Monthly Archives: August 2015

App of the Week – Companion

opengraph-iconRegardless of what neighborhood you live in walking alone at night can be dangerous. Let’s face it, no one is immune to crime.  That’s why Companion is the app of the week.

Its always agood idea, epecially for women, to be safe and aware when walking alone, day or nght.  Some people will stay on the phone with a friend or spouse when walking alone. Companion will notify a friend when you walk alone and continuosly update them as you make your journey. The app works by entering your destination and selecting some  of your phone contacts to be your Companion. Your contacts don’t have to have the app.  Your contacts can see a live map of your progress and recieve updates as you walk to your destination. The app can sense if you start running. It can estimate how long it takes to get from point A to B. If you don’t make it to your destination on time or have your headphones yanked out or your phone falls to the ground the app will check in on you to make sure everything is okay. You must respond in 15 seconds or the Companion app will alert your contacts.

The app can be used by college students on campus in areas that could be dangerous. By simply tapping the “I Feel Nervous” button Companion will pass this information on to the campus police department. Campus cops may not respond with sirens or flashing lights, but the information can help make the campus safer. 

If you do have an emergency calling 911 can be done with two taps in the app. The app will immediately connect you with a dispatcher and automatically send your info. 

The Companion app is built for one thing, safety.  Companion uses certain metrics to sense if  you’re in trouble and ask if you’re okay. If you don’t respond, it will automatically alert your chosen contacts. Your contacts don’t have to constatly monitor your position. The Companion is an added layer of security allowing you to stay in touch and be alert to your surrounding at all times. 

Companion is free and available for Apple and Android Devices.

Breach Brief – IRS Data Breach, Ashley Madison Update

August 24, 2015 

IRS Breach

IRS_LogoThe Internal Revenue Service (IRS) widened the scope of the breach first announced in May. The government agency is saying that as many as 390,000 taxpayers are now at risk. The hack was centered around the IRS’ Get Transcript system.

The IRS suspended the Get Transcript online service in May. The service was intended to simplify how taxpayers retrieve their tax records, review their tax account transactions, get line-by-line tax return information or wage and income reported to the IRS for a specific tax year.  Hackers circumvented the Get Transcript’s authentication safeguards and are believed to have gained access to taxpayer information, including Social Security numbers.

According to an August 17th statement the IRS stepped up its investigation of the breach. A deeper review of the compromised system included analyzing over 23 million system uses, including the 2015 filing season. Investigators were looking for suspicious activities and identified “more questionable attempts” to obtain taxpayer records through the Web application.

No details were provided on how the agency uncovered the additional taxpayer account breaches. But it is believed that the hackers were very skillful and probably covered their tracks to make it more made it difficult for the tax agency to quickly assess the extent of the breach.

Update-Ashley Madison Breach

ashley-madison-hed-2014Hackers who stole profile and customer data from Ashley Madison have released the data online. According to multiple reports a 10GB file of customer’s personal data including email addresses, member profiles and transaction data is now available online. Some reports say as many as 32 million customer’s information was released including one million UK civil servants, U.S. officials, members of the U.S. armed forces and top executives at European and North American corporations. There already reports of blackmail and divorce petitions because of the data release.

Impact Team, the hacker group claiming credit for the data theft,  released the data after Avid Life Media, which owns Ashley Madison and Established Men failed to meet demands that they permanently shut the sites down down. Cougar Life, another Avid Life Media site, was not mentioned and seems to be unaffected.

Additional information;

The Blackmail of Ashley Customer Has Already Begun

People are already starting divorce proceedings because of the Ashley Madison leak.

After the devastating hack, these lawsuits are threatening to wipe Ashley Madison out altogether.

A chart made from the leaked Ashley Madison data reveals which states in the US like to cheat the most.

The Pentagon Is Investigating the Ashley Madison Leak.

How to check if an account was exposed in the Ashley Madison hack

August 4, 2015

United Airlines

united_continental_logo_detAccording to Bloomberg Business United Airlines has reported that it’s customer flight records have been lost to a data breach.

The breach was detected in May or June of this year and involved flight manifests. Chinese hackers are suspected. These same Chinese hackers are suspected of stealing more than twenty million OPM records. Experts believe that Chinese intelligence is constructing a massive database.

United Airlines is one of the government’s largest contractors. It is believed that the stolen data contains vast amounts of information on military and government officials and federal employee’s travel.

Experts have also questioned a possible connection between the hack and the computer glitch that caused flight delays on July 8th. Evidence from the investigation reveal that hackers may have been inside United’s computers for months.

A spokesman for United Airlines declined to confirm that a breach occurred and insisted that customer’s private data is safe.

One of the major concerns is that hackers, tinkering with sensitive systems, could accidently or deliberately, cause massive flight delays or even cripple a major airline causing nationwide and potentially global aviation gridlock. Another concern is backdoors left inside computer networks that allow hackers back in at will.

United spokesman Luke Punzenberger said of customer information that United “would abide by notification requirements if the situation warranted.”

Medical Informatics Engineering

mielogolargeA data breach at Medical Informatics Engineering has compromised the data of over 3.9 million people nationwide. According MIE the information loss includes names, phone numbers, mailing addresses, user names, hashed passwords, security questions and answers, email addresses, birthdates, Social Security numbers, lab results, health insurance policy information, diagnoses, disability codes, doctors’ names, medical conditions, and spouses’ and childrens’ names and birthdates.

