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Archive for July, 2009

Random burglary or Twitter consequence? Vacationers beware

Posted by foreualways on July 21, 2009

Random burglary or Twitter consequence? Vacationers beware
By Anne Wallace Allen

Like a lot of people who use social media, Israel and Noell Hyman went on Twitter to share real-time details of a recent trip. Their posts said they were "preparing to head out of town," that they had "another 10 hours of driving ahead" and that they "made it to Kansas City."

While they were on the road, their home in Mesa, Ariz., was burglarized. Hyman has an online video business called IzzyVideo.com, with 2,000 followers on Twitter. He thinks his Twitter updates tipped the burglars off.

"My wife thinks it could be a random thing, but I just have my suspicions," he said. "They didn’t take any of our normal consumer electronics."

They took his video-editing equipment.

Most people wouldn’t leave a recording on a home answering machine telling callers they’re on vacation for a week, and most people wouldn’t let mail or newspapers pile up while they were away. But users of social media think nothing of posting real-time vacation photos on Facebook showing themselves on beaches hundreds of miles from home or sending out automatic e-mail messages that say, "I’m out of the country for a week."

"I’m amazed at how many people get on there and say they’re going on vacation," said Lee Struble, head of security at Monroe Community College in Rochester, N.Y.
Struble, 53, is a member of Facebook with more than 200 friends, many of them classmates from high school and college who recently reconnected through the site.

"Some of these people you haven’t seen in 20 or 30 years," Struble said. "But they know where you live or can find out pretty easily, they can do a Google Maps search and can get directions to your house, and you’re telling them that you’re going to be gone."

Struble is careful about his outgoing e-mail messages.

"I just tell people I’m going to be out of the office," he said. "I don’t say I’m going to be out of town."

Despite the fact that so many people share their vacation plans via the Internet, most Americans don’t think private information is secure online.

"We actually polled on that question, and the majority of people, teenagers and adults, think that a determined searcher can find them — no matter how careful they are with information," said Lee Rainey, who has studied Internet behavior extensively as director of the Pew Internet and American Life project in Washington.

New communication technology has always brought with it new risks and rules, usually learned the hard way. When telegrams were a primary means of long-distance communication, correspondents struggled to craft messages that would convey meaning without revealing private business to the operator. Party-line phones were often conduits of news and gossip. And Prince Charles showed the world that mobile conversations could be intercepted when his pillow-talk call to Camilla Bowles was made public.

Facebook and Twitter are so relatively new that users may not consider all the risks. For Hyman, Twitter was a way to connect with fans of IzzyVideo.com, where he offers how-to videos on video production. His wife teaches scrapbooking through videos at Paperclipping.com. About half of the new episodes they release are free, but viewers pay to access their archives.

"The customers have never met me in person," Hyman said. "Twitter is a way for them to get to know me. You do business with people you know. I’m a real person. I take my kids to the park. I go on vacation. I’m not just some company.

"I forgot that there’s an inherent danger in putting yourself out there."

Detective Steven Berry of the Mesa Police Department, which is investigating the burglary at Hymans’ home, said: "You’ve got to be careful about what you put out there. You never know who’s reading it."

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Wow! A Quadrillion-Dollar Credit Card Bill

Posted by foreualways on July 15, 2009

North Texas man gets 17-digit surprise on his credit-card statement


A North Texas man has a 17-figure credit card statement after a bank glitch resulted in an eye-popping charge.

This is what it looks like: $23,148,855,308,184,500.00.  

Here’s how to say it: 23 quadrillion,148 trillion, 855 billion, 308 million, 184,000 and 500 dollars.

It’s more than 2,000 times the national debt — and, according to Jon Seale‘s online credit card statement, it’s what he spent July 13 at Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck.

“For that amount of money, I could actually own Wolfgang Puck himself," Seale said.

Seale, a husband and father of five from Trophy Club, spent much of Tuesday making calls to Wachovia and Visa in hopes of getting the exorbitant charge removed from his Wachovia Visa Buxx credit card. Both companies told him they were working to resolve the issue.

“It’s an inconvenience, but it’s not like I was truly worried my money was gone," he said. "It’s an obvious, glaring error.”

