Tuesday, September 14, 2010
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VISHING, SMISHING AND WORMS
Security experts are taking new threats detected last week pretty
seriously. You should, too.
By now, we've begun to recognize unsolicited email as potential
fraud. We don't click on every link, or picture, that appears to
offer some tempting morsel. We set filters that block communication
from unknown sources. Cyber criminals aren't reaping as large of a
reward as they once were.
So one ploy by fraudsters is taking a step back to attacking by
simpler technology. They're using the telephone to lure consumers in
a threat dubbed "vishing."
Most recently, the scammers portrayed themselves as representatives
of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), trying to collect on
delinquent loans applied for over the Internet or made through a
payday lender. The loans may not have even existed. But that merely
offered the criminals a different ploy to trick consumers to
providing personal information in order to clear their records.
Either way, they had them hooked.
The calls were received on both landlines and mobile phones.
Consumers are familiar with the FDIC logo and fell prey.
Earlier in the week, warnings were issued about telephone and text-
messaging (smishing) scams targeting customers of community banks and
credit unions in rural areas where the residents may not be as savvy.
Perpetrators of the hoax portrayed themselves as representatives of
specific financial institutions in the calls and text messages,
others as agents representing a group of local institutions. Other
callers claimed to be travel agents giving away trips.
Yet the underlying message was the same. Victims were urged to
provide personal information, their social security number and date
of birth, to the caller for a fraudulent purpose.
This type of crime is called social engineering, as the attacks are
conducted person-to-person. Expect to see this type of scam on the
Consumers commonly use their mobile phone to access email or the
web, and click on embedded links. These links can place hooks on your
phone that send information back to the perpetrator.
The same advice offered to prevent email phishing attacks holds true
with any other communication medium. The FDIC will NOT call consumers
about any matter, and they most certainly don't need or require your
personal information under any circumstance.
Your financial institution already has all the information they need
to service your account. They will not request your account number,
social security number, date of birth, or any other confidential
information in the process of conducting business.
The same holds true no matter who the caller represents themselves
to be. Caller IDs can be spoofed. Expect that anyone requesting
personal information for any purpose you are not initiating on your
own is out to steal your most precious commodity - your identity.
On another front, anti-virus providers warn consumers about a new
worm being circulated the old-fashioned way: via email spam.
The email poses as a business message with the subject line of "Here
you have," or "Just for you." The embedded link or attached document
file contain a malicious program that can disable your security
software and send itself to all the contacts in your address book.
The dangerous link has been taken down, but the worm is still
spreading through remote machines.
Up-to-date and properly configured anti-virus software protects
against this threat. Those who keep their operating system and anti-
virus program set to automatically apply updates don't have to worry
about falling victim.
You can't rest on your laurels if you want to remain a player in the
rapidly-changing technology field. You must keep moving at a frantic
pace to stay one step ahead of your competition.
Google certainly hits that mark. The search giant wants to become
your favorite news source, number one social site, trusted source in
marketing and replace your telephone provider. Oh yeah, lest we
overlook their core function, at the same time they're unveiling all
these new bells and whistles they're revolutionizing the way search
Google News got a makeover on June 30th that allows users to
personalize the content they're delivered. The service already earned
an "A" in my book with its signature no-frills approach to offering
pertinent content sans the flashy ad promos that bog down other such
Now you can select which topics of interest you would like to follow
mixed right in with the day's most followed news stories. Headlines
are gathered from news sites around the Internet with links back to
the original source should you choose to read further.
Customize your experience by rating which news topics you read the
most to find your favorites displayed at the top of the page. Add a
topic that isn't on their list of offerings. Promote or demote a news
source. If it's not a source you believe credible, demote them and
you won't see them appear again.
Google quality shines through its Finance portal as well.
Streamlined headlines make it easy to find the market news you're
seeking. Enter your holdings into a portfolio and find news related
to the companies you follow. Click on any company name or stock
ticker to find a snapshot of recent activity, headline news, key
stats and ratios, contact information and any other resource you need
to make informed investing decisions.
