Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Stop by our newly revised Security Center! We've added educational videos and cyber quizzes to our growing pool of resources. Current content is enhanced and reorganized to help you easily find whatever information you seek. Stop by often as we will continue to expand this section.
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We cover cyber crime so often in this newsletter that we risk losing readers' attention. This is NOT another one of 'those' articles. So please read a little further before skipping to the next piece.
There's a reason we report so many fraud incidents. Statistics show that only 30 percent of American consumers understand the depth of the problem. And we want our readers to be among them.
Cyber crime has many faces. It can range from someone pushing counterfeit drugs through spam emails to downloading identity theft malware. Or even compromise corporate computer networks from the inside.
The one aspect in common is that the villain remains anonymous, making the crime relatively easy to commit.
Now, we know that many folks reading this are either unemployed or underemployed. So rather than have you turn to cyber crime as a quick way to bring in some extra cash, know that the story doesn't always have a happy ending.
Every thief leaves a trail, even if it's electronic.
Cybercrime law came painfully slow. Prior to 2000, the biggest threat faced was someone delivering a virus to your computer. While it was a hassle to restore your system, no information was stolen. Nothing was lost other than a little time and energy.
The criminal aspect entered the scene not long after. And governments were slow to react.
Initial cybercrime laws were crafted by merely revising existing legislation. They just didn't work. The playing field was completely different.
These crimes are committed without borders. It was hard to enforce our laws on crooks living and operating under a different set of rules. Often there were no rules at all, as despot governments turned a blind eye as long as they got their piece of the illicit gain.
But that's all changed. In fiscal year 2009, the FBI made 100 arrests on cybercrime charges, resulting in 95 convictions. In 2010, they made 66 arrests leading to 83 convictions.
The battle is raging in 2011.
On June 27th, a multi-national effort, led by the Security Service of Ukraine, took down a cybercrime ring spanning 10 countries. The hackers are accused of spreading the Conficker worm that stole banking credentials, netting more than $72 million from the compromised accounts.
Also in June:
In April, government programmers shut down a botnet that controlled more than 2 million computers around the world. It spread a virus named Coreflood that stole banking information from infected computers. Losses were estimated at about $100 million.
Also in April, a hacker pled guilty to identity theft and credit card fraud that resulted in losses of more than $36 million.
The cavalry has arrived. The crime may still initially appear anonymous, but it no longer remains that way.
Take One Tablet (No Water)
Over the holiday weekend, I visited a local Best Buy for the first time in about two years. As soon as I stepped into the store, I realized technology has sure gotten trendy! I walked over to the computer section and saw nothing but high-definition glossy monitors, slim laptops, and multicolored mice that would make Willy Wonka blush. However, one new piece of technology really stood out. These devices are about as thick as a smartphone, require no mice or keyboard, and come in a variety of sizes. This new device, while not replacing the desktop or laptop anytime soon, is called a Tablet. And yes, they're here to stay.
A tablet is a mobile computer, integrated into a flat touch screen, operated by touching the screen, and includes a virtual keyboard. When Apple introduced tablets to consumers in April 2010 with the iPad, a flurry of companies have since tried to enter the tablet market to compete with Apple's 9.7-inch (the size of its screen) gorilla. But, with 25 million sales and an estimated 86 percent market share, it is hard to compete with the iPad. So before we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of owning a tablet, what do they even do?
Tablets are great at one thing, consuming content anywhere. Reading a newspaper? A tablet can do it. Reading a book? A tablet can do that too (and cheaper). Logging into a VPN to get some work done from home or check to see if a server is running? A tablet can do that and other tasks at the same time. Email, Internet, work, streaming movies, checking stocks, writing papers, photos, and games are literally in the palm of your hand.
Tablets are great for mobility. You can operate one while standing, lying in bed, on the couch, on the train or on a plane. I know from personal experience that using a laptop can get uncomfortable over time when its hot fan is resting on my lap. A tablet is perfect at solving many ergonomic problems created by laptops.
What else are they good at? Well, we don't exactly know yet because the modern tablet industry is still in its infancy. But, we do know that they do an extremely good job at putting content from anywhere in the world into one elegant device. Perfect for anyone who doesn't need the high-performance capabilities of a laptop, but still wants to be connected and have some power if the situation calls for it.
