Tech – for Everyone

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

Cost of Cybercrime

A video worthy of your attention: Cyber crime costs more than $400 billion a year

A new report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and computer security firm McAfee shows the impact of cyber crime is massive and getting bigger each year.

$400 BILLION.. (that we know about).. Pshaw! That’s just a drop in the bucket. Let’s stick with the status quo a while longer.

More good news: Ransomware “Svpeng” strikes US, leaves Android devices unusable

Discovered last July by Kaspersky, Svpeng was initially used to steal payment card information from Russian bank customers. As of this month, however, a separate version of the malware has been locking up U.S. victims’ devices so fraudsters can collect a ransom.Read more..

Today’s quote:Evil isn’t the real threat to the world. Stupid is just as destructive as Evil, maybe more so, and it’s a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against Stupid. That might actually make a difference.” ~ Jim Butche

Copyright 2007-2014 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.

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All we really have, in the end, are our stories.
Make yours great ones. Ones to be proud of.
And please, never forget – one person can make a difference.
Find a way to make someone’s day today.
(Best advice I ever heard? Don’t sweat the small stuff.)

June 14, 2014 Posted by | advice, computers, consumer electronics, cyber crime, hackers, Internet, security | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Everyday cybercrime — and what you can do about it

Folks, here is an “educational” Ted Talks video I think everyone should see. I hope you will forward this on to your less-savvy friends and family (and urge them to watch it).

Today’s quote:It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.” ~ Mark Twain

Copyright 2007-2013 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.

>> Folks, don’t miss an article! To get Tech – for Everyone articles delivered to your e-mail Inbox, click here, or to subscribe in your RSS reader, click here. <<

All we really have, in the end, are our stories.
Make yours great ones. Ones to be proud of.

September 17, 2013 Posted by | advice, computers, cyber crime, hackers, Internet, security, tech | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

It’s not your fault– how the Tech Industry is failing you

Your computer was infected with pop-up pornography because you visited a popular travel Website to look at hotel room prices in Orlando. And you have a well-known Company’s Internet Security Suite.

Or maybe, because your ISP promised you they’d scan all your e-mails for you, before they got into your Inbox.. you thought they really did, and you also thought that made your e-mail safe. You clicked on a link in one of those e-mails… (it said it was from your Uncle Victor..) and, voilà! Someone’s using your credit card.
In Malaysia.
To buy big-screen TV’s.
Like, six of them.. so far.

Perhaps you did neither of those things. But.. your friends wanna know why you’re sending them all this junk e-mail, and your ISP is threatening to turn you off if you don’t stop sending mass-mailings. Huh?
Turns out, you happen to have CoolProgram 6.0* on your machine, and a cracker has “exploited” the code and turned your machine into a spambot. Your machine has been merrily sending out thousands of e-mail come-ons for generic drugs, male enhancements, and penny stocks… all while you were asleep in bed.

Or you brought home a new digital picture frame…

Does this sound like a bad sci-fi movie to you? It does to me. But, sadly, this is our current reality.

You haven’t done anything wrong (or, really stupid) and you’ve even tried to protect your machine, but you got hijacked anyway.

I, for one, think there’s something seriously wrong with this state of affairs. When I think about the state of the Internet, I start feeling like that guy in the movie.. you know the one..

Why is this happening? Many reasons. Some are:
* Software companies are, to this day, releasing programs which contain insecure code.
* Hardware manufactures don’t include any extra features– like hard-wired security.
* In their rush to bring us new and exciting technology (he who’s first to market, wins), nobody stops and ponders the consequences.. or the vulnerabilities.
* For a long time, nobody took the hackers seriously enough.
* Cost. (I put this last because this can be offset.)

Believe it or not, there are steps the IT Industry can take to remedy a lot of this, and counteract this unsecured Internet. They could be doing much more to combat spam, malware, and hackers. There’s also steps we (us “consumers”) can take as well.. which space restriction has run out of room for today, and I will discuss tomorrow.

