Tag Archives: wifi

Retailers are Watching Everything You Do

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Courtesy Salvatore Vuono

You are being watched. From the moment you enter the store to the moment you leave. Every step you take. Ever aisle you walk down and every item you look at. They are watching you.

The Federal Trade Commission recently unveiled the scary details of this practice. Nomi Technologies had been hired by multiple retailers to place tracking sensors around their stores. According to the FTC these sensors tracked the physical movement of more than nine million customers via their smartphones in just the first nine months of 2013.

The tracking worked like this. Nomi’s technology tracked the smartphones of customers as the device are searched for Wi-Fi signals within stores or almost anywhere the owner went. Nomi stored this information making their equipment capable of tracking the movement of people throughout its clients’ retail outlets. This tracking information could also possibly be used to track people’s shopping habits between stores.  The same MAC address appearing in several different stores reveals valuable information about the person whose smartphone possesses that address.  So basically you are being watched even if you are not in the store!

The FTC is not however accusing Nomi of providing any individual’s information. But the agency did accuse Nomi of tracking consumers both inside and outside of its clients’ stores. According to the FTC Nomi allegedly;

  • Used the tracking information to inform its clients how many consumers passed by store entrances without entering.
  • How long people remained in particular stores.
  • How many people who entered a store had been in that store or other stores of the same chain within a certain period of time.
  • And various other forms of tracking data.

Is this illegal? No. Retail tracking is not illegal. Many retailers use advanced methods and technologies to track customers including bionic mannequins. But the FTC took action because Nomi may not have informed, or even mislead consumers of the tracking. According to Nomi’s privacy policy consumers were  supposed to be able to opt out of  being tracked.  The consumer could use Nomi’s website or “at any retailer using Nomi’s technology.” Nomi did provide an opt-out option on its website. But the FTC claims that at various stores using Nomi’s technology there were no disclosure notices that the technology was in use and no way for consumers to opt out.

Nomi’s settlement with the FTC was pretty favorable to the company.  Nomi is prohibited from future misrepresentations. In other words they have to do a better job of informing the consumer they can opt out of this tracking. This means that much better notices must be posted at stores, and easier onsite opt-out options will be made available.

Nomi is not the only company in the consumer tracking business. And retail tracking is only going to grow more widespread over the next few years. But other stores have decided to stop tracking customers. In 2013 Nordstroms was testing a consumer tracking technology. As soon as the public discovered it Nordstrom shut the program down.

Consumers who do not wish to be tracked can change their phone setting, use airplane mode or turn off the WiFi.   But politicians are becoming more aware of the tracking and have begun to take action. Although not a law,  Sen. Schumer (D-NY) brokered a code of conduct aimed at companies that provide tracking technology and analytical services. The agreement was  signed by eleven analytics companies such as Euclid and Path Intelligence. The agreement allows consumers to opt out of tracking at SmartStorePrivacy.org

The Maryland State Legislature is currently mulling a bill that would require retailers to post signage about tracking at every door. However the bill stops short of requiring retailers to track only consumers who opt in. The focus of the bill is to force retailers to reveal the practice. Consumers could then choose to participate or not by  turning off their smartphones or taking their business elsewhere.

Breaking It Down

Why is it your responsibility not to be followed like a common criminal? The thinking process of the consumer is completely turned upside down. Retailer’s hunger to sell you something has gotten to the point that they have to know exactly where you are in the store at all times. Oh, and they need to know where you are in other stores and when you even walk past their store. And its your responsibility to to keep this information from them? Ridiculous! Would you walk into a store that had a sign in the window saying, “We are watching you!” Probably not. That’s why Nomi did not post those signs and thus the FTC action against them however weak it was. But there needs to be a law that forces stores to post just such a sign in big obvious letters.  The consumer needs to demand that the stores take more responsibility when it comes to their privacy. Tell these stores; stop watching me like a shoplifter. If you want me as a customer let me shop in peace.  To the consumer I say; speak with your pocketbook.

 

How Not to Get Hacked in Six Easy Steps

canstockphoto22219067Getting hacked is so easy that it is almost comical. Black people need to be aware that most hackers take advantage of human kindness, weakness, curiosity and even stupidity to get inside computer networks. Hacking is simple when the victim is willing to give the hacker a helping hand. Understand how easy it is not to get hacked and you’ll feel a lot better and safer online.

