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Computer security

Discussion in 'Tech, Gadgets & Science Forum' started by MziziMkavu, Feb 1, 2010.

  1. MziziMkavu

    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

    Feb 1, 2010
    Joined: Feb 3, 2009
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    Twitter 1, Censors 0: Why it's still working

    Posted: Thursday, June 18 2009 at 05:00 am CT by Bob Sullivan

    Why does Twitter work inside Iran even after other Internet services have been disrupted? The key feature enabling it to evade government censorship, some observers say, is something that might otherwise be considered Twitter's Achilles’ heel.
    Unlike Facebook, and most other social networking sites, Twitter users don't need to visit to use the service. In the business world, that's a terrible idea. Twitter has no way to promise potential advertisers that its enormous audience will ever see ads placed on the site.
    Instead, Twitter has a completely open architecture that allows users to both send and receive messages on a variety of platforms -- cell phones, Blackberries and, of course, other Web sites. This openness is proving to be particularly effective at avoiding government interference.
    "You can connect to Twitter without going through Twitter's front door," said Jonathan Zittrain, a Harvard law school professor who runs, which tracks censorship efforts worldwide. “These services run interference between you and Twitter.”

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    E-voting, we hardly knew you

    Posted: Tuesday, October 28 2008 at 05:00 am CT by Bob Sullivan

    The headline for voting technology 2008 might be this: Back where we started. Back to paper ballots, that is.
    For the first time since touch-screen voting was invented, use of the high-tech voting machines has declined sharply. On Nov. 4, the majority of Americans will be filling out their ballots using old-fashioned paper and No. 2 pencils.
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    ‘Forgot your password?’ may be weakest link

    Posted: Tuesday, August 26 2008 at 05:00 am CT by Bob Sullivan

    Almost everyone forgets a Web site password once in a while. When you do, you click on the familiar "Forgot your password?" link and, after entering your pet's name, identifying your high school mascot or answering some other seemingly obscure questions, you can get back into your account.
    But there's a problem: A criminal can do that, too. With the help of social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, personal trivia is getting less obscure all the time. You’d be surprised how easily someone can uncover Fido's name or your alma mater with a little creative searching.
    Some security researchers are beginning to sound the alarm about "password resetting" tools, suggesting they could be the weakest link in Web security.
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    Did PIN thieves grab hacking's Holy Grail?

    Posted: Tuesday, August 12 2008 at 05:00 am CT by Bob Sullivan

    Could a hacker steal enough information from a store you’ve shopped at to print up fake debit cards in your name and withdraw cash from your checking account at an ATM? Even if you’ve never told a soul your PIN code?
    In fact, said the Justice Department last week, it’s already happened, possibly to millions of people.
    Buried in last week’s indictments of 11 alleged international computer hackers accused of stealing 40 million credit and debit account numbers from U.S. retailers was something far more unsettling: At at least one retail chain, the indictments accuse the group of swiping encrypted versions of debit card PINs, decrypting them, then using the information to print debit cards and get cash from ATMs.
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    Are airline kiosks safe?

    Posted: Tuesday, July 29 2008 at 05:00 am CT by Bob Sullivan

    Airline travelers may want to think twice about swiping their credit cards at airport self-service check-in kiosks following the possible theft of credit card account numbers from the kiosks at Canada's largest airport in Toronto.
    One Canadian airline, WestJet, already has suspended use of credit cards for check-in at the Toronto kiosks in the wake of the investigation by Visa and MasterCard, which was revealed last week. Fliers can still use the machines, but now must use other methods – by swiping frequent flier cards, entering confirmation codes or using their passports.

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    How magic might finally fix your computer

    Posted: Monday, July 7 2008 at 05:00 am CT by Bob Sullivan

    CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- For years, The Amazing Randi sat next to Johnny Carson performing magic tricks on The Tonight Show. But last week, James Randi was holding court for a very different audience -- an invitation-only collection of three dozen computer security experts at MIT's famed Stata Center near Boston. There, in what might be called the hall of fame for hacking, Randi couldn't stop himself from pulling gags. But when he wasn't bending spoons, making things disappear, or stroking his foot-long white beard and wizened chin, Randi revealed secrets about the art of deception.
    "Many times," he confessed, "Magicians don't really know why their tricks work. They just work."
    Put another way: Charlatans don't bother creating detailed schemes for deception. They just have a feel for what fools people.
    On the other hand, the scientists who are working hard to make computers, airports, cities, and everything else safe for us often aren’t endowed with this same feeling. They study problems, write papers, review their code, and write sophisticated cryptographic schemes. Then, with heavy hearts, they walk through rows of cubicles at American companies and see Post-It notes tacked onto computer screens with passwords.
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    Was your LendingTree file hacked?

    Posted: Tuesday, April 22 2008 at 03:30 pm CT by Bob Sullivan

    LendingTree has told its customers that former employees helped unauthorized mortgage lenders hack into its systems and steal customer information from 2006 to 2008.
    The incident reveals just how aggressive the mortgage loan business was during the height of the housing boom, and also raises fears for consumers who share their information with companies that help them shop around for the best deal. And it highlights what experts say is an often overlooked source of data theft -- the inside job.
    According to a letter sent to customers recently, former LendingTree LLC employees shared "confidential passwords" with lenders, who in turn used the login information to "access LendingTree's customer loan request forms."
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    How refreshing: Retailer admits data theft

