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2 Mil. Accounts Hacked in Latest Security Breach and A Reminder of Ways To Keep Yourself As Safe As Possible

According to various reports including this one from CNN Money 2 million accounts from social media outlets and email providers were compromised. CNN Money reports that credentials from over 93,000 web sites including over 300,000 on Facebook have been compromised. The cause according to cybersecurity firm TrustWave the cause of the security breach was the work of a malicious virus which stole log in credentials from people who were infected.

The recommendation I’ve heard typically is to change passwords every so often, somewhere in the every 3-6 month range. This is meant to make it harder for hackers or ID thieves to access personal information, social web sites, and personal email. Also be mindful not to make the password easy to guess, for example common passwords that people for some reason use are as easy as “123123” and “admin”, these passwords are poor in terms of safety because they’re frequently used.

Not to be a jerk, but I am happy than providers force people to use long passwords now a days and some also include a user to use all of the following: a capital letter, a special character (IE #,@,* and so on) and a number. This is done to make it much harder for potential victims to be hacked.

One of the more recent trends in email, so if you see an email that looks off, don’t open it! If you suspect something is wrong you should hover your mouse over the name of the sender, and it will show you what the email of the sender is, and that allows you to see who the sender really is. I think this can be done through all the major email providers.

The most common thing now is that these scams or virus’ are being sent under names of people you know in social media, which is a fault of Facebook selling advistising space and allowing the advertisers to access personal data including but surely not limited to, who is on your friends list, your location, and so on. So when I hear people complaining about security I can usually relate to their concerns. However this is a problem that I don’t think anyone expected to happen and it is little known, so make sure you hover over any suspicious emails, and double check, it won’t take much effort on the users end to check the email address. These emails from these supposed friends are easy to spot because they have headlines that make no sense because they’re written in broken English.

This probably doesn’t need to be said, but another place that is littered with bad things, and I am not referring to the content, are adult websites. Those sometimes have virus’ and can be a place for mal-ware, and spyware to be installed within the sites onto your computer. I do not advocate visiting these type of sites, but I would be doing a disservice if I ignored the threats within them since some people do visit them and there is nothing that can change that.

Also of note you might also consider a virus scanner than also keeps your computer safe from spyware. I personally use Windows Defender, but there is also Microsoft Security Essentials that also works well, and both are free to use. There are ones you can pay for and they probably offer superior coverage, but I’ve had no issues with the Microsoft products so I will stick to that.

I mean, listen, there is no way to be completely safe on the internet with all of the threats in cyberspace and hackers on the loose, but with a little common sense and some vigilant eyes you can do yourself a lot of good just by keeping yourself protected with the proper anti-virus software and using good passwords with all of your accounts. Another tip, is to have a different password for different places. Granted that may sound impossible, but it is doable, you just need to make a log of them on a piece of paper or a notepad externally off of your computer.

I hope this reminder helped you remember some basic stuff that might slip the mind with all of the stuff going on during the holidays including but not limited to shopping, Christmas parties, and so on.

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Facebooks new Problem

Let me preface this by saying the following video we are going to mention has illegal content to it and I have not seen it. I am basing what I know of the video off of a Fox News report and I am using that as the basis of the story. I write this so that I can get a message across to the readers on how to handle a situation like this should it or other pictures/videos appear again on Facebook or other Social Media outlets.

This story also goes against our typical good natured stories you see on here. This is a serious story and I do apologize if you feel uncomfortable at the end of reading this blog. Let it be known that it was also no fun to make, so I can only imagine how it is to read.

If you want to feel free to reblog, or share this post, this could save you or a family member from being in legal trouble for unknowingly breaking the law.

Last night I was sitting in front of the TV watching the top stories on a local newscast and a news alert came up and it brought attention to a story that needs to be discussed, not because the story  has anything to do with technology, entertainment, or sports but there is a major issue that people need to be aware of.