Step 1) Don’t take the bait! Phishing is the first simple step to getting hacked. A Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report revealed 23 percent of phishing recipients open malicious messages and 11 percent open attachments. The report showed that it only takes 82 seconds from when a phishing campaign is launched to when people start biting on the phony lures.  One of the the cardinal rules of email security is to not click on any link or download attachment that you are not absolutely certain of what it is and where it came from. If you receive an unexpected email with a link or attachment then call the person who sent it to you if you know who it is. Ask them what they sent you. Avoid any cute pictures, prayers, or jokes. That is how malware gets in your computer along with getting your email on spam lists. If you don’t know who sent it then delete instantly.

Step 2) Don’t fall for the phoney phone call! Much the same as phishing, the simplest way for attackers to gain access to users machines is to just ask for it. The age-old method of social engineering is still reliable.  This is when a hacker talks their victims out of information sometimes without the person even knowing it. On the phone they pretend to be an executive or someone in authority. Sometimes they smooth talk their victim into giving up information using compliments and encouragement. Or they may bully their victim and frighten them into doing or saying something they shouldn’t.

One of the most popular and effective scams is the IT support scam. A caller contacts the victim posing as IT help and asks for the user’s login and password. Sometime they will tell you things like your computer has a virus and it is spreading to your friends and family. Sometimes they may pretend to be a fellow employee or business partner and ask the employee to open a specific document that is actually something like a remote access Trojan or other malware.

Something to think about is that anti-virus software makers do not make outgoing calls to alert an individual that their computer is spreading viruses. Never, ever, share your user name and password with someone on the phone you do not know. Finally, if they claim to be working in the same company with you make damn sure they are who they say they are. Do not open any attachment or click on any link unless you know for sure that it is your company’s IT department you are dealing with. Most companies suffer hacking attacks as a result of employee actions. And most companies will not hesitate to fire you if you violate computer security rules.

Step 3) Stay up to date! Users are often hacked because their systems are not up-to-date and patched for common attacks. Hackers know what software is vulnerable. They look for computers that are using old outdated software to attack. The simplest way to protect yourself is to make sure your software is up to date. Learn to set your computer to perform automatic updates of all software. And stay up to date on the latest scams. According to Verizon hackers are still finding vulnerabilities in computers that are as much as eight years old.

Step 4) Get a strong a password!  Is your password just stupid? An easy to guess user name and password is simply begging to be hacked. Your user name and password is the key to your computer and all the information contained therein. In addition easy to guess user names and passwords also allow access to your bank and other sensitive online activity.  A good strong password is vital. You may even want to switch to two factor authentication if you conduct sensitive business online.

Step 5) Use caution on free WiFi! Researchers with Cylance recently provided solid evidence why you should consider taking an extra security step when utilizing public WiFi connections.The company strongly suggests using VPN on public WiFi networks.  Cylance discovered 277 hotels, convention centers and data centers in 29 countries used routers  with known vulnerabilities to offer WiFi to guests. Public and free hotspots are wide open for starting man-in-the-middle attacks and other means of establishing footholds in unsuspecting users’ machines. Hackers love to hang out in Starbucks, Panera Bread, public libraries and other places that offers free Internet access. They are waiting and watching you log into your bank account.

Step 6) Don’t put your business in the street!  You talk to much! Social media such as Facebook is another favorite hacker hunting ground.  Hackers do their homework.  The information you share on social media sites is exactly what makes a hacker’s jobs easy.   Sharing the name of your pet, your birthday, place of work and special relationship makes it easier for an attacker to guess passwords or the answer to password reset challenge questions.  For example the question “What city were you born in?” is an easy one to answer just by looking at your Facebook page.

This information can be used against you in order to create an extremely effective spear phishing message. Learn to stop sharing so much information on social media. The more you give away the more that can be taken away.

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.

 

 

 

 

FCC Hits Marriott for Blocking WiFi

 The FCC has hit Marriott Hotels with a $600,000 fine for blocking hotel guests personal WiFi signal.

This the first time the FCC has investigated a hotel chain for blocking the Wi-Fi signals of its guests. According to a senior FCC official the Marriott wasn’t “jamming” in the traditional sense where some technology is used to jam or block wireless signals. In this case employees of Marriott used the hotel’s own Wi-Fi system to block other people’s hot spots.

