Each day, almost 3,000 laptop computers are stolen. Many of these thefts could be prevented. Here are some practical steps you can take to prevent your portable notebook computer from becoming a police statistic.
Several effective laptop and data security options are available to protect your equipment from theft:
Moodle and Blackboard are both popular online LMS solution (Learning Management System) with which the Faculty of Health Sciences can develop complete online courses that can include multimedia content.
How do the two compare to each other and what are the benefits unique to each course delivery system? Let’s explore some of these benefits of Moodle and Blackboard.
Firstly let’s clear the deck and note what Moodle and Blackboard are.
Moodle is an Open Source Learning Management System that is provided freely and can be run on many operating systems. According to the Moodle website it is “free to download, change, share, improve, and customize to whatever you want it to be,”. Therefore, any lecturer can use it to build or supplement a course.
Blackboard on the other hand is a proprietary Learning Management System and its use is typically limited to institutions like the university which pay a sizeable fee each year to take on a license agreement for its use. Each and every student at the university pays a small amount every year for the licencing.
Moodle’s is definitely the gawky teenager here. It is constantly in a state of development and improvement, there’s no waiting for the company to fix a bug or impove the program. Being “open source” each and every user has a unique opportunity to contribute to the development of the product.
The new features of Moodle mostly centre around increased usability, these include: easier navigation, improved user profiles, community hub publishing and downloading, a new interface for messaging, and a feature that allows teachers to check student work for plagiarism. Text formats will also allow plug-ins for embedded photos and videos in text (but Blackboard allows for this too).
A major improvement over previous releases is that anyone can set up a community hub, which is a public or private directory of courses. Another notable feature is that Moodle now allows teachers to search all public community hubs and download courses to use as templates for building their own courses. Also, teachers can now see when a student completes a certain activity or task and can also see reports on a student’s progress in a course.
Many small scale open source platforms require that users support the product themselves, getting their “hands dirty” tweaking and improving the hard way – of course using the open source community as their primary resource. However Moodle has an advantage, it has become so popular that a small industry has evolved around it, providing a wide range of support and services. Two of the most popular support and hosting services are Moodlerooms and Remote-Learner.
Blackboard Learn is Blackboard’s newest and most innovative upgrade to its Blackboard Learn package.
Improvements in its uses for higher education include course wikis (Moodle improved theirs as well), blogs and journals that stimulate conversation and reflection on a course, and group tools that make group collaboration and communication easier than the previous version. Its most notable feature is its Web 2.0 interface, which makes it easy for educators to navigate when adding content to an online course and for students to navigate when accessing course content.
Blackboard Learn now incorporates Blackboard Connect (of course at an additional cost), which alerts students to deadlines, due dates and academic priorities within a course. The new release also allows educators to more easily incorporate videos and photos directly into text for a more complete learning experience. Finally, Blackboard features Blackboard Mobile Learn (also at an additional cost – and why am I not surprised), which lets students connect to their online courses using various handheld devices, such as the iPhone or iPad.
So, what are the biggest differences?
Features & Functions: Both of these tools have a lot of different functionality available, either natively, or through add-on types of functionality. If different functions are going to be the deciding factor in selecting one of these versus the other, you will really need to drill in and compare and decide for yourselves which features and functions will make the difference for the Faculty.
Cost: This is clearly different. As an open source product, Moodle is simply less expensive. Blackboard is sort of the “Rolls Royce” of today’s LMS, and there are users of the product who would tell you that if you want the best LMS money can buy, you should make the financial commitment to Blackboard. On the other hand, if you want a premier product for a much lower cost, Moodle is really the way to go. Another thing to be aware of is that Blackboard builds substantial annual increases into their pricing model, since they are continually procuring and integration additional products into their offerings, with the intent of adding value for their users.
Product/vendor model: As indicated above, Moodle and Blackboard are very different products with very different vendor models. One is open source, and there are many support and service vendors to choose from, while the other is proprietary and there is just the one company to work with. How that impacts your decision is up to you and your institution to determine.
The South African Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) updated their “Spam Hall of Shame” recently, naming and shaming the country’s spammers and e-mail address resellers.
Until recently it was mainly the embarrassment of appearing on this list which made it a deterrent to spammers, but an announcement by a local firm that it is using this data in fighting spam changes the game.
Pinpoint SecureMail said that they are integrating the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) Hall of Shame anti-spam watchlist in their e-mail protection software.
