Tag Archives: Internet Explorer

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.

 

 

 

 

Home Internet Security; Have You Been Hacked?

ID-100310547Far too many African-Americans ignore their Internet security. When we do this we are gambling with our lives. Our financial life, our professional life, our identity, our children’s identity or the identity of our husbands or wives, are all endangered if we ignore basic cyber security.  Let’s look at it this way; do you drive without a seat belt? Then why would you use the Internet without being safety and security conscious?

One of the first things you should be aware of when using the Internet is if you are browsing safely and if your browser is secure. Regardless of the browser you use, be it Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, FireFox or Opera, you have to ask, is it secure.

The reality is that it’s hard to know which browser is the safest or most secure. Why? Because there is no set standard for browser security. That makes you responsible for setting up your browser and home network to be as secure as possible. But there is a little good news. Experts at Skybox Security have looked at all the browsers mentioned above and evaluated them based on exposed vulnerabilities, most published and patched vulnerabilities, and the shortest time between security patches.

Surprise! The winner is the browser you are probably not using; Opera.  Opera is pretty much an unknown browser.  It’s market share is around one percent so there’s probably not a lot of interest in finding Opera’s vulnerabilities.  Keep in mind hackers are looking for the greatest numbers to have the greatest impact when they attack. But Opera did have the least number of vulnerabilities.

Even if Opera has the fewest vulnerabilities we have to look at how often the other browsers find and fix their own vulnerabilities. In this category Chrome wins. Chrome finds flaws and issues updates every fifteen days compared to Opera’s every 48 days. Internet Explorer and Firefox update about once a month. But again there more to it than that. Keep in mind that all these browsers are vulnerable to what is known as Zero Day Exploits. That is a flaw that the hackers finds and attack with no warning to the browser makers. It happens all the time. As for Firefox; just last year Extremetech.com named it the least secure browser.

So finally let me answer your question. Which is the safest and most secure browser? My answer would have to be Chrome. AACR does not make product endorsement. But, when looking at the overall measures we have decided that having defenses that update regularly and frequently is the best way to go. We hope that answers your question. Read more about the Best Browsers of 2015 here.

Lets take the next step in your home Internet security. Is your home router secure? Or has it been hijacked? My guess is you really don’t know. I have always said, make damn sure you have solid password protections on all your devices including your home router. Ask yourself  “Is my password stupid?” If your home router is compromised then your life is compromised. Every Internet device in your house uses the router. Think about this, your cellphones connect to your router, all your computers, laptops, tablets, game consoles, television, telephone, printers, home security system, your thermostat and any other smart appliances you have in your home all go through your router. Think long and hard about that.

So how do you now if your router is hijacked? A company named F-Secure just launched their Router Checker tool. It’s a quick, simple and free way to determine whether or not your DNS is working the way it should. OK; so you’re asking what the heck is DNS. DNS stands for Domain Name Servers. This is the the Internet address book.  If your DNS is corrupted or poisoned then you could end up on some pretty dangerous websites and not even know it.

The best thing about the Router Checker Tool is that there’s no app to download and install. It’s a website that you visit with any modern, standards-compliant browser. Any of the browsers we have talked about, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera, will work. I would suggest you check your browser immediately and then bookmark the site and do the test regularly. You can also use the tool when you’re connecting to less trustworthy access points like the airport, a coffee shop, library, or anyplace offering free WiFi. Before you do anything in these places you should fire up F-Secure’s tool and find out what it thinks about your connection.

Now let me ask you another question. Have you been pwned? First a quick definition of the word is clearly needed. Pwned comes from video-game culture. It refers to someone who’s been beaten. Pwned accounts are email addresses and user accounts that have been compromised. A hacker may have illegally obtained the data from a vulnerable system. Perhaps a breached home router? Pay attention people!

Now if your pwned account is made public it becomes a pasted account. That means it has been pasted to public sites that share information while remaining anonymous. Such a site is Pastebin.com

Now there is a site you can use to discover if you have pwned or pasted. Have I Been Pwned?  is a website built by Troy Hunt author of web security courses for PluralsightIt’s simple and free to use. You just enter your email address or account name in a text search box and the site lets you know if it’s been pwned or pasted. Do it!

