Tech – for Everyone

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

Another advantage of credit cards..

LONDON (Reuters) – Prices charged by cybercriminals selling hacked bank and credit card details have fallen sharply as the volume of data on offer has soared, forcing them to look elsewhere to boost profit margins, a new report says.*

Yes, folks, you read that right. If you want to buy a stolen credit card and PIN, now’s the time because the price has never been better. A Platinum card — guaranteed to be “fresh” and work when you use it — can be had for $20.

This is because hackers have been so successful at planting Trojans on your machines, poisoning websites, and getting people to provide their identities through phishing (spam) e-mails, and using their botnets, that they simply have too much product.

We aren’t just losing the war on cyber-crime, we’re not even fighting one.

So.. since stolen credit cards are now a dime-a-dozen, what is the “shadow economy” organized cyber-criminal to peddle? “New types of stolen data are now commanding a premium, such as patient healthcare information that can be used for insurance fraud or to illicitly acquire and sell medicines.

Other premium data includes business information, company personnel files and intercepted commercial emails.”


These kinds of news stories, and reports, never seem to make make the front page or headline the news. Billions are being stolen from us, every year, the problem is growing, and we don’t seem to care.

And the media doesn’t like finding the “guilty party” in this kind of story because the truly guilty are us.
* From a security perspective, the Internet is completely broken and needs to be scrapped and rebuilt. Nobody knows how to “fix” the old structure. The headline, Tech Experts Are Baffled isn’t very reassuring to the public, and that might lead to the dreaded “consumer confidence” failure.

* We –the common everyday Internet surfer– can’t be bothered with securing our machines, or even learning enough of that “tech stuff” to realize our PC’s are not convenient toys.
“Why get a new Vista or Mac computer? My Windows 98 machine lets me get on the Internet and play BlackJack..” How many times have I heard that???
Some experts say that 75% of all the computers are infected with malware. Wonder why?
What does this story’s headline look like?

* We –the common everyday Internet surfer– KEEP clicking on e-mails that promise us free iPods, or tell us that there’s 750,000 Pounds Sterling waiting for us to simply pick it up.
What does this story’s headline look like?

Awww, I’m getting depressed, angry, and.. frustrated. We deserve to have our identities stolen, and we can’t blame the smart people for taking it from us when it’s this easy.

Yes, a lot of this is not our fault. The Tech Industry continues to sell us crappy products, and would rather be first to market than to check the security of their technology. I wrote about this here, How the Tech Industry is Failing You.

* To read the whole news story which triggered today’s rant, click here.

To visit Finjan (one of the article’s sources) and look at their quarterly analysis of the state of Web security and cyber-crime, click here.

I apologize. I didn’t mean to bring you down. But if you think you can take more, why not read about how the credit card companies are putting unsecured transmitters into your cards now, so a criminal can pick your pocket wirelessly! Credit Card 2.0.

Don’t you just love the folly of Man?

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

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July 15, 2008 Posted by | advice, Apple, computers, cyber crime, Internet, Internet scam, iPhone, PC, security, tech, Vista, Web 2.0 | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 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