To be continued…

Today’s free link: I have recommended other graphics manipulation/image editing tools in the past, and it is only fitting that I give space to another winner: Paint.NET is simply the closest thing to Photoshop I have seen. 5 Star-rated by C/Net.

* Pick a program, any program. “CP 6.0” is simply my generic example.

*** Folks, like my new look? Hate it? Let me know by answering this 1 Question survey Click Here to take survey. ***

To read part 2, click here.

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

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May 9, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, Internet, PC, security, software, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Credit Card 2.0

I got my new, two-point-oh credit card yesterday, and now I have to line my wallet with lead.
I ain’t funnin’. I’m dead serious. And no, I haven’t lost my mind (yet).

Another Bad Idea Dep’t: Like most bad ideas, Credit Card 2.0 is being marketed to the sheeple unwashed masses general public as a “good thing”, a convenience which will make our lives better.. and safer. When, of course, the exact opposite is true. Today I’m going to tell you about Credit Card 2.0, and tell you why you might want to line your purse with tinfoil too.

CC 2.0 is being marketed as “Tap N Go” and/or “PayPass”. Maybe you’ve heard of it. (Or seen those really annoying TV commercials where some store is clicking along like clockwork until a buyer tries to pay with cash..) Doesn’t this sound nice? “Imagine going to the mall and shopping all day, while never having to stop and fumble with your purse or wallet to make a purchase. Imagine the peace of mind you’ll have, knowing that potential thieves will not have access to seeing your credit card number or stealing your signature.” [from]
Yes.. Utopia.
I love to shop at the mall all day, and I hate fumbling with my purse or wallet.*
I love peace of mind as well.

My replacement card looks absolutely the same as my previous card (except it has that new car smell) and there is only one clue that indicates that it is indeed a “2.0” credit card.. and not some 20th Century, plain-old 1.0 credit paypass.jpgcard.. a little symbol in the upper rt. corner, of four curved lines very similar to the RSS feed symbol. (If they hadn’t shown me, I’d have never known.) Take a look at your credit cards and see if you have it. Credit Card 2.0 has been available for a while now.
If your current cc does not have this “feature”, the next one they send you will. I guaranty. It’s easier to control a cashless society.

What is “Credit Card 2.0”? It is a radio transponder. It is part of the ‘miracle’ known as “RFID” (Radio Frequency Identification). This means you don’t have to “swipe” your credit card in a card-reader to transfer your vital digital digits, you just have to move it near another (special) transponder [a wireless card-reader]. Your bank info is transmitted wirelessly (and to further push this Bad Idea, I don’t think you even have to sign.. or enter a pin. How convenient!). Thus, tap.. and go.

But it gets worse. These wireless card readers are small and portable and can be battery powered. That means I can carry one. That means: if I carry one (in my purse, say), and move it near your wallet, I’ve just wirelessly picked your pocket and stolen your bank info (and pin). Please don’t laugh. Thieves are already doing this, and it’s been on all the major ‘news’ shows. {It is fairly typical for the thieves to be females and carry the reader in a handbag. They simply stand in checkout lines, or ride up and down in elevators.. places where close physical proximity is normal.. and the reader does all the work.}
This article claims that thieves can rig a card reader “no bigger than a pack of gum, for under $50”.

Whether this new “2.0” wireless credit card is truly as vulnerable as a pure RFID device, or if it is a “smart card” and does require that I enter my PIN, I still don’t like it. (As a matter of fact, I don’t care for what Credit Card 1.0 and “easy credit” has done to our economy either. I avoided credit cards –in general– for the longest possible time. I only have one. And I use it only to buy things online.)
Consumer says this, “Technology pundits and privacy organizations alike have derided the usage of RFID tagging for important documents or identification as a violation of personal privacy, and an invitation to steal one’s information.”

