This Guardian article has nothing to do with computers per se. But it bears noting that it's all related; that is, the rampant rapacity of our planet has consequences. Read it or ignore at your own peril.
Banks across the country are reporting a new kind of fraudulent scam — and we’d like you to be prepared if something like this happens to you:
Impersonators may try to contact you, claiming to represent XYZ Bank, or perhaps another business you’re familiar with. In some cases, this incoming call may appear to be credible, with the business name registering on your display. Seeing a business name register like this on your device can be convincing, as opposed to a generic unknown number. However, this is part of the intended scam. Scammers can pretend to be legitimate, but please be sure to guard your personal information…
•Be cautious of any call, text, or email asking for personal information — even if it appears to be credible
•Banks do not ask for your username, password, pin or Zelle® details
•Don’t engage with anyone trying to initiate a transaction to “refund” you “owed money” using wire transfer, gift card or Zelle®
•Don’t allow remote access to your computer unless you initiated the call to a known service provider
•If you do engage, contact the business using a trusted phone number
Just to clear up some minor confusion, there is another IT computer support company by the name of "ComputerCats.NET" in Colorado that is not affiliated with my company, which I started in 1995. I am the Original owner of Computercats.com domain dba ComputerCats. In fact, the owner of the company in Colorado has called me several times offering to buy my domain. I have declined each time because it's mine for one and Computercats is more than an intangible asset and intellectual property: I've spent years establishing the concept of "friendly" IT support; and, adhering to a personal business model based upon honor and integrity while maintaining an impeccable reputation among my loyal clientele who've become more valuable as friends to me throughout the years.
I've been in business over 26 years. Even though I operate as a sole proprietor (I had a business partner who passed away suddenly in the night from an aneurism); even though I freelance and take clients on a referral basis and have no intention of expanding I am not giving up Computercats.com. In the meantime, I wish success for Andrew, owner of Computer Cats in Colorado, who also likes cats. Imagine that! Yes, I realize this may sound like a plug for Andrew's company. It is. I believe in promoting the well being of all. "Go Forth and Be a Blessing." ~ Genesis
This is where we are in the modern day world of computers (insert some choice swear words here). Although, note that the first instance of ransom/hackware was in 1989! Subscribe to the New Yorker if for no other reason than to read the following article. It's worth being informed.
Interesting read. FYI: If you're not subscribed to The New Yorker, listen to the hour-long podcast.
In the browser world, between Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Edge, Edge wins out with over 99% success rate in preventing phising sites. Of course, there is no mention of Safari (Apple Mac) and other browsers like Opera, Brave, Ecosia. No matter, you'll still encounter the big three somewhere in your browsing/surfing experience. Here is an indepth article about Phishing sites. Read. You have been informed.
One of my sites was compromised; in computer lingo, it was attacked by some hackware where if you clicked on one of the search engine results for that site, it redirected you to another site - similar to "phishing." It ended up taking me the better part of half the night and morning to clean it up. Although, it's a rarity, and the site has been indexed through Google since its inception, it was an unpleasant, icky experience. This is where we are: No matter how vigilant, tech savvy and security-conscious, up to date one continues to maintain a site, there are exponential vulnerabilities. The ubiquitous malware and attempted breaches are only going to get worse. I am in the process of phasing out website and logo creation, while maintaining and updating the ones I've created. If a client requests help with their site, I am available to give some technical advice but I will not be taking on new clients for website creation.
I've been getting a lot of emails lately that "appear" to be legitimate invoices. See photo of attached emails. Of course, I did not purchase these alleged items so I blocked the bogus recipients' email addresses and reported them immediately to the proper authorities. If you receive these fraudulent emails, a few of my clients have reported getting lately, DO NOT CALL the number on the emails. Report them to Report Fraud Gov --> Link: reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/?pid=A
Next, I started researching how they might have gotten my email address, (name is incorrect and the shipping address is in the middle of nowhere - see screenshot of Google Satellite location - it'd be laughable if it weren't so annoying!). Here's the thing you need to know, every time you sign up for anything, however innocuous, e.g., Recipes, Cute cat videos, Organic Popcorn...I mean anything! you're exposing your information to the internet. Listen, if our government's sites - military, IRS, CIA - can be breached and they have been, any site can be breached. Data mining is hugely profitable in the recesses of the nefarious, dark underweb where your information is sold to the highest bidder depending upon your net worth, credit-worthiness, professional affiliations like LinkedIn and every single social media site. Google yourself and find out how many sites have exposed your personal data, (email addresses, DOB, residential addresses, personal property) it might shock you but no need to get paranoid - that's my job - just be proactive.