According to Yossi Hasson, managing director of Pinpoint SecureMail development company SYNAQ, this means that all companies listed on the ISPA spam Hall of Shame are immediately given an extra weighting on SYNAQ’s spam algorithms and are quarantined.
In the first three weeks following the ISPA Hall of Shame integration into Pinpoint SecureMail, SYNAQ identified and blocked 146,926 spam messages sent out by companies included in the list.
The latest spammers and email address resellers listed in ISPA’s spam hall of shame are as follows.
South African spammers:
Jerry Bryan immediately knew there was something wrong at his church. He knew it the second he opened up the email from the pastor. As a highly respected member of his church and a known technophile, Jerry was often consulted by the pastor concerning technical matters. In this case, however, the pastor was passing along a serious warning.
A secretary at his church had received an email from a friend that scared her:
I have some bad news. I was just informed that my address book has been infected with a virus. As a result, so has yours because your address is in my book. The virus is called jdbgmgr.exe. It cannot be detected by Norton or McAfee anti-virus programs. It sits quietly for about 14 days before damaging the system. It is sent automatically by messenger and address book, whether or not you send email. The good news is that it is easy to get rid of!
Just follow these simple steps and you should have no problem.
IF YOU FIND THE VIRUS, YOU MUST CONTACT EVERYONE IN YOUR ADDRESS BOOK
Sorry for the trouble, but this is something I had no control over. I received it from someone else’s address book.
After receiving the email, the secretary looked, and sure enough, jdbgmgr.exe was sitting on her hard drive! She had a virus! She put in a call for the church’s tech people and then began to check other computers in the building. They all had the virus! jdbgmgr.exe was everywhere! A mass program of cleansing was about to begin, but Jerry got back to the pastor just in time with some good news. The church was not the victim of a virus. It was the victim of a hoax: the jdbgmgr.exe virus hoax.
After arising among Spanish-speaking Net users in early April 2002, the hoax quickly spread to English-speakers by mid-April. No one knows how many people fell for it, but it continues to this day, as the story above proves. Unfortunately, when people delete jdbgmgr.exe, they are not deleting a malicious virus; instead, they are deleting a system file placed on their computer by Microsoft.
Microsoft explains in its Knowledge Base article that jdbgmgr.exe is the “Microsoft Debugger Registrar for Java”. Fortunately, if you delete the file, you’re not really affected unless you use Microsoft Visual J++ 1.1 to develop programs written in the Java programming language. If you are such a developer, then you need to follow the instructions Microsoft gives on its Web page.
The jdbgmgr.exe virus hoax is by no means an isolated incident. Indeed, there has been a rash of virus hoaxes in recent years. For instance, there was the “Budweiser Frogs screensaver” hoax in 1997. This email warned folks that a “creepoid scam-artist” was sending “a very desirable screen-saver (the Bud frogs)” that would, if downloaded, cause you to “lose everything!!!!”, while at the same time, “someone from the Internet will get your screen name and password!”. Of course, nothing of the sort would occur if you loaded the screensaver. Granted, you might find yourself thinking about enjoying a cold one, but you certainly wouldn’t find your computer affected. The logical impossibility of hard drive failure at the same time your username and password are not only saved but sent to “someone from the Internet” never seemed to cross the minds of this hoax’s victims.
Another hoax that frightened people was the so-called ” Virtual Card for You” virus of 2000. Victims were warned, via email, that a “new virus has just been discovered that has been classified by Microsoft (www.microsoft.com) and by McAfee (www.mcafee.com) as the most destructive ever!”. Details continued:
This virus acts in the following manner: It sends itself automatically to all contacts on your list with the title “A Virtual Card for You”.
As soon as the supposed virtual card is opened, the computer freezes so that the user has to reboot. When the ctrl+alt+del keys or the reset button are pressed, the virus destroys Sector Zero, thus permanently destroying the hard disk.
Please distribute this message to the greatest number of people possible. Yesterday in just a few hours this virus caused panic in New York, according to news broadcast by CNN (www.cnn.com).
There was no truth to the statements in this email. There was no virus, CNN didn’t broadcast a warning, and there was certainly no panic in New York (Like a little computer virus would panic New Yorkers! It takes something serious to get New Yorkers to panic — like a shortage of cream cheese at Zabar’s, or a gigantic gorilla on top of the Empire State Building.). Nonetheless, thousands of people fell for it, and the email continues to make the rounds.