The FCC investigation focused on the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville. It was found that Marriott employees used “containment features of a Wi-Fi monitoring system” at the hotel to prevent guests from using their personal Wi-Fi devices.

It is against federal law to  interfere with cellular, GPS or wireless networks.

“Consumers who purchase cellular data plans should be able to use them without fear that their personal Internet connection will be blocked by their hotel or conference center,” FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc said in a statement.

As a result of the FCC investigation and findings  Marriott Hotels will  no longer block guests’ Wi-Fi at any of the properties it owns and manages. Marriott Hotels must also file compliance plans with the FCC every three months for three years.

“It is unacceptable for any hotel to intentionally disable personal hot spots while also charging consumers to use the hotel’s own Wi-Fi network,” LeBlanc said. “This practice puts consumers in the untenable position of either paying twice for the same service or forgoing Internet access altogether.”

Marriott issued the following statement Friday afternoon defending its actions:

“Marriott has a strong interest in ensuring that when our guests use our Wi-Fi service, they will be protected from rogue wireless hot spots that can cause degraded service, insidious cyber-attacks and identity theft,” the statement said. “Like many other institutions and companies in a wide variety of industries, including hospitals and universities, the Gaylord Opryland protected its Wi-Fi network by using FCC-authorized equipment provided by well-known, reputable manufacturers.

“We believe that the Opryland’s actions were lawful. We will continue to encourage the FCC to pursue a rulemaking in order to eliminate the ongoing confusion resulting from today’s action and to assess the merits of its underlying policy.”

Breaking it down

Make that money! Who hasn’t been to a hotel where you are charged for everything? Some hotels are better than others. Some offer free breakfast or free cable and even free WiFi.  The fact that the Marriott was caught blocking your signal is not surprising and its probably something they have been doing for a while. The complaint that sparked the investigation was filed on 2013. And we are just now hearing about it. What I want to know is if Marriott has to refund the money to guests that paid for WiFi service that they had no choice but to buy? And does anybody really believe that $600,000 is going to hurt a major corporation like Marriott Hotels? I understand the profit incentive but to deny a customer the use of their own property and force them to buy your service? C’mon, I thought Marriott was better than that. Seems I was wrong about another major corporation. Imagine that.

Improve Your iPhone Security

Stolen cell phones are a big problem. Every year millions of cell and smartphones are stolen and most are never recovered. According to Business Insider 44% of smartphones were stolen simply because owners forgot them in public places like Starbucks. Fourteen percent were stolen from a car or house that was burglarized. Only 11% of victims had a smartphone stolen off their person. And the most common place a smartphone is stolen?  Restaurants 16% and nightclubs 11%. Only 5% are stolen as a result of street crime such as having it snatched from your hand while using public transportation.

Public theft of smartphones, especially iPhones has become a huge problem in places Like New York where 18% of all grand larcenies last year involved Apple products. As a result Democratic Rep. José E. Serrano has introduced a bill that would require all phones sold in the United States to feature a “kill switch” technology.  That technology allows consumers to wipe their data and shut down a phone completely when it’s reported stolen making it useless and of no re-sale value.

The state of Minnesota and California have already passed a law requiring all smart phones be equipped with a kill switch in case of theft. The law applies to smartphones made on or after July 1, 2015 and sold in California after that date.

According to Consumer Reports, more than 3 million smartphones were stolen in 2013 and the biggest cities had the most thefts.  Theft of smartphones rose by 26% in Los Angeles since 2011. Smartphone theft was up by 23% in San Francisco in 2013.

iPhones are extremely popular and the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are in heavy demand. If you own any iPhone you need to make sure its secure against theft. Even if you lose it you need to know the data is safe until you can locate it using an app such as Find My iPhone. So lets look at ways to secure your iPhone in case, just in case, something happens.

1) Get a real pass code. First things first; change that four digit access code on your phone to something more secure like a pass phrase. And not one anyone can guess. Mix those numbers, letters and characters up. Now another super security option that’s available to you is the “erase data” feature. This option will wipe everything from the iPhone’s memory after 10 failed pass code attempts. But remember this is permanent. Once the data is gone its gone…forever!  So if you forget your password often you might not want to use this option.

