Category: information

Advert Blockers

Adverts are useful in that they fund services that we wouldn’t necessarily want to pay directly for but still benefit from.

e.g. Freeview TV, commercial radio, Channel 4 TV, free newspapers etc.

A typical newspaper, partially funded by advertising, would need to increase its cover price by 100% – 200% if advertising was stopped.

But, there are huge amounts of advertising that most of us wish didn’t exist.

In print, you can ignore the ads, on TV you can go make a cup of tea during the ad breaks or record the programmes and fast forward through the ads etc.

However, in some situations adverts are intrusive and cannot be so easily ignored.

There are many websites with adverts that don’t get in the way – so that’s fine, but there increasing numbers of websites where the ads are flashing, moving, popping up in the middle of the screen and sometimes so bad we can’t see the actual content we went to the page for in the first place.

Advert Blockers can make your life easier by blocking most of these adverts.

The most popular browsers have some features for blocking intrusive ads.

e.g. Google Chrome (settings – content settings) blocks pop-ups and ads from sites classified as intrusive.

Opera has a built-in ad-blocker.

Blocking adverts also blocks many tracking cookies, which protects your privacy as well.

The Most Popular Ad Blockers

Ghostery

Ghostery has been around for years and is available for Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Edge and Internet Explorer plus Android and iOS.

Firefox Focus

You can install any one of the many ad-blocking extensions on the desktop version of Firefox, but Mozilla has created a dedicated mobile browser for Android and iOS called Focus.

This is focused on privacy which means that, by default, it works like the private browsing mode on other browsers.

AdBlock

AdBlock is free, but it does ask for a donation on installation.

It blocks all ads on the web, including on Facebook, YouTube and other social sites.

You can also allow what AdBlock calls Acceptable Ads – similar to those ‘non-intrusive’ ads in AdBlock Plus.

There are lots of Ad Blockers on the market. See which one best suits your needs.

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Warning – Web Coin Mining on Your PC

For normal physical currencies, each country has an appointed currency maker – such as The Royal Mint in the UK that makes currency for the UK and several other counties. But with cyber currencies – who makes it and how?

The creation of new coins is called “mining” and involves large amounts of computer processing and this increases as more currency is created. For Bitcoin, the effort involved in making new currency means very few can manage it.

But, if you could somehow spread that computer processing demand out among thousands or even millions — of unknowing user’s computers, it would make mining a lot cheaper and possibly quicker.

This is exactly what some websites are doing. They use your CPU to mine cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin without your knowledge.

This can happen to you simply from visiting a website that uses JavaScript to start using your CPU for processing.

There are other methods but this is the most common and can be avoided if your browser has JavaScript disabled – but that will also block the functionality on some popular websites.

How to know if this has happened to your computer?

It’s not easy to identify unless your PC is suddenly very very slow and the CPU seems extremely busy while doing nothing.

Some websites can quietly use your CPU to mine cryptocurrency and they limit they effect on your work so you wouldn’t know unless you went out of your way to find out.

On a windows PC you can press CTRL, ALT and DELETE at the same time then select Task manager and see the CPU utilisation levels.

But if in doubt, the easiest remedy is to reboot your computer.

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Paypal Security Warnings

The title of the email is “Important Update: Upgrade Your Browser”

The message starts with a warning in large letters.

Action required to continue accessing PayPal.co.uk.

This could easily be a scammer’s email trying to get you to click on a link supposedly to PayPal but in fact to a scammer’s page.

However, these warnings are real. The email is from PayPal and the links are to PayPal pages.

Why the warning?

There is a standard called “The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)” and it is an information security standard for organizations that handle credit cards from the major card schemes.

They have upped their security requirements from 30th June 2018 and payment takers including PayPal want to meet that new standard.

The message from PayPal says upgrade your browser but you have to click to get more detailed information on what needs to be changed.

PayPal want to ensure everyone using PayPal in the UK uses TLS 1.1 or better still TLS 1.2 rather than the original TLS 1.0 in their browser. TLS is about how the data is encrypted.

How to Upgrade

This is different for each browser but for Chrome means going to Settings then System then Advanced then finding TLS on the list and ensuring only TLS 1.2 is enabled and TLS 1.0 is off.

The PayPal messages contain links for detailed information on each browser.

How to Check Your PayPal Email is Genuine

Scammers will notice these emails going out from PayPal and likely try to replicate them but with links to their own fake pages.