Although virus hoaxes have been circulating since 1988, the granddaddy of them all is the supposed Good Times virus, the first really successful virus hoax. It started life on AOL in 1994, and it still pops up today. Its descendants are legion, as many other virus hoaxes have copied some aspect of Good Times. In that sense, it can be said to be the most influential virus hoax of all. The virus read as follows:
Some miscreant is sending email under the title “Good Times” nationwide, if you get anything like this, DON’T DOWN LOAD THE FILE!
It has a virus that rewrites your hard drive, obliterating anything on it. Please be careful and forward this mail to anyone you care about. The FCC released a warning last Wednesday concerning a matter of major importance to any regular user of the Internet. Apparently a new computer virus has been engineered by a user of AMERICA ON LINE that is unparalleled in its destructive capability. … What makes this virus so terrifying, said the FCC, is the fact that no program needs to be exchanged for a new computer to be infected. It can be spread through the existing email systems of the Internet.
Once a Computer is infected, one of several things can happen. If the computer contains a hard drive, that will most likely be destroyed. If the program is not stopped, the computer’s processor will be placed in an nth-complexity infinite binary loop – which can severely damage the processor if left running that way too long. Unfortunately, most novice computer users will not realize what is happening until it is far too late. Luckily, there is one sure means of detecting what is now known as the “Good Times” virus. It always travels to new computers the same way in a text email message with the subject line reading “Good Times”. Avoiding infection is easy once the file has been received simply by NOT READING IT! The act of loading the file into the mail server’s ASCII buffer causes the “Good Times” mainline program to initialize and execute.
The program is highly intelligent – it will send copies of itself to everyone whose email address is contained in a receive-mail file or a sent-mail file, if it can find one. It will then proceed to trash the computer it is running on.
The bottom line is: – if you receive a file with the subject line “Good Times”, delete it immediately! Do not read it. Rest assured that whoever’s name was on the “From” line was surely struck by the virus. Warn your friends and local system users of this newest threat to the Internet! It could save them a lot of time and money.
********IMPORTANT******* PLEASE SEND TO PEOPLE YOU CARE ABOUT OR JUST PEOPLE ONLINE
As with the other hoaxes we have looked at, this “warning” was full of lies and misconceptions. There is no way that simply viewing a plain-text email could infect someone’s machine with a virus (unfortunately, the same is not true for folks that use Outlook to view HTML-formatted email, as my SecurityFocus articles on Outlook security discussed). It used fancy-sounding “techie” words that sound impressive to non-technical people, but actually mean nothing at all, like the “nth-complexity infinite binary loop”, whatever that is. And finally, do you really think that a user of America OnLine could create anything like a virus this technically complex?
The Good Times hoax was fairly ironic. Often, system administrators would get the email and immediately forward it to everyone in their companies, warning employees not to open any email with “Good Times” in the subject. Of course, the email warning people not to open any email with “Good Times” in the subject HAD the words “Good Times” in the subject! This didn’t damage any computers, but it did produce severe cases of cognitive dissonance in irony-impaired workers all across America.
So why do people fall for these hoaxes? A lot of it goes back to the noble desire to help others. Who wouldn’t want to warn others about a disaster? And it’s so easy to send the warning to hundreds of people at one time: with just a click, you’ve saved your friends from a virus!
Another consideration is the uncertainty that people feel in dealing with computers. Look at the jdbgmgr.exe hoax, which is actually quite ingenious in its fashion. By asking users to confirm that the file is on their computer, it makes people feel like they are participating in their own computer security. Most computer users typically can’t “see” a virus, just the aftermath. This, coupled with the anxiety many people feel about their computers — these large, complicated machines that they really don’t understand — leads to a feeling of certainty when the jdbgmgr.exe file is found on their machines. “Aha!” they think, “Caught one! And there’s the proof — right in front of my eyes!”
It’s funny, but most people would never fall for such a trick in real life. Let’s say I walked up to the same people that fell for the jdbgmgr.exe trick and said, “There are terrorists in this neighborhood. If you see a man in a black hat, call the police, because he’s a terrorist!” Minutes later, a man in a black hat walks by. Would these people call the police? Probably not. They would use their common-sense, their experience of the normal everyday rhythms of life, to judge whether or not someone is a threat.
Computers, however, are the equivalent of a foreign country for many people. When someone is in a country with which they are not familiar, perhaps feeling anxiety because they don’t understand the language (“nth-complexity infinite binary loop”, anyone?), they are more likely to grab onto signposts that will help them. In such a situation, they might be far more likely to fall for my false warning about terrorists.