    Posted: Monday, March 17 2008 at 04:34 pm CT by Bob Sullivan

    It was good to see the Hannaford Bros. grocery chain step forward Monday and admit it was the retailer that had suffered a credit card and debit card hacker attack. Criminals had access to account numbers from Dec. 7 to March 10, and stole a whopping 4.2 million credit and debit card numbers while they were transmitted for authorization, the company said. (see full story)
    The company's announcement came only hours after the Massachusetts Bankers Association issued a statement indicating that it had been warned about a leak at a "major retailer" by Visa and MasterCard, while complaining that the credit card associations wouldn't reveal the name of the store chain. An initial version of this column offered the same lament.
    The card associations routinely keep such information a secret, and banks are getting tired of that. You should be, too

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    Beware unexpected e-Valentines, FBI says

    Posted: Wednesday, February 13 2008 at 05:33 pm CT by Bob Sullivan

    When the FBI issues a press release about Valentine's Day, you can guess it’s not good news.
    The feds are warning Internet users about electronic Valentines that are booby-trapped with a computer virus. Computer security firms confirm that they have seen many variations of the virus, which often arrives in e-mail bearing loving subject lines like ‘You Stay In My Heart" and "Hugs And Kisses." The e-mail instructs users to follow a link and pick up an electronic greeting card.
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    New cyber-trick: search engine spam

    Posted: Friday, February 8 2008 at 05:00 am CT by Bob Sullivan

    Some e-mail and Google users might not feel quite so lucky right now. Search engine spam is the latest technique for getting unwanted online advertisements in front of Internet users’ eyes, and it appears to be an overnight success. The key to this new trick, researchers say, is outwitting Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” feature.
    With traditional spam finally losing traction among e-mail users, spammers have stepped up their pace of innovation. Last year, they adopted new techniques like image spam, .pdf spam and even audio spam. These disappeared as quickly as they came. But starting in January, spammers began flooding inboxes with a new kind of spam that uses a much simpler form of deception. In the body of these e-mails, recipients see what looks like a link to Google search results -- and in fact, that's what it is. There's trouble, however, on the other side of that link.
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    Renewed concern over 'digital Pearl Harbor'

    Posted: Tuesday, January 29 2008 at 06:00 am CT by Bob Sullivan

    From the moment U.S. top cybercop Richard Clarke uttered the words "digital Pearl Harbor" in 2000, the technology world has been engaged in bitter debate: Could hackers really cause as much chaos with computers as terrorists armed with bombs and guns? Or are security experts simply spreading fear and trying to sell products when they talk about cyber attacks?
    The discussion had died down until recently, owing to the fact that no digital Pearl Harbor ever occurred.
    But then came reports late last year that Chinese nationals were actively attacking computers run by the U.S. government and private British companies, all of which were vehemently denied by the Chinese government.
    Now security expert Alan Paller has fanned the flames, quoting a CIA agent as saying that hacker-profiteers had carried out the mother of all hack attacks -- taking power plants offline and extorting their owners for cash.
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    Digital picture frames infected with virus

    Posted: Wednesday, January 23 2008 at 06:00 am CT by Bob Sullivan

    Digital picture frames were one of the hit gifts this holiday season, but at least some consumers have ended up with an unwelcome extra present -- a computer virus.
    Electronics retailer Best Buy acknowledged this weekend that some private label Insignia 10-inch digital frames it sold over the holiday season were contaminated with a unidentified virus. The frames have now been pulled from store shelves and the product discontinued, Best Buy said in a statement.
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    ATM crime wave limits access to cash

    Posted: Friday, January 4 2008 at 05:00 am CT by Bob Sullivan

    Citibank is using the rather blunt instrument of lowering some customers’ daily ATM cash withdrawal limits to fight a recent spate of cash machine fraud. The company said Thursday that the change impacts "a small population of customers" in New York City, but would not provide additional details.
    It's not clear how much daily withdrawal limits were lowered, but the New York Daily News spoke with one consumer who said her limit had been cut in half.
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    Tech: What will go wrong in 2008

    Posted: Friday, December 28 2007 at 06:00 am CT by Bob Sullivan

    There was no Melissa virus in 2007, no LoveBug, no computer worm that brought corporate America to its knees for an afternoon. In fact, many experts suspect the days of that kind of cyber-havoc are over.
    Today, cyber atttacks are more stealthy -- and much more successful. If 2007 offers any hints of what’s to come, technology users will face a much wider spectrum of attacks next year. Their identities will be stolen, their computers will be hijacked, and probably, their handheld gadgets will be targeted like never before. Social networks will be a prime target for criminals, and cyber-spying may very well come of age.
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    Contractor caught trying to sell Disney data

    Posted: Friday, July 13 2007 at 01:55 pm CT by Bob Sullivan

    An employee who works for the company that processes Disney Movie Club transactions was caught trying to sell customer credit card information, Disney told its customers this week. The story echoes an incident revealed by Fidelity National Information Services earlier this month.
    The employee was nabbed in an "undercover sting operation" run by a federal law enforcement agency, according to a letter sent July 6 by the Disney Movie Club to its members.
    The employee did not work for Disney, but rather for Alta Resources Inc., which processes transactions and fulfills orders for the Disney Movie Club, the letter said. The employee has been dismissed and the Secret Service is continuing to investigate, according to Disney.
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    Cell phone hacking has unlikely ring

    Posted: Friday, June 22 2007 at 03:40 pm CT by Bob Sullivan

    Just how easy is it to hack into a cell phone?
    The strange story of Heather Kuykendall and her neighbors in Tacoma, Wash., begs that question. Kuykendall says someone has managed to hijack her phone and use it to spy on her. Whoever it is apparently is able to turn her phone on and off, order the unit's camera to take pictures and even enable the speakerphone function so the device can be used as a bug. You can see the icky details in a Michael Okwu report that aired Friday on the Today Show.
    Cell phone hacking to read someone’s contact list is one thing; but cell phone spying is a far more disturbing possibility. Could whatever happened to Kuykendall and her neighbors happen to you?
    The short answer: Yes, but it's very, very unlikely.
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