MIE creates electronic medical records software for health care providers and the result of the breach could impact as many as 11 healthcare providers including local, national and the federal government.

According to the company the hackers had access to the MIE servers for three weeks and have stolen the information to sell on the black market. Experts suspect the theft was likely and inside job.

MIE has reported the breach to the FBI Cyber squad and said the investigation into the security breach is ongoing. MIE  is offering free credit monitoring and identity theft protection. The company has established a toll free hotline available Monday-Friday 9:00AM-9:00PM EST at (866) 328-1987.

 July 28, 2015

Experian

ExperianLogo

Experian Credit Reporting Services is the target of a class action lawsuit filed in California. The amount is to be determined. According to the suit Experian was negligent and violated consumer protection laws because it failed to realize that for nearly a year a customer of it’s data brokerage subsidiary, Court Ventures, was actually a criminal gang specializing in selling consumer data to identity thieves. Experian purchased Court Vnetures in 2012.

The leader of the identity theft ring was sentenced to 13 years in prison last week in New Hampshire. Hieu Minh Ngo accessed as many as 200 million consumer records by posing as a private investigator based in the United States.

According to the government Ngo collected nearly $2 million from his scheme. The IRS has confirmed that 13,673 U.S. citizens had their personal information stolen and sold on Ngo’s websites Superget.info and Findget.me. The stolen identities were used to file over $65 million dollars in fraudulent tax returns.

Plaintiffs in the case have asked the court to compel Experian to notify all consumers affected by the breach, provide free credit monitoring services, turn over all profits made as a result of the Ngo relationship and to establish a fund to reimburse victims for the time and expenses of fighting fraud and correcting identity theft caused by customers of Ngo’s ID theft service.

U.S Census Bureau

2000px-Census_Bureau_seal.svgThe U.S. Census Bureau reported a data breach early last week. In a written statement released on Friday Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson said a database belonging to the Federal Audit Clearinghouse had been attacked. The FAC collects audit reports from the government agencies and other organizations spending federal money. 

According to Thompson the information included the names of people who submitted information, addresses, phone numbers, user names and other data. According the Bureau no household or business data was lost.

In the statement Thompson wrote that the intruders accessed the database through a configuration setting on an external IT system. That system is separate from the Census Bureau internal systems that stores census data.

In the statement Thompson went to say, “Over the last three days, we have seen no indication that there was any access to internal systems.”

The attack was apparently in protest of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Both are pending trade agreements that have been widely criticized. A group calling itself Anonymous Operations claimed credit for the breach and posted a link on Twitter to four of the stolen files.

July 20, 2015

Ashley Madison

ashley-madison-hed-2014A hacking group calling itself the Impact Team has hacked into the sex hookup website AshleyMadison.com.

According to Krebsonsecurity.com massive caches of customer and company data have been stolen and posted online. The group claims to have totally penetrated the company’s networks taking control of the company’s customer database of 37 millon users, financial records and other proprietary information. As a website dedicated to cheating spouses the damage could go well beyond lost data.

Avid Life Media, which in addition to Ashley Madison also owns hookup sites CougarLife.com and EstablishedMen.com, was attacked in retaliation for lying to customers. According to the Impact Team hackers ALM advertised to customers  a service allowing members to completely erase their profile information for a $19 fee. According to the hackers the company is not fully deleting user’s information including personally identifiable information, user’s purchase details and real name and address.

The hackers have demanded that Ashley Madison and Established Men websites be taken down immediately and permanently or more information will be released online.  The hackers are threatening to release customer records, including profiles with their secret sexual fantasies and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails.

Avid Life Media CEO Noel Biderman believes the attack maybe the work of one or more persons, possibly an employee or contractor, who had legitimate access to the company’s network.

July 18, 2015

CVSPhoto.com, Costocophotocenter.com, RiteAid Photo, Sams Club, Walgreens & Tesco

CVS PhotoPNI Digital Media  is a third party vendor that handles transactions for these retailers according to KrebsOn Security.com PNI has suffered a data breach of unknown size. But it is known that customer payment information has been compromised.

Neither PNI nor any of the retailers connected with the breach have said much only saying that more information will be released as it becomes available. CVSPhoto.com took down its photo site and posted an announcement indicating an investigation is under way and that other CVS sites such as it’s pharmacy were unaffected by the breach. CVS has asked customers who used the photo service to check and monitor their card statements for suspicious activity or transactions. If anything looks strange they are to contact their bank or card company immediately to report it.

Costcophotocenter.com and RiteAid photo also took their sites down.

UCLA Health

UCLA Health has confirmed health information for as many as 4 million individuals has been exposed as a result of a data breach that may have began last September. The FBI is investigating and UCLA has hired a private forensics experts to beef up the security on it’s servers.

According to a UCLA Health statement released on Friday “criminal hackers” hacked into parts of the organization’s computer network containing personal and medical information.

UCLA Health began investigating suspicious activity on its networks in October of 2014. At the time they  did not believe the attackers gained access to areas of the network containing personal and medical information.