Here’s how you do it. Go to “Settings” –> “Passcode” (or “Touch ID and passcode”) –> “Require passcode: immediately”; “Simple passcode: off”.

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2) Don’t let your lock screen dime you out. It really doesn’t matter if you have a powerful pass code if someone looking over your shoulder can see it.  Yeah, its nice and quick to glance at your screen to see what text messages, emails and other information that hits your phone. But these messages can also contain sensitive data like confirmation codes, private appointments, financial data or some other intimate communication. So keep that lock screen from broadcasting your business.

How? Go to “Settings” –> “Passcode” (or “Touch ID and passcode”) –> “Allow access when locked” section.

3) Use two step verification for iPhone and iCloud. Quick question; do you have pictures that you only want that special someone to see? Well as you know some celebrities have had those images compromised. Don’t let that happen to you. I strongly recommend you add this layer of security for your Apple ID and iCloud. You can set up two-step verification on one or more of your devices. Two step verification means you will receive a 4-digit verification code using either SMS or the Find My iPhone service. Using the second verification means any time you sign in to manage your Apple ID, iCloud, iTunes, iBooks, or App Store purchase from any device you’ll need to verify your identity by entering both your password and a 4-digit verification code.

How? Go to https://appleid.apple.com –> “Manage your Apple ID” –> “Password and Security” –> “Two-Step Verification”.

4) Siri talks too much. Even if your phone is locked she can talk and who knows what she might say and to whom.  You don’t have to shut her up completely. But securing your phone means preventing Siri from speaking from behind a locked screen. Siri will talk with anybody so you have to teach her not to talk to strangers.

How? Go to “Settings” –> “Passcode” (or “Touch ID and passcode”) –> “Allow access when locked” section –> “Siri: off” and “Settings” –> “General” –> “Siri” –> “Allow “Hey Siri”: off”.

5) Don’t automatically sync to the iCloud.  Keep in mind that Internet rule # 6 says nothing is ever deleted. And as some celebrities discovered this is very true. Those nude images, though deleted from their phone were floating blissfully in the cloud waiting to be stolen. Not just the pictures but all the data on your phone, contacts, messages, notes, documents, pretty much anything stored on your phone. Automatic back up to the cloud is set on default in iPhones and happens the minute you plug in the charger. So the smart thing to do is to not automatically sync if you have one or more Apple devices and don’t really need to sync them daily.

How? Go to “Settings” –> “iCloud”.

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You can turn off auto sync to the iCloud.

6) Stop automatically connecting to known WiFi networks. iPhones are set to connect automatically to known WiFi hotspots without your permission. While this may seem like a really cool feature because you don’t have to do anything to switch from mobile Internet to local WiFi. But wait! Cyber criminals set up their own fake wireless hotspots in coffee shops, restaurants and hotels all the time.  You might not even know your iPhone is connected to the malicious WiFi network. The cyber criminal can steal all of your data while you sip coffee and read the paper. So you need to be aware of this or turn off this option.

How? Go to “Settings” –> “Wi-Fi” –> “Ask to join networks: on”.

7) Start using VPN.  Virtual Private Networks is almost a requirement if you want extra security on your iPhone in different wireless networks, including unknown ones. Some VPN services are free but not all. But the few extra dollars spent here is fairly cheap for keeping your data protected.

How? Go to “Settings” –> “General” –> “VPN” –> “Add VPN Configuration…”. All the information you need from here will be provided by your VPN provider.

8) No more cookies. Cookies are small files that are deposited on your phone or device by all websites. These treats may record information about you, your computer,  your smartphone, and your preferences. They allow websites to keep you logged in or display targeted ads. Unfortunately they may be very helpful to cyber criminals since they can hold credentials and other sensitive data. Cookies can be very helpful  but turning off cookies might become a bother. But think of how much more secure your data will be. 

How?  For Safari: Go to “Settings” –> “Safari” –> “Privacy & Security” section –> “Do Not Track: on”, “Block Cookies: Always Block”; For third party browsers: see similar browser settings.

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9) AutoFill, another snitch.  If somebody steals your iPhone they may be able to log in as you on a number of sites. How? Because the AutoFill option will fill in the missing user name and password. Told you AutoFill was another snitch.  Switch it off! Yeah; its inconvenient but well worth the hassle.

