Monthly Archives: October 2017

Russians Fake and Manipulate Black Activism

#BlackLivesMatter and other groups have made themselves heard using social media. The Internet is an effective tool for Black voices to speak on issues important to our people.  But Black issues and causes have become caught up, subverted and even manipulated in the most  intense political storm this nation has even seen.

The Trump administration is being openly accused of collusion with Russia to manipulate the outcome of the recent the presidential election in Trump’s favor. Two of the Trump campaign’s closest advisors have already been indicted by the Bob Mueller investigation.

But, apparently the Russians did not stop at the presidential elections. According to recent news reports the “Blacktivist” website that was supposedly supporting African-American causes has been linked to the Russian government. The social media platform used both Facebook and Twitter  to instigate even more racial tensions in the U.S. during the recent presidential election.  The Twitter and Facebook account of “Blacktivist” has been handed over to Congress.

The “Blacktivist” Facebook account had 360,000 likes compared to only  301,000 likes for the verified #BlackLivesMatter account.

African-Americans following “Blacktivist,” were fed content that fueled the outrage over police encounters with Black motorists and police violence against African-Americans. The content used various techniques to stoke Black anger including video footage.

The manipulation of legitimate African-American anger also included promoting at least seven rallies and demonstrations in the U.S. in 2016.  These events included the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party and a protest march in Baltimore commemorating the death of Freddie Gray. Most events were legitimate protest rallies but the “Blacktivist” website worked to increase the turnout.

CNN reported one ad, and maybe more, were purchased by Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign. The ads referenced #BlackLivesMatter and targeted audiences in Ferguson, MO and Baltimore, MD. Both cities garnered worldwide attention for the large and violent protests after police shootings of Black men.

The “Blacktivist” Facebook account is included in over 470 Russian-linked accounts identified by Facebook and disclosed to Congress. The matching Twitter account, “@blacktivist,” was among another estimated 200 accounts Twitter identified with links to those found by Facebook.

But the Russian manipulation of African-American social and political issues went even further. According to Gizmodo.com a Russian news outlet, RBC, uncovered a scheme by the Kremlin to use Facebook to recruit Black activists in the U.S.

The scheme reportedly paid Black activist to organize #BlackLivesMatter rallies, self-defense classes and even produce content for Russian-owned sites denouncing police violence against Black citizens. The activist, contacted by Buzzfeed News, claim they were unaware they were being used and paid by the Russians.

Three Black activists were paid for activities that ended up on the BlackMatter US and Black Fist websites. Black activist Conrad James was contacted via a Facebook message from BlackMatters US last September. James was reportedly paid to organize two rallies in North Carolina. Omowale Adewale was also contacted this time through his Instagram account. Adewale, an MMA fighter, was recruited as a trainer for Black Fist. He was allegedly paid to teach self-defense classes to the black community. The Black Fist website touts the classes as organized  “By Black for Black.”

See also: These Americans Were Tricked Into Working For Russia. They Said They Had No Idea.

 

National Cyber Security Awareness Month – Children and Social Media

Social media is everywhere. Facebook alone has over two billion users. And the bottom line is that social media is how people in the world share their lives. Is that what you want your children to do? Share their lives with everybody in the world? Black people have a saying about this. Its called “putting your business in the street.”

Children and social media are a dangerous mix. Every year thousands of children and teens are contacted by sexual predators, marketers and information collectors of all sorts. These people are an extreme danger not only to your children but your household as well. Children can unwittingly give away your most sensitive information. Over sharing is a common problem on social media websites. And children can fall for social engineering where they are manipulated into revealing sensitive information. This information can seem harmless like “where do you go to school?” Or, “what time does mommy go to work?” To a child these questions may seem harmless but you can see how a predator can use this information. Other information revealed by a child or teen online add to the exploding  rate of child identity theft.

How do you protect your child on social media?

Black parents are warned that your child’s use of a computer, smartphone or tablet is not harmless. Especially if this activity is happening without your knowledge of supervision. Some parents think that children means your 8 and 10 year olds. But teens are especially vulnerable on social media. Teens are more secretive, especially black teens. So parents need to work harder to implement and enforce rules for their social media use.

