Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

International cooperation busts cyber-crime ring

In a pair of related cases, a total of 38 people with links to global organized crime—mostly working out of Romania and the U.S., but also operating in Pakistan, Portugal, and Canada—were indicted for engineering a decidedly 21st century cyber-based scheme. (From the FBI Website.)

By using the fairly routine online crime of “phishing“, the online scam also used a clever offline payoff, and ultimately swindling thousands of people and hundreds of financial institutions out of millions before being shut down.

  • Phraudsters working primarily out of Romania—known as the “suppliers”—went phishing and obtained thousands of credit and debit card accounts and related personal information by sending out masses of spam. 
  • These suppliers then sent their ill-gotten financial data to their partners in the U.S.—so-called “cashiers”—through Internet chat and e-mail messages.
  • By using some sophisticated but readily available software and technologies, the cashiers manufactured their own credit, debit, and gift cards encoded with the stolen information, giving them unfettered access to large amounts of money via ATMs and point-of-sale terminals. 
  • Before these cards were used, cashiers directed “runners” to test the cards by checking balances or withdrawing small amounts of money from ATMs. Then, these “cashable” cards were used on the most lucrative accounts. 
  • The cashiers wired a percentage of the illegal proceeds back to the suppliers. (More details of the method used, the people charged, the charges and possible sentences, can be read here.)
  • Folks– were you one of the “thousands” who responded? One phish message was made to appear as if it originated from Connecticut-based People’s Bank.  (In fact, the e-mail message directed victims to a computer in Minnesota that had been “hacked,” and used to host a counterfeit People’s Bank Internet site. {called “pharming“})  During the course of the investigation, it was determined that the individuals had engaged in similar phishing schemes against many other financial institutions and companies, including Citibank, Capital One, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Comerica Bank, Wells Fargo & Co., eBay and PayPal.

    Tip of the day: I don’t care how “authentic” the e-mail, IM, or text message looks; don’t click the link!

    Today’s free link: This video quick tip on CNet TV shows you how to move your complete (including playlists and metadata) iTunes library to a new computer.

    Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix 

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    May 31, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, Internet, Internet scam, Phishing, phraud, security, spam and junk mail, tech | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

    Mrs. Kitty Anderson

    Folks, there will not be an article today on Tech–for Everyone.. and it is quite possible that I may never write another article ever again. I may just retire.

    Now before you go getting all ‘het up’, and cross with me, I want you to ask yourself if maybe you wouldn’t retire too.. if you were me. Understand, I’m rich now. See? This e-mail from Mrs. Anderson proves it:

    Ref: UK/0274K82/10
    Batch: 172/104/ZY370
    We the Board and Management of the British National Lottery happily announce to you the draw (#251) of the British National Lottery.. claim a total sum of £1,000,000 (ONE
    MILLION POUNDS) in cash credited…

    I am not exactly sure how much real money a million “pounds” works out to be.. but I’m thinking it is a pretty good sum, and I’m hoping it is enough to buy myself a tropical island somewhere in the Pacific.. Because I think that would be pretty neat. Me. Palm trees. Sandy beaches. Sunshine.

    I have sent my vital information, and winning reference number to Mr.Hillary Martins (The Foreign Service Manager) as the e-mail instructed me to do.. and now I am simply waiting for them to deposit the money into my account.
    Once that happens, I’m pretty sure I’ll be out of here.. because that’s gotta be a lot of money.

    In fact, I think it’s enough money that I’m willing to overlook the “PRICE AWARD”. (I know they meant “prize”. They’re probably just as excited and happy as I am..) I’ve never been a millionaire before.. this is so cool!

    Today’s free link:

    *** Folks– I try to keep it lighthearted on Fridays, but for those of you who are security-minded I offer you this link as well: China’s cyber-militia behind U.S. blackouts?

    Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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    May 30, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, e-mail, Internet scam, Phishing, phraud, security, spam and junk mail | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

    Apple releases 41 patches for Leopard, Flash

    Keeping your software patched and up-to-date is a vital part of safe(r) computing these days. I cannot recommend enthusiastically enough that you enable “automatic” updating wherever and whenever it is offered.
    A “patch” (aka “update”) closes ‘holes’ (aka “vulnerabilities”) that hackers are “exploiting” to take control of, or plant malware on, (your) machines.

    There is an active exploit out there for the Flash player (Those animations on Webpages) that affects anyone who has not disabled Flash– whether you’re running Windows, Mac, or Linux.
    If you like having Flash animations, you should visit this page on the Adobe Website which will analyze your version of Flash Player to see if you need to update.

    Mac users should visit Apple Update and get these important updates.

    Today’s free link: A repeat today, because you really should know about this free tool: the Secunia Software Inspector will scan your machine’s installed programs and determine if they’re out-of-date, or there’s patches missing– and it will help you resolve the problems it finds.

    Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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    May 29, 2008 Posted by | advice, Apple, computers, how to, PC, security, software, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

    Skype says I’m infected with malware…

    Yesterday a “chat” window (Skype) opened on my machine, and presented me with a dire warning from someone named “Software Update”. It said that “WINDOWS REQUIRES IMMEDIATE ATTENTION” and, it provided me with a solution.
    (Click on image to see large version)

    Please, folks, tell me you have spotted this for what it is.

    Please tell me that you knew –instantly– that this is a cybercrime attempt.. that it is Phraud-ulent.

    Please tell me that you know what will happen if the link provided in this message is clicked; and, please, please, please tell me you would never click the link.