How?  For Safari: Go to “Settings” –> “Safari” –> “General” section –> “Passwords & AutoFill”; For third party browsers: see similar browser settings.

10)  Apps; yet another snitch. If you really want ot be shocked take a minute to read the permissions on some of the apps you download.  These apps are collecting a mountain of data. Some game apps collect information such as your location, your contacts, your pictures, your phone service provider, etc? Why? What does this app need with all your data? Remember this is a game app?   You probably have Facebook or a Google app as well. These are some of the biggest information collectors. I am convinced that a lot of apps are designed to keep you busy while they spy on you. This tip may be extreme, but if you have followed all the other recommendations offered why not go ahead with this last one. Apple’s iOS 8 offers a significant number of features and data types that just about any app can access. You need to block this. Stop these app providers from knowing everything you do and everywhere you go.

How? Go to “Settings” –> “Privacy”. Turn off all location services. Keep them off until you want ot use an app that needs the service. Go through Privacy settings one by one and turn off everything you don’t need or apps that are using this feature that you want to stop. It takes some time but it will keep some of your data secure.

This article is more about protecting you and your personal information than what you paid for that smartphone. Any device can be replaced. Try to replace your credit or money in your bank account. Or try to explain to your credit card company why you should not have to pay for those charges on your credit card. Or worse try to convince your bank you are really you after your identity is stolen. You have enough information on your iPhone that, if lost, any of these things can happen to you. Don’t let it.

Now you know

 

Is Your Router Wide Open?

When it comes to the Internet black people are sometimes unaware of the little things that are happening all around them.  For example how many black people knew that there are maps online that can show every house and every WiFi network and even the devices that are on the network in your home?

Everything in your house that is online has two distinct numbers. One is a MAC address and the other is an IP address. These are exactly what they say they are, addresses. A MAC address or media access control address is a unique set of numbers assigned to each device on a network. It is a permanent number that is assigned when the product is manufactured. Sometimes it is called a physical address.

The other number or address is the IP address. An IP address is a unique set of numbers separated by periods that identifies each computer using the Internet Protocol to communicate over the Internet. Your laptop, your printer, your set top box, your smartphone, your tablet and your router all have a MAC and IP address. And that is where the problem begins.

Every home that connects to the Internet has a router. Its the front door to your home network. Its the entry and exit  for everything on the Internet you ask for and many things you don’t.  You probably leave it wide open.

The router can be hard wired and all your equipment is connected to it via a wire of some type. Or it can be a wireless router that allows the devices in your home to connect via radio waves. That router is the only thing standing between you and the jungle we call the Internet.

A wired and wireless router

The one thing you need to know about that router is that it has a password and if you have not changed that password then any hacker can, and may have already, been on your home network.

Anyone can get the password to your router simply by going to any one of several websites that have a list of default passwords. One of the sites that reveals default passwords is Routerpasswords.com. This site allows you to search by the brand name of the router. Just select the brand name and the password is revealed. Another website for router passwords is Portforward.com and there is PCwintech.com. The message being; it is easy to get your router password if you have not changed it.

The next question you may ask is how would someone know what router is in my house? That is a simple answer as well. They simply go to a website that displays maps of home networks. Yes; I said that your home network is located on a map on the Internet. Wigle.net will show you what networks are on in any neighborhood in the world! Simply go to the site and enter the needed information and you will probably find your own network. Not only will you find your home network mapped out but your equipment may be identified by brand name. Google has mapped every WiFi network in England.

Here are a few steps you need to take if you have not already. First get a hold of your Internet provider and ask them to help you rename your router to keep it from revealing who you are and where you are. Don’t use any information that will tell people who that router belongs to. Something simple such as an odd mixture of numbers and letters like JK44RC578. Then change your password so no one can break into your network. Its the simple things that will protect you.

Now you know.

 

 

Hack My Ride

2015 Escalade

2015 Cadillac Escalade named one of the most hackable cars.

Car hacking is real and the day is coming when “hack my ride” will not sound so strange at all.

There is nothing like a new car. Black people will tell you that a nice car represents success, pride and is as important as their wardrobe. A car is part of the image you want to project upon arrival.