And if the warning came not from a stranger, but from a friend or acquaintance, as happened when jdbgmgr.exe warnings arrived in email inboxes, then the likelihood of falling victim to a hoax skyrockets. After all, in a foreign country, isn’t the sight of a fellow countryperson always welcome?
Another reason people fall for hoaxes is because they know that anti-virus programs, unfortunately, do not always work. Many viruses spread so quickly that they overwhelm users before anti-virus vendors can update their software. The “Melissa” and “I love you” viruses are good examples of this phenomena. So when users “see” — or think they see, a la jdbgmgr.exe — evidence of the “virus” on their computers, but their anti-virus software says there is no virus, many users are going to believe their eyes and not their software.
Even worse, many users pay no attention to the neccessity of updating their anti-virus software. I have seen office computers with anti-virus databases that are years out of date. When I ask these users why they haven’t updated their software, they typically respond with a blank stare and a plaintive but accurate excuse: “I didn’t know I needed to do that.”
Virus hoaxes are not real viruses, by definition, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have negative effects. In fact, virus hoaxes can be quite damaging in a number of different ways.
First, it is quite possible that a hoax may end up damaging your computer. The email itself won’t have caused the damage. Instead, the email will have convinced you to damage your own computer, as my story about the the jdbgmgr.exe email demonstrates. The folks in Jerry Bryan’s church were ready to remove files from their computer that they in fact did not need to remove. They were fortunate that they really didn’t need the file in question, but what about next time? What if the hoax author had more malicious intentions and had instructed gullible recipients to remove a key system file or directory?
Second, a virus hoax results in a waste of resources. The victim wastes valuable time dealing with garbage, and time, after all, is money. People sending the message to friends, family, and colleagues waste bandwidth on the Internet and mail servers. Since these emails usually arrive chock-full of email addresses in the “To” and “CC” fields, spammers treat such warnings as a free gift full of new, valid email addresses they can exploit, further compounding the problem of wasted resources. So remember: if you forward that virus warning, you’ve just multiplied all of the losses above to include everyone else in your address book.
A virus hoax can damage your reputation, or at least make you the butt of jokes. When I receive an email from an acquaintance warning me about jdbgmgr.exe and its dangers, I just shake my head and think “Newbie!” … before I help them. If you forward that email along to 100 folks thinking you’ve done your duty, you’re going to feel pretty sheepish having to send another email letting them know you just made a foolish mistake — and a mistake that could have been prevented with just a little bit of checking on your part first.
Finally, virus hoaxes can have a corrosive effect on security. How? Consider the story of the boy who cried wolf. Similarly, virus hoaxes can undermine the attention that end users pay to rigorous security measures. As a result, users may fall into lax security habits, underestimating the dangers of real viruses because of the frequency of false alarms represented by hoaxes.
There are definite signs that indicate when a virus warning is in fact a hoax. With common sense and a healthy dose of skepticism, you can help make the Internet a better place by helping stop hoaxes before they spread.
First, don’t fall for a warning just because it “sounds” technical. As we have seen above (remember our friend the “nth-complexity infinite binary loop”?), technical-sounding language means nothing. In fact, most real virus warnings from real organizations don’t use a lot of technical language. They try to explain the problem and the solution in language that is simple and direct.
Just because the email came from your friend the computer nerd doesn’t mean it’s correct. Even if he works at Microsoft. And just because the email claims to be reporting the words of the FCC, or the FBI, or a respected anti-virus vendor, or some other government agency or company doesn’t make it more likely to be true. Search the Web sites of the organizations that are mentioned in the email before believing what you read. Further, do a Google search on the virus name: that may produce immediate results indicating whether the virus is real or a hoax.
If the email has a lot of exclamation points or words or phrases written in CAPITAL LETTERS, it is more than likely false. Real security alerts from reputable organizations don’t use such techniques. However, the creators of virus hoaxes do use such techniques, because they know that people are influenced by their emotions. If the email pushes emotional buttons, but doesn’t offer much in the way of verifiable fact, it’s a hoax.
The worse the virus sounds, the less likely its existence. Sure, some viruses do destructive things, but most do not. And the effects attributed to viruses in hoax emails are usually nothing short of apocalyptic: erased hard drives, destroyed systems, and panic in the streets. Be especially suspicious anytime a virus is described using a superlative, as in “most destructive”, “worst ever”, and so on.