  1. Learn about social media – As a parent of a child or teen you need to take the time to research and learn about the different social networks children and teens are using. Plenty of parents use Facebook or Twitter. But there are many other sites your child may be using you don’t know about. These include Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, YouTube, and Tumblr.  Two other websites that are about secrecy and anonymity are called Secret and Whisper. You can find the most popular teen social media websites here. Familiarize yourself with what teens are doing online and on social media. If you have a teen in the house you need to keep up with whats happening or be surprised by it. Doing the research will give you a better understanding of how each service works. You may wish to create your own profile on these sites and apps to understand how they work and what is happening. Monitoring your children for their own safety is a tough parenting skill. Spying can cause teens to withdraw further and become more secretive. Here is some information about talking to teens about social media.
  2. Establish some firm rules for social media useFirst set an age for social media use. Young children are enticed by children’s television programs to go online to connect with characters. You should be aware that this is often a marketing play to sell toys or children’s food products or gather information. As  such they should be closely supervised. Let your child know when they can use the computer and what age they can begin using social media websites. Most social media sites require users to be at least 13 years old to create an account. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) prevents companies from collecting personal information about children under the age of 13 without their parents’ permission. Set times and time limits for your child’s social media use. Parents should go online with their young children and teach them social media safety early. Remember, the same rules apply online as on the sidewalk. Don’t talk to strangers.
  3. Keep the computer in a pubic area of your homeAs I said before, teens are notoriously secretive. Your teenager may be re-treating to the privacy of their bedroom to go online. Its not uncommon but it is also something to worry about. For younger children its a good idea to have the computer in a location where you can monitor your child’s activity. As for your teenager, this is where parenting gets tricky. Make sure your teenager understands the dangers of being on social media. Ask questions about what they are doing and who they are in contact with. Spying is not always the best idea but education can certainly give you some peace of mind. “Check out Teens Guide to Social Media.” Here a re few things you can do to protect your teen.
    1. A key question to ask is if they are in touch with someone they have not met personally, in person? This could be a danger sign.
    2. Make sure your teen understands that sexual predators are online. Make sure they know not to share personal information or pictures with people they don’t know.
    3. Make sure your teen understands the concept of “over sharing”.
    4. Make sure they know to never “friend the friend of a friend.”
    5. Sexting is strictly forbidden.
    6. Establish trust and honesty. Never make your teen feel he or she can’t come to you with problems and ask for advice. Finally, perform regular checks of your child’s privacy settings. Make sure your child’s social media account is as secure as possible. Block advertisers, and name and profile searches. Restrict who can see your child’s pictures, personal information and how to contact them.

Now you know.

 

 

 

National Cyber Security Awareness Month – Identity Theft

Identity theft is big business. And if you have been paying attention you probably know that data theft is exploding globally, especially so in the U.S. According to the Identity Theft and Resource Center and CyberScout  data breaches have hit  791 incidents in the first half of 2017 alone. Up 29 percent from last year.

Lets talk money. Last year over 15 million Americans were victims of identity theft. For the crooks that pulled in a staggering $16 billion. According to an Identity Fraud Study by Javelin Strategy & Research, since 2011 identity thieves have stolen $107 billion from U.S. consumers.

African-American consumers are as vulnerable as any other Americans to identity theft. But here is the problem. Many data breaches are not reported for days and even months sometimes. Is that against the law? Not exactly. Sometimes law enforcement will ask the company not to publicly disclose the breach as part of the investigation. So, as I always say, your cyber security is your responsibility.

How do you know if your identity has been stolen?

The answer to that question is, it’s hard to tell without constant vigilance. The bottom line is that you have to be on the lookout for not only the obvious signs but subtle clues as well. Again, you are responsible for your cyber security and your money. Don’t expect banks or credit card companies to do all the work. Yeah, they have algorithms that can spot unusual transactions but they are not perfect by any means. Here are some clues you need to be alert for.

