Some Web Hosting Firms Overwhelmed by Scam Domains

January 27, 2017

An article at Softpedia should be a wakeup call to anyone who takes the issue of online security lightly—“One Crook Running Over 120 Tech Support Scam Domains on GoDaddy.” Writer Catalin Cimpanu explains:

A crook running several tech support scam operations has managed to register 135 domains, most of which are used in his criminal activities, without anybody preventing him from doing so, which shows the sad state of Web domain registrations today. His name and email address are tied to 135 domains, as MalwareHunterTeam told Softpedia. Over 120 of these domains are registered and hosted via GoDaddy and have been gradually registered across time.

The full list is available at the end of this article (text version here), but most of the domains look shady just based on their names. Really, how safe do you feel navigating to ‘security-update-needed-sys-filescorrupted-trojan-detected[.]info’? How about ‘personal-identity-theft-system-info-compromised[.]info’?

Those are ridiculously obvious, but it seems to be that GoDaddy’s abuse department is too swamped to flag and block even these flagrant examples. At least that hosting firm does have an abuse department; many, it seems, can only be reached through national CERT teams. Other hosting companies, though, respond with the proper urgency when abuse is reported—Cimpanu holds up Bluehost and PlanetHoster as examples. That is something to consider for anyone who thinks the choice of hosting firm is unimportant.

We are reminded that educating ourselves is the best protection. The article links to a valuable tech support scam guide provided by veteran Internet security firm Malwarebytes, and suggests studying the wikis or support pages of other security vendors.

Cynthia Murrell, January 27, 2017

Google Needs a Time-Out for Censorship, But Who Will Enforce Regulations

January 26, 2017

The article on U.S. News and World Report titled The New Censorship offers a list of the ways in which Google is censoring its content, and builds a compelling argument for increased regulation of Google. Certain items on the list, such as pro-life music videos being removed from YouTube, might have you rolling your eyes, but the larger point is that Google simply has too much power over what people see, hear, and know. The most obvious problem is Google’s ability to squash a business simply by changing its search algorithm, but the myriad ways that it has censored content is really shocking. The article states,

No one company, which is accountable to its shareholders but not to the general public, should have the power to instantly put another company out of business or block access to any website in the world. How frequently Google acts irresponsibly is beside the point; it has the ability to do so, which means that in a matter of seconds any of Google’s 37,000 employees with the right passwords or skills could laser a business or political candidate into oblivion…

At times the article sounds like a sad conservative annoyed that the most influential company in the world tends toward liberal viewpoints. Hearing white male conservatives complain about discrimination is always a little off-putting, especially when you have politicians like Rand Paul still defending the right of businesses to refuse service based on skin color. But from a liberal standpoint, just because Google often supports left-wing causes like gun control or the pro-choice movement doesn’t mean that it deserves a free ticket to decide what people are exposed to. Additionally, the article points out that the supposed “moral stands” made by Google are often revealed to be moneymaking or anticompetitive schemes. Absolute power corrupts no matter who yields it, and companies must be scrutinized to protect the interests of the people.

Chelsea Kerwin, January 26, 2017

Searchy Automates Your Search Parameters

January 25, 2017

The article on FileForum Beta News titled Searchy for Windows 0.5.1 promises users the ability to gain more control over their search parameters and prevent wasted time on redundant searches.  By using search scopes, categories, and search templates, Searchy claims to simplify and organize search. The service targets users who tend to search for similar items all day, and makes it easier for those users to find what they need without all that extra typing. The article goes into more detail,

Your daily routine consists of lots repetitive searches? With Searchy you can automate that. Just write a template for similar search queries and stop typing the same things over and over… Search using Google’s and Bing’s web, image, video and news search engines. Often performing searches on same websites? Spending much time on advanced search filters in Google or Bing? Searchy will simplify that too. Just add scopes for the websites and search filters, and use them like a boss.

Searchy was developed by freelance developer Alex Kaul, who found that entering the same phrase over and over in Google was annoying. By automating the search phrase, Searchy enables users to skip a step. It may be a small step, but as we all know, a small task when completed one hundred times a day becomes a very large and tiresome one.

Chelsea Kerwin, January 25, 2017

You Too, Can Learn Linear Algebra

January 24, 2017

Algebra was invented in Persia nearly one thousand years ago. It is one of the fundamental branches of mathematics and its theories are applied to many industries.  Algebra ranges from solving for x to complex formulas that leave one scratching their head.  If you are interested in learning linear algebra, then you should visit Sheldon Axler’s Web site.  Along with an apparent love for his pet cat, Axler is a professor of mathematics at San Francisco State University.