Finally, if the “warning” says to pass it along to everyone you know, it is without doubt a fake. In effect, if you pass along warnings, then YOU become the means by which the virus hoax propagates. Real virus warnings never encourage you to forward them; instead, they direct you to a Web site for further information. Break the chain! Don’t forward emails warning about viruses!
But what if you do get an email that seems real? Don’t panic. And don’t forward it to everyone on God’s green earth. Check it out first. Ask the technical department at your company. If they’re not available, there are some excellent resources on the Web that can help you verify the truth of a virus warning.
The major anti-virus vendors all have pages about hoaxes. In particular, Symantec, makers of Norton Anti-Virus, and McAfee have in-depth and timely information that can help you sort truth from fiction. Two outstanding sites that cover these hoaxes in depth are at Vmyths.com: Hoaxes A-Z and Snopes.com. Finally, I have a page on my Web site that gathers together these and other resources.
In conclusion, I have some bad news. I need to warn my readers about a terrible new virus that’s going around. Seriously! This one is real, and I urge you to watch for it and take the appropriate measures. I received the following dire warning in an email today that I must pass along to you, so you can protect yourself. Forward it to all your friends, so we can all help stop this hideous scourge before it brings the world to its knees!
If you receive an Email with the subject line “Badtimes” delete it IMMEDIATELY, WITHOUT READING it. This is the most dangerous Email virus yet.
Not only will it completely rewrite your hard drive, but it will scramble any disks that are even close to your computer. It also demagnetises the strips on your credit cards. It reprograms your ATM access code, screws up the tracking on your VCR and uses subspace field harmonics to scratch any CD’s you try to play. It will recalibrate your refrigerator’s coolness settings so all your ice cream melts and your milk curdles. It will give your ex-boy/girlfriend your new phone number. This virus will mix antifreeze into your fish tank. It will drink all your beer. It will even leave dirty socks on the coffee table when you are expecting company.
It will hide your car keys when you are late for work and interfere with your car radio reception so you hear only static while stuck in traffic. When executed “Badtimes” will give you nightmares about circus midgets. It will replace your shampoo with Nair and deodorant with Surface Spray. It will give you Dutch Elm Disease and Tinea. If the “Badtimes” message is opened in a Windows95 environment, it will leave the toilet seat up and leave your hairdryer plugged in dangerously close to a full bathtub.
It will not only remove the forbidden tags from your mattresses and pillows, but it will refill your skim milk with whole milk. It has been known to disregard ‘Open This End’ labels and can make you ‘Push’ a door that says ‘Pull’ and vice versa. It is insidious and subtle. It is dangerous and terrifying to behold. It is also a rather interesting shade of mauve. These are just a few signs.
You have been warned!
If you were born after 1960 or so you will realise how frightengly rapid technology is progressing and changing. In the first half of the 2000s, retailers were buzzing about the wonders of MP3 players and netbooks, but by the end of the decade, those products had largely been replaced by smartphones and tablets.
We will all have to face the facts – some of the gadgets you may currently rely on will disappear or made obsolete by the end of this decade in 2020, no longer be produced for a mass-market audience.
In this largely speculative article we ask the question: Which popular products today will join the likes of VCRs, cassette players and transistor radios disappearing from the shelves and our lives forever? (except perhaps in an antique collection)
The days of spending R1500 or more on a standalone GPS device won’t last much longer, analysts say. “Portable navigation devices like those sold by TomTom and Garmin will probably not be sold in 2020, just because mobile phones will have taken on that function themselves and because GPS systems will be standard equipment in cars,” says Charles S. Golvin, an analyst at Forrester, a market research firm. So here won’t be much of a need to buy a product whose only function is to tell you directions. If there is a demand for these GPS systems, it will likely come from a very specific segment of consumers, like mountaineers climbing Mount Everest or long-distance truckers or the military, but for the vast majority of consumers, standalone GPS systems will be irrelevant and redundant.
The e-reader has already undergone significant changes in its short history, evolving from a product with a keyboard to one with a touchscreen and more recently being integrated into a kind of a tablet-hybrid, but according to Golvin, the market for e-readers will mostly disappear by the end of the decade. “The tablet will largely supplant the e-reader in the same way that the iPod increasingly gets displaced by smartphones,” Golvin says. “Tablets will take on the e-reader function of handling magazine, newspaper and book reading.” In essence, spending money on an e-reader that can only handle reading when tablets can do this and more will come to seem as useless as buying a GPS system that can only look up directions when other technology does this as well. Just how small the e-reader market becomes may depend somewhat on advancements in display technology. One of the biggest incentives for consumers to buy a pure e-reader is to have an e-ink display (like reading from a book) rather than a backlit display (like reading from a computer screen), but according to Golvin, manufacturers are already working on ways to merge the two reading experiences and create a tablet that doubles as an authentic e-reader. Even then, there may be still be some e-readers on the market at the beginning of next decade, but not many. “It could be that by 2020 you can still buy a super cheap e-reader for R160, but by and large, the volume of sales will be so close to zero as to be indistinguishable, like CD players are now,” he says.