Let me quickly break down was the video was without going into details of the content, I do this for two reasons, firstly this is a clean website meant to entertain but also inform of potential internet threats out there. So the less details I give out here better off the website is, and secondly, the contents of the video according to reports are deeply disturbing to hear or read so I don’t want to disturb the reader.

So what was going around Facebook? Well according to a report report from Fox News there was a video that contained pornographic material featuring a minor. But that is all I will disclose, if you want to know more Fox News has some details on it on there site but I refuse to go into details of what the report says for the sake of keeping this as clean as possible.

So why does that belong here on a technology page? Well typically it doesn’t however I do have a couple of reasons in this instance. First of all, people were sharing the video under the hopes of trying to identify the man or child in the video. But according to the FBI the video has been around since 2005, so obviously in this case both parties no longer look the same as they did back in the timeframe this was made.

And this is not only the wrong way of doing this. But this kind of thing can get you in major trouble with the law because sharing, having possession or viewing such material is illegal in the United States and I assume most if not all other countries. If you are one of the people who accidentally ran into the video you should be okay since there was no intent.

With that said however Facebook has removed all known instances of this video from the website, and according to the Fox News article Facebook has a zero tolerance policy on such material as they should. No legitimate website should tolerate this kind of material on there websites. Not only for a liability reason, but also a moral reason.

I do want to bring up a few points though while this is being discussed and I feel may be helpful pointers moving forward. While this video was removed there is still a possibility that other videos like it can end up on Facebook again, I sure hope not, but there is always a chance for anything to happen on Facebook, I mean think of it Facebook has been involved in private legal battles between feuding spouses, kids, neighbors, etc., so Facebook isn’t a place where everyone is a Christian and there is no such thing as offensive material.

So with that said here are pointers on how to keep yourself safe:

  • Do not open anything that looks off, for example if something is posted on your wall and you are not sure if it is legitimate or not. Or if it has a title that gives you a bad vibe then do yourself and others a favor and report the material.
  • With that said, if it is a picture sharing page and it has a picture that you find offensive, there is no need to report the page, just move on to the next picture, or leave the page if it is full of filth. Certainly with that plea there are certain exceptions for example clear violations of Facebook rules such as nudity, and excessive violence depicted in the picture(s).
  • If it is a picture or video violates state or federal law such as the one I spoke of earlier in the blog, DO NOT SHARE, contact police and let them know about it so that the original poster can be tracked. Sharing it opens up the possibility for legal problems. There is no good reason to share, not even in an attempt to identify the person(s) in the video/picture. The FBI has a website with cut outs of these people that you can share instead if you feel inclined to help which is also listed in the Fox News report.
  • According to the local news report the line used with the video link was “Open if you are curious”. The video is now gone according to the report, but I share this in case you see something similar on Facebook

In all honesty, the best way to keep yourself safe is to follow basic Facebook viewing strategies. Some ideas here to help you know them:

  • Don’t friend people you do not know in any way. If you are recommended a friend by someone then message both parties first to make sure this person is someone you want to talk to or associate with.
  • No not give out personal information such as address, phone numbers, Your Social Security Number
  • Never use the check in function, this may seem harmless, but there may be people you don’t know that see it and realize that you are not home. This opens you up to being robbed if not worse.

In short, you need to use common sense when you use Facebook, not just common sense but use your brain when you post. Like I mentioned in the past Facebook is a good site to connect with but there are still ways that you can be harmed if you are not smart.

Anything you do on Facebook can be looked into by:

  • Law Enforcement if they have a warrant for it
  • Potential employers, or current employers
  • The Court System has and will continue to use Facebook posts as evidence in both legal and minor cases

So let me close this out by saying this, there is no reason the video I briefly spoke of earlier should have been shared by anyone never mind hundreds, if not thousands of people, that was a grave mistake on these posters part. Surely they did it for a good reason, but when you’re dealing with such material you cannot afford to share the video which so much riding on potential legal problems.