  1. Check the email is from PayPal.co.uk and not any other domain
  2. Check the links do go to PayPal pages (hover the cursor over the link to see where it will go)
  3. You don’t need to login to anything to make the changes as it’s just the browser settings you will change.
  4. Do I have to follow PayPal’s instructions? Only if you want to keep using PayPal payments.

Stay Safe

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The Impact of Cyber Attacks on Business

The impact of cyber-attacks can be bruising for a business with both short and long term effects to consider.

A 2016 survey of 428 businesses that have suffered cyber-attacks in the previous months.

You can see from the statistics above for 2016, that the biggest impact reported by businesses that have suffered from cyber-attacks is the provision of new measures to prevent further attacks. This can be costly but is essential to protect against further attacks.

There are the short term issues:-

  • Bringing in expert technical staff to find out how the attack happened
  • Technical expertise needed to start to build defences against further such attacks
  • Extra staff to deal with recovery, communications with customers, legal ramifications etc.
  • Disruption to staff and service to customers

Then there are the long term effects:-

  • Reputation damage
  • Steps needed to restore reputation and customer confidence
  • Share price

It is better to build strong defences against cyber-attacks than simply trust to luck.

It is prudent to have plans in place for how to deal with such attacks as the FBI now say that it’s not a question of whether any organisation will be attacked, but simply when.

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The State of Scamming in Australia

Government statistics show that 161,528 reports of scammers were raised with the Australian Authorities in 2017, of which 8.7% involves financial loss.

Total lost estimated to be $90 million.

The biggest chunk of this was to investment scams (approx. $34M), then dating and romance scams (approx. $22M), then business and employment scams (approx.$7M).

Following those were advance fee fraud, buying and selling scams, false billing, inheritance scams, remote access scams, threats to life and finally betting scams.

The age group that lost the most money was the over 65s.

The most common scams reported are:-

  1. Phishing
  2. Identity theft
  3. False billing
  4. Lottery scams
  5. Buying and selling scams
  6. Rebate scams
  7. Remote access scams
  8. Advance fee Fraud
  9. Threats to Life
  10. Online Shopping Scams

Beware of those scammers.

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Hacktivism

Hacktivism (a portmanteau of hack and activism) is the subversive use of computers and computer networks to promote a political agenda or a social change. Its ends are often related to the free speech, human rights and freedom of information movements.

Opinions differ as some people believe hacktivism is a growing force and will become more active and take on bigger challenges. But, others believe it is a spent force and will die away slowly over the coming years.

Mr. Robot

“Mr. Robot” is a TV series that tells the story of hacker Elliot Alderson  and his role in an anarchist collective called “fsociety,” whose followers wear masks that resemble “Rich Uncle Pennybags” from the Monopoly board game. Mr Robot is now making its fourth series.

The series was inspired by a notorious computer hacker named H who has gone from trying to bring down the authorities — to working for them.

As a key member of the hacking group known as Anonymous and a founder of its elite “LulzSec” unit, Hector Monsegur helped launch cyber attacks on government and corporate targets including the US Senate, the FBI and major credit-card companies.

But when he was arrested in 2011, Monsegur — known online as “Sabu” — began secretly cooperating with an investigation that led to a wave of arrests across the US, Great Britain and Ireland.

Today, Anonymous still goes by the motto it unveiled in 2009: “We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.”

Hector Monsegur

But Monsegur, 35, says society has little to fear from the online anarchists in Guy Fawkes masks as “Anonymous is irrelevant.  “All it is now is a figment of hipsters’ imagination.”

Monsegur pleaded guilty to seven felonies as part of his deal with prosecutors and spent nearly eight months in Lower Manhattan’s infamous Metropolitan Correctional Center before being sentenced to time served in 2014.

The following year, Monsegur, landed a job working remotely as a “white-hat hacker” for Seattle-based Rhino Security Labs, helping companies identify vulnerabilities in their computer systems.

He admits that in comparison to what he used to do before, it’s not the same kind of thrill.

The article at http://www.fightbackonline.org/index.php/guidance/12-explanations/108-is-hacktivism-a-force-for-good has more information on Hacktivism.

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GDPR Shutdown for Some American Companies

The start date for the General Data Protection Regulation(GDPR) was 25th May 2018 and almost all business and other organisations affected were well prepared.

But some went a little mad instead.