A feature phone is a mobile phone that, like smartphones, combines the functions of a personal digital assistant (PDA) and a mobile phone. Today’s models typically also serve as portable media players and camera phones with touchscreen, GPS navigation, Wi-Fi and mobile broadband access.
Several of the products that are likely to be phased out will ultimately be the victim of advances to smartphones, and none more directly than feature phones. Tim Bajarin, a technology columnist and principle analyst with Creative Strategies, predicts that 80% of all phones sold in 2015 will be smartphones and every phone sold in 2018 will be a smartphone. This rapid decline will come about thanks to a drop in prices for consumers and an increase in revenue opportunities for carriers. “Even today, the money that is made is not on the phone itself but on the services,” Bajarin says, noting that carriers will opt to “fade out” their feature phone option in favor of smartphones with more services.
When Apple unveiled the iPhone 4S, smartphone competitors probably weren’t the only ones beginning to sweat. Digital camera makers also have much to be worried about. Apple’s newest phone has a killer 8-megapixel camera that takes in more light and records video at 1080p HD video. Until recently, those kind of specs were unique to digital cameras, but increasingly smartphones are taking over the market. “Flip cameras went bye-bye and now low-end camera functions are being taken over by smartphones,” says Rob Enderle, principle analyst for the Enderle Group. Going forward, consumers will have less incentive to carry around a camera when they already have a phone in their pocket that takes quality pictures. “The point-and-shooters – and particularly the cameras that sell for under R1500 – will eventually go away and be replaced by cellphones that do the same thing.” On the other hand, Enderle predicts more expensive and high-tech cameras may have a brighter future, though not by much, as a smaller market of photo enthusiasts seek out professional-quality cameras that go above and beyond what’s offered on a phone.
DVD players are in the process of being phased out now by Blu-ray players and will likely be erased from the consumer landscape by the end of the decade. “The DVD player should be replaced by digital delivery,” says Ian Olgeirson, a senior analyst at SNL Kagan, who points to streaming movie services like Netflix as being the future. “Blu-rays and whatever the next generation high-end movie format emerges could prolong the lifespan because of challenges around streaming, but eventually the disc is going to be phased out.” The idea of placing a disc into a DVD player to watch a movie will eventually seem as outdated as placing a record on a turntable.
Using CDs and DVDs to view and store content will soon be a thing of the past. “CDs are clearly not going to make it over the next 10 years because everything will shift over to pure digital distribution, so all those shiny discs will be gone,” Bajarin says. This will be due in part to more streaming options for music and movies and a greater reliance on digital downloads, combined with more efficient storage options for consumers, including USB drives, external hard drives and of course the cloud. “All a CD is is a medium for distribution of content … and within 10 years, you won’t need a physical transport medium,” Bajarin says.
Popular video game systems such as the Wii, PlayStation and Xbox may still be in homes next decade, but they will look much different. Rather than buy a separate console, Enderle expects that consumers will instead buy smart televisions with a gaming system built into it, not to mention tablets and smartphones that will continue to ramp up their gaming options. “It looks like analog game systems won’t make it until the end of the decade,” Enderle says. “You are already seeing the Wii have a tough time holding on to the market and PlayStation has been struggling for a while.” The gaming systems that will succeed in the future will be those that manage to move away from being focused solely on video games and more on other entertainment options such as movies, evolving from a traditional game console into more of a set-top box.
By Seth Fiegerman, MainStreet
There are many virusses on the Internet. When I started working at the university in late 1988, there were only 4 computer virusses in the entire world. In April 2008, the “1 million” mark for virusses was passed, and we are fast approaching the 2 million mark in October 2011.
With that sort of threat hanging over every computer user’s head, scammers play on the resulting paranoia and general ignorance of the average computer user and have created what we call “scareware”.