The graphic video got over 4,000 likes on facebook according to the Fox report, and I thought that was sickening. But I realize now why it did, it wasn’t the video that got the likes, it was mostly if not exclusively the meaning behind sharing it that got the video likes on Facebook. But even with that said, be careful with what you share because the choices you make may have severe consequences.

The Chinese threat and how to protect Yourself.

An example of how China is trying to attack your inbox. Click the picture to enlarge.

With being on the internet becoming more and more accessible by the day, it is also becoming more dangerous. It is hard to keep yourself and your private information safe. And with the latest threat by China causing a big stir, people are looking out for themselves more now than ever.

But are people doing enough? And what can be done differently than what you aren’t already doing?

The following seems like pretty basic stuff but some people still do not know it. And if you have been a victim of an account hack, you will know that is a pain to deal with and admittedly at one time or another I was part of the select group, I learned the hard way that getting your account back in a pain.

So here is what you should do when you are emailing or IM’ing someone on the computer to stay safe online:

1. When you go through your email everyday do not open stuff when you don’t know who the sender is (also there is more on this below as it relates to China’s cyber attack).

2. Change your password once every few months, this lessens the chance of an account hack which can be a real pain if you ever have your email hacked into by somebody.

3.   Never give out personal information online, this can be used against you. Things to avoid giving out to others are passwords, your address, your full name, and pretty much anything else that can make you a vulnerable target for ID theft such as you Social Security number or PIN numbers for important accounts such as banking, or financial aid websites.

Like I said that seems pretty basic but some people still do not know these things, and they are the ones at a strong risk of being victimized by their own lack of knowledge in this day and age of the internet.

So what about  Social networks? There is fine line that needs to be made here. Obviously Facebook requires a first and last name, so that is a lost cause right off the bat, however if you’re willing to give that out you may. Another thing you can do is make a fake name and go by that, the only drawback to that would be is having your friends not be able to find you. But then again it may have benefits all in itself as well.

The thing about these sites is they can be looked into by numerous agencies including the police, FBI, and a lot of other legal departments. Also, the stuff posted on Facebook and possibly other social web sites can also be used against you as evidence in court if you post about it before or after an event. Some might not know it, but postings have been used as evidence in the past and will continue to be. One thing that you need to remember is that being online offers you no privacy, so if you decide to post something stupid it stays on the internet for years even if you delete it, so be very careful about the things you post.

Now that the basics are covered and the real online life is pretty much revealed, lets talk about China and its cyber attack; during the last month there have been cyber attacks linked to the Chinese Government and the way it works is pretty sneaky, but with the help of this blog you can avoid becoming a victim of it.

Here is what happens; you log into your email address and you see something from a person with your friends name on it, but you will notice a weird headline, so you open the email and there is a link, seems appealing to the naked eye, you know the person so why not click it? Well that is where the problem actually lies, because it is a virus allowing your computer and your information to be compromised with a virus and/or Malware.

So how does one stay safe?

  1. As you can see in the picture above you can hoover your mouse over the name of the person and check out the email address, if the address checks out to be the same as the email you know the person has then it is probably safe to proceed.
  2. If you notice the email having a weird subject but it is your friends email account you will want to double check with the friend in another way if possible. This should be done to make sure the person sent the email and that the email account wasn’t hacked into.
  3. If you have opened the email from this “friend” it is not to late, if your gut feeling is that the link is dangerous, DO NOT CLICK IT! Instead delete the email and move on.

If you click on the link your best course of action is to run a virus scan, this could save you from being shut down for an extended period of time because of virus and malware problems. If you do not have a virus scanner then I would personally recommend Microsoft Security Essentials or Windows Defender for a Windows PC, on Mac you can pretty much use any of them but you want to avoid Microsoft Security Essentials because it is made more so for Windows based computers.

The goal of this blog is to protect you from being a victim to a hacking scheme by the Chinese. If I can prevent just one person from being hacked this blog has done its job.

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