I detest and fear that Credit Card 2.0 is pushing us — voluntarily, mind you — towards a cashless society. A cashless society is great.. until for some bizarre and unexpected reason (such as the computer thinks you didn’t pay a parking ticket) your happy “beep” comes back DENIED.
Then.. how do you eat? DENIED. Pay for gas? DENIED. Explain to the clerk it’s a computer error? (But it isn’t. Some Bureaucrat entered your account number, and you can clear it up by going to the proper building and filling out the proper forms. Maybe. Eventually. As long as you can prove it wasn’t you who got a parking ticket.) With a $20 bill, you will eat.
Get it?

Got a few minutes? Google “dangers of a cashless society” and take a look at some of the scholarly results.. and some of the “kook” ones too. Really. Check it out. Think about how it transfers power from something you have in your hand, to some company’s (or Gov’t agency’s) computer.
Well, enough rant..

I can’t change the course mankind seems bent on following, but I can line the insides of my wallet with tinfoil and stop wireless pick-pockets (it works). And crazy as that sounds, (and I admit, it does sound nuts) I advise you to do the same. You take other steps to make things harder for thieves, don’t you? Like, locking your car door?

* Pure-D facetiousness. To me, a shopping mall is a preview of Aitch-e-double-toothpicks.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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March 27, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, privacy, security, tech | , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Keeping kids safe on the Internet, cont.

Today is one of those “good news, bad news” kind of days, and the headlines bring me back to a topic I have discussed before– keeping your kids safe(r) on the Web. I wrote a four-part series of articles on (preventative) security steps you can take, and since that has been a while ago now, I would like to take a moment and refer you back to them: to read them, click here.

Loyal friends of this site know that I have an emphasis on computer security, that I take the subject seriously, and that I intensely dislike digital Evil Doers. And so, my readers will not be surprised to learn that I cheered when I saw this headline: “Child porn hacker sentenced to 110 years in prison”.
110 years. That’s a long time.

This particular fella, who got caught, is an example of why it is so important for people to truly and fully comprehend that the Internet IS a dangerous place… and why taking the time and making the effort to put some security measures in place is so important. Can you tell? It’s kind of a passion of mine.

This creep, Ivory Dickerson, of N. Carolina, sent phishing emails or instant messages to female teens trying to trick them into opening a malicious file. If the victims clicked on the file, a trojan was downloaded to their machine, which gave Dickerson and his accomplice remote access to the victims’ PCs. They then attempted to persuade and force the victim to send him erotic images of themselves. If the victims did not comply, Dickerson threatened to hurt their family members or post nude images of them on the web.
He is said to have hacked “more than 100” computers. (To read the Prosecutor’s public statement, click here.)
He was caught because some victims told Law Enforcement that their My Space profiles had been hacked. But since one of the counts was possession of child pornography.. he must have had ‘success’ with some of his targets.

So that’s the good news: they caught one of these… (be nice Paul. This is a public forum.) bad guys, and he didn’t just get a slap on the wrist. (As opposed, say, to this ex-Judge.) But the bad news is, of course, that these guys are out there. And they use the Internet to prey on your kids (The Web is not their only method; I’m not saying that. It’s just one of their vile methods).
If you are a parent, it seems to me that it would be a very good idea to get educated about how these creeps work (the articles mentioned above are a decent resource and have links to other help), about what your kids are doing (and saying) when they are online, and install the software that will help you be proactive. Then, talk with your kids. Your child may be “tech-savvy”, but are they “predator-savvy”?

Is your machine protected? I hope so, because — this from the More Bad News Dept, — F-Secure has reported that malware detections (reported infections: naturally, a lower number than actual infections) have doubled in the last year. These deliberate attacks on our machines are only going to get worse, and it is too early to tell if Vista’s better protection is going to help stem the tide.

Some good news is I am here (six days a week and advertisement-free) doing my best to bring you the tips and how-to’s for a better computing experience. I invite you, as always, to peruse my archived titles and to send me your comments.