Seale even tried tracking down the celebrity chef himself.

“I tried to find Wolfgang Puck on Facebook and add him as a friend to see if he’d make a comment, but I didn’t have any luck finding him," Seale said.

Visa said the technical glitch that resulted in the giant charge only affected some customers with prepaid Visa cards.

"A temporary programming error at Visa Debit Processing Services caused some transactions to be inaccurately posted to a small number of Visa prepaid accounts," said Visa spokeswoman Elvira Swanson said in a written statement. "The technical glitch has been corrected, and all erroneous postings have been removed.”

Steale was not the only Visa Buxx cardholder to see the huge charge on his statement. A New Hampshire man found the $23 quadrillion charge after buying a pack of cigarettes at a gas station. A Visa representative said affected customers will also have the $20 overdraft fees removed.

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Find Speed Traps

Posted by foreualways on July 10, 2009

Want to find speed traps around you? Use the forms below to find traps nearby. Find speed traps using state, city, and zip. You can also search using a keyword to get a more targeted search.

The SpeedTrap Exchange is a site where visitors can post what they believe are speedtraps. The National Motorists Association cannot attest to the validity of these listings. They are individual postings from private individuals who believe a speed trap is in effect in these locations.

Here the link

This is the link to the part of the site to find your city and state.

For the main page go here!

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Now they can guess your Social Security Number

Posted by foreualways on July 7, 2009

By now we’ve had it beaten into our thick skulls: Protect your Social Security Number at all costs, because those nine magic digits are the gateway to your entire life. Financial history, medical records… just about everything hinges on your SSN remaining private.

As such, large-scale thefts of SSN and other private information continue to make headlines, but this piece of news takes the cake: Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have now figured out a way to roughly reverse engineer the way in which Social Security Numbers are assigned. Armed with your date of birth and the state in which you were born, it’s now possible to generate a quite small set of digits that are likely to contain your actual SSN.

How is this possible? Mainly because SSNs aren’t just randomly generated. The first three digits are tied to your state of birth, and the next two digits (the "group number") are used sequentially as SSNs are handed out over time. The final four digits are supposedly random, but using a public database called the Death Master File, which lists SSNs that were held by the deceased, patterns emerged in those digits, as well.

The result is that, depending on the state and year of birth (the older you are and the larger your state of birth, the harder it is to guess your SSN), the researchers could guess a Social Security Number’s first five digits with up to 90 percent accuracy, and the last four digits with up to 5 percent accuracy. Considering the odds of getting a SSN right by random guess really ought to be 1 in a billion, that’s a phenomenal success rate.

And if those numbers seem small, consider that with the use of commonly-available botnets, computers could correctly guess dozens of SSNs every minute by simple brute force as they apply for bogus credit cards en masse. The Ars Technica story linked above also notes that many credit card verification services allow for a couple of digits in an SSN to be wrong, as a convenience for forgetful applicants, opening the door a little wider for hackers.

What happens now? It’s hard to imagine an organization as venerable and bureaucratic as the Social Security Administration to change the way it works, but it’s hard not to think that the nine-digit SSN may have at last outlived its utility, and its security. Still, just try to imagine the upheaval should the country attempt to move to longer numbers…

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Instant Messenger Hacks: 10 Security Tips to Protect Yourself

Posted by foreualways on July 5, 2009

Most of us will agree that we are paranoid about email security and hack attacks. We should equally be concerned about the other popular connection device we use – the humble instant messenger. It is also open to some of the privacy risks we associate with emails.

Especially in a business environment, unsecured IM installations are creating backdoors for hack attacks. This threat has increased manifold because nearly all IM’s allow for exchange of files, images, songs and even peer to peer sharing of entire folders.

Spam, worms, Trojans and viruses are familiar email foes. They are no friends of instant messaging either. So how do we pick our friends from our foes? Perhaps by following what Benjamin Franklin said – Distrust and caution are the parents of security.

Also, by putting these 10 habits in place.

  1. Don’t give out your identity
  2. Every IM client asks you to create a screen name. A screen name usually refers to your email ID. Create a screen name which does not touch upon personal information or your real identity. For instance, my screen name is ‘Braniac’ and not ‘Saikat’. And NEVER provide any personal details including credit card numbers and social security number over the internet.