Scareware is when a programmer or company creates a substandard antivirus program, (for example WinAntiVirus) and then create websites that bring up fake pop-up ads that show fake alerts about problems on users’ hard drives – for example, “You have 284 severe system threats.” These ads prompt customers to download a free trial of this software or pay a fee for the software. Once installed, the trial versions pump yet more ads into the user’s web browser, pestering people to shell out the full price. It is very ironic, scareware exploits consumer fears of viruses in order to spread what was, in effect, another virus – and the victims pay for the privilege.
Scareware, has become the Internet’s most virulent scourge. By 2009, an average of 35 million computers were being infected by scareware every month, according to a study by software developer Panda Security. “Scareware is still the most promising way of turning compromised machines into cash,” says Dirk Kollberg, a senior threat researcher at security firm Sophos. The problem is this method is very effective. IMI a clandestine operation that creates a lot of scareware is rumoured to have made upwards of $3.96 million per year in pure profit!
So, how do you know the difference between your legitimate anti-virus application and scareware? After all, you don’t want to ignore a legitimate warning message.
First and foremost, get back to basics…
Know what anti-virus or protection software you have installed on your computer.
The scam artists are counting on you not remembering what protection you’ve installed on your computer. Know the name of the software manufacturer (Symantec, TrendMicro, McAfee, etc.) and know the name of the product (Norton Internet Security, PC-cillin, Total Protection, etc). These products also come with a subscription for updates. Know how to find the subscription information so you can verify when the subscription expires.
Some of the scareware pop-up messages appear to be generated from the Windows Security Center. The Windows Security Center is part of Windows. Its purpose is to monitor the status of the presence of an anti-virus application or when the Windows Firewall is turned off. Essentially, the only legitimate messages you will receive from the Windows Security Center are warnings as to the absence of an anti-virus application or warning that your Windows Firewall has been turned off. You can recognize any fake “Windows Security Center” pop-up messages if there is a warning stating that there are infections on the system or if there is an inducement to download or purchase a product.
Unfortunately, if these scareware messages start popping up on your computer it means that your computer is already infected. If you click the pop-up message to purchase the software, a form to collect payment information for the bogus product launches allowing you to download and purchase the fake anti-virus product. But, that is not when your computer gets infected. In most instances, the scareware installed malicious code onto your computer before you saw any pop-up messages… whether you click the warning message, the purchase pop-up form, or not.
Steve Jobs – CEO and co-founder of Apple – who passed away on 5th October – hasn’t even been buried yet and already there are numerous scams using his name and company to extort information and money.
As an example, the stevejobsfuneral.com site, attempts to collect e-mail addresses for a supposed lottery with a 1-in-15 chance to win a Macbook. And it links to an online store selling Apple products as way to pay tribute to Jobs, by buying Apple products.
Conveniently for the site, this link also contains affiliate advertising info that brings revenue for any purchases made though the link.
It is probably needless to say that people should avoid stevejobsfuneral.com, which was already registered on September 20th. The vultures have been circling around for quite a while.
Criminals have gotten pretty good at making fake Web sites (for PayPal, eBay, Facebook, etc.) look like the real thing. But what they can’t fake quite as easily is the location of the Web server that’s hosting their fraudulent site. You might be looking at a perfect replica of, say, Bank of America, but if the site is hosted in Uzbekistan, it’s a good bet you shouldn’t input your password.
Flagfox for Firefox makes this kind of detective work simple: it determines the Web server’s physical location and pastes the corresponding country’s flag at the end of the address bar. Clever!
If you’re wondering how it works, Flagfox bases its flag choice on the actual location of the server you’re connected to, rather than just the nationality of the domain name–which may be different.
After installing the plug-in and restarting Firefox, just head to any site and you’ll see the flag at the right end of the address bar. If you click the flag, you’ll get a new tab containing detailed geographic information about the site.
If you right-click the flag, Flagfox pops up a list of other handy tools, including Whois, SiteAdvisor, Web of Trust, and URL-shortener bit.ly. Head to the settings (via Tools, Add-ons) for the plug-in and you’ll find a dozen or so other options you can add to the list.
This is a great little addition to Firefox, one that combines convenience with added security. What’s not to like?
By Rick Broida, PCWorld
An excellent article on phishing scams from HP Small & Medium Business
You’ve just received an email from the bank, telling you that there was an error in your favour in your last bank statement, and that you should “click here” to claim what’s owing to you.
Fantastic news! Isn’t it?
No: you’re about to become a victim of a type of cybercrime called “phishing”.