“As part of that ongoing investigation, on May 5, 2015, UCLA Health determined that the attackers had accessed parts of the network that contain personal information such as names, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, medical record numbers, Medicare or health plan ID numbers and some medical information. Based on the continuing investigation, it appears that the attackers may have had access to these parts of the network as early as September 2014. We continue to investigate this matter.”

Office of Personnel Management

Even though OPM suffered a data breach and the loss of information of 24 million Americans the government still has not notified those invividuals. Its been two months.

Officials from multiple agencies familiar with the investigation say that OPM is working with other agencies to set up a system to inform the victims.

An OPM official, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that because of the complicated nature of the data and movement of contract and federal employees it would be weeks before a mechanism was in place.

According to the official the government is attempting to establish a central notification system rather than rely on separate agencies to make notifications. An outside contractor  is being considered for the task but OPM has not yet asked for bids for the job.

July 16, 2015

OPM Data Breach

An interagenOPM Sealcy task force investigating April’s OPM hacking has determined with “high confidence” that as many as 21.5 million people had their personal information stolen. This includes social security numbers .

The Office of Personnel Management updated its website last Thursday with the startling new information.

According to the OPM 4.2 million former federal employees’ personnel data was stolen. While investigating that theft investigators found a much larger data theft. OPM has not yet notified the 19.7 million additional individuals affected. Those are the people who requested a background check normally for employment purposes or acces to classified information. An additional 1.8 were people were not job appicants but were either married to or co-habiting with an applicant.

In addition to personal information the hackers stole as many as one million fingerprint records.

Applicants who applied for employment had their user names and passwords for investigation forms stolen. It is also highly possible that information such as mental health history and financial history many have also been stolen. Applicants that were interviewed as part of their background investigations often reveal this sensitive information when applying for security clearences.

OPM attempted to take some of the sting from the bad news by saying “there is no evidence that health, financial, payroll, and retirement records of federal personnel or those who have applied for a federal job were impacted by this incident (for example, annuity rolls, retirement records, USAjobs, Employee Express).” The agency assures the public that it’s working to create safeguards to prevent such incidents in the future.

OPM Director Katherine Archuleta resigned her position last week after whitering criticism over the data breach.

Army National Guard Data Breach

Seal_of_the_United_States_Army_National_Guard.svgCurrent and former members of the Army National Guard members dating back to 2004 had personal information including social security numbers, birthdates and home addresses stolen. 

National Guard Spokesman Major Earl Brown, said “The National Guard Bureau takes the control of personal information very seriously,” said Brown. “After investigating the circumstances of these actions, and the information that was transferred, the Guard has determined, out of an abundance of caution, to inform current and past Guard personnel that their Personally Identifiable Information (PII) was among the files that were transferred.”

“The issue was identified and promptly reported, and we do not believe the data will be used unlawfully,” Brown said. “This was not a hacking incident, in which the intent was to use data for financial gain. Nonetheless, the Guard believes that individuals potentially affected need to know about the breach and what actions they can take to protect themselves from potential identity theft.”

If you are a member of the Nationa guard and need more information please  go to http://www.nationalguard.mil/Features/IdentityTheft.aspx or call  toll-free 877-276-4729 8AM to 4PM EST, Monday through Friday. You can also email any questions you have to dod.data.breach.questions@mail.mil

Two Year Cellphone Are Contracts are Dead, Maybe

canstockphoto26388971It is with great glee and little regret that we report that the two year cellphone contract has died; sort of. Are we finally rid of this painful financial burden? Maybe. In the past cellphone providers have charged you for long distance calls long after technology eliminated it, forced you to buy a new phone if you switched carriers and locked you into two year contracts to keep you hooked like an addict to a drug dealer. 

All this has changed. President Obama signed into law an end to being forced to buy a new phone if you switch carriers.  And now the two year contract is dying. Thats the good news. The bad news is you gonna have to pay full price for smartphones.

The AACR has repeatedly reported that the state of the cellphone industry is an all out bloodbath for customers. Except for school children getting their first phone there are few new customers. 

So why is this important for African-Ameicans? Black people use their cellphones more than any other group.  A report last year by the Federal Reserve Board revealed that blacks and Latinos make up a “disproportionately high rate” of mobile-banking users. A study by Pew Internet research showed that 41 percent of non-whites say they use their smartphones to check their balances, pay bills and perform other transactions, including 39 percent of blacks. Now throw in text messages, email, online shopping and of course phone calls. So the question really is, do you have a cellphone contract? Are you paying for text, talk and data? All that is changing.

T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon and AT&T have all announced the move to no contract phone plans.

T-Mobile started the trend of killing off the two year contract with its un-carrier movement. T-Mobile is offering customers the ability upgrade three times a year with its Jump! On Demand offering. In addition to approved credit Jump! On Demand still has a monthly fee associated with the phone. It’s stretched out over 18 months and that’s close enough to a two year contract. If you don’t switch phones with Jump! On Demand, you’ll owe a final lump sum at the end of that 18 month period. T-Mobile has also eliminated  roaming charges in Canada and Mexico. Aggressive moves like this have pushed T-Mobile pass Sprint in total connections.

AT&T is the only company still offering a two year contract.  But the company is slowly closing out this option for third-party retailers.  AT&T plans to offer its contract-free Next program.

