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  • Geebo 9:31 am on August 17, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Rebecca Portnoff, UC Berkely   

    UC Berkeley student develops way to track human trafficking rings through Bitcoin 

    UC Berkeley student develops way to track human trafficking rings through Bitcoin

    Not too along ago, the major credit card companies in the U.S. stopped Backpage from accepting payments through credit and debit cards for Backpage’s sex trafficking ads. Backpage then started accepting the cryptocurrency Bitcoin for placement of their ads. Now, a Ph.D. candidate from UC Berkeley has come up with a system to track human trafficking rings using Bitcoin.

    Bitcoin is not as anonymous as people may think. Anytime a Bitcoin transaction is made, it’s registered in a worldwide ledger that is public information. While the Bitcoin users aren’t identified by name, it is easy to track transactions by an ID number. This is an oversimplification of the Bitcoin process, but technically correct. UC Berkeley Ph.D. candidate Rebecca Portnoff has developed a system for her dissertation where a Bitcoin transaction can be timed with the placement of a Backpage ad. The timing of the Backpage ad can then be used to match the timing of other ads to determine if they’re being placed by the same Bitcoin user which in turn could identify trafficking rings. In a test, the system was able to be 89% accurate in identifying these rings.

    Since Bitcoin can be used for a number of illegal transactions, this could be a huge boon for law enforcement, not just for human trafficking but other illicit crimes as well.

  • Geebo 9:01 am on August 16, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , financial aid,   

    College students need an education about these scams 

    College students need an education about these scams

    The beginning of the school year for most college students is fast approaching. With that comes a number of concerns not just for returning students, but especially for those heading to college for the first time. As with any life changing moment, there are unfortunately a great number of scammers looking to take students for a financial ride.

    A number of these scams are variations on scams we’ve touched on before. For example, if a student is looking for an off campus place to live and a prospective landlord asks for money in advance without letting them see the property, then it’s obviously a scam. Along the same lines, if a student has placed an online ad looking for a roommate and receives a check for an amount larger than they requested, the check is obviously fake and cashing it could overdraw your own bank account. Other scams are targeted directly at students, like an offer for financial assistance or employment, where money is asked for up front for things like processing fees or background checks. As with most scams, if something doesn’t feel right, or feels too good to be true, it’s better to walk away from it than taking a chance with your finances.

    There are also some things that may not be scams that still look to take advantage of students such as credit card offers. While the offer for a credit card may be legitimate, the card may carry a high interest rate. Another great tip for students is to keep their identification and bank cards secure at all times as dorm rooms can be high traffic areas for identity thieves.

    Hopefully this knowledge will go a long way in helping college students have a less stressful school year.

  • Geebo 9:02 am on August 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Charlottesville, ,   

    Craigslist creates safe space for hate 

    Craigslist creates safe space for hate

    As you probably know, tragedy struck the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend when a white supremacist protest descended on the college town. The so-called ‘alt-right’ was there to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. This prompted counter-protesters to show up in support of the statue’s removal. Unfortunately, the protest turned violent when 20-year-old alleged Nazi sympathizer James Alex Fields Jr. reportedly plowed his car into a group of counter-protesters. He is said to have injured 19 people and killed 33-year-old Heather Heyer.

    In the wake of this tragedy, a white nationalist website made a post making light of Ms. Heyer’s death, to put it politely. Because of that, domain registrar GoDaddy told the website they have 24 hours to remove the domain from their service. The website then registered their domain name with Google who rejected the request for similar reasons. Many on the side of the ‘alt-right’ are claiming this is censorship, however, both GoDaddy and Google are well within their rights not to do business with hate groups. Rather than censorship, this is merely a case of content moderation. These businesses have terms of service which limit what content can be used with their platforms as most online businesses do.

    One website that doesn’t seem to mind the recent proliferation of hate speech is craigslist. If you were to go to the Charlottesville craigslist forum, it wouldn’t take long before you were able to not only find hate speech but tasteless jokes made at the expense of a homicide victim. We’re not saying craigslist are supporters of hate speech, however, it goes a long way in showing how unwilling they are to moderate the content on their site. Whether it be ads for obvious scams or illegal materials or the disparagement of a woman murdered in a hate crime, craigslist just doesn’t care.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on August 14, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Watch out for this scam if you’ve lost a pet 

    Watch out for this scam if you've lost a pet

    In the summer months, our pets spend even more time outside. Unfortunately, that also increases the chance of them running off. Very few things are more heartbreaking than losing a beloved family pet and not knowing where they are or what has happened to them. In our modern technical age it’s easy to take to social media or online classifieds to post virtual missing posters for your pet and they can be helpful. However, there are people lurking out there looking for just such an opportunity to scam you.

