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Submission + - The Avanti Group: Attacking us through our technology is scam 2.0

genebiemarls writes: Source:

Your computer is fraught with perils.

Most of us depend on this piece of equipment for multiple tasks in our lives yet know little about how it works. That makes us vulnerable to those looking to take advantage of our lack of technological sophistication.

Awareness is the best protection. So I'm passing on the experiences of readers who contacted The Pilot last month to alert us to two different computer scams that tried to make them victims.

John C. Edwards got an unsolicited call last month from someone who identified himself as working for "Windows Technical Services." The company had a report, the caller said, that Edwards was having a problem with the Microsoft Windows operating system.

"You do have a Windows machine?" the caller confirmed with Edwards.

"I should have caught on right there," Edwards, 69, told me during an interview last week.

The Virginia Beach resident had struggled with a few problems with his Microsoft security update, so he continued with the call. The supposed technician said he needed to connect remotely to Edwards' computer. Again, Edwards was skeptical but proceeded.

The distant technician began to work on some programs behind other windows open on Edwards' computer screen. "I had a whole bunch of corrupted files on my computer, and they were going to help me get rid of them," Edwards said the caller told him.

After a short time, Edwards grew wary and cut off the call. He never paid any money and believes he thwarted whatever the caller wanted to accomplish, "because they've been calling me ever since."

Edwards was a target of a likely "tech support scam," as the Federal Trade Commission calls it. Callers pose as technicians from operations that sound similar to major technology companies — Microsoft, Dell or security software makers Norton and McAfee. Once they gain access to a consumer's computer, they claim to find some kind of problem and pressure the consumer to pay anywhere from $130 to $300 to fix it, said Colleen Robbins, chief of online threat initiatives for the commission.

The commission heard the first complaints about this kind of scam in 2008, Robbins said. In October, the commission sued six companies accused of operating fraudulent tech support and has since settled a case against one individual.

The first clue that these callers aren't legit: Microsoft and the other companies will never call you unsolicited to offer tech support.

The commission found no evidence that the phony technicians stole personal information from victims' computers. "They want consumers' money," Robbins said.

Still, she advised that consumers who gave these operators access to their computers should change their passwords, consider visiting a computer repair expert to check for a breach, and watch their credit reports for signs that personal account information was stolen.

And, she said, they should adhere to this lesson: "If you don't know who they are, don't let them into your computer."

Some unscrupulous actors will get into your computer even when you don't allow them access.

That's what Judith Martin discovered. Her son turned on her computer in early July and saw a frightening message pop up on the screen.

It said the U.S. Department of Justice had found some kind of illegal activity on her computer and blocked further use of it. The message instructed her to pay a $300 fee to remove the block by ordering a prepaid MoneyPak card — even suggesting retailers such as Wal-Mart and Walgreens that sell it — and providing the account number on the screen.

Martin, 71, realized someone was trying to swindle her.

The so-called "FBI virus" is a form of computer malware, sometimes called "ransomware" because it holds your computer hostage for money.

Martin, a retired high school math teacher who lives in Virginia Beach, didn't buy a MoneyPak but did have to pay a computer repair service about $100 to get the virus removed from her computer. "It was very unnerving, just the idea that they would try to do that to people," she said.

Cox Communications' technicians have helped its high-speed Internet customers remove the FBI virus. The virus typically attacks a computer when the user clicks a link on a website or in an email, which might appear innocent, said Sarah Weaver, a spokeswoman at the cable company's local headquarters in Chesapeake.

Once removed, the virus doesn't seem to cause lasting damage or recur — unless the consumer stumbles upon another tainted link, Weaver said.

Submission + - http://istumblrdown Shuttered by Cease and Desist Order (

TrueSatan writes: Blogging platform Tumblr has issued a Cease and desist notice to a rather trivial and harmless site that simply offered status updates for Tumblr. The site owner claims this to be symptomatic of Tumblr's disregard for users needs quoting and their fixation on banning users rather than any more positive improvements they might make to their platform.