Emily Edmonds, spokesperson for AT&T said, “Our customers increasingly choose AT&T Next, so we’re responding by featuring Next as the most prominent way to get a new smartphone at our national retailers and local dealers. Customers who would rather have a two-year contract still have that option.” Two-year contracts will still be available but only at AT&T stores online or brick and mortar. 

Verizon announced its dumping its two year contract plan earlier this month. By the end of 2015 Verizon expects 50 percent of new smartphone sales to be sold without contracts as part of its “Edge” program. Verizon is dropping the subsidy for new smartphones and encouraging customers to buy their own devices. This is the trend in the industry.

But if you wish to get a new phone Verizon is still willing to accommodate you. They simply tack the price of the phone on your bill in montly installments. Yeah, that’s a contract. Verizon’s Edge program allows custmers to upgrade to a new phone anytime they wish as long as the old phone is paid off.

Verizon’s new plans took effect Aug. 13. Prices for voice, text and data services will be reduced by an estimated $20 per month compared with plans where the company subsidized the price of a new phone. Verizon is dropping its phone subsidies along with its two year contract. 

Verizon’s introduced its new plans based around shared data packages. There’s no more single line or family plan. Instead Verizon customers will pay for a specific amount of data and a pay a per-device enrollment fee for the plan. The plans was launched on August 13th. Current Verizon subscribers can keep their existing plans, and the perks that go with it, or switch over to the new plans but some restrictions will apply.

Sprint announced the termination of its two year plan and will offer plans where customers lease their smartphones. For customers it means buying a new phone out right at full retail price or choosing the lease option. According to Sprint, in the last quarter, 51 percent of customers used the lease option to purchase a new phone.

Sprint knows that customers are not looking forward to buying a new phone that sometimes retail for as much as $700. So they have sweetened the pot a little. The company has introduced the iPhone Forever plan. For $22 a month more on their monthly bill customers can upgrade to the newest iPhone annually as soon as it becomes available. This option will be very popular among techno-geeks and gadget hounds who can’t be seen without the latest smartphone. But yeah, that’s a contract.

Breaking It Down

Cellphone carriers are fighting for their lives. The market is saturated and finding new customers is like trying to find diamonds on the street. Right now if you are a cellphone customer, and who isn’t, the game is all yours. This switch to no contracts means the market will open up and go crazy for a short while. Many people who are in a contract can jump ship anytime they want because a competitor will pay their early termination fee. That is about to end because there will be no more contracts. With the cellphone carriers in an all out war there will be winners. First, cellphone makers will see an increase in sales as all the carriers offer anytime upgrades. So cellphone makers will crank up the factory and marketing to get more, newer and better phones on the market. Cellphone re-sellers are going to make a few bucks and so keep an eye out for the explosion of used cellphones about to hit the market. Some will be nearly brand new. And customers, with their new phones can pick any carrier, anytime they want.

So now what? Now the game gets really bloody. Cellphone carriers, the big ones, will soon die off or merge. You’ll see more and more small and regional cell carriers. Remember the break up of Ma Bell? These smaller companies will offer more options, more deals and more services. Thats the sweet spot for black people. The competitive market is just too tough a game and its not going to change. Now the game is to buy the best cellphone you can afford and hold on to it. Switch to the carrier with the best deal and dump them when you find a better deal.  The next blood letting will come from the data plans. Unlimited text, talk and data is the next next and final battle for survival. One or more of the big carriers will finally die off.

 

 

 

 

 

App of the Week – OneRx

OneRxMedicine is expensive. Whether you have insurance or not the price of prescription drugs can be astronomical. That is why OneRx is the App of the Week.

Why are prescription drugs so expensive. Because drug companies spend billions of dollars and years researching and testing new drugs. Sometimes only to have the Food and Drug Administration deny them the the right to sell it. There is always the chance of a massive lawsuits from unforseen side effects. Creating a new drug is a gamble. If approved for use by the FDA, the drug company has the right to recoup their investment plus profits over a period of time usually years. Only then does the generic equivalent hit the market.

Generic drugs are the biochemical equivalent of a name brand drug and even though they are the same drug they sell for much, much less than brand name drugs. According to the Food and Drug Administration generic drugs save the consumer $8 to $10 billion dollars a year in retail sales.

Black people still struggle to pay for much needed medications. Research shows that people of color are twice as likely to be without medical insurance than white Americans. According to the NAACP;

  • 18% of African Americans under 65 years are without health insurance coverage.
  • Over 103 million people of color nationwide suffer disproportionately in the health care system
  • A larger share of African Americans and Latinos lack a usual place of health care, and they are less than half as likely as whites to have a regular doctor.

One Rx has a way to help. OneRx combines coupons and insurance discounts to figure out how little a person has to spend on medication. The app allows the user to know the price of the medication before the doctor writes the prescription. This is especially helpful if you find your insurance doesn’t cover the medicine prescribed.

The best thing about this app is that it works even if you don’t have insurance.

OneRX takes the users insurance card information that is submitted by picture or input by hand. It then combines how much your insurance will pay with available coupons then tells you what pharmacies can give you that price. If you are having trouble paying for prescription drugs you can find more help here.

OneRX is free and available for Apple and Android devices.

 

Back to School Tips for Black Students

canstockphoto26484013Fall is creeping up on students all over the nation. Fall means returning to the campus or classroom. In 2015, the number of black students entering college or returning for another year is rising again.  Black college enrollment is gradually catching up with whites. According to the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)  70.9 percent of black graduating seniors enrolled in college in October 2014 compared to 67.3 percent of whites students.  2014 marked the first time ever that African-Americans enrolled in college at a higher rate than whites.