Baiting the hook
First given the name in 1996, “phishing” describes a scam which is designed to trick you into giving away your online passwords. The hook is often an e-mail from an apparently trustworthy source, with a link to a website that looks exactly like one you are familiar with. There you’ll be asked to provide details which would enable scammers to obtain money, take out credit card loans in your name or commit other crimes. And as soon as you’ve clicked on the link or opened the attachment, you’ve exposed yourself to computer viruses that can detect your keystrokes when you log on to your accounts.
Phishers are always coming up with new ways to target people or organisations; with smartphones and the use of social media on the rise, opportunities are ever greater for these attacks. “Vishers” (voice phishing) try to obtain information by phone; “smishers” send text messages (SMS); and spear phishers target corporate employees. All of them want to take your money; all are committing criminal acts.
These are all typical scams; people become victims every day.
So remember these three rules:
1. Check the URL.
If an email comes from your bank, look carefully at the URL.
First comes http:// or https://
Next comes the host name, for example xxbank.com
But check it carefully! Scammers often include your bank’s name in front of their own website name. For example, if your bank’s address is xxbank.com, a scammer called badbank.com might use xxbank.badbank.com, or even xxbank.com.badbank.com. They own the website “badbank.com”, so they can put whatever they want in front of it.
Something else to watch out for: sometimes, scammers insert hyperlinks to their own websites, hidden behind innocent-looking text. For example, the hyperlinked text says: http://www.xxbank.com, but the actual hyperlink is to http://www.badbank.com Again, the only sensible thing to do is NOT TO CLICK. Banks and other financial institutions do not send e-mails about important issues.
2. Don’t trust strange emails or phone calls.
Remember that banks, credit card issuers and similar institutions would never e-mail or phone customers with important information; they would send a letter. So no matter how pleasant or convincing the “bank employee” on the phone is, end the conversation quickly without giving any information. If you aren’t sure whether an e-mail or phone call is genuine, phone your bank yourself or write them a letter.
3. Use up-to-date software.
The best thing you can do: install the latest software to protect your computer from malware (malicious software).
Is it too late?
Once you’ve got your anti-virus software and personal firewall installed, you should be safe – but it’s still wise to remember what they told you when you were a child: “Don’t talk to strangers.” At least, don’t tell them your passwords.
So you have gone out and purchased a computer (or a laptop)! Congratulations! It probably cost you a pretty penny and exhausted your bank balance for years to come, and when you start it up, you realise that although you might have a computer, you have no software for it apart from the basic operating system. (like Windows 7) How do you type a document, or create a spreadsheet to manage your budget, or you need to protect your computer against viruses. What can you do when your budget is tight?
Working for the university does has its advantages. You can get this software for really low prices but the licencing terms of that software mean that when you leave the university, you no longer “own” that software. Secondly only you as personnel or a student have the right to get cheap software. Members of your family who are not university students or personnel are excluded!
I did a quick survey of a basic word processing program like Microsoft Word (part of the Microsoft Office suite) and a decent anti-virus software that will protect your computer against viruses and clean up existing infections:
So you have to fork out between R900 and R1400 for the absolute basic software that you require…Ouch!
But there is a solution – open source or freeware software.
“Open Source” software refers to any program whose source code is made available for use or modification as users or other developers see fit. Open source software is usually developed as a public collaboration and made freely available. Freeware is software you can download, pass around, and distribute without any initial payment.
Instead of buying Microsoft Office, you might consider downloading and installing LibreOffice.
LibreOffice is the free power-packed Open Source personal productivity suite for Windows, Macintosh and Linux computers, that give you six applications for all your document production and data processing needs: a word processor, a spreadsheet creator, a presentation creator, a vector based drawing program, an equation editor and a database creator. What is more is that it is 100% compatible with Microsoft Office files and can both read and write files that will work and display on computers with LibreOffice…
Instead of buying an anti-virus program like Norton AV or McAfee, download either the Avira or Avast! free versions of anti-virus software. Both Avira and Avast! are complete anti-virus and anti-spyware solutions for Windows PCs, and they not only protect you from unknown online threats, they also scan your PC to get rid of the junk that’s already there.
Avira and Avast! perform scheduled scans, and provide real-time protection against viruses coming from email, web browsing, instant messaging and peer-to-peer file sharing. Their web shields keeps suspicious websites from loading, and I like Avast’s “sandbox” that lets you isolate programs and keep them from changing anything on your computer.
That is a good start for now. I will post some more articles on some pretty useful “free” software later on!