Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Done My (Cyber-Study) Time


May 21 I posted a FLOG called Cyberinsecurity. I had written it May 9, but held it back while reading the Internet. Unfortunately I haven’t finished the Internet, but found enough new information that gave me confidence to share it with you. Along the way I found this quote:  “The FBI’s top cyber expert says ‘We’re not winning the cyber-crime battle.’” And I decided to join the FBI Cyber Security Unit, but I had to be 26 to 36 years old. Apparently they don’t think 76 years of experience is all that important (not equal opportunity employers). So I went back to the Net and found a non-profit organization called the CFA (Consumer Federation of America) which had a good website, a Washington, DC office and was doing something proactive about cyber-crime. I called and talked to a very nice woman and sent her an email asking for ideas on how to fight back.  I’m awaiting her response.

On our hunch that many of the victims of cyber-crime are too old for the FBI, Mean Eileen, Editing Queen, found a very good article at the AARP, an organization which loves people who are at least 14 years over 36 (www.aarp.org).  Whatever your age, visit the site and search cyber-crime if for invaluable cyber-crime combatant resources.

I sent the AARP article to several friends yesterday, then this morning I hit the website jackpot:  Take a look at www.IC3.gov and www.lookstoogoodtobetrue.com (be sure to hover your mouse over these links first J).

What I have discovered is that all of us who use a computer have to become better educated and more vigilant. We are too often inadvertently assisting cyber-perps who are stealing millions of dollars each year to say nothing of costs of the collateral damage (ask anyone who has had their identity stolen).

The easiest action we can take to put the brakes on internet crime is to put the word out on the scam du jour.  I recently received a “confirmation” from American Airlines for my purchase of a plane ticket which had a convenient link to click if I had any questions.  Knowing I hadn’t purchased a plane ticket, I hovered my mouse pointer over the link in the email (the actual address where the link is pointing is revealed in the lower left corner of your browser window) and discovered the link was not pointed to American Airlines. I didn’t further investigate – I just deleted the email.

Another thing we can all do is talk to the people in our lives who might fit a demographic targeted by criminals – especially non-computer savvy friends and family members.

Being informed and aware will help all of us avoid falling victim to internet scams;

By the way while I was writing this FLOG, CNN’s Situation Room announced a Chinese cyber-hack of the blueprints for the new Australian Spy Agency. Immediately followed by news of a Federal Reserve six billion dollar cyber-attack on Liberty Reserve Money Laundering operations which they described as “like Pay Pal for criminals.”

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What Will Matter

My father was chairman of the Cemetery Committee at Temple De Hirsch in Seattle for 25 years. Quite often he would come home a little late for dinner and announce that he had to stop by Hills of Eternity Cemetery because a few tombstones had been damaged by vandals or somebody had gotten into the Mausoleum who didn’t belong there.

I went there with Dad on a number of occasions and developed a fascination for obituaries, eulogies and epitaphs, and was asked by friends to ghost write them. They weren’t being funny. My eulogies were a little long, but the eulogizer had a captive audience. 

Obits are paid for by the word, so I kept them short. Epitaphs on tombstones are paid for by the letter and can be very expensive. You can imagine how expensive it was to bury Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Gerald Hubert Irvin John Kenneth Lloyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quincy Randolph Sherman Thomas Uncas Victor William Xerxes Yancy Zeus Wolfe­schlegelstein­hausenberger­dorffvoraltern­waren­gewissenhaft­schaferswessen­schafewaren­wohlgepflege­und­sorgfaltigkeit­beschutzen­von­angreifen­durch­ihrraubgierigfeinde­welche­voraltern­zwolftausend­jahres­vorandieerscheinen­wander­ersteer­dem­enschderraumschiff­gebrauchlicht­als­sein­ursprung­von­kraftgestart­sein­lange­fahrt­hinzwischen­sternartigraum­auf­der­suchenach­diestern­welche­gehabt­bewohnbar­planeten­kreise­drehen­sich­und­wohin­der­neurasse­von­verstandigmen­schlichkeit­konnte­fortplanzen­und­sicher­freuen­anlebens­langlich­freude­und­ruhe­mit­nicht­ein­furcht­vor­angreifen­von­anderer­intelligent­geschopfs­von­hinzwischen­sternartigraum, Senior. (The longest name according to Guiness).