Like some smart phones, tablets are controlled almost completely with your fingers. For example, if you're reading a book and you want to turn the page, simply swipe your finger across the screen from right to left and voila, you've turned a page! Don't press down on the screen like a mouse though! The screens are usually made out of glass and include a special capacitive sensor that knows when your finger is touching the screen, something that you do not want to break.
Touch screens make navigation much easier for most applications. The largest difference between using a conventional mouse and keyboard and using your hand is when you want to write things your keyboard can't write or draw things your mouse isn't precise enough to do. Image editing and digital painting is much easier when using a touch screen. Diagrams, mathematical notations, and symbols are also much easier to enter as well.
On the other hand, touch screen keyboards don't let the user type as fast as they would on a physical keyboard. The difference can be as great as 50-100 words per minute, depending on the user. However, this can be overcome by using the virtual keyboard on a daily basis. Eventually you will get used to the change and your typing habits will change accordingly.
Now that we know a little bit more about tablets, let's take a look at the top 3 tablets on store shelves right now: The Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy 10.1 and the Apple iPad 2.
The Motorola Xoom, pronounced Zoom, is the first Android tablet with Google's Honeycomb operating system. It includes flash support (something the iPad 2 does not have). It is fast, fashionable, and includes a highly responsive 10.1-inch touch screen. It also has HDMI output for television/computer monitor viewing as well as front and back cameras. Priced at $600 for the wifi only version, meaning you don't have to pay a monthly subscription to Verizon if you just use your own wifi connection at your house, coffee shops or airport. You get a lot of performance for your dollar, but the programs available to install on your new tablet pale in comparison to Apple's huge app store.
The Samsung Galaxy is another 10.1-inch tablet using Google's Honeycomb operating system. It is thinner and lighter than the iPad2 and includes Flash support. The high-definition screen makes it great for looking at photos and watching HD videos. The tablet costs $499 for their 16GB model and $599 for their 32GB model. Some reviews point out that video playback over the Internet from services such as Netflix and YouTube are of marginal quality. This issue may be resolved when Google updates their operating system. But just like the Motorola Xoom, the lackluster app store must also be considered when thinking of which tablet to buy.
The iPad 2 is the behemoth of this group, and for good reason. With an app store of 90,000 iPad specific apps, this number overshadows the paltry 230 Samsung Galaxy specific apps by a large margin. The iPad 2 is built on Apple's iOS operating system, very similar to what runs on the Apple Macbook and Macbook Pro. It also includes a large amount of features including Facetime, a program that lets you video chat live with someone who has another iPad. Its screen is only 9.7 inches, but it packs more pixels into 9.7 inches than the Galaxy does with 10.1. Due to Apple's tight quality control policies, applications run flawlessly without many hiccups and video streaming is great. The iPad will cost you anywhere from $499-$829, depending on which model you choose. Adobe Flash still isn't available on the iPad and battery life ranges around 7.5 hours.
All of these tablets are available at retail stores such as Best Buy and Staples. Which one do you buy? That decision is up to you. Unlike a desktop or laptop, you will be holding the tablet in your hands, with your fingers as the mouse and keyboard. So, the tablet has to feel right in order to enjoy your purchase. The only way to find out is to try one out for size. Keep in mind though that new tablets are always coming out at a very fast rate. Just this year, 75 tablets have been announced and are being released this year. This doesn't mean your tablet becomes obsolete as soon as you buy it, but I just wouldn't choose the underdogs.
Always one to look for the bright spot, factory orders have given us hope as new orders rose 0.8 percent in May compared to the drop in April by 0.9 percent. The market expected this sector to increase by an average of 1.0 percent, ranging between -0.3 percent and 2.1 percent. Thus, there was not a significant reaction from the stock market.
A deeper look shows that new orders for durable goods had big increases with aircraft up 36.5 percent and auto and auto parts up 2 percent. Excluding transportation, orders rose 0.2 percent in May. Computers and other equipment orders rose by 1.6 percent, showing that business is willing to invest in growth. The durable good strength is typically seen as a harbinger of future business activity. Non-durable goods reported by the Commerce Department include food, clothing, oil and plastics. This group dropped 0.2 percent in May.
Overall, manufacturing has been a strong sector over the last two years. A pick-up in May reflects a drop in gas prices and easing of the electronic parts shortage from the March earthquake in Japan. Hopefully, employment will follow the improvement trend!
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