Submission + - Apple now relaying all FaceTime calls due to lost patent dispute (

Em Adespoton writes: Before the VirnetX case, nearly all FaceTime calls were done through a system of direct communication. Essentially, Apple would verify that both parties had valid FaceTime accounts and then allow their two devices to speak directly to each other over the Internet, without any intermediary or "relay" servers. However, a small number of calls—5 to 10 percent, according to an Apple engineer who testified at trial—were routed through "relay servers."

At the August 15 hearing, a VirnetX lawyer stated that Apple had logged "over half a million calls" complaining about the quality of FaceTime [since disabling direct connections].

Submission + - Raspberry Pi, Smart Highways Win World's Biggest Design Prize (

An anonymous reader writes: Last night the €500,000 INDEX: Award was awarded to 5 designs that can improve life for millions of people around the world — including high-tech highways that light up at night, the $25 Raspberry Pi computer, and a simple piece of paper that can cut food waste by extending the life of fresh produce by 2-4 weeks.

Submission + - Why you won't see or hear the 'I have a dream' speech (

Amorymeltzer writes: In honor of the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, The Washington Post has an opinion piece by lawyer Josh Schiller detailing how copyright will prevent the full speech from being heard or seen by most:

A few months after King delivered the speech, he sent a copy of the address to the U.S. Copyright office and listed the remarks as a “work not reproduced for sale.” In legal terms, this is also known as an unpublished work. He subsequently sued to enjoin two publishers from distributing phonographic reproductions of the address.

Since 1963, King and, posthumously, his estate have strictly enforced control over use of that speech and King’s likeness. A few years ago, the estate received more than $700,000from the nonprofit foundation that created and built the monument to King on the Mall in order to use his words and image. The only legal way to reproduce King’s work — at least until it enters the public domain in 2038 — is to pay for a licensing fee, rates for which vary.

Submission + - Apple attempts to trademark the term "startup" in Australia (

An anonymous reader writes: Apple has lodged a trademark application for the term “startup” in Australia. If the application passes the examination phase, and isn’t successfully opposed, the term could become officially protected after seven-and-a-half months.

Submission + - Devs Flay Microsoft for Withholding Windows 8.1 RTM (

CWmike writes: Windows app developers are taking Microsoft to task for the company's decision to withhold Windows 8.1 until mid-October. Traditionally, Microsoft offers an RTM to developers several weeks before the code reaches the general public. On Tuesday, however, Microsoft confirmed that although Windows 8.1 has reached RTM, subscribers to MSDN will not get the final code until the public does on Oct. 17, saying it was not finished. Antoine Leblond, a Microsoft spokesman, in a blog post, 'In the past, the release to manufacturing (RTM) milestone traditionally meant that the software was ready for broader customer use. However, it's clear that times have changed.' Developers raged against the decision in comments on another Microsoft blog post, one that told programmers to write and test their apps against Windows 8.1 Preview, the public sneak peak that debuted two months ago. 'In an world inhabited by pink unicorns and pixie dust, the advice in this post would be sufficient,' said 'brianjsw,' one of several commenters. 'However, we live in the real world last time I looked out the window. In the real world, developers must have access to the RTM bits before [general availability]. The fact that Microsoft no longer seems to understand this truly frightens me.'

Submission + - NSA Shuts down critics under guise of copyright violations (

An anonymous reader writes: “Can a government agency block criticism by claiming copyright infringement? Sounds a bit ridiculous but it is happening. The NSA is effectively stopping one small business owner from criticism, claiming that by using its name he has infringed on their copyright,” according to a report by Infowars guest and investigative journalist Ben Swann.

Submission + - Intelligence Official Says He Was Fired For Not Lying To Congress (

An anonymous reader writes: We knew this already, but we are only being told what the NSA wants us to know and no defections from the Official Spin are allowed.