Their famed Gmail just got even better with their new Priority
Inbox. Gmail has always made it a snap to find any message or subject
you may be searching for, no matter how many messages remain buried
in your inbox. Now you don't even have to search.
Gmail will automatically determine which senders you respond to most
often, along with whose messages you read right away. It will mark
them important and sort them in a separate section at the top if they
remain unread. You can mark or unmark any it didn't prioritize
Add a star to those important messages, or those that require follow
up, and find them in a group by themselves. No more risk of finding
an important message buried beneath the stack!
Prefer to see your messages the old-fashioned way? Simply click the
Inbox listing you're already familiar with. A click back to Priority
Inbox gives you the sorted view.
Move over, Vonage. Google Voice has been rolled out to the masses.
Calls to the U.S. and Canada are free, international calls pretty
darn cheap. This service has been in beta for a while so the bugs are
already tweaked out. Access the service through Gmail.
Regular readers will know why I think Chrome is the best web browser
out there, so I won't go into detail again here. But if you missed my
reviews, you can find them here and here.
And now we get back to Google's roots. Search technology at its
swiftest. Or as Google hails it, "Faster than the speed of type." No
more waiting .5 seconds for search results. As you start to enter a
search term, results are dynamically displayed within the search box
The system automatically scours your browsing history as you type,
first suggesting frequently visited pages and topics that match the
criteria while you are still entering it. If it didn't find a match
within a millisecond, it will offer sites most popular in user
You may be content with the speed of the original Google we came to
know and love. But the new mechanism not only delivers fast results,
it delivers them more targeted. No longer do you have to scan entries
to page four before finding the right match.
This feature has been available directly from the address bar in
their Chrome browser for quite some time. And while it may not sound
like a big thing, I sure miss it if I'm on a system using any other
web browser. It's one of those things that you don't realize you need
until you have to do without.
Stay tuned for other new products being developed in Google Labs.
Always looking for the half-full end of the glass, U.S. retail sales
increased for the month in August by .4 percent following a .3
percent gain in July. Sales excluding automobiles went up by .6
percent. The restoration of extended jobless benefits may have helped
nudge purchasing along. Business inventories climbed 1 percent in
July in anticipation of the August back to school purchases. Consumer
confidence increased marginally, although still low historically.
These positive signs point away from slipping back into a recession.
New unemployment claims dropped last week to 451,000 bringing the 4-
week moving average down to 477,750. Continuing claims showed only a
minor drop of 23,000 to 4.456 million for the week of August 21st.
The unfortunate result of this slow recovery is a jobless rate,
currently at 9.6 percent, that is predicted to continue above 9
percent into 2011 according to various economic predictions.
Today’s Market Rates
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Dow Jones Industrial Average
(Up 98.44 or 0.94% since 12/31/09)
(Up 6.00 or 0.54% since 12/31/09)
(Up 20.62 or 0.91% since 12/31/09)
|10 Year Treasury Bond Yield
On The World Wide Web
The Internet is vast. How does a concerned parent keep their child
safe online? Use the portal created for kids at kidskonnect.com.
The Bureau of the Public Debt has a new kid's web site to learn the
connection between Treasury bonds and American debt. Find it here.
Planning a yard sale or want to sell a used item? Find out what it's
really worth before tagging it. This site researches recent online
market sales to provide the going price.
Tip of the Week
Have you had a strange security message pop up while you were
online? Have you gotten an unexpected balloon message warning you're
infected with a new threat? These are common tactics designed to
trick you into installing malicious software on your computer. Learn
more about misleading applications.
"The Star Trek computer doesn't seem that interesting. They ask it
random questions, it thinks for a while. I think we can do better
than that." - Google Cofounder Larry Page
Today in History
1994 - Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig announced the
cancellation of the remainder of the year's baseball season after a
34-day player strike.
The original name of the Web search engine known today as Google was
BackRub in 1996. The name was based on the search engine's unique
ability to analyze the "back links" pointing to a given web site.
Have a comment about something you read in GCFlash? Suggestions for
future articles? Drop us an
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