Paying attention to your digital life is as important as paying attention when you drive. The slightest lapse in focus could get you killed. You know that. It’s the very same with using the Internet. I suggest to black people that you pay attention to what can happen if you lose focus. The Internet may not kill you but if something goes wrong online you may want to kill yourself.

 

 

 

 

Online Price Discrimination

ID-100188375African-American people are extremely sensitive to discrimination. No matter what form it takes it is ugly and wrong. Unfortunately discrimination has found a home on the Internet. Its called price discrimination.

We have all had it happen to us. You search for a product or service and find it at one price but then later, sometimes only minutes, the price will change. We have all heard that you should search for flights on certain days and at certain hours to get the best deal. But Internet pricing is discriminatory, even predatory, according to factors that will surprise you.

Research from Northeastern University analyzed how online stores customize prices according to a shoppers digital habits and demographics such as their ZIP code.  The study revealed  major e-commerce sites including Home Depot, Wal-mart, and Hotels.com list online prices that are all over the map. Not only that but in some situations prices are customized based on the behavior of a particular shopper. This behavior includes whether you are shopping on a  smartphone or desktop. The report was presented this at the Internet Measurement Conference in Vancouver, Canada.

“Going into this, we assumed the project would be risky—that we might not find anything,” says Christo Wilson, an assistant professor of computer science at Northeastern and one of the study’s authors. “There have been incidents in the past where companies have been caught doing this, and the PR was very bad. We thought that sites wouldn’t be doing anything. We were more surprised that we found something.”

Some companies whose sites were studied complained that the study methodology was flawed. Northeastern researchers did admit to one mistake but believe that the study provides insight into how your shopping experience can change depending on personal factors.

The actual searching and shopping was performed by 300 people recruited through the crowd sourcing site Mechanical Turk. Researchers had them shop online and perform product searches on 16 top e-commerce sites. The study tested these sites for personalization based on the browser a web shopper might use such as Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox or Safari.  Also tested were operating systems; Windows, OS X, iOS, Android, and whether or not a user was logged into the site as a regular customer with an online account.

What the research is looking at is the ability of e-commerce sites to tailor what you pay based on what they know about you. That’s discriminatory. For example does you zip code indicate an certain income level?  Does that mean you can or will pay more? That’s predatory.  Are you paying more for a plane ticket based on your profile on a travel website. That’s predatory. Or what you post on Facebook? That’s discriminatory.

How true is this? We already know that online advertising is targeted at you based on your web searches and other online activity. We also know that Facebook will follow your activity and travels on the Internet even after you log off the website. Merchants use cookies to monitor your activity on websites as well. Another fact to consider is that African-Americans and people of color are more likely to use mobile technology for banking and shopping than white Americans. Your digital profile is out there. Could prices be set based on that? It seems so.

What the test revealed was that if you shop using your smartphone some online stores actually pay attention to what kind of smartphone you use. Home Depot and Travelocity.com websites were the target of the research but they both deny this activity. Researchers admitted to a flaw in the study methodology pointed out by Travelocity.

However, Travelocity admitted to offering a handful of mobile-only offerings on smartphones and tablets that don’t appear on searches performed on desktop computers. Why? Its a tactic used to encourage the download of the the mobile app. A Travelocity spokesperson told Wired.com that results aren’t cheaper by design but sometimes are since Travelocity smartphone users might be looking for a place to stay at the last minute. Results that appear on mobile devices appear to bring down the average price the spokesperson explains. But Travelocity claims the pricing for the same specific properties remain constant across platforms.

Wilson and his team of researchers were able to highlight other forms of price discrimination on some websites but were unable to determine the root cause of the price variations. Among those most notable are Sears and rental car websites. “We tried different browsers and different platforms. We tried logging in and logging out,” Wilson says. “But it looks like there’s something else in there that we haven’t figured out yet.”

