“There has been a significant increase in Mac malware in the last several quarters, so what we’ve seen with the Flashback Trojan isn’t particularly surprising,” Marcus said.
“Cybercriminals will attack any operating system with valuable information, and as the popularity of Macs increase, so will attacks on the Mac platform.”
The web was buzzing Thursday about a new “Flashback trojan” that has apparently infected over half a million macs. The malware was installed by users through a fake Adobe Flash player update and can hijack machines and potentially connect them to botnets and steal personal information.For years, Apple boasted it’s dominance in the malware category but with the growth of Apple computer sales, they are now an attractive target. PC’s have always been more susceptible to viruses and the like because that’s what everybody used. At the end of the day, hackers are trying to make a profit for their efforts and therefore will go where their market is. There have been iPhone “viruses” reported in the past despite the tightly-controlled iOS ecosystem and these instances are on the rise.
As a Mac user for my personal computer, I use Sophos free antivirus and run scans every so often. Nothing has come up but I’m glad it’s there. As with all computers, it’s best practice to maintain good passwords, update regularly, run antivirus scans and back up your important data. Perhaps most importantly, is using common sense on the web. Do not open things from people you don’t know and be wary of links you click. A little-known but common malware source is PDF documents, which have traditionally been regarded as a secure and convenient file format. Adobe products are a common target for Apple products so make sure to update from
On March 1st of this year, new data collection methods will be deployed by Google which will essentially link search history and browsing patterns on all of their services. While collection of browsing data & search history are not a new concept for the folks up at Mountain View, this new initiative seeks to put searches in a better context. Google knowing individual search records is useful, but being able to put these searches in the context of all of their other searches, youtube viewing history & other Google usage data is even more valuable for their targeted advertising initiatives. Consumers could also benefit from this. For example, when Google users are searching for “Jaguar”, Google’s new service will help to target results based on your previous history and either bring up results for the auto maker or the animal.
From a privacy perspective, this news is certainly alarming. The general public does not expect content of their personal Gmail messages to have an impact on targeted advertisements on web pages or even Youtube viewing suggestions. Although there is no official “opt-out” option, there are a few things you can do to “depersonalize searches”:
- Sign out of GMail & other Google services while browsing
Make Sure This Says "You" and NOT Your Name
- Turn off Web History Tracking for your account. Click the Options icon on the top right of a Google page (gear icon). Click “Web History” at the bottom and when that page loads, turn it off.
Turn Off Web History
Via Washington Post
In a recent New York area SAT cheating scandal, a male student was found to have taken the test for many others, including females for rates of up to $2,500 US. As a way to make it impossible to cheat, researchers at Stony Brook University are looking at the possibility of implementing DNA identification for test takers. This technology would make it impossible to cheat and would protect the integrity of standardized exams. How would the technology actually work?
The student’s unique digital DNA code is created and assigned to an ID card with covert authentication marks printed onto it. Proctors can verify instantly with a simple UV light and smart phone scan.
What worries me about this initiative is the security of the DNA data – as I have posted on here before, who will be responsible for making sure DNA and other biometric records aren’t compromised to undisclosed recipients? While cheating throughout all levels of education is a big issue, there may be some safer ways to combat it such as providing multiple forms of of valid identification such as passports or birth certificates which are more difficult to fake then school ID’s or drivers’ licenses.
Via CBS New York
Image Source: CBS New York
It’s official, sites such as wikipedia and Wordpress have begun to “black out” their home pages (and some sites all together) to join what is referred to as the largest online petition in history. SOPA, or the “Stop Online Piracy Act” is a bill which seeks to censor the internet by giving the government the ability to shut down websites deemed to promote online music, video and software piracy. Proponents of the bill claim that online piracy threatens jobs and industries. Companies such as Facebook, Zynga, LinkedIn, Reddit, Google, Yahoo, Mozilla and AOL have actively reached out to the Senate and House of Representatives stating that SOPA is “a serious risk to our industry’s continued track record of innovation and job creation, as well as to our nation’s cybersecurity.”
SOPA aims to target “rogue sites” that are located offshore in countries where copyright laws are less stringent. The Bill would allow the US to seek a court order to grant the authority to shut down sites and blacklist IP addresses. The bill would have an effect on much more than these Hollywood-dubbed “rogue sites” – companies that provide DNS & Whois services would be impacted, not just service providers that host the websites. There certainly is a huge black market industry for pirated media, there is no debating that – SOPA just won’t solve this problem as it is currently drafted. The pirates will always be able to use web hosts in different countries, use VPN tunnels or use other methods to manage to stay one step ahead of US authorities.
It isn’t just web companies that want SOPA stopped – entities like the Department of Homeland Security have a vested interested in stopping the bill as well. SOPA would be counterintuitive for efforts being made to secure DNS name registration. An initiative known as the Domain Name System Security Extensions aims to encrypt traffic from a domain down to the visitor level.
It will be interesting to see the outcome of this bill – the internet is so unique in the sense that it is truly a space to share any thoughts and information. If SOPA hopes to achieve the end of internet media piracy, legislation is not the way to do it. Service such as app stores, iTunes, Spotify, Grooveshark or Netflix have found that people are willing to pay for the content they want and can easily purchase. Content delivery solutions would have more success in the long run.
As a closing thought, it’s been observed that SOPA has gotten a ton of buzz because it relates directly to services people consume on a frequent basis. Things like facial recognition scanning and biometric databases don’t scare people?
Google's Homepage Censored
Wikipedia's Censored Homepage
Via Mashable & CNET
There has been a lot of recent buzz surrounding facial recognition and other biometric identification tools in regards to personal privacy. Facebook and Google have taken advantage of this technology and leveraged it for their users. Google’s “search by image” tool is quite impressive – let’s say you have an image of a painting you took in a museum, but didn’t know what the painting was. Google’s tool allows you to submit your image and query their image database. Facebook is using it to link its members to photos they aren’t tagged in – This gets me thinking a bit on the future of individual privacy on the web.
The FBI has announced that they are rolling out a massive biometric database which will eventually eclipse the size of the well-known fingerprint register. This initiative is known as NGI or “Next Generation Identification” and will include different biometric records. The bureau has a goal of interconnecting these databases to share with a large amount of local, state and federal agencies. To begin, police departments will have access to the databases in exchange for adding new entries from mug shots etc. The implications give a very “big brother” feeling.
In the past, getting fingerprinted was a result of an arrest in most cases but with the use of facial recognition technology, entries could be submitted without you even knowing. With a massive network of private and public web-connected cameras, simply walking into a government building or a retail store could match your image to your identity. In addition to facial recognition, the NGI database can contain iris images, individual records so unique that even twins can be differentiated. This database could eventually contain voice records, DNA or other unique identifiers to assist law enforcement agencies identify national threats to local criminals.
What makes me nervous about this is how will records privacy be maintained and who would be liable in case of a data breach? Passwords can be easily reset, however your iris image never changes during your lifetime. If your identity is stolen, you can get a new bank account or credit card but not a new biometric identity. This is another case of technology outpacing the law and the implications could be huge. Either way, it includes some very advanced tech!
Google Search by Image