But there is still a problem. Young black men are not enrolling in college at the same rate as black women. According to Clutchmagonline.com black women are enrolling in college more than any other group. But don’t get it twisted; black men are attending college. Another myth we need address while we’re at it. It is not true that there are more black men in prison than in college. 

But college requires many things in addition to the desire to learn and better one’s self. It requires money. A college education is shamefully expensive. But what is truly heart breaking is the millions of dollars in scholarships and grants for minority students that are unclaimed every year. There is money available for black students. The AACR published this report revealing the scholarships available to minority students.

But college has other hidden expenses  that students and parents need to realize. These include:

  • On campus parking
  • Course materials, text books, lab equipment, technology and assorted supplies.
  • Taking longer to graduate, additional semesters and summer school.
  • Student social activities.
  • Clubs, fraternities and sorrorities fees.
  • Travel expenses for family visits.
  • Sports activities.
  • Dorm expenses, laundry, bedding, toiletries, etc.
  • Dining hall and meal plans, food.

All these expenses add up year after year and they are not normally covered by tuition. Some college tuition include meal plans but not all. Some will cover lab equipment and supplies. But you need to be aware of these costs and calculate them into your overall education budget. You can find ways to beat these costs here.

But before you even get a chance to pay for all those things and tuition you have to get into college. Many under-priviledged students find the cost of testing and admissins fees to be a major roadblack to geting into school. These fees can add up to hundreds of dollars before a student even gets admitted to college. Thankfully there are ways to beat those fees as well. Some states offer the ACT  or the SAT free of charge. Some states and universities don’t require either  for admittance into school. Some students may qualify for fee waivers allowing them to take those tests and possibly qualify for college application fee waivers as well. To check your qualifications for college application fee waivers the National Association of College Admission Counseling offers this formHere are more details on the ACT waiver requirements and the SAT has some info here.

You still have to buy the books. College text books are notoriously expensive. Betwen 2002 and 2013 the price of a text book rose 82 percent. Why?

You can bring down the price of text books.Occupy the Book Storeis a Chrome browser extension that allows you to shop for the same books you find at your college book store at online stores where you may find them cheaper. Other websites that help fight the high cost of textbooks include;

These are just a few websites but you can find many more by doing a simple web search.

Another concern that could be costly is the loss of personal information at school. You have no doubt heard of a data breach. Colleges and universities are not immune to this. As a student you need to protect your personal information at all times because you are a prime target for hackers. Schools can hold enormous amounts of data about students including their social security numbers, financial information of them and their parents, background information, medical data, and God knows what else.  Parents and students need to understand why student data is such a prized target of data gatherers.

So how does the student protect their pers0nal information at school? Here are a few tips.

  • Protect your technology. Never leave your laptop or phone unlocked and unattended. College campuses are often wide open and thieves know it. Whether you’re in the dorm or the library its easy for a thief to grab it and be gone. Don’t advertise the fact you are carrying a laptop. Laptop sleeves or carriers are clues and a target for thieves.
  • Install a tracking app that will help you track down your device in case its lost or stolen. Encrypt your files. This way even if someone gets access to your computer they won’t get your information.
  • Students are prime targets of malware and phishing attacks on their mobile devices. Students can protect themselves by making sure they are using different passwords on different accounts. One password fits all means a hacker gets it all if he can break or hack your password. And use a strong password or consider two factor authentication. If you have trouble keeping all those passwords in your head then use a password manager.
  • Don’t share your password with your dorm or classmates.
  • Be extremely careful with links and attachments in your email and text messages. Make sure to use a good anti-virus/anti-malware. You can find the best free anti-virus here.
  • Install apps only from reputable app stores. Make sure to scan files with an anti-malware product before installing. Remember, campuses are rich environments for computer viruses.
  • Many campuses offer free Wi-Fi. But who else is on that Wi-Fi? Hackers can monitor and collect information from free Wi-Fi and they do.  So be extra careful when using the school or any free public Wi-Fi. Make use of VPN software so that your web use is encrypted and keep hackers from electronically eavesdropping on you.
  • When using a campus or library computer;
    • Don’t log into accounts, especially banks or accounts that store financial information.
    • Don’t shop online because someone might get not only your login credentials but your credit card number.
    • If you do have to use a public computer make sure to change your user name and password for whatever sites you log into once you get back to your own computer.
    • Browse in Privacy Mode if you can’t erase your browser history and all cookies.

Students can be careless. They may feel that their information is not as vaulable as that of more established adults. Students don’t see the value of their information and this leaves them vulnerable because they don’t take information security seriously. But in reality it doesn’t matter how young you are, data and identity are valuable to cybercriminals. Remember AACR Internet Rule #5 “The currency  and commodity of the digital age is called information.”

For a young man or woman just starting out in life correcting the problems caused by loss of identity is a painful uneccessary experience. Protect your data!

It’s back to school time and students face many challenges to getting an education. Parents and students working together can make it to graduation day. Good Luck!

Now you know.