On his Web site, Axler lists the various mathematics books he has written and contributed too.  It is an impressive bibliography and his newest book is titled, Linear Algebra Abridged.  He describes the book as:

Linear Algebra Abridged is generated from Linear Algebra Done Right (third edition) by excluding all proofs, examples, and exercises, along with most comments. Learning linear algebra without proofs, examples, and exercises is probably impossible. Thus this abridged version should not substitute for the full book. However, this abridged version may be useful to students seeking to review the statements of the main results of linear algebra.

Algebra can be difficult, but as Axler wrote above learning linear algebra without proofs is near impossible.  However, if you have a grounded understanding of algebra and are simply looking to brush up or study linear principles without spending a sizable chunk on the textbook, then this is a great asset.  The book is free to download from Axler’s Web site, along with information on how to access the regular textbook.

Whitney Grace, January 24, 2017

Hacks to Make Your Google Dependence Even More Rewarding

January 24, 2017

The article on MakeUseOf titled This Cool Website Will Teach You Hundreds of Google Search Tips refers to SearchyApp, a collection of tricks, tips, and shortcuts to navigate Google search more easily. The lengthy list is divided into sections to be less daunting to readers. The article explains,

What makes this site so cool is that the tips are divided into sections, so it’s easy to find what you want. Here are the categories: Facts (e.g. find the elevation of a place, get customer service number,…) Math (e.g. solve a circle, use a calculator, etc.), Operators (search within number range, exclude a keyword from results, find related websites, etc.), Utilities (metronome, stopwatch, tip calculator, etc.), Easter Eggs (42, listen to animal sounds, once in a blue moon, etc.).

The Easter Eggs may be old news, but if you haven’t looked into them before they are a great indicator of Google’s idea of a hoot. But the Utilities section is chock full of useful little tools from dice roller to distance calculator to converting units to translating languages. Also useful are the Operators, or codes and shortcuts to tell Google what you want, sometimes functioning as search restrictions or advanced search settings. Operators might be wise to check out for those of us who forgot what our librarians taught us about online search as well.

Chelsea Kerwin, January 24, 2017

The Internet Is Once Again Anonymous

January 19, 2017

Let us reminiscence for a moment (and if you like you can visit the Internet archive) about the Internet’s early days, circa late 1990s.  It was a magic time, because there were chatrooms, instant messaging, and forums.  The Internet has not changed these forms of communication much, although chatrooms are pretty dead, but one great thing about the early days is that the Internet was mostly anonymous.  With the increase in tracking software, IP awareness, and social media, Internet anonymity is reserved for the few who are vigilant and never post anything online.    Sometimes, however, you want to interact online without repercussions and TechCrunch shares that “Secret Founder Returns To Anonymous Publishing With Launch Of IO.”

David Byttow, Secret co-founder, started the anonymous publishing app IO that is similar to Postcard Confessions.  IO’s purpose is to:

IO is a pseudo-resurrection of Secret that Byttow told us in November came into being partly because “the downsides of current social media products MUST be addressed,” an imperative he felt was especially urgent following the results of the last U.S. election. IO’s stated mission is to achieve “authentic publishing,” by which Byttow means that he’s hoping users having an option to publishing either anonymously, using a pseudonym or as their actual selves will allow for easier sharing of true thoughts and feelings.

IO really does not do much.  You can type something up, hit publish, but it is only shared with other people if you attach social media links.  You can remain anonymous and IO does include writing assistance tools.  I really do not get why IO is useful, but it does allow a person to create a shareable link without joining a forum, owning a Web site, etc.  Reddit seems more practical, though.

Whitney Grace, January 19, 2016

 

Are You Really Beefing up Your Search Skills?

January 18, 2017

Everyone’s New Year’s resolution is usually to lose weight.  When January swings around again, that resolution went out the door with the spring-cleaning.  Exercise can be a challenge, but you can always exercise your search skills by reading Medium’s article, “Google Search Tricks To Become A Search Power User.”  Or at least the article promises to improve your search skills.

Let’s face it, searching on the Web might seem simple, but it requires a little more brainpower than dumping keywords into a search box.  Google makes searching easier and is even the Swiss army knife of answering basic questions.   The Medium article does go a step further by drawing old school search tips, such as the asterisk, quotes, parentheses, and others.  These explanations, however, need to be read more than once to understand how the tools work:

My favorite of all, single word followed by a ‘*’ will do wonders. But yeah this will not narrow your results; still it keeps a wider range of search results. You’ll need to fine tune to find exactly what you want. This way is useful in case when you don’t remember more than a word or two but you still you want to search fully of it.

Having used some of these tips myself, they actually make searching more complicated than taking a little extra time to read the search results.  I am surprised that they did not include the traditional Boolean operators that usually work, more or less.  Sometimes search tips cause more trouble than they are worth.