  1. Monitor your mail. Are your bills and other mail failing to arrive as usual? This maybe an indication that your identity has been compromised and the thief has changed your mailing address. Cyber crooks are smarter than you think. You maybe getting some mail but the crook has re-directed items like your bank statement or credit card bills.  If bills are late follow up with creditors as soon as possible.
  2. You’re turned down for credit. If you apply for credit and denied or you try to increase your credit limit and are rejected without good reason you need to be suspicious.  Especially if you have excellent credit. Being denied credit or being offered credit with a high-interest rate is a sign your identity may have been compromised. Take the time to contact the creditor to discuss what the problem is.
  3. Mysterious bills for items you didn’t purchase. This is a good sign that your identity has been compromised. Especially bills that come from collection agencies.  You should contact the creditor immediately and inform them that you have been a victim of identity theft and it is not your debt. Report the situation to the police and your legitimate creditors and all three credit agencies as soon as possible. Also place a freeze on your credit to protect yourself from further damage. Some creditors will persist with collection efforts and even place negative information on your credit report. Write letters and keep good records. You need to establish communication and a paper trail to protect yourself.
  4. Monitor accounts for fraudulent transactions. Regularly check all your credit accounts for fraud. This includes brokerage accounts. Immediately challenge any charges or changes you cannot identify as yours.  Look for test charges. Thieves will charge a dollar or two on a credit card or debit card to see it if it will go through. Don’t ignore these if you find them. File a police report and demand that the fraudulent activity be stopped and the institution reimburse you for any losses.  As a victim of identity theft you have rights. Check IdentityTheft.gov to learn more.
  5. Your taxes. You need to be especially alert in this area.  Millions of African-Americans file their tax returns electronically every year. If your tax return is rejected act immediately! Your return was probably rejected because the thief has filed a tax return in your name and stolen your refund.   Also, be alert for a tax refund you were not expecting or do not qualify for. This is another red flag. Has a tax transcript arrived in the mail you did not request? It’s possible that a cyber criminal was attempting to download your tax information and failed a security test. The IRS then mailed the transcript to you believing you requested it. Anytime your taxes are concerned you need to be alarmed.
  6. Someone files for unemployment using your name and Social Security Number. If a hacker gets a hold of your Social Security number and the name of your current employer they may attempt to collect unemployment benefits in your name. You may get a call from your company HR depart that something is amiss. Social media, Facebook, is a good place for thief to look to see if you recently changed jobs or quit. Using this information they file for unemployment benefits. You are clueless until you get a nasty letter from your former employer or the unemployment agency.
  7. Your credit score goes up. Strangely this could be a clue that something is happening with your identity. Check your credit reports frequently for new accounts you didn’t open or credit inquiries which could reveal that cyber thieves are trying to get credit in your name.
  8. Direct mail and phone solicitations. Are you suddenly getting catalogs and offers from companies you never do business with. Or phone calls from marketers? You could have ended up on that mailing or phone list because someone is shopping with your credit card at expensive stores.You may get calls from car dealers, calls for loans and home improvement, or high end retail catalogs. You may be the victim of a high priced shopping spree on one or more of your credit accounts.

Now you know.

National Cyber Security Awareness Month – Beware of Skimmers!

Lets face it; technology is everywhere in our daily lives. So much so that we have gotten to the point where we use it without a thought. Hackers and thieves depend on a certain level of laziness to victimize people using card skimmers.

Everyday millions of Africans-Americans pull out their debit or credit card and swipe it. We swipe it for gas, food, clothes, medicine, every conceivable purchase. But are we aware of how vulnerable your money, and even your financial life, is when you swipe your card?

One of the most prolific, and easiest,  cyber crimes is the use of skimmers. A skimmer is a small device that is almost invisible to the naked eye. It is placed inside credit card readers. When you swipe your card through the reader the device records the information on your credit/debit card and transmits it to criminals. These skimmers can be found anywhere you use a credit card. The gas station, a convenience store or even an ATM. As I said already, spotting these little devices is very difficult. Sometimes the thieves will mount a skimmer over a card scanner. Sometimes they can gain access to the machine and mount the device inside. These cyber criminals are so good that they can even build skimmers with key pads that record your PIN and you would never know you were using it.

Newer credit and debit cards have what’s known as the EMV or chip and PIN cards. These are much more secure because they transmit transaction data encrypted. But those are not 100% secure either.

After they get your information they may decide to empty your bank account or max out your credit card on a  shopping spree. Its calledcard not present fraud.”

So how do you detect a card skimmer?

If you investigate the device you can sometimes spot a skimmer. Here are a few tips.

  1. Look for tampering. Check the device for any sign that it has been tampered with. Check top, bottom and both sides of an ATM. Check the card reader and the keyboard.
  2. Does it look right? Do you recognize it? If it is your bank ATM does it look different, such as a different color or material, graphics that aren’t quite correct or anything else that doesn’t look right. Be alert and paranoid about any machine. 
  3. If you’re at the bank and there is more than one ATM compare them. Look for obvious differences between the two? They should be identical.  If not alert the bank and police immediately.
  4. Check that  keyboard. Is it too thick? Is it loose or just does not look like it fits right? There may be a PIN-snatching overlay. Don’t use it.