 

 

See and Block Who’s Tracking You Online

canstockphoto19683471Privacy on the Internet is a rare commodity. Currently 85 percent or more of black people are online. Most black people own a smartphone or other mobile device. And most black people have no idea how easy it is to track exactly who you are, where you are, who you call, text or email and pretty much everything else you do online. You are being watched like a prisoner.

Trying to stop this constant tracking is a tough task and the law is no help. Congress and industry have little or no incentive to stop this incessant invasion of privacy. Part of the problem is that consumers have yet to get really angry about this activity.

There are people fighting for your privacy online but its an uphill battle to say the least. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Disconnect, Internet privacy right groups and a group of web companies have lauched a new “Do Not Track” (DNT) standard meant to encourage website owners and advertisers to respect your online privacy. Unfortunately this is a voluntary standard and companies are free to agree, or not to agree, to adhere to the new standard.

Big players like Yahoo! and Microsoft have not come out in favor of the new standard. Microsoft announced in April that it was no longer enabling ‘Do Not Track’ as the default state in Windows Express settings.

A year ago Yahoo! said that ‘Do Not Track’ settings would no longer be enabled on its site saying; “we have yet to see a single standard emerge that is effective, easy to use and has been adopted by the broader tech industry.” But Yahoo! has agreed to honor the ‘Do Not Track’ setting on the Firefox browser as part of a search deal. So both companies are openly admitting they are tracking you.

Companies that have agreed to honor the new ‘DNT’ standard include publishing site Medium, analytics service Mixpanel, ad and tracker-blocking extension AdBlock, and privacy search engine DuckDuckGo.

Millions of black people are using social media. And the God of social media is Facebook. But did you know that Facebook is probably the biggest data collector in the history of civilization? Because people are giving it to them.

But who is using Facebook to track your Internet activity? How do you block them?

First of all keep in mind that advertisers may not not know your name and other personal information about you. But that is just a maybe. We don’t know what they know and they ain’t telling. Legally, they don’t have to.

But here are the steps to see and block advertisers that are tracking your Facebook profile from Businessinsider.com.

First go to the settings button on your Facebook page.

Facebook settingsFacebook

Scroll down and click “Settings.”

Facebook settingsFacebook

Inside the settings menu, click on Apps.

Facebook settingsFacebook

This looks like a list of apps that are signed into your account. But pay close attention to the “show all” option at the bottom of the list …

Facebook settingsFacebook

Voila! The list of apps tracking me is so long I have to make this super zoomed-out view to see them all:

Facebook settings

Facebook

On each app, there is an Edit function and a delete “x” mark. Let’s look at what QuizUp, the hot new trivia mobile game app, knows about me.

Facebook settingsSettings

QuizUp knows my email, birthday, and current location. Because it’s a mobile app on my phone, it also knows my phone number. But that’s not all …

Facebook settingsFacebook

Click this little “?” symbol on “basic info” and it turns out that QuizUp is getting a bunch more info about me, too, including a list of all my friends and my profile picture!

Facebook settings

(Source: Businessinsider.com)

You can control this information by clicking on the “x” symbol to delete the app’s access to your Facebook account. That might mean the app won’t work, however.

Review each app to either edit its permissions or delete its access to you on Facebook entirely. It’s a bit time-consuming — but otherwise you’re just giving these people free data.

Another thing black people need to be aware of is that companies are using your email to spy on you. Much of the email you recieve from an advertiser or even a company you do business with is loaded with spying technology.

To see who is tracking your email, or in this case Gmail, you can use a browser extension tool named UglyEmail to see what companies are tracking your Gmail email.

UglyEmail shows you if your email is being tracked. And email being tracked in Gmail will have a tiny eye attached to it. Your inbox will look something like this.

UglyEmail

One of the ways that your email is tracked is a technology known as pixel tracking. Pixel tracking is when a tiny image, about 1 pixel in size, is inserted in an email. The image is invisible to the email recipient but it has a code that tells the server to call the sender when the email is opened.

To block that you can use a browser extension known as PixelBlock. PixelBlock will block that pixel code from transmitting back to the sender. Email with a pixel tracking code have a red eye on them. PixelBlock will also tell you who sent the pixel and how many times they have attempted to track you.

We did mention that Facebook is the greatest collector of data in history didn’t we? Well did you know that Facebook follows you around the Internet even when you are not on the website? How do they do this?

Facebook employs over 200 different trackers that follow your online activity. These trackers come in the shape of cookies, Javascript, 1-pixel beacons, and Iframes. Tracking technologies are used to see what websites you visit, how often you visit them and other interactions with websites.

Not all cookies are used for tracking.  Many Facebook ‘Like’ buttons are used to collect and store information to be used later. Your browser communicates with a server to construct the website you wish to view. This called a request.

But keep in mind that the website you are viewing isn’t the only server your browser is talking to. Trackers from other data collectors, Facebook included, are on the site as well. You have no idea they are tracking you without privacy software. You don’t know they are there and you probably don’t wish to share your personal information with them.

To protect yorself and your information you need to use the do not track function on your browser. It may help but probably won’t competely stop the tracking. You can find a list of the five most secure browsers here.

Choose your privacy setting in the following browsers

Google Chrome

Microsoft Internet Explorer

Apple Safari

We used Facebook as an example of companies that track you online because they are the biggest offender. But undertand this, almost every website has some method of monitoring who visits it. The sometimes sell the information or just hold onto it to better serve you. Just remember AACR Internet rule #8 “There is no privacy on the Internet.”