    Scammers are always on the lookout to take advantage of such tragedies. Loss of a pet is no different to them than any other moment where they seek to capitalize on your grief in order to make money. If you post your missing pet’s information online along with your phone number you could get a text from someone claiming to have your pet, but they will only return them if you send them money. They don’t have your pet though. So if you send them money you won’t get your pet back and you’ll be out the money.

    The best thing to do if you receive one of these texts is to ask the person for a photo of your pet. If they make some excuse as to why they can’t send a picture they’re more than likely a con artist. You can also better protect yourself by omitting some of the identifying marks on your pet from the description. This will better allow you to tell if someone really does have your missing pet. And as always, never wire any money or send any prepaid debit or gift card numbers to the caller.

  • Geebo 9:01 am on August 11, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ticketmaster,   

    Amazon looking to branch out into ticket sales 

    Amazon looking to branch out into ticket sales

    We’re not saying Amazon is run by super-villains but…

    If you’ve attended a major concert in the past 25 years, you know how prohibitively expensive concert tickets can be. The main distributor, Ticketmaster, is infamous for its outrageous service fees. At one point, the grunge rock mainstay band Pearl Jam refused to do business with Ticketmaster because they felt their fans were being ripped off by the ticket outlet. Now, another company is looking to get into the ticket business; so is this good news or bad news? Well…

    Amazon is looking to reach one of their many outstretched arms into the ticketing business. On the one hand, this could be good for competition and could start a price war between the two competing outlets which could mean lower ticket prices for consumers. On the other hand, Amazon doesn’t seem like they care for competition. If you’re a frequent reader of our blog we’ve posted a number of stories about Amazon’s continued march through many avenues of retail space; this would just be one more foothold for Amazon in their quest for retail dominance.

    Amazon appears to want to be all things to all people when it comes to the retail market. Each small step they take could eventually lead to a giant leap that leaves competitors in their wake until we have little choice in our retailers. We’re lucky the Amazon heads don’t control a major news outlet or we’d really be in trouble…oh wait.

  • Geebo 9:02 am on August 10, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    The FCC seems to think we have enough internet 

    The FCC seems to think we have enough internet

    When they’re not busy getting ready to dismantle a free and open internet, the FCC seems to think mobile broadband is enough for most homes. According to Ars Technica, the President Trump-backed FCC is leaning toward declaring mobile broadband speeds as the national standard. As Ars Technica points out, this could mean we may see a slow-down of broadband infrastructure and services being improved in the near future.

    While mobile data is great for when you’re out running errands or using your GPS, it’s neither financially nor practically feasible to think homes can run on mobile internet. Mobile data plans are already expensive and usually cap your data at around 5GB of bandwidth. A normal home where the family uses services like Netflix, or plays online games, can use that amount of bandwidth in less than a day. At that point a number of mobile providers start charging customers an exorbitant rate for going over their data limit. Mobile networks are also prone to failure when too many people try to use the same network at the same time. For example, say some kind of natural disaster strikes and a large number of people in the affected area try to tell their loved ones they’re all right by using social media. Everyone trying to reach Twitter or Facebook at the same time in a concentrated area could bring the entire local data network down.

    This really shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the FCC’s appears to be giving heavy favor to the mobile broadband providers with their recommendations. Current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is a former counsel for Verizon who stands to gain a lot if the FCC removes Title II protection from broadband. It almost seems like the FCC won’t be happy until we’re using 56K modems again while being charged by the minute.

  • Geebo 9:02 am on August 9, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bill Burr, ,   

    Man who invented P@$$w0rd guidelines regrets it 

    Man who invented P@$$w0rd guidelines regrets it

    Anyone who has held a job that required a computer in the past decade and a half has been subjected to the tedious practice of having to change their password every 30 to 90 days. Then that password has to have an uppercase letter, a number, a symbol, an Egyptian hieroglyph, some ancient Sanskrit, your DNA sequence and that unpronounceable icon Prince used to use as his name. This came about thanks to one man. That man was Bill Burr, a former manager at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. He came up with these guidelines in 2003 in order to better protect government systems. These procedures spread out into the corporate world where they became gospel. Now the man behind the guidelines says not only does he regret these guidelines, but they are no longer effective.