Whitney Grace, January 18, 2016

Dark Web Offers Tools for Vengeance to Disgruntled Workers

January 10, 2017

It seems the dark web is now making it easier for disgruntled employees to take their revenge to the next level, we learn from the KrebsOnSecurity article, “Rise of Darknet Stokes Fear of the Insider.” The article cites Gartner analyst Avivah Litan; she reports a steep increase in calls from clients concerned about vindictive employees, current or former, who might expose sensitive information on the dark web.  Not surprisingly, companies with a lot of intellectual property at stake are already working with law-enforcement or private security firms to guard against the threat.

How, exactly, is the dark web making worker retaliation easier than ever before? Writer Brian Krebs explains:

Noam Jolles, a senior intelligence expert at Diskin Advanced Technologies, studies darknet communities. I interviewed her last year in ‘Bidding for Breaches,’ a story about a secretive darknet forum called Enigma where members could be hired to launch targeted phishing attacks at companies. Some Enigma members routinely solicited bids regarding names of people at targeted corporations that could serve as insiders, as well as lists of people who might be susceptible to being recruited or extorted.

Jolles said the proliferation of darkweb communities like Enigma has lowered the barriers to entry for insiders, and provided even the least sophisticated would-be insiders with ample opportunities to betray their employer’s trust.

I’m not sure everyone is aware of how simple and practical this phenomena looks from adversary eyes and how far it is from the notion of an insider as a sophisticated disgruntled employee,’ Jolles said. ‘The damage from the insider is not necessarily due to his position, but rather to the sophistication of the threat actors that put their hands on him.

According to research by Verizon, few vengeful employees turn out to have been in management positions. Most are workers lower on the totem pole who had to be given access to sensitive information to perform their jobs. The Verizon report cheerfully advises, “At the end of the day, keep up a healthy level of suspicion toward all employees.” What fun.

See the article for more about this threat, and how organizations might go about protecting themselves.

Cynthia Murrell, January 10, 2017

Cybersecurity Technologies Fueled by Artificial Intelligence

December 28, 2016

With terms like virus being staples in the cybersecurity realm, it is no surprise the human immune system is the inspiration for the technology fueling one relatively new digital threat defense startup. In the Tech Republic article, Darktrace bolsters machine learning-based security tools to automatically attack threats, more details and context about Darktrace’s technology and positioning was revealed. Founded in 2013, Darktrace recently announced they raised $65 million to help fund their expansion globally. Four products, including their basic cyber threat defense solution called Darktrace, comprise their product suite. The article expands on their offerings:

Darktrace also offers its Darktrace Threat Visualizer, which provides analysts and CXOs with a high-level, global view of their enterprise. Darktrace Antigena complements the core Darktrace product by automatically defends against potential threats that have been detected, acting as digital “antibodies.” Finally, the Industrial Immune System is a version of Darktrace designed for Industrial Control Systems (ICS). The key value provided by Darktrace is the fact that it relies on unsupervised machine learning, and it is able to detect threats on its own without much human interaction.

We echo this article’s takeaway that machine learning and other artificial intelligence technologies continue to grow in the cybersecurity sector. The attention on AI is only building in this industry and others. Perhaps the lack of AI is particularly well-suited to cybersecurity as it’s behind-the-scenes nature that of Dark Web related crimes.

Megan Feil, December 28, 2016

In Pursuit of Better News Online

December 20, 2016

Since the death of what we used to call “newspapers,” Facebook and Twitter have been gradually encroaching on the news business. In fact, Facebook recently faced criticism for the ways it has managed its Trending news stories. Now, the two social media firms seem to be taking responsibility for their roles, having joined an alliance of organizations committed to more competent news delivery. The write-up, “Facebook, Twitter Join Coalition to Improve Online News” at Yahoo News informs us about the initiative:

First Draft News, which is backed by Google [specifically Google News Lab], announced Tuesday that some 20 news organizations will be part of its partner network to share information on best practices for journalism in the online age. Jenni Sargent, managing director of First Draft, said the partner network will help advance the organization’s goal of improving news online and on social networks.

Filtering out false information can be hard. Even if news organizations only share fact-checked and verified stories, everyone is a publisher and a potential source,’ she said in a blog post. ‘We are not going to solve these problems overnight, but we’re certainly not going to solve them as individual organizations.

Sargent said the coalition will develop training programs and ‘a collaborative verification platform,’ as well as a voluntary code of practice for online news.

We’re told First Draft has been pursuing several projects since it was launched last year, like working with YouTube to verify user-generated videos. The article shares their list of participants; it includes news organizations from the New York Times to BuzzFeed, as well as other interested parties, like Amnesty International and the International Fact-Checking Network. Will this coalition succeed in restoring the public’s trust in our news sources? We can hope.

Cynthia Murrell, December 20, 2016

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