Now you know.

 

 

 

 

Obama Hosts Technology Demo Day

demo_day_hero_01

www.whitehouse.gov

President Obama hosted the first ever White House Demo Day on his birthday. The purpose of Demo Day was to accelerate diversity in the U.S. tech sector and highlight the administration’s dedication to this goal.

The event hosted more than 90 entrepreneurs from 30 different companies. Many participants were expecting to see and demonstrate start up technology efforts from various entrepreneurs. The diverse group of participants represented the spectrum of  women and minorities struggling to get recognition from the established tech community. In a show of support the White House and ventures capitalist announced several programs and initiatives to advance diversity in tech.

One group of 40 top venture capital firms representing over $110 billion dollars invested in almost 7,000 start ups announced their commitment to a more inclusive entrepreneur environment. In a letter from the New Enterprise Association, a group that includes Andreessen Horowitz, Intel Capital,  and Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, committed to monitor diversity within their individual firms and the companies they invest in.  The significance of this letter cannot be understated when women and African-Americans face huge obstacles to employment and investment in Silicon Valley.

Big name technology companies also made their presence known. IBM, Microsoft, Airbnb and Indiegogo are falling in step with the likes of Apple, Intel, Facebook and Pinterest by announcing that they will adopt the Rooney Rule. The rule comes from the NFL and states that a women or minority must at least be interviewed for senior positions in their companies. As many as 45 venture capital firms have adopted the Rooney Rule. But there are some who believe that even though the rule is well meaning it won’t work.

Google and Facebook announced a new program aimed at improving their diversity. Facebook launched the Supplier Diversity Program, that will focus on increasing the number of women and minority-owned business in the company’s supply chain.

In another announcement the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced the expansion of its InnovateHER 2016: Innovating for Women Business Challenge. The program is national competition intended to identifying products and services designed to uplift and empower women and families. The contest is conducted through a string of local business competitions that includes a final round of live presentations. The idea is to spur innovative efforts by and for women.

Now you know

 

 

Facebook Patent Means Your Friends Determine Your Credit Rating

facebook-logoOn Tuesday Facebook was granted a patent that would allow banks and lenders to check you social habits to determine your credit worthiness. According to the patent your lender can check the credit rating of your Facebook friends. Your friend’s average credit rating will need to meet a minimum score for your loan to be approved. Facebook has to explain how they plan to use this patent but there are laws in place that mandate what criteria lenders can use to determine your credit worthiness.

Facebook is one of, if not thee, largest data collector in history. The patent claims to have multiple uses including filtering email spam, and helping with search queries. But the paperwork also stated explicitly that it could be used to determine your credit worthiness based on your social network. Facebook actually obtained the patent when it purchased the Friendster.com website.

It is not clear if Facebook will actually use the patent for that purpose. Many companies will file for patents with more applications than they actually plan to implement.

Using alternative means of measuring a person’s credit worthiness is not new. There are some up and coming lenders that are using social networks to measure credit risk. These companies believe that social networks can be a good indicator of a person’s credit worthiness.  Lenddo uses your Facebook friends to determine if you’re a credit risk. If you have friends who are late paying back Lenddo or have bad credit you could be negatively affected.

Lenddo co-founder and CEO Jeff Stewart said, “It turns out humans are really good at knowing who is trustworthy and reliable in their community. What’s new is that we’re now able to measure that through massive computing power.” Currently Lenddo only operates in the Phillipines, Columbia and Mexico.

There are U.S. based lenders using social media to measure credit worthiness include San Francisco-based LendUP. This company inspects the Facebook and Twitter profiles of potential borrowers to count their friends and how often they interact. LendUp believes an active social media life reflects a person’s stability. Neo, a Silicon Valley start-up, uses the quality and quantity of an applicant’s LinkedIn contacts to determine how soon a laid off borrower will be re-hired. New York based Moven, checks Twitter, Facebook and other social media websites in their lending reviews.

Both Neo and LendUp see an opportunity to provide loans to low-income borrowers. These borrowers don’t have bank accounts and are strapped wth a credit rating that is poor or worse. Neo and LendUp see themselves as an alternative to payday lending. Employment, finances and on-time payments are normally used to evaluate credit-worthiness But these lenders measure a person credit risk using social media indicators believing it allows them to better serve what traditional banks consider to be risky borrowers.

Facebook has not commented about their intended use.

Breaking It Down

This this patent could become troublesome in the vein of payday loans. Have we not seen how much trouble a payday loan can cause.? And let’s be real, how much of a credit check do payday lenders really perform. Answer; none!

Predatory lenders could find easy targets using these methods. Critics of this patent have complained that this is a tool to discriminate in lending practices. And that is exactly what it is. Lets look at this for what it really is. Its a trap for those people who

The question that must be answered is how is it fair for your friend’s financial troubles to be used to judge your credit worthiness? Would banks value the added information to the lending process? Probably. But would doing so create highly suspect and restrictive lending practices? Yes! Black people have been through this before and still go through it every time we go to a bank. Research has shown that black people are subject to higher interest rates, more stringent borrowing standards and are turned down more often than whites with equal credit scores. Now we have to face the hurdle of having credit worthy friends? I believe that this is illegal, or probably should be. Fairness in lending should be the same as fair employment and fair housing. But as black people we still struggle with that as well. This practice, if widely adopted, can become a socially and financially coercive tool. It can force you to explain you friendships and social media activity. Social media, especially Facebook, collects so much information that it becomes a challenge to make money from it. This is exactly what Zuckerberg is trying to do.