The GDPR rules are intended to give consumers more choice over how they are communicated with, better protection of data held by organisations and more openness in the communications.

But, dozens of websites shut down their activities completely, others insisted users agree to new terms of service, and everyone’s inboxes have been flooded with emails begging them to agree to stay on mailing lists.  Quite often the emails have been from companies we didn’t even know had our details.

Margot James, the digital minister said that businesses would now have to prove they had been given permission to use an individual’s information, including contact details.

“Except in certain, limited instances, organisations now must demonstrate they have our explicit consent to process our sensitive personal data. Generally, we’ve also given greater control to the British public over how their data is used. No doubt like me you’ll have received a flurry of emails in recent weeks from the organisations currently holding your data, and perhaps some you weren’t even aware did, asking for you to re-submit this consent.”

Many American companies have been unsure what to do and opted for simply closing their websites to European users.

  • Instapaper has blocked European users
  • me says European users cannot use its products
  • com is blocking European users
  • The Los Angeles Times
  • The New York Daily News
  • The Chicago Tribune

A little planning would have removed the need for such precipitate action, but hopefully they will open their doors to Europeans again soon.

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Facebook Conversations Tested

The New Statesman Newspaper carried out an interesting experiment to test whether or not Facebook was listening in to people’s conversations.

Six staff members picked one or more subjects that are not part of their lives and which they had never searched for online or bought anything relevant to the subject etc.

Then they each read out a script (with their phone switched on) designed to point out these subjects in their lives and see if Facebook then started advertising relevant items to them.

The subjects were things such as a vegetarian chatting about her desire for Domino’s Meat Feast pizza.

The most interesting was a lady named Lizzie whose lines included “I just wish there was an app that would sort it all out for you… some kind of contraception app”. When she opened the Facebook app the following  morning, she was presented with an advert for Natural Cycles, the first app ever certified for contraception in Europe.

WOW.

However, there’s a psychological phenomenon called the Frequency Illusion (or the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon). It states that If you hear a new word or phrase for the first time and consciously have a conversation about it, finding out what it means, suddenly, for the next few days, you’ll see it constantly.

If someone says to you ‘when was the last time you saw a yellow car?’ you’ll see three in the next two hours.

For the other five people in the experiment (including the vegetarian), Facebook did not show anything even vaguely relevant to the subject’s spoken about. It’s just a statistical effect that some people will experience Facebook offering relevant and unexpected adverts at times that can seem spookily accurate.

Facebook are very clear that they do not listen in to conversations.

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GDPR has Landed

GDPR is the latest EU regulation intended to give consumers better protection for their personal information held by government, businesses and any other organisations.

And today’s the day it becomes Law.

GDPR may make a worthwhile difference for consumers as it puts pressure (and the threat of large penalties) on businesses to use clear concise language, make it clear what they want your data for and exactly how it will be used, ensure they have your consent for such messages and give you an easy route to making them delete all personal information.

You’ve probably had requests recently in the post or online from businesses wanting to stay in touch with you after today. This is because from today they have to show that you chose to allow them to contact you – not just assume it was OK as often happened in the past.

Plus many are taking the opportunity to revamp their policies over Marketing messages etc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Just How Big is Facebook

Worldwide, there are over 2.20 billion monthly active Facebook users and that number is still growing across the world.

There are 1.45 billion mobile users that login on average every day and the corresponding figure for monthly users is 1.74 billion. Both of the numbers are growing steadily.

In Europe, over 307 million people are on Facebook.

People aged 25 to 34 are the biggest group of Facebook users but there is evidence that younger people are moving away from Facebook (considered to be uncool now that so many Grandfathers and Grandmothers inhabit Facebook).

Some oddities:-

  • Highest traffic occurs mid-week between 1 to 3 pm.
  • a Facebook post at 7pm will result in more clicks on average than posting at 8pm
  • On Thursdays and Fridays, engagement is 18% higher than other days
  • There are estimated to be 83 million fake profiles
  • 300 million photos are uploaded each day
  • Average time spent per Facebook visit is 20 minutes.
  • 50% of 18-24 year-olds go on Facebook when they wake up.

Like it or loathe it, Facebook is the 800 pound Gorilla in the social media world and will do everything it can to stay at the top.

Interesting that it is considered to be uncool by a growing number of young people so maybe its peak is near and it could fall from grace as quickly as it rose.

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