Northeastern researchers don’t believe that cookies are all bad. According to Wilson on sites like Cheaptickets.com or Orbitz.com, users who are logged in will often be shown “members only” pricing that, on average,  saves the member $12 on hotels. But if buyers cleared their cookies before conducting the search, they wouldn’t be logged in and wouldn’t see that discount.

Wilson and the Northeastern team avoided Amazon.com and eBay.com. These online marketplaces, explains Wilson, allow sellers to list their own products and used items making things too complicated.

Considering the discriminatory pricing found by this research how does the consumer get the best offer for your money? Wilson points out that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. “Every site we looked at was doing something different—changing different things based on different information,” he says.

There are some guidelines for searching and shopping online;

  • Perform searches on all platforms you have access to. That means your regular browser, an incognito or anonymous browser, and your smartphone or tablet.
  • Plan ahead and take your time to observe price fluctuations.
  • Be extra thorough asking a friend or relative in a different zip code to do the same thing and see what results turn up.
  • Incorporate every money saving tool you can. That includes coupons, credit card discounts, adjusting time and date of travel. Use frequent flyer miles and credits. Ask about credit union or employer discounts.

This way of shopping may be tedious and much different from your mall stores with clearly marked prices, coupons and discounts but it’s an unavoidable part of our digital lives. If you shop online in any form you might as well get used to it. “All online retailers are watching each other, and it’s a race to the bottom,” says Wilson. “The only thing that changes between online stores and brick-and-mortar stores is the pace at which that happens. It’s faster online.”

Now you know.

 

 

 

 

Microsoft Internet Explorer Most Vulnerable Browser

Microsoft‘s Internet Explorer is leaving users vulnerable to hackers and other cyber criminals. A recent study conducted by Bromium Labs revealed that Internet Explorer was highly vulnerable when targeted by hackers.  Adobe Flash was indicated as a major weakness for Internet Explorer and another prime target for hackers.

Bromium Labs’ report also stated that“The notable aspect for this year thus far in 2014 is that Internet Explorer was the most patched and also one of the most exploited products, surpassing Oracle Java, Adobe Flash and others in the fray. Bromium Labs believes that the browser will likely continue to be the sweet spot for attackers.” 

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was the target of hacker and cyber criminals far more frequently than other popular browsers like Firefox and Google Chrome. Microsoft acknowledged this fact and has released fixes for as many as 24 vulnerabilities within Internet Explorer.

Bromium Labs reported that hackers are targeting Internet Explorer by deploying a new ‘Zero Day’ attack trend known as  “Action Script Spray.” This technique is used to attack Adobe’s Flash application which in turn makes Internet Explorer vulnerable to hacking.

Reportedly Microsoft is well aware of the long list of Internet Explorer flaws.

“We’re aware of the reported issues, one of which has been addressed in newer versions of Internet Explorer,” said a Microsoft spokesperson to The Guardian.

“Each version of Internet Explorer is more secure than the last and contains new and improved security features that help protect customers,” the spokesperson added.

Microsoft Windows is the dominant operating system on computers worldwide. The result is that most people use Internet Explorer almost by default.

Breaking It Down

Most black people use Windows products because it comes pre-loaded on their computer. Apple is popular but lets face it; you’re probably reading this using Microsoft Internet Explorer. You’re also probably using Windows Office at work and home. All these products have security flaws that are very inviting to hackers. So make sure you keep your stuff updated.

Microsoft has struggled to secure its product offerings and Internet Explorer is just another failure that they refuse to acknowledge. Using a browser to get online is a necessity. You can’t use the Internet without it. So the intelligent choice is to switch. Google and Firefox are excellent products and they are somewhat more secure. I say somewhat because none are hack proof. But the fact still remains that Microsoft is too big and too smart to be constantly issuing fixes and patches for its product. The problem is that they are not focused on security. With its power and market share Microsoft can create seismic shifts in Internet security beginning with its browser. Its almost their responsibility to do so. But alas I feel that the mighty Microsoft has struck out again. They should take a lesson from GM, they used to the the biggest car maker. Then look what happened.

 

 

ALERT! UPDATE: Microsoft Internet Explorer Bug Found How to protect yourself ALERT!

