does not publicly oppose mass surveillance.

Amazon.com received credit for requiring a warrant for content. According to the EFF report, Amazon receives credit because of testimony from its Vice President for Global Public Policy, Paul Misener, before the House Judiciary Committee in 2010: “With respect to the content of electronic communications, we believe that ECPA requires law enforcement authorities to obtain a search warrant to compel disclosure. We do not release information without valid process and have not disclosed content without a search warrant.”

Although, Amazon.com’s stance is to obtain a warrant it does not promise users that it will tell them if the government demands data. The company has also never published a transparency report showing government requests for data, does not publish its guidelines for law enforcement seeking access to data, and it has not publicly opposed mass surveillance through a written statement.

Some companies have shown improvement over the past four years including Verizon (earned 4 stars), Microsoft (earned 6 stars), and Tumblr (earned 5 stars). Protecting personal data is extremely important to consumers and it is apparent that it is increasingly important to companies.

Lilly Collins is 2013 most dangerous cyber celebrity according to McAfee

52138b9d17c94a2c82116f12fe87bba10a365_640It’s nothing new and she won’t be the first celebrity search term which could land your computer on a page filled with malware, spam, and viruses, but right now she is the hottest.  McAfee advises that “Looking up the ‘Mortal Instruments: City of Bones’ star (and daughter of rocker Phil Collins) on the Web gives you about a 14.5% chance of landing on a page that tested positive for spam, adware, spyware, viruses or other malware,” according to a study by Internet security company.   This means you have about a 1 in 7 chance of finding much more that you ever wanted when your search lands you on a page.

Other top ten searches that may give you more than you bargained for are celebrities: Avril Lavigne, Sandra Bullock, Kathy Griffin and Zoe Saldana.  Katy, Perry, Brittany Spears and Emma Roberts are also among the top 10. According to McAfee’s report women celebrities are more likely to land your computer in hot water than searches for men celebrities.

Miley Cyrus came in at number 20 and her twerking performance on the VMA’s caused a surge in searches using her name, as well as a surge in cyber celebrity dangers.  My dad’s computer reported a virus on a site that was supposedly referred to him by a friend, alleging that she had committed suicide.  Of course that old story is well known spam as it has been used far too often, but not often enough to keep it from going viral. Want to know all of the percentages this year for your favorite celebrity?  The Wall Street Journal breaks it down for you so you can see your chances of encountering a celebrity cyber screw up.

McAfee has been providing the “most dangerous celebrity cyber searches” for seven years.  During this time celebrities like Heidi Klum, Emma Watson, Cameron Diaz, Jessica Biel and Selena Gomez have been listed among the most dangerous cyber searches.  Brad Pitt has been one of the men on the top of the list, but the men searches are fewer and far between.

Of course as part of their list, McAfee offers a number of tips and tricks to help you keep your computer from catching more than  cold including:

  • Be cautious of content offering “free” or “too good to be true”
  • Be extra cautious when searching for hot topics.   My recommendation – got to Google Trends and then head to your the topics through there, or only access those sites of “name brand” celebrity news sources.
  • Protect yourself with comprehensive security.  My recommendation, not only should you have a good security system but pay attention to it.  If your system says “STOP” or doesn’t have the check mark next to the link you probably don’t want to visit there.

mcafee site advisor

National Security Agency Broke Privacy Rules, Audit Finds

The National Security Agency (NSA) has been spying on Americans. The agency was given broad powers in 2008 and has been accused of overstepping its authority thousands of times. Edward Snowden leaked information that told the world about the agency’s spy programs including the interception of e-mails and data collection of phone calls.

Snowden recently leaked documents to The Washington Post showing that the NSA has repeatedly exceeded its legal powers and broken privacy rules every years since it was granted broad new powers. The internal audit shows violations ranging from unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States to the “unintended interception” of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.

The documents provided to the Washington Post showed that Congress wasn’t even aware of some of the details that the NSA was pulling from its programs. One document instructed agency personnel to remove details and substitute more generic language in reports that went to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Another document showcased the “unintended  surveillance” of Americans. The Washington Post reports, “A notable example in 2008 was the interception of a ‘large number’ of calls placed from Washington when a programming error confused the U.S. area code 202 for 20, the international dialing code for Egypt, according to a ‘quality assurance’ review that was not distributed to the NSA’s oversight staff.”

The once-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was also kept in the dark about some of the NSA’s spy programs and the information being gathered. The court did not learn of new collections methods until months after it had been in use. When it did find out about the new collection method it ruled it unconstitutional.

The Obama administration has attempted to remain quiet about the NSA.  The first excuse was that Continue reading National Security Agency Broke Privacy Rules, Audit Finds