  3. Don’t chat with people not on your contact list
  4. Always vet your contact list with people whom you know something about. Talking with Mr. Anonymous at the other end of space may be fraught with risk. It is possible to discover your computer address (i.e. your IP) from an instant message and that usually is the first requirement for a remote hack attack.

    Don’t believe everything you read and always verify any information or request for information.

  5. Don’t click on spam links
  6. This is what a spam link might look like –

    This is probably what you will be bombarded with first. A link tempts you to click it just for the lark. A lot of these links take you to websites which can install spyware stealthily on your computer. For e.g. Viruses and worms with colorful names such as W32.Yalove or W32/Spybot-MQ are potential threats to Yahoo users.
    Ignore them.

  7. Don’t share files with your chat partner
  8. An IM client like Yahoo allows P2P file sharing. Do not share unknown content even if the person is known. P2P files, like email attachments can carry viruses, Trojan horses, and worms. They are engineered to seed themselves to other members on your buddy list. Be especially cautious when someone sends you an .exe or a .zip file.

  9. Don’t let potential hackers reach you
  10. Yahoo has an Ignore user or Report as spam so that he can’t disturb you once again. GTalk has a Block user option. Using this option allows you to keep out the unwanted from repeatedly messaging you. The default security settings in chat software tend to be relatively lax. Thus making you open to attacks. Check the settings and preferences of your chat client to apply stricter permission controls.

  11. Don’t Neglect Encryption
  12. Most IM clients lack encryption features. That essentially means that your messages can be tracked and read by eavesdropping hackers using technologies like packet sniffers or similar ones. Passwords are also a security loophole with hardly any client using strong password encryption.

    The subject of encryption and strong password protection would require another post by itself. So I hand you over to Tim’s excellent post on How To Secure & Encrypt Your Instant Messaging Chats. Here at MakeUseOf.com we have a lot of posts tagged as ‘passwords’. Why not take a look at ways to set strong passwords.

  13. Don’t use an older version of IM – Update
  14. IM client companies spend a lot of effort behind doors to prevent backdoor threats. Newer versions come with bug fixes and enhanced security. For instance, the latest version of Yahoo IM is better integrated with anti-virus solutions like Norton Internet Security and Norton Anti-Virus.

    So, always update your IM client as soon as one becomes available. If the chat client does not automatically prompt for an upgrade, go to the website and check your version number with the latest available. You can note the version of your particular client by clicking on Help – About

  15. Don’t download third party plug-ins from unverified sources
  16. A lot of third party plug-ins are available for download which enhance the chatting experience. It is safer and advisable to always download from the IM client websites themselves or from verified sources.

  17. Don’t forget to log-out completely
  18. It is an oft repeated habit to click on the [X] button and exit. But this action does not close our IM client completely. Most often, they continue to run in the system tray leaving it ‘open’ for a third person to access it. IMs also have a nasty habit of broadcasting your online presence even if left to run as a background task. Especially in public computers be mindful of logging out and exiting completely. Also, never click on any Remember My Password checkbox during log-in as an added safeguard.

    For Yahoo Users: Before you get up, delete your Yahoo Messenger profile. It is located by default at C:\Program Files\Yahoo!\Messenger\Profiles.

  19. Don’t forget the value of a good browser, a good firewall and an even better anti-virus
  20. Sometimes we will click a link; sometimes we will download a file. All the precautions in the world will not be able to protect us if we don’t have a secure browser, a good firewall and an anti-virus updated with the latest virus signatures. These three not only protect us from IM attacks but they are the must-haves for any system. Check out our recommendations for security programs in our article about Essential Security Downloads. Or check the MakeUseOf Polls to find out what’s more popular among MakeUseOf readers.

Chatting as against emailing is a real time activity. It is in that sense more social than any other form of web communication. The danger is that chatting can lull us into a false sense of security. Just a few fundamental forethoughts help us to turn that false sense into a more conscious sense of security.

Have you been hacked? Perhaps, you share the concern for a rigorous defense against hackers? Let us know what safety measures you personally use…

Link Here

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