But cars have changed. Gone are the days when a new car had to have a nice stereo, air conditioning a sunroof and plenty of horse power. Now cars have to have great gas mileage, luxury and plenty of technology. And that technology includes Internet connectivity making car hacking the latest cyber threat, 

Internet connectivity and access is rapidly becoming the norm and soon will be standard on most cars. According to Dailytech.com GM is joining with AT&T to provide Internet access in most of its 2015 model year vehicles using the LTE modem. The partnership will permit AT&T customers to add their car as another device on their current data plan. GM plans to make the service available this year. Chrysler has partnered with Sprint for its UConnnect Internet car connectivity.

Currently 23 million cars on the road globally are connected to the Internet in some capacity, according to research firm IHS Automotive. By 2020 that figure is expected to rise to 152 million.

Car experts and journalists believe that car Internet will be an appealing option for new car shoppers. Forbes magazine writes, “Today’s always-connected consumers already rely on high speed data connections in their vehicles, both for drivers and passengers, and the built-in connection offers distinct advantages: a more powerful antenna to improve signal quality, a constant energy source to power that connection, and an integrated design that is optimized for in-vehicle use.”

Cars are now coming ready from the showroom as WiFi hotspots. Black people are smart with our money so you don’t have to be rolling in money to buy a hi-tech car. The 2014 Dodge Dart offers WiFi connectivity with a range of 150 feet. Chevrolet Malibu will be introduced with a 4G hotspot functionality in 2015. The question is who would this vehicle option appeal to? The answer is people who work on the go. Many black business and sales people travel as part  of their jobs. A car with Internet connectivity truly makes that car an extension of their office if not the office itself. In addition there are plenty of other traveling jobs that will benefit from a full-time rolling WiFi. Parents traveling with children can enjoy a little peace while their kids enjoy  movies, games or texting in the backseat.

The new Chevrolet vehicles will also come with  pre-installed apps and the buyer can add their own as well. Standard apps include The Weather Channel, NPR and a car diagnostics tool called Vehicle Health.

Even Apple is getting in the game by preparing a new version of its iOS operating system to deliver iPhone apps and features to car dashboards.

But the same security principles apply to automobile WiFi that applies to your home or other mobile WiFi. You need to secure it using a good strong pass phrase and make sure it not easily identifiable by giving it a generic name.

European car maker Audi already offers Internet access in a number of its vehicles and BMW is also adding 4G capability to its cars. Detroit is definitely moving in that direction. Chrysler Automotive Group is teaming up with Sprint to enhance its Uconnect infotainment system on the Ram 1500 pickup and SRT Viper sports car.
Many luxury cars come with such features as Pandora Internet radio and voice activation features such as the Sync system found in Ford vehicles.

Tesla, a premium electric automaker offers a 17 inch dashboard mounted computer screen that contains a web browser.

Cars with Internet connectivity are here now and there is both benefit and dangers to this new feature. As I have said so many times before if it connects to the Internet it can be hacked. So car hacking is here to stay.  A recent list released by CNN Money reveals what are the most hackable cars on the road to day. The report showed that the 2014 Jeep Cherokee and the 2015 Escalade both have serious security weaknesses. Both cars are equipped with apps and Bluetooth and other connected features. The technology connects the car’s cellular features such as the OnStar system. Unfortunately this system is also connected to the engine controls, steering, brakes and tire pressure monitor system. The Toyota Prius which offers the AM/FM/XM and Bluetooth has a similar flaw.

The problem with Internet in cars is that security flaws in these cars could allow a hacker to take over the car. A hacker may be able to unlock the car to get inside or steal the car altogether. A malicious hacker could take over control of the car by hacking critical functions like steering, acceleration and braking. Other features in the car could also be hacked such as the instrumentation. Needless to say this could put passengers in grave danger at highway speeds.

Don’t take car hacking lightly. In a recent cyber warfare exercise an Army convoy was disrupted by a cyber attack that told the vehicle engine to shut down because the tire sensors were hacked and programmed to report all tires were flat.

In response to potential security flaws automaker Chrysler Jeep said in a statement, “Our vehicles are equipped with security systems that help minimize the risk from real-world threats…Chrysler Group will endeavor to verify these claims and, if warranted, we will re-mediate them.”