    Fake ATM keypad

    5. Push, pull, jiggle everything. ATM’s are pretty sturdy so it should feel solid. Card skimmers and fake key pads are installed quickly and if you pull on one it may come off in your hand.

6. Another good practice is to hide your hand when entering your PIN. Some hackers use tiny cameras mounted above the ATM to record your PIN. Use one hand to cover the other when entering your PIN.

A card skimmer can be anywhere. You need to be alert and look for any signs that something is wrong. Be aware of gas pumps that might have been tampered with. This is a favorite hacker target. Why? Because they have a high volume of traffic and are not closely monitored. A good crook can install a card skimmer in seconds and come back for it in a few minutes having collected data from several cards. He may do this at several gas stations in a single day.

But the criminal may not come back for the skimmer at all. In the past skimmers had memory chips that required criminals to come back and retrieve the device. No more. The newest skimmers can transmit the information via Bluetooth or text message to the criminals computer. They can install the skimmer and record for hours. And you don’t have to build these devices. You can easily buy these devices on the web where they are sold openly.

But you can fight back. Your smartphone can detect these Bluetooth skimmers. When you arrive at a gas pump or any location using a self-serve card machine whip out your smartphone and  go to settings. Turn on the Bluetooth and have it search for sources. If a you see a string of suspicious numbers come up do not swipe your card in that pump or ATM. Report it to the police and store management immediately.

There are also apps that can detect skimmers. Skimmer Scanner is currently available for Android phones and it can detect the presence of a skimmer on a card swipe machine. The Skimmer Scanner app checks for nearby Bluetooth transmissions and alerts you when one is detected.

Now you know.

National Cyber Security Awareness Month – Mobile Security and Accounts

Mobile security of your smartphone or tablet, is not rocket science. You can take simple steps to secure your devices and online accounts that protects you from being an easy target. Let’s start with your passwords.

Passwords

You need to change them and do so on a regular basis. Please don’t be lazy about this simple task. Anyone who knows anything about you can probably guess your password. Especially if you d0 something stupid like use you dog’s name, the street you live on, your favorite shoe designer or sports team. People do these things and, to make it worse, they keep the same password for years. Or, dumber still, they use this same password on all their online accounts. So anyone who guesses it can then take over your life. How do hackers know you well enough to guess your passwords? Facebook! Never, ever, use the same password for multiple online accounts!

Change you passwords at least every six months. Use a lot of numbers and special characters and mix them up good. Your password should look something like this “L*gg46&#wEvF?.” Ugly huh?  And hard to remember too. Well try a password manager. They are easy to use and free. CheckThe Best Free Password Managers of 2017from PC Magazine.com.

Device safety

Do you know what your device is doing? It does all kind of things when you are using it, and when you’re not. Practicing good cyber security means understanding what your device is doing and how to spot trouble and stop it. Take the time to learn all about your mobile device.

Make sure you update your phone’s operating system and apps regularly. Companies are always finding flaws and security issues and they issue updates and patches when they do.

Online accounts

Consider this, any account you have online can be monitored to see what recent activity has occurred.  Ok, so who does not have a Facebook or social media account of some kind?To see what’s happening with your Facebook account click here.  Facebook offers all its users a page that will tell them if someone has been accessing their accounts. If you have a Twitter account click here, for Google click here.  These links will take you to the pages you need to monitor your account activity. Do yourself a favor and bookmark them for future use. It doesn’t take long to check these sites for unusual activity. And check them regularly.

You will also find ways to block any unauthorized activity on your accounts. Some apps and services allow you to set up alerts that come to you via a text message or email when something funny is happening to your accounts. They will also alert you when you log in from a new device or from a different location.

Check your apps

Another thing you need to do is check the app permissions on your phone or tablet. Apps communicate with their maker regularly. Most of the time its things like performance reports if the app crashes or updates. But trust me, it is communicating. You need to understand what your phone is doing and what permissions it has to access your data. Apps can do things like monitor your position using GPS, copy your text messages, access your contacts and spy on you using the on-board camera. Most people don’t realize how much data their phone and the associated apps give away.  Don’t just click on the “accept” link when an app asks for permission to access your phone’s features.  Investigate and ask yourself, why?