Internet-Explorer61 MAY 2014 – Since the news broke about the Microsoft Internet Explorer bug various websites and news services have published ways to protect yourself. My first recommendation is that you immediately switch to another web browser. If you don’t have another browser on your computer go to Google.com or Firefox.com to download one or both of those browsers. Both are free. The Department of  Homeland Security has recommended you do this and stay with an alternative browser until Microsoft issues a patch to correct the issue. Another suggestion, if you are using Windows XP you need to update your operating system. XP is no longer supported by Microsoft and no security patches will be issued for that OS. Here are a few of the recommendations from other sites.

From ABCNews.com; Bill Carey, Vice President of marketing at Siber Systems suggests,

Update Your Software

Make sure you’re current on your software updates so any security loopholes are closed. People using the 12-year-old Windows XP operating system are especially vulnerable since Microsoft announced earlier this month it would no long provide technical assistance and automatic updates to protect users’ PCs. Consider upgrading your operating system.

Close Your Browser

When you’re done with using a website, log off and close your browser. This will help prevent others from gaining access to your account.

Control Your E-Mail

Have a disposable e-mail address. Only give your actual e-mail address out to who people who need it. Carey said this will help you avoid mass spam and keep your inbox clean.

Have A Strong Password

Carey advises using a “keystroke” method for making passwords and creating a “keyboard mapping system.” One key to the left and one up would make the password “tinmen” change to “47gh2g.”

Disable E-Mail Photos

Disable pictures on your email and read it in plain text. The sender will not be able to identify if you have opened the e-mail.

Other sources:

Mashable.com

CNET.com

PCWorld.com

ORIGINAL POST : A report by FireEye indicates that a serious bug in the Microsoft Internet Explorer could allow your computer to be taken over by hackers. Researchers have discovered that hackers have exploited the bug and created a new type of attack.

How does it work? Hackers have set up a website that installs malware when you visit it; commonly known as a drive by download. (See terminology) If you visit the website while using the Internet Explorer browser malware downloads into your computer and gives a stranger total control.  Your computer may become a bot or part of a botnet  and you would never know it.  That means a hacker has total control of your computer and can access your files, steal passwords and spy on you. If you are at work then the hacker has access to everything you have access to do. How serious is this? The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has recommended that people ditch Internet Explorer until there’s a patch.

But  that is not the only problem. This bug is everywhere. A lot of computers use Windows including your bank’s ATM and point of sales systems in stores everywhere. This bug is dangerous because it affects every version of the web browser from IE6 through IE11. That’s more than half of the browsers in use right now, according to the analysis website NetMarketShare. People still using Windows XP are especially vulnerable since Microsoft no longer supports that OS and does not issue security patches for it.

Microsoft issued a security bulletin stating, “On completion of this investigation, Microsoft will take the appropriate action to protect our customers.”

This attack relies on a few of Internet Explorer’s extra features. So you will need to disable them until Microsoft issues a patch.  FireEye advises users to disable the Adobe Flash plugin. Microsoft engineers also suggest running your browser in the “Enhanced Protect Mode.” However experts say that will likely ruin your online experience. So the next logical move would be to use an alternate browser such as Google Chrome, Firefox or Apple Safari. But you need more knowledge than just switching browsers . Try the excellent article from Time.com  to protect yourself.

Breaking It Down

Here is why you should always have an alternative browser on your computer. Nearly black person I know uses Internet Explorer, except me. Its the default browser on so many computers that its almost impossible to avoid.  As matter of fact I’ll bet not many black people know of any other browser by name. Now is the time to correct that.  I use Google Chrome and I am very happy with it.

These bugs are ubiquitous. There is not a piece of software made that a hacker will not discover some way to crack into and use for their own purposes. This bug is serious because every computer in the world use Microsoft software. Almost every ATM uses Windows XP and very few banks have switched over to something else even though Microsoft says they’re on their own with it.  I suggest you call your bank and ask them what they plan to do about this. It is your money you know. But when was the last time the Department of Homeland Security urged you to dump a browser? I don’t remember ever. So now you know you how serious this is.