After I graduated from Journalism School, I suggested to a newspaper editor that there were book critics, movie critics, TV critics, show critics, art critics, restaurant critics, food critics …  critics for every artistic pursuit. 

“Why not critics who cover funerals, church and synagogue sermons, eulogies, obituaries and epitaphs?” I said. He said something like, “Killer of an idea,” but Obits are one of our biggest money-makers and we don’t want to offend anybody. Unfortunately I went to a lot of funerals.

Since moving to Arizona, I haven’t attended many funerals nor written many of the afore-mentioned. 

But on May 10, I attended the funeral of Noel Franklin Himes, a dear friend Margaret and I met after we moved to Arizona. We actually met Noel through his remarkable wife, Connie. And he was one of the kindest and finest people I ever had the pleasure of knowing, and I want to write just a few words about Noel.  
He was born six months before I was in Elmhurst, Illinois and lived most of his life in Greater Phoenix, AZ. His service was held in Messenger Mortuary where he worked as a Mortician for many years. And if I can go back for a moment to my idea of being a funeral critic, this was one of the best I ever attended. 

What made it so good was Noel Franklin Himes and a man who wasn’t there, but whose words were printed in the service “program.” His name is Michael Josephson. And what he wrote, titled WHAT WILL MATTER, set a perfect theme for the life of Noel Himes and the life of his amazing wife, Connie. 


by Michael Josephson

Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end.

There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days.

All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten, will pass to someone else.

Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.

It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.

Your grudges, resentments, frustrations and jealousies will finally disappear.

So too, your hopes, ambitions, plans and to-do lists will expire.

The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.

It won’t matter where you came from or what side of the tracks you lived on at the end.

It won’t matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant.

Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant.

So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured?

What will matter is not what you bought but what you built,

not what you got but what you gave.

What will matter is not your success but your significance.

What will matter is not what you learned but what you taught.

What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage or sacrifice that enriched,

empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example.

What will matter is not your competence but your character.

What will matter is not how many people you knew,

but how many will feel a lasting loss when you’re gone.

What will matter is not your memories but the memories of those who loved you.

What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what.

Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident.

It’s not a matter of circumstance but of choice.

Choose to live a life that matters.

©2003 (310) 846-4800 www.charactercounts.org Michael Josephson

God bless you Noel. And to you Connie, a toast I have used many times:

May the happiest days of your past

be the saddest days of your future
and may the most you wish for be the least you get.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cyber Insecurity

My “$2.500,000.00” DIATRIBE

I wrote this FLOG May 9. Today is May 21 and I've just now posted it. After reading and re-reading this too-long FLOG, I put it on the back-burner and let it stew. It was, as diatribes are, a rambling regurgitation—in this case with no solution to a very serious problem. That’s not my mission. I continued to study cyber security and decided that like the Internet it was changing about every nano-second and what I write today will be preempted tomorrow. 

People ask me often what I write and I say, “checks.” 

Whimsy has been my passion for many years. If we can’t have a sense-of-humor, we might as well fold up our tent and go home. Most of what I write has one reader - me.  Writing is my therapy - if I can’t laugh at my stuff I don’t know who can.

To indulge my admittedly questionable sense of humor,  I’ve already changed the name of email to f-mail (the "F" in this case does not stand for Flog), the Internet to the Outer-net and Social Media to Antisocial Media.  I wanted to establish the HFSP (Hackers, Frauders and Scammers Police) and clinics for those with SMTDs (social media transmitted diseases), and begin sharing with other computer consumers ideas that might head off the plague that is infecting internet users world-wide. But, truth is I don’t know enough about this critical matter to write about it intelligently.

In the 1970’s I had a client in the direct mail advertising business when the ancestors of the current crop of hackers, frauders and scammers became prolific in sending millions of similar messages to our mailboxes. A group of friends agreed to save all the “smutmail” and we shuffled it like a deck of cards and inserted it in random envelopes to return to the senders. Sometimes we sent along leaves or grass or cigarette butts or condoms or litter that could fit easily into a return envelope. There was no proof of any reduction in what was called “junk mail”, but we entertained ourselves and others followed our lead.