    Now it’s believed shorter passwords with these restrictions are easier to crack than longer passwords that are simple phrases. For example, a password along the lines of “safecommunityclassifieds” is harder to crack than “G33b0c0m”. (BTW, neither of those are used by Geebo.) The problem is a lot of employers and online services require you to use the restrictive password guidelines from 14 years ago, however, you can still use your personal passphrase with just a modicum of alteration to fit those requirements.

    The other problem is the frequency in which some places require you to change your password. In a number of cases, users will alter their previous password by one digit or letter. If one of your old passwords were to be discovered and used one of these one character changes, it would be an easy matter to determine your current password.

    So again, it’s now recommend you use a passphrase to use as your password and you should only change it if there has been some kind of security breach. You can check the security of passwords at this website.

  • Geebo 9:10 am on August 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Office Depot, , same-day delivery   

    Office supply giant now testing same-day delivery 

    Office supply giant now testing same-day delivery

    With the return of back to school season, a number of us start shopping for school supplies for either ourselves or are kids. While the office supply market used to have a number of options, in recent years it’s come down to a choice between two retailers. Now, one of those retailers is seeking to gain an upper hand by offering same-day delivery in some markets.

    Office Depot has announced they are partnering with start-up Deliv in order to make same-day deliveries in the markets of Atlanta, Miami and Los Angeles. If you’ve never heard of Deliv, you can view their introductory video here. In essence, they are an Uber for packages. This is not unlike a similar plan Wal-Mart is considering except using their own employees to make the deliveries.

    This, of course, is an attempt to compete with Amazon and their Prime delivery service. However, is this a matter of too little too late and is it smart to partner with an unproven start-up with a business model that relies on the gig economy? The plan appears to be gimmicky at best and shaky at worst.

  • Geebo 9:03 am on August 7, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Baltimore County, Keith Mills, Maryland, , squatters   

    You don’t even have to be doing business online to become the victim of a scam 

    You don't even have to be doing business online to become the victim of a scam

    Normally, when you’re the victim of an online rental scam, you’re usually the person who thinks they rented a property only to learn the property was not for rent at all and the person you gave money to was a con artist. Those victims often find themselves broke and sometimes homeless. Recently, in Baltimore County, Maryland, that exact scam happened but another victim was drawn into the scam as well.

    Keith Mills is a contractor who owns the home and was living there while he was remodeling the home. He went away on vacation for over a week and when he returned he found the locks were changed and someone was living in his home. The people living in the home claim they had rented the home on craigslist and had the right to be there. The problem is Mr. Mills was not renting the home on craigslist and the people who had moved in had paid a scammer. So one might assume you just call the police and have the squatters removed. Not so, in this case. According to local law, Mr. Mills has to go to court to prove he is the owner of the house, then he can have the other people removed.

    It sounds like Mr. Mills was showing the property as it had a realtor’s lockbox on the door. So it’s possible someone had copied the realtor’s ad to craigslist and listed the property for rent instead of for sale which is a common craigslist scam. If you’re selling a property through a realtor, it might behoove you to keep an eye on the local real estate listings on the less than reputable websites to make sure no one is copying it.

    • Salman 7:49 am on August 8, 2017 Permalink

      I guess we all are surrounded by scammer no matter we are online or real estate business firm.

  • Geebo 9:03 am on August 4, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Kronos, , Marcus Hutchins, ,   

    Arrest related to Wannacry made, but it’s not who you might think 

    Arrest related to Wannacry made, but it's  not who you might think

    Back in May, a number of computers and corporate networks were infected by the WannaCry ransomware attack. If you’ll recall, Wannacry would encrypt your files and instruct you to pay a ransom in Bitcoin to unknown attackers if you wanted your files decrypted. A British researcher was widely credited for finding an exploit in WannaCry where it could be disabled. Now, that man has been arrested.

    23-year-old Marcus Hutchins was arrested at Defcon, a cybersecurity and hackers conference that’s held annually in Las Vegas. The US Justice Department says Hutchins was allegedly part of another piece of malware called Kronos, Kronos is said to be used in stealing log in information of financial websites enabling an attacker to gain a users’ financial information in theory. The DOJ believes Hutchins made and sold Kronos resulting in a six-count indictment against him, however, those who know him from the cybersecurity field say Hutchins was dedicated to stopping attacks like Kronos and could not possibly be guilty of the crimes he’s accused of.

    Meanwhile, the attackers behind WannaCry finally collected their $140,000 in Bitcoin ransom. While it will be difficult for them to convert Bitcoin into cash without revealing themselves, prosecution may be unlikely considering the attack was believed to have originated from North Korea.

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