 Apps from third party vendors are a good source of trouble. Games, shopping apps, email apps, any app can be malicious. Hackers count on you not looking at the app too closely, especially the part about permissions to access things like your email, camera or GPS. Think it can’t happen to you? Think again!

You should also be aware of a new threat that is hitting mobile devices, it is known as ad and click fraud. It is a direct result of clicking on a link in an email or text message. Clicking on mysterious links is a s good way to introduce malware into your device.

Free Wi-Fi

Set up your phone to ask permission to join open wi-fi networks like you find at Starbucks. These open networks, or free wi-fi, are havens for hackers. When you are traveling make sure you know what the hotel or airport wi-fi name is. A new tactic for hackers is to set up their own wi-fi networks close to or inside the hotel. They give their wi-fi a name similar to that of the hotel’s. If you are not paying attention you might get on a hacker’s wi-fi. Hackers can see everything you do if you are on their phony network and that could be big trouble. Learn to you use a VPN or tether your device to your smartphone for secure Internet access. Better yet, get your own wi-fi hotspot. Many of the major cellphone service providers offer them.

Now you know.

 

National Cyber Security Awareness Month – Smartphones

African-Americans have embraced mobile technology.  According to Pew Research African-Americans are more likely to use mobile technology, smartphones and tablets, to access the Internet than whites. So we should be more aware of how to secure these devices.

I don’t have to tell you that your smartphone is the most valuable and sensitive piece of technology you own. To put it simply; it contains your life. Everyone you know is inside that device. All your passwords are probably saved there along with other sensitive data such as payment information, pictures, banking information and apps, social media apps, email, calendars and schedules and sensitive text messages. Because of all this data your phone is an attractive target to hackers.

Know Where Your Phone is at All Times.

Use the technology available to you to locate you phone or tablet if it should come up missing. Apple users make sure you use theFind My iPhone/Find My iPadfeature of the device. This feature can show you on a map exactly where you device is within a few feet. If you have an Android phone then Google offers  theFind My Deviceservice that can also pinpoint the location of your phone. There are also numerous app that can be used to track your device.

If you realize that your phone is gone for good then you can erase all the data on the device using the “Find My iPhone/Find My iPad” feature and lock the device from anyone using it. The same can be done for Android devices. Lets hope this is never the case but be prepared by knowing how to use these features and backing up your data so it can be easily downloaded to your new device.

The first most important thing you need to do is to keep control of your device at all times. No doubt you have experienced the feeling of losing it if only for a few minutes. Make sure you keep track of it at all times. “Nuff said there.

Be Paranoid!

Did you know that your phone can be hacked? As a matter of fact you probably already have been. First of all, anything that can connect to the Internet can be hacked…period! What makes your phone so vulnerable is that it has the capability to connect to anyone, anywhere in the world, at any time. You need to fear this capability. Be paranoid!

Most phones are hacked by connecting to a wi-fi network. Do you know your phone settings? Is your phone set to connect to any open wi-fi network? If so then you are vulnerable to a hacker. Make sure your phone is set to “Ask” to join an open wi-fi. Think about that when you walk into a Starbucks or Panera Bread or anyplace that offers free wi-fi. Those places are hangouts for hackers. Be paranoid!

Should you have to connect to an open wi-fi avoid doing any sensitive business such as banking. This is what the hacker is waiting for. Any password or credit card information transmitted over an open wi-fi is fair game. Anyone close enough to pick up that open wi-fi signal can be a hacker. Be paranoid!

If your phone is out of date it is vulnerable. Keep your iOS and Android operating system up to date. This means your apps too. Apps and programs that have not updated are a vulnerable. Be paranoid about apps that request unusual permissions. These suspicious apps could ask for access to your camera or your email. Ask yourself why? Keep your phone updated. Do not download apps offered to you via email or text massage. Avoid third party app stores. Don’t respond to unknown text message or click on any links you are not absolutely sure of. This is a form of  social engineering where someone convinces you to do something you shouldn’t.  Be paranoid!

Don’t let strangers use your phone. There is an attack that occurs just by dialing a certain number. Here is the scenario; a stranger approaches you and claims his or her phone is broken or the battery is dead. They have a child or elderly parent waiting to hear from them and they ask to use your phone for a minute. Being the angel you are you allow them. They dial a number and then punch in a code and download malware or app that takes over your phone, monitors your activity and steal your data. Hey, it happens. Don’t be a victim. Be paranoid!

Now you know, October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month.