What provoked this Flog was an email I received from Yemi Susan.  I don't know a Yemi Susan, so I immediately smelled a rat.  Email crimes had been on my mind so I cautiously opened the email to see what the latest scam was.  I was disappointed to find a rehash of a years-old scam:

I am here to inform you that IMF -- International Monetary Fund have decided to release and send your $2.5 million fund through Our Western Union hereby we wish to inform you that (IMF) and (ECOWAS) have instructed us to send you the sum of $2.500,000.00.USD and we have send you $5,000 dollar already as first collection.

I Mrs. Yemi Susan hereby inform you that we have processed your payment and your first payment of $5000.00 is available for pick up by receiver (YOU); Your First payment is still ON-HOLD. because you have to pay the IMF certificate stamp fee of $49 dollar Only as it was required by IMF.

Below are the first instrumental payment Tracking details. Track your first payment online now using the MTCN, Senders First Name & Last Name as directed below:

Click on below link or copy it and past to track your payment online.

Oh, Yemi Susan- you're just not trying.

On May 18, Mean Eileen, Editing Queen sent me this:

By Byron Acohido USA Today Fri May 17, 2013 8:42 PM

SEATTLE Phishing continues to plague Internet users. Wal-Mart on Thursday issued an alert about an email phishing scam, recognizable by the misspelling in the from field — “Wallmart,” spelled with with two Ls.

Phishers rely on social engineering to trick Internet users into quickly clicking on a tainted attachment or infected Web link.

Global losses from phishing in 2012 hit a record $1.5 billion, a 22-percent increase over 2011, according to RSA 2013 Fraud Report. The total number of phishing attacks in 2012 was 59 percent higher than in 2011, reports RSA, a risk management company.

Meanwhile, the number of phishing sites disguised as social networking sites has grown by 125 percent, reports Symantec in its 2013 Internet Security Report.

A couple of quotes from what I’ve been reading:

  • “Cyberspace is a 21st Century battlefield where the annual cost of crime has climbed to more than $1 trillion worldwide”www.business.gwu.edu.
  • “Every developed economy on the globe—and every citizen in them – is dependent on digitized information—from the food we eat , to the medical care we receive, to the jobs we perform every day, to our bank accounts, the entertainment we all enjoy, transportation—it goes on and on.” -- Wes Bush, Chairman and CEO, Northrop Grumman Corp.
  • The FBI’s top cyber expert, “We’re not winning.”

Mean Eileen  (aka The Sledgehammer of Reason) has a few pointers;
  • Don't chuck your computer - just pay attention.  You drive on roads with texters, drunks and parents who are trying to break up fights in the back seat - while doing 70mph on the freeway.  Just as you have to be careful when you are driving, you have to be careful using the internet.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it is.  If you didn't sign up for a sweepstakes - you can't win a sweepstakes.  If you get an email from Nigeria, just delete it.  If you get an email from a mysterious hot babe who wants an even hotter relationship with your average self, just delete it.  If you didn't order a plane ticket and you get an email confirming your purchase, just delete it (check your credit card statement to make sure your card isn't compromised - deal with bogus charges directly with your credit card company).
  • The IRS will never, ever, contact you via email ... if you get an email from the IRS it is absolutely a scam - just delete it.   Believe me, if the IRS wants to have a word with you, they will use a more direct means of communication.
  • No bank or credit card company will ask you to click on a link...if you get something you are unsure of, log out of your email and go directly to your bank's website. 
  • A legitimate e-business that takes payments will have a payment page with a URL that starts with https://  (as opposed to http:// - the extra "s" is for secure).  This means the page is encrypted and information submitted is encrypted as well.  Don't submit debit/credit card numbers on a site that does not have a security certificate (https://).
  • Beware of requests for charitable contributions - know who you are dealing with.  Log directly into charity websites (i.e., www.redcross.org), and don't get suckered by tragic tales of helpless children.  Do your research before you part with your dough.