That was a little depressing, so..
Today’s free link: I am the type of guy who thinks that Calvin and Hobbes was simply the best comic strip ever (though…Dilbert is a “must read”) and nothing can put a smile on my face faster than a look back at those wonderful frames. If you would like to look at some, check out Digital Calvin and Hobbes.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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December 6, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, kids and the Internet, PC, security, tech, Windows | , , | 1 Comment

There’s hope–bot herder faces 60 year prison term (that’s a long time)

Loyal friends and true of this series are aware that I really dislike cyber criminals. I have written articles devoted to helping you protect yourself, your “identity”, and how to prevent your computer from becoming a zombie in a botnet. (And I hope you’ve read them and applied the advice contained within.)

You do not have to be a capital “g” Geek to have heard about Identity Theft, phishing emails, online scams, and malware (viruses, worms, trojan horses, keyloggers, etc.) and you don’t have to be a paranoid to be concerned about these things. The facts are simple– all these things are exploding across the Internet in an exponential growth pattern. It is getting worse, not better. If you have not taken steps to protect your machine and you surf the Web, your machine is infected and is probably someone’s zombie robot.
Today, it’s not a question “if” you’ll be targeted, but “when”, and respected authorities state that the “when” is within 8 minutes.

I wrote an article about how the FBI was concerned enough about cyber criminals, particularly those who control networks of zombies (“bots”), to launch a special operation.. which they called Operation: Bot Roast. [to review that article, click here.] One of the three “bot herders” arrested in this FBI operation, Jason Michael Downey, was sentenced last month to a year in prison, three years of supervised release and more than $21,000 in restitution for running a botnet of up to 6,000 infected PCs.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I don’t think three arrests, and a year in jail (with “good behavior”, 1 year is really six or seven months) is much of a deterrent to someone considering becoming a bot herder. Particularly when one factors in the free-and-easy money to be made.
In case I haven’t made it clear; malware, today, is about money. Namely, stealing it.

Someone else apparently feels the same way, as this news headline indicates, “A California man is facing a maximum of 60 years in prison and a $1.75 million fine after agreeing to plead guilty to using botnets to steal PC users’ personal and financial information.”

Here’s the details: “John Schiefer, 26, of Los Angeles has agreed to plead guilty to one felony count each of accessing protected computers to conduct fraud, disclosing illegally intercepted electronic communications, wire fraud and bank fraud.
Schiefer used his army of bot computers to defraud a Dutch advertising company and also mined usernames and passwords of PayPal users whose PCs had been infected with malware. He and associates then accessed bank accounts to make fraudulent purchases.”
The total number of bot PCs controlled by Schiefer was unknown, but is estimated to be “well north of 250,000.”
Those “bot PCs” are you and me, Dear Reader (or, your neighbor).

Naughty, naughty. But Mr. Schiefer did not do anything extraordinary, and in fact used techniques freely available to the hacker/criminal community. He is, however, the first to be charged under various new laws, and the first to be hit really hard.

There are a great variety of reasons and facts with which one can argue that this stiff sentence will change nothing about cyber crime, and do nothing to deter potential cyber criminals… not the least of which is that the majority of them live outside of US juristiction. But I for one see this as a step in the right direction.

Mr. Shiefer may, or may not, one day be released from prison, but he will certainly not enjoy his time in a “country club” nor be released anytime soon. I myself think he got off light.

[update: This guy, Schiefer, worked as an IT security consultant, and even performed some of his crimes while at work. How’s that for moxie?]

[update 3/20: a cohort please guilty, faces 10 years. Read more here.]

Today’s free link: Want to find out if you’re paying too much rent, or perhaps want to find a cheaper apartment near you? Rentometer is the place to go. Type in your address (or, desired address) and Zip Code and the number of bedrooms, how much your current rent is, and rentometer will show you a scale of how your rent compares, and a Google map of places offering rentals.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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November 15, 2007 Posted by | anti-spyware, computers, PC, security, tech | , | Leave a comment