As more and more details come out about the NSA surveillance programs, the federal government is looking more and more ridiculous. The latest comes from a column by John Fund at the National Review Online — a publication which has been a pretty strong supporter of the surveillance state. The column highlights that even the NSA's staunchest defenders are beginning to get fed up with the NSA as more leaks come out (especially last week's revelation of thousands of abuses). But the really interesting tidbit is buried a bit:

A veteran intelligence official with decades of experience at various agencies identified to me what he sees as the real problem with the current NSA: “It’s increasingly become a culture of arrogance. They tell Congress what they want to tell them. Mike Rogers and Dianne Feinstein at the Intelligence Committees don’t know what they don’t know about the programs.” He himself was asked to skew the data an intelligence agency submitted to Congress, in an effort to get a bigger piece of the intelligence budget. He refused and was promptly replaced in his job, presumably by someone who would do as told.

Submission + - SOPA 2013

An anonymous reader writes: Criminalizing streaming was a key component of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Currently streaming of copyrighted works is a misdemeanor, and a primarily a civil issue not a criminal one. The Internet Policy Taskforce is proposing to make streaming of copyrighted content a FELONY, with the potential for multi-year prison terms as punishment. Exactly what constitutes a 'stream' and 'copyright content' are open to very wide interpretation. Is a video stream of a mother singing "Happy Birthday to You" to her son a felony? The Internet Policy Taskforce would say yes. We need to say no.
Making copyright infringements a felony isn't really about sending a message or acting as a deterrent. Instead, by turning the civil matter into a criminal one, the RIAA, MPAA and others get to hand enforcement of their copyrights over to the government. In essence they get a free ride on taxpayer dollars. Further to that, by ensuring broad interpretations of 'streaming' and 'copyright content' they will get to shut down anyone who comes up with an alternative distribution model.

Submission + - We hold these truths to be self-evident

Tijaska writes: I once read a document that started:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

"That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Excuse my ignorance, but how do the People exercise their right to alter or abolish a Government that becomes destructive of their rights if the Government denies them the right to know that it is doing these things, and persecutes/prosecutes any who dare reveal these transgressions?

Submission + - NSA Officers Sometimes Spy on Love Interests (

Jah-Wren Ryel writes: The latest twist in the NSA coverage sounds like something out of a dime-store romance novel — NSA agents eavesdropping on their current and former girlfriends. Official categories of spying have included SIGINT (signals intelligence) and HUMINT (human intelligence) and now the NSA has added a new category to the lexicon LOVEINT which is surely destined to be a popular hashtag now.

Submission + - Could a Grace Hopper Get Hired in Silicon Valley?

theodp writes: Where in the Tech World is Carmen San Diego? Lots of heated discussion this week on the topic of where-the-girls-aren't, both in the tech and larger business world. Dave Winer broached the subject of Why are there so few women programmers?, prompting a mix of flame, venom and insight. And over at Valleywag, Nitasha Tiku pegs 'Culture Fit' as an insidious excuse used to marginalize women in tech. Completing the trilogy-of-XX-chromosome-terror is an HBR article, Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?, in which Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic concludes the problem is that manifestations of hubris, which occur much more frequently in men than women, are commonly mistaken for leadership potential. So, with a gender and age strike against her, would a Grace Hopper in her prime even land an interview in today's Silicon Valley?

Submission + - Fukushima actually "much worse" than so far disclosed

PuceBaboon writes: The BBC is reporting that experts are casting doubt on the veracity of statements from both the Tokyo Electric Power Company and the Japanese government regarding the seriousness of the problems at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Not only are the constant leaks releasing radioactivity into the ocean (and thus into the food chain), but now there are also worries that the spent fuel rod storage pools may be even more unstable than first thought.
An external consultant warns, "The Japanese have a problem asking for help. It is a big mistake; they badly need it."

Submission + - New canon-faithful Star Trek series is in pre-production. (

An anonymous reader writes: Star Trek veterans such as Walter Koenig (Pavel Chekov), Tim Russ (Tuvok), Robert Picardo (the Doctor) and others are busy in pre-production of a professionally produced pilot episode for a suggested new online Star Trek series named Star Trek: Renegades, which will be faithful to the original Star Trek canon. The events of the series are placed a decade after Voyager's return from Delta Quadrant. They have also opened an Indiegogo campaign, seeking more funds from Star Trek fans to help make the production even more professional.

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