Cadillac also responded by saying; “The report does not mention many new security features and mechanisms installed in the Escalade, and its description of the vehicle’s electronic system is not fully accurate.” Cadillac also pointed out some security features “…are private and not accessible to researchers (or thieves).”

What are the most hackable cars? According to Wired.com the top five most hackable cares are:

  1. 2014 Audi 8
  2. 2014 Honda Accord LX
  3. 2014 Infinti Q50
  4. 2010 Infinity G37
  5. 2014 Jeep Cherokee

Wired’s list actually includes twenty vehicles and most of them are 2014 models and the 2015 Cadillac Escalade is included as well.

Technology in cars is not slowing down. The U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently approved the V2V communication systems or vehicle-to-vehicle system. Regulators believe that the system will improve safety, reduce  accidents and smooth the way for more connected cars.  Anthony Foxx,  Transportation Secretary, said V2V technology could improve safety for motorists in the coming years in much the same way that seatbelts and airbags did.

V2v is a system where cars on the road communicate with each other and could potentially notify one another when an accident is imminent. The technology could apply the brakes to help prevent or mitigate the collision. Currently Mercedes-Benz offers the most sophisticated collision avoidance system capable of warning of an imminent collision and bringing the car to a complete stop. Other safety features that are coming to cars include pedestrian detection systems and external airbags.

Audi, Volkswagen, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Honda and Toyota and nearly every other car maker is developing some form of V2V technology. German automakers have already begun a pilot program that combines V2V with vehicle-to-infrastructure technology.  This technology permits cars to communicate with each other as well as traffic signals. GM is studying the possibility that V2V systems could identify pedestrians by picking up their cellphone’s wireless signal and alerting drivers.

The average car have as many as 100 computers on board. These computers control everything from the efficiency of the engine to the environmental control to the steering and brakes. Now granted a lot of the older computers are not capable of receiving radio signals from outside the car. But with the emergence of WiFi and cellular technology more and more cars are able to receive outside data.

We have to accept that with this new technology there is the issue of auto hacking and black car buyers need to become more aware of the security vulnerabilities of our car’s technology. If you are shopping for a new car and want these options  you need to know what security is in place to keep you and your family safe. Because someone could hack your ride.

Now you know.

 

 

 

Prepaid Cellphone War Could Benefit African-Americans

AT&TAT&T has decided its not going to give up the prepaid cellphone market to T-Mobile without a fight. T-Mobile has been sucking AT&T customers away with some pretty aggressive tactics and AT&T is feeling it. In a move to make it’s no contract phone plans more competitive with T-Mobile AT&T is upping the amount of data customer’s receive with each plan. Starting  April 25th AT&T will change two of its no contract plans. The GoPhone plan changes  include the  $60 per month plan which will now have an additional 500MB of data. That brings it’s monthly data package up to 2.5GB per month and will also allow GoPhone customers to use their data to create Wi-Fi hotspots. The other change doubles the data on their $40 a month  plan from 250MB to 500MB per month. AT&T is also introducing a plan solely for Walmart that includes 1GB of data and unlimited talk for $45 a month.

Breaking It Down

If you can’t see what’s happening here let me show you. T-Mobile has been making a big push for pre-pay customers. And they have been gaining market share in that area. Its a lucrative market that consists of a lot of African-American customers. And there’s plenty of room for growth and that means money. AT&T wants a piece of the pie and have stepped up their game to get it.  But it goes further than that. These extra chunks of data offered by AT&T could benefit black people who use smartphones and mobile devices in greater proportion than the rest of the country.  Yeah, a lot of people are sitting in Starbucks using the free WiFi. But many black people would appreciate being able to use that WiFi in the safety of their own home and cut out that expensive home internet connection. Especially in this security conscious cyber age where it can be dangerous to use someone’s open WiFi. People with smartphones can do a lot more with that extra data and AT&T knows it. But wait! There’s more! Sprint offers an everything plan with unlimited data, talk and messaging. Only $79.00 a month. But you have to sign the contract. How long before AT&T and T-Mobile decide they can do it too without without a contract? Sprint better look out.

For many people, Black people included, prepaid cellphones are an economic blessing. This is an important and profitable segment of the market.  People who are economically disadvantaged are also usually in possession of a pre-paid cell phone. This news is sure to get a lot of smiles from this market segment. You’re getting a lot more for the same amount of money and that is always good news.