 

ALERT! Yahoo! Hit with Malware ALERT!

unnamedIn a stunning announcement Yahoo! reported it has shut down a massive malware campaign infecting billions of visitors to its websites. Some experts believe the website infected with the malware was visited as many as 300,000 times and hour. 

Malwarebytes discovered the scheme which ran from July 28th through August 3rd and used Yahoo!’s ad network to infect user’s computers with malware used for advertising.

Malvertising is a scheme where hackers trick automated advertising networks into delivering malware. The trick is becoming more and more common. This malware does not require the user to do anything to become infected. Simply browsing a website is enough to get infected. This is sometimes called a drive-by download.

Yahoo! and other big name search engines are prime targets of malvertisers because of the hundred of millions of ads they deliver daily through their advertising platforms

Jerome Segura, Senior Security Researcher at Malwarebytes said, “Malvertising is the silent killer because its does not require any type of user interaction in order to execute their payload.” Segura also warned that the victims of the attack could also have been infected with ransomware.

For nearly a week Yahoo! sites were delivering malicious ads through its ads.yahoo.com. Yahoo! users were re-directed to several different domains that exposed them to an exploit known as ‘Angler.’ According to Segura some of the sites that users were re-directed to were hosted by Microsoft’s Azure a cloud computing platform.

Security experts also revealed that another exploit named ‘RIG’ was also infecting computers at the rate of 27,000 a day. Both exploits are related to the numerous flaws recently revealed in the Adobe Flash Player software. The software is found on millions of computers to run video and games on websites.

This is not he first time that attackers have used Yahoo!’s advertising network to infect users. Last year the network was used to distribute a range of malware including a Bitcoin miner.

Malwarebyes claimed they notified Yahoo! of the situation and the company took immediate action and the exploit is no longer active. Yahoo issued the following statement:

Unfortunately, disruptive ad behavior affects the entire tech industry. Yahoo has a long history of engagement on this issue and is committed to working with our peers to create a secure advertising experience. We’ll continue to ensure the quality and safety of our ads through our automated testing and through the SafeFrame working group, which seeks to protect consumers and publishers from the potential security risks inherent in the online ad ecosystem.”

Malvertising attacks have been steadily increasing because they are so difficult to stop. According to RiskIQ attacks increased in the first half of this year at the rate of 260 percent.

James Pleger, Director of Research for RiskIQ stated ,” The major increase we have seen in the number of malvertisements over the past 48 months confirms that digital ads have become the preferred methods for distributing malware.”

Related information;

Yahoo Malware Removal

Microsoft Safety & Security Center Malicious Software Removal Tool

Breaking It Down

If you have a good anti-virus/anti-malware software on you computer you may be safe, but just maybe. Yo may want to visit Yahoos safety website that describes how to remove this malware if you have it. But again, this may or may not work. I am not sure how it has been since this website was updated. Update you anti-virus software and all your software just to be sure.

A drive-by download is extremely dangerous. All you have to do is visit the website and you got the virus or malware. Its nice to have an anti-virus that blocks you from even going to that website. If yours doesn’t do that then switch. NOW!

Google recently updated its search engine to warn user of suspicious website before you get t them.

This is about as serous as it gets. Yahoo! is a huge company with billions of websites listed in their search results and I’d guess trillions of ads delivered annually. Imagine if a bad actor had figured out a way to distribute ransomware through the search engine. It could have been the greatest calamity in Internet history. Don’t laugh. It could still happen.

All I can say at this point is to make sure you update your anti-virus frequently. Better yet, set it to update automatically. But even that may not be enough. Take the time to search RIG exploit removal tool and Angler exploit removal kit. Take my advice.

 

 

Support Black Businesses at WeBuyBlack.com

By Bria Richardson, AACR Intern

webuyblackHow often do you support black businesses? Black people often choose convenience over seeking out African-American businesses. That isn’t really a bad thing but for black people sometimes the most convenient thing isn’t the best thing for our hair, skin or even our personal style.

As a person of color we have to sometimes shop differently. And who knows better about the things a person of color needs than a person of color? In order to start making effective changes within the African-American economy we have to start by supporting black businesses.

Webuyblack.com has over 1500 products to choose from including, clothing, shoes, accessories, natural hair products, natural hygiene products, books, restaurants and much, much more.

This site has everything a man or women of color could possibly need. A percentage of every dollar spent on the site will go to a black nonprofit. Support a business that is supporting you and everyone wins in the end.

As black people if we want to see a change we have to start doing things on our own. I’m not saying you have to stop eating at your favorite restaurant or stop shopping at your favorite store because it isn’t black owned. But you can support black owned businesses a little more each day and webuyblack.com is your guide and source for black owned businesses and products. Besides who wouldn’t want to shop at a place that has the exact kind of shampoo you need for your natural hair? Or a place that knows exactly what kind of soap will bring out the radiance of your brown skin?

Try out “We Buy Black” at https://webuyblack.com/

Or visit their IG at: @webuyblack