    Just in case you aren’t sure…
    * “Software Update” doesn’t exist.
    * “” is not registered in ARIN (the registry of Internet addresses)
    * clicking the link will allow scripts to run and/or take you to a poisoned Website which will install malware on your machine.. or/and, it may take you to a site that will sell you a rogue antispyware program (please read my article, Is that antispyware program really spyware).. all of this so that the hacker can take control of your machine.
    * Microsoft DOES NOT alert you via Instant Messaging. No legitimate company does.

    This is a classic example of a hacker’s attempt to get you to click their link. Please point your less-savvy friends and family to this article and educate them to the dangers of spam (unsolicited) messages and tell them–

    [addenda: Peter Parkes (Skype Blogger) wrote and asked me to remind my readers to, quote, “Please report users who send these messages to – that will help us to block them where appropriate.”]

    Today’s free link(s): I have assembled on my Website a collection of links to the best free anti-malware programs to help you prevent infection.. and clean up if you’ve been infected. To see them, click here. Also, Bill Mullins has posted a very complete tutorial, Think You Have A Virus?– Some Solutions, which is quite probably the best one-stop lesson on malware I have ever run across. (I also recommend his How Fake/Rogue Software Affects Real People.)

    Copyright 2007-8 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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    May 28, 2008 Posted by | advice, anti-spyware, computers, Internet, Internet scam, PC, Phishing, phraud, security, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

    When bigger was better

    I love to read. I love books, and magazines, and libraries. I like reading so much, that I have even purchased books; though I much prefer to get them free. I am always on the look-out for books at yard sales, Church sales, and the library’s Free Bin. I have discovered writers, and read about esoteric topics I never would have, simply because they were in a box of paperbacks I picked up for a dollar.
    This has been true for as longs as I can remember.

    Needless to say, the books you pick up for free at such places as I mentioned are somewhat.. well, out of date and often are really old. (The book I‘m about to mention is older than I am, if you can imagine that!)

    In my latest bag of free books I discovered a book from 1961 titled, SAC, Men and Machines of Our Strategic Air Command. (This was published well before Dr. Strangelove* made the scene.) This book provided a tour of the branch of the Air Force often thought of as the “doomsday boys”– the ICBM and B-52 crews of the Cold War policy of MAD.

    The reason I mention it here is because of this picture of the “computerized nerve-center” of SAC Headquarters– titled “IBM Underground Computers” (Click on image to see larger version.)
    SAC computer room

    Still further underground the electronic computers of SAC hum continually as all new information of interest is fed into the giant machines. Here all information pertaining to SAC, such as status of aircraft, missiles, crews, bases, war plans and supplies, are stored for instant readiness right up to the minute. In case of war these computers would record progress of strike force, so that all data is instantly available for use in strategy maneuvers. From a trajectory center, intelligence specialists will, with the aid of such computers, mathematically compute trajectory and space data for use in aiming SAC missiles from its many bases.”

    This picture fascinates me. Here you see the machines that have evolved into your PC’s today (In fact, your laptop is more capable than this whole room was).
    Of particular note:
    * The reel-to-reel things in the back, nearly as tall as a man, are what we call a “hard-drive” today.. and I doubt that all of them (I count 7) added together equals a Gigabyte.
    * In the foreground is a printer– as big as a wetbar, and capable of printing 60 words a-minute.
    * Where’s the monitor?

    This was the best money could buy back then, and I would estimate you’re looking at several million dollars’ worth of equipment. State of the art– 1961.

    As the saying goes, we’ve come a long way, baby!

    * A Tech Paul’s Top 100 Movies list member.

    Today’s free link: Looking for a great way to view and manage your RSS feeds from your desktop? Look no further than , the most popular Windows RSS reader.

    Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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    May 27, 2008 Posted by | computers, hardware, PC, tech | Leave a comment

    The WorldWide Telescope: An amazing app

    Yesterday I attended an event at Microsoft’s Silicon Valley Research Center and learned  about the technologies of the future.

    Well, sort of. What I saw was an overview of what Microsoft is doing in the area of R&D– research and development.
    Microsoft is planning on sticking around for a while, and they understand that technology is innovation… not a stagnant build-it-once-sell-it-a-million-times type thing, like a paperclip.

    This from their Website: “Microsoft Research is dedicated to conducting both basic and applied research in computer science and software engineering. Its goals are to enhance the user experience on computing devices, reduce the cost of writing and maintaining software, and invent novel computing technologies.”

    It was an interesting and informative event, and I want to take a minute and thank those folks involved.

    * The keynote technology displayed was a program that is available now, and it is pretty amazing — especially when one considers the amount of data that must be accessed — it’s a virtual picture of the universe. And the best part is, you can explore it.
    Yes, you can fly to Mars… or Rigel.. or the crab nebula.. or the top of Mt. Rainier here on earth (Virtual Earth is one data source).

    “A state-of-the-art combination of software and Web 2.0 services, WorldWide Telescope offers terabytes of high-resolution images, astronomical data, and guided tours that bring the universe to your fingertips.” (again, from Website.)

    This isn’t just pictures folks, when you right-click on Mars (for example) and select Properties, you will be offered practically every known fact about Mars. This is an unparalleled learning tool!

    The engine behind this is kind of hard to explain; maybe.. real-time, super-advanced PowerPoint? Infinite MSN Maps?
    But I don’t have to try to explain it. You can see it for yourself, and I highly suggest you do. Simply stunning.

    To read more about the project, click here.
    To download it for yourself, click here.

     I found this clip which was a “sneak peak” presented by Roy Gould and Microsoft’s Curtis Wong. It will give you some idea…

    Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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    May 23, 2008 Posted by | computers, Internet, PC, software, tech, Web 2.0 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments