If you recall, last year, Miss Teen USA, Cassidy Wolf’s, computer was hacked and the hacker then attempted to “sextort” her by threatening to post nude photographs of her on various social media sites. The hacker employed the notorious Blackshades RAT malware on her laptop to do his dirty work. Here’s a clip of her CNN interview:
Most all laptops, tablets, phones and other mobile devices these days have built in cameras. All Apple iMac computers have them.
What can you do to prevent being spied upon? Here’s my short list of five preventive measures.
- Cover the camera when you aren’t using it. A sticky note or a piece of masking tape works just fine.
- Turn your device off when you aren’t using it. Not only will the camera not work, you’ll save a little on your energy bill.
- Close the lid. I keep my MacBook Pro closed when I’m not using it. A hacker will see only black if they have any access to it.
- Run good anti-malware software and keep it updated along with all your applications and your firmware as well. Scan for malware regularly.
- Don’t use your computer when you’re naked. (I had to through that one in there…lol)
From Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Government Surveillance (HBO)
You won’t believe what they talk about! Not for work or if any kids are around…
So, I was working away trying to recover some lost data for one of my students when my cell phone rang. It came up “Unknown” on the caller ID. I normally don’t answer calls I can’t identify, but I was irritated and frustrated and I answered it in hopes I’d have someone to launch a tirade against (I have been on every “Do Not Call” list with every phone number I’ve ever had, but it’s a useless regulation, since no telemarketing firm ever honors it. I usually give them an ear full and threaten all sorts of legal mayhem, but it rarely does any good).
“Hello, this is Ken.”
“Hello, Ken, I am calling about your computer.” (Heavy Indian/Pakistani accent)
“What?” (Pretending not to understand)
(A bit agitated, now) “We have been receiving many errors from your computer.”
I play along for a second, “Really? What kind of errors?”
“You have many system errors and viruses on your computer.”
“Oh, really? How are you getting these errors?”
“We monitor all computers for errors. We want to help you fix your computer.”
At this point, I lost my desire to play games “Look buddy, I’m a computer security expert and you are full of s… and a con artist.”
Before I even finished the sentence, I began hearing a stream of “F… you, F… you.” I told him if he called again, I would trace it and he hung up with one last expletive from me, this time.
In hindsight, I probably should have played along, let him into one of my spare laptops and recorded the session and his IP address so I could report it properly, but I was just too preoccupied with other matters.
If I get another call like this, I’ll do that. I just didn’t think it would ever happen to me.
Break out your tissues because you might get a little misty after hearing my tale. I’ll tell it simply and quickly. But you’re sure to take a few things away from reading this post.
First, you’ll believe people are better than you first thought.
Next, you’ll be impressed at how much information one person can dig up on the Internet in the span of five or ten minutes.
Lastly, you’ll be A LOT more careful with your IDs and wallet for fear of losing your entire identity – and $25.
Here we go…
Thursday, April 23, my wife went shopping at Old Navy in Hingham. I’m assuming it was to buy gifts for me because my birthday was this week and because she usually shops at high-end boutique stores. While she was there, she found a wallet.
Instead of leaving the wallet with the Old Navy personnel, she decided to take responsibility for the wallet and the items inside. The fear – and what would also motivate me – was that if you turn in an item to retail workers you lose control of what happens to the item. Essentially, if you find something you either get to keep it or you shepherd it to its rightful owner. That’s the moral law of the universe…according to me anyhow.
Moving on…she brought the wallet home, did a bit of research to find the address of the owner (simply looking at the license was enough – so no black arts of the Internet yet). Then she took $20 from the wallet (there was only $25 inside) to pay for shipping and insuring the wallet back to its owner. I then arrived home.
Once told what had happened, I took to the ether of the ‘net. In about seven minutes I had found the owner’s husband’s LinkedIN account and sent him a note. I also found the owner’s Facebook account and sent her a message. And for good measure I dug around for a phone number, but these days most people only carry a cell and those are seldom listed in WhitePages.com.
Then I went to bed.
Today, I woke up and looked at my phone. I had a phone call and a message from a number I didn’t recognize. It was the owner calling about the wallet. Now follow this chain of events…
My LinkedIN note got to her husband in CHINA. He and his wife (the wallet owner) have not spoken in a while, maybe years. But the husband is still in touch with their son and therefore told the son about the wallet being found. The son told the mother. The mother called me.
As I type this, I’m sitting in a coffee shop near that Old Navy store waiting for the woman to show up and get her wallet. I put $20 back inside because we didn’t have to ship it. 20 minutes from now I’ll know if this entire exercise has worked and I’ll hopefully see a smiling face on a stranger’s face.
Satisfied? The world is a scary place, but there are good people in it. What I’d like you to do is imagine if the wallet had fallen into the wrong hands. Imagine if it was your data laying on the sidewalk outside Old Navy. Imagine that your data IS always on a sidewalk somewhere and the world has access to it.
If you’re at least aware of these facts, you’ll likely be much more careful with your data and the data of others. Just a heartwarming tale for you today. Next column will be much more sinister!
Each year I write…or I should say I have written…a post about the Boston Marathon. For my entire life I have attended the race and the Red Sox baseball game that takes place the morning of the marathon. But this year was different.
I wasn’t feeling it. Two years after the bombs exploded on Boylston Street, I decided it was time to change up my traditions and not rush into Boston to see some freezing baseball and 15,000+ runners. I decided to spend time watching both events via social media and other channels. And it was great.
I had friends running this year and for the first time I had my eyes opened to the glory of actually tracking someone virtually as they travel 26.2 miles. I hardly got tired at all.
But this online tracking of runners and the social media updates and posts from Fenway Park and Kenmore Square got me thinking about how well-tracked we all are these days. While security had dozens – if not hundreds – of cameras in place the length of the course, the runners had chips on their bibs or on their shoes, and the populace was monitoring it all via their smartphones via Vine, Meerkat, Periscope and other live-streaming apps.
One of my friends even set up shop in the Breather space on Boylston and did a live stream. His name is Steve Garfield and I can’t remember the service he used, but it was interesting and informative. And it was LIVE as the action happened.
Does it mean we’re being monitored too closely? I’m not sure. But it certainly proves that we as a nation have the capacity to track whatever it is we want to track. In a way that makes me happy.
I’d like to think my local police can use their high-tech devices to track gunshots via sound (and they can).
I’d like to think my government can actually track heat signatures of people trying to smuggle drugs into this country (and they can).
And I’d like to think more companies can endeavor to keep our data secure with the right methods and strategies (and they can…but when will they).
Technology allows us lots of cool advantages and access to information. Let’s make sure the companies we trust with our data know how to use this technology to keep our stuff out of the hands of the bad guys.
What do you think of the latest tech? How would you like to see tracking, video, surveillance and other technologies used?
My Website is down. I mean crushed and down. Nothing shows up except for a few Greek characters and there’s no way I can recover it. I know because I’ve tried, my hosting service has tried, and I’m not as technically adept as I’d like to be.
Instead of wallowing in my despair – as I did enough of that earlier on the weekend – let’s look at a few takeaways from this experience and maybe learn something. If nothing else, it will be cathartic for me and help me let go as I create a whole new site.
1 – Contrary to what everyone warns you about, the stuff you put online is not ‘forever’. If it were, my site would still be up.
2 – Anything can be hacked. My passwords were superlong hashes of random characters. The hackers got in because on my site I also had a few old – I mean OLDE – wordpress installs that I wasn’t using any longer. The hackers accessed those blogs and then found a way to get into my current site as a whole.
3 – Coffee, Jolt soda, other stimulants will not help you think through the problem clearly. Only when I started to accept that my site was borked did I have an ephiphany. I have the files backed up to before the hack. I have some time to work on this. I might as well use this as a learning experience.
4 – All your tech friends and colleagues like to seem really busy. I’ve put out a number of calls to WordPress experts who might help get my stuff back functioning. Nobody is available. It’s not as if I ever did anything to wrong them, but it seems that nobody wants a boring challenge. It will be a challenge to go through and clean my code up. It will be boring because there’s a LOT of crap on my blog.
5 – You’re only as good as your most recent article. As nobody can read my posts or updates or recounts from my latest adventures, the only thing people can see about me now is on my Twitter page, my YouTube videos and here on the Security Corner. Until I get something back up – yes, the databases were safe – on my site, I’ll just go back to being some writer who sometimes cries about security issues.
Since I have a newfound appreciation for the troubles people can get into, I welcome your sob stories and hopefully your stories of successfully putting your sites and life back together. Ping me on Twitter or leave a comment on this blog if you have ideas on how to resurrect my stuff.
Thanks for reading! This is not an early April Fool’s joke.
It occurred to me at a conference in Louisville that security isn’t an issue specific to businesses. In fact, most businesses are less secure than large conferences because of one simple reason – the staff at conferences are trained to examine the credentials of every person at their event.
Let’s compare and contrast the conference check-in table and room-proctor structure to the doors at your everyday business.
The conference check-in desk requires name and often an id for you to pick up your badge. In most cases the staff at the check-in desk knows many attendees personally. In both cases, this keeps interlopers from attending an event without paying.
Employees at your basic company hold the door for anyone dressed in business apparel who is heading into the facility. IDs are seldom checked and folks usually are more than willing to just point to the department or person mentioned by the burglar.
Try and get into a session at most technology conferences and there is a person at the door scanning bar codes. It’s akin to most events at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, TX. If you don’t have a badge with a valid barcode, you can’t even get into a building to use the restrooms.
Stroll into any lobby at any organization – even the State House in many states – and ask to use the restroom. Usually it’s behind the security desk or out of sight of security personnel. If a tech columnist like me knows this, you realize that the best thieves and data criminals know how to get past the first line of defense at the front desk.
What are we to learn about this? First, it’s a good thing that there are usually multiple lines of defense within large data-dependent organizations. Second, you best prepare a really good fake ID and cover story if you want to attend AdobeMAX, SXSW, CES or other large conference. What’s your take?
Hillary Clinton puzzles me. She seems really smart – in the same way her husband/president was smart. But maybe she’s missing that gene that gives some smart people common sense. It’s a theory that the more books you read – and the more degrees you have – the less common sense you have.
So should anyone who is a Masters candidate or above be limited in their security clearance? Perhaps Hillary should go through a remedial “how to keep the United States’ information safe” course. Because so many companies, both large and small, have actually figured out how to adopt a BYOD policy and keep their information safe.
It goes beyond the hardship of carrying an extra phone – see the Jon Stewart piece from earlier this month. It actually cuts to the core of whether the information you’re sharing is supposed to be vetted via existing security systems or if you want to skirt those systems.
Like me, I’m sure you have at least two email addresses. I actually have seven or so, but that’s because Google refuses to use its power for good and can’t find a way to consolidate accounts. With these multiple email addresses, you probably have a way to keep your notes sorted and safe. It seems that Hillary went a few steps beyond this and actually had a server – a physical server!! – placed in her house to house her private email conversations.
But these conversations weren’t actually private because they concerned public business and the United States. So what are we to do? What are we to think? How should anyone respond to this? It goes beyond politics and right into security. Here’s my take…
1 – If you have the resources to put the hardware necessary to run your own email in your home, you have the resources to ensure the data and discussions shared on that network/server are secure. If you’re working for the government and the info you’re sharing is government related, you should also be prepared to share that data with the public.
2 – If you understand the machinations of email servers, technology and classified communications, you should also not play dumb when asked about how many devices you carry, how many devices you can carry, and if it’s a hardship to send email from your government issued phone/device.
3 – There is no way, if the emails and communications that took place on the BYOD phone and the private server were related to running the government, that Hillary should be allowed to decide what info is destroyed and what info is kept.
Think about this as if it were Wal-Mart or Ford doing these things. The public outcry would be large and loud. And the request for better security for public (or shareholder) communications would also be deafening.
What’s your thought on what Hillary allegedly did with her technology? How would you fix it from a security standpoint? How would you fix it from a political standpoint?
Finally, do you think political officers should have different security rules than executives at large public organizations? Aren’t they similar in how they operate and the communities they serve?
Everyone freaks out because their home might not be secure. They have belongings inside that have value to a thief – and of course them. And keeping the actual property locked up and safe is the struggle they face on a regular basis.
It’s similar to what businesses go through every day – though businesses have it worse. The materials inside their walls, servers and offices are so valuable that if lost they would cripple the company. That’s why it’s so important to have a plan and a few things in mind when locking down your facility (or your home).
As we’re going to discuss next week on our Twitter chat, you need the right people in place to keep your organization secure. Provisioning, common sense and education are the three best ways to keep the riff-raff out and your precious materials and data inside.
From top to bottom in your company, let people know what access they have; how they can request increased access to data and facilities; and the procedure to bring on new employees. In fact, if you don’t have a list of security procedures in place, that’s the first place to start.
Next up, set some guidelines for access. This means keeping regular operating hours where any visitors to your facilities outside of those hours raises a red flag. In one instance I was freelancing for a technology firm that required all contractors to be off-site from 5PM to 9AM. It ensured that ‘outsiders’ were only in contact with valuable services and data during business hours. The takeaway here is to supervise all visitors.
Finally, maintain regular security protocols across the enterprise. Keep passwords changing on a regular basis. Update badges semi-annually so photos are current and provisioning is accurate. And provide regular documentation of new security processes to all employees and departments.
The last thing you want to do is leave your door open to thieves.
While it might be a bit easier to implement in your home because you have a much smaller population to educate about locking down your property, it’s similar in scope.
Ultimately, keep an eye on how you keep your stuff safe and you’ll have to spend less time keeping your stuff in view all the time.
What’s the best security tip you can share about keeping data or facilities safe?
According to the WeLiveSecurity blog, Hillary Clinton, who–heaven forbid–is widely believed to be the next Democratic presidential candidate, used a personal email address while working at the State Department:
The New York Times has published claims that Hillary Clinton did not have a government email address throughout her four-year tenure at the US State Department, but instead used a personal email address.
This is crazy. Not only is it extremely dangerous from the standpoint of national security, who’s to say that it wasn’t designed to conceal certain actions she took as our secretary of state? According to the Times, Mrs. Clinton has long been criticized for a lack of transparency and an inclination toward secrecy.
Federal law states that letters and emails written and received by federal officials are considered government records. They are supposed to be retained for use by congressional committees, journalists, historians, etc. can find them. Penalties for not complying with these requirements are rare, however.
We don’t know what, if any, encryption or other security measures Mrs. Clinton’s account employed, and it’s not clear why this was allowed to happen. Surely IT security staff at the State Department objected. Any self-respecting IT security professional would insist that an official’s communications related to their job be properly secured.