Start scrubbing your personal information from every search engine out there by unsubscribing and "opting-out" of the sites that are holding your information hostage, not to mention the massive amount of misinformation. It's time consuming, but worth it. Protect you data, and make sure your searches are restricted from being tracked; there are tons of apps and browser extensions that can do that. Clear out your browser history, cache every time you close out your browser. There are settings to do that automatically. Change your passwords often. I understand this is a pain to change and remember passwords but it is absolutely necessary.
Here are some screenshots of the above-mentioned invoice and the report I made to Report Fraud Gov. Be 'wary' cautious every time you sign up for anything including newsletters from your local Boy Scouts Chapter. Like I said, you don't have to be paranoid but you do need to be judicious with your information. Your privacy is yours and it's very valuable. Otherwise, happy Vernal Equinox.
One in every 131 emails contains some sort of malware. -Symantec
So, this happened.
Chaos gripped the United Kingdom as hospitals were crippled, interrupting everything from name tag printing for newborns to major heart surgeries at the National Health Services’ facilities. Commuters at train stations across Germany were greeted by video screens featuring ransom demands targeting the rail system rather than the usual arrival and departure times. The Brazilian government was forced to disconnect computers running the country’s social security system, cutting off benefit recipients’ access to their accounts.
The U.S. was largely spared from the massive cyberattack that used a ransomware called “Wannacry,” but these kinds of attacks are not new and continue to spread. Nearly 76 percent of websites are vulnerable to them.
Cybercrimes compromise more than just your emails and photos. If you’re not properly protected, malware and hacks can lock you out of your bank accounts, destroy your credit and even steal your identity, allowing thieves to open credit cards in your name and saddle you with erroneous debt. Sound unlikely? It’s happened to more than 4 in 10 people nationwide. And security officials warn that more sophisticated cyberattacks are well on their way to becoming the newest form of modern warfare, threatening not just our finances, but our health and personal safety.
Why you should care...
Cyber is the new nuclear, but way more secret. Wannacry, created by–and stolen from–the U.S. National Security Agency, has been linked to similar attacks carried out by North Korea, a country better known for its efforts to build and launch nuclear missiles. Cyberattacks can potentially become just as lethal as traditional weapons (think code-based weapons that target nuclear plants or power grids) but public conversation about cyber threats remains limited. Stuxnet—a malware that can destroy physical targets and was also made in part by the U.S. government—was discovered and leaked back in 2010, as shown in the documentary “Zero Days” (produced by Participant Media). It destroyed more than 1,000 of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, but most of us still don’t know the full details seven years later. Compare that to the breathless reporting over every failed North Korean missile test. The secrecy around cyber warfare makes it more difficult to put proper international standards in place.
Back home, you’re woefully underprotected. With so many everyday devices like phones, cameras, and even your refrigerators and air conditioners connected to the internet, it’s no wonder nearly two-thirds of Americans have been the victim of cyber data theft. Your smartphone can replace your ATM card, request a ride home and process your paychecks, making it a valuable target for thieves; in fact 2.1 million Americans had their phones stolen in 2014. Phone security has improved with thumbprint and better password technology (mostly), but people often do not take advantage. More than 25 percent of smartphone owners don’t lock their phones, and nearly half fail to update their apps with key security patches. Many people still use insecure methods of storing passwords, or choose simplistic passwords that are easy to crack. Sound familiar?
You’re risking your safety over breakfast. The public wifi we rely on to surf the web as we’re waiting for our morning coffee, riding the train to work or staying at a hotel isn’t very secure. Even President Trump’s information isn’t totally safe: reports say federal officials are concerned about the level of cyber security at Trump’s beloved Mar-a-Lago resort, where the president often spends weekends and has been known to conduct business related to our national security.
Your private data could already be out there. Yahoo, now owned by Verizon, has lost user information (think: passwords, birthdates and more) multiple times over the years with at least 1 billion (yes, with a “b”) Yahoo accounts getting hacked. Up to 110 million Target customers had their bank account information stolen, resulting in drained bank accounts and unauthorized charges. And more recently, hackers targeted Amazon’s third party seller usernames and passwords to steal funds by redirecting bank accounts and creating fake posts on Amazon to trick customers into buying non-existent items. Attacks on personal finance information like credit and debit card information were up 6 percent from 2015 to 2016.
...and what you can do. Make sure your security software is updated, and your passwords are appropriately secure. The ransomware attack highlighted the issue of keeping security software updated. Computers using outdated Windows XP software were disproportionately affected by this malware because Microsoft discontinued security updates for the software back in 2014. Microsoft had picked up on the vulnerability and provided a patch to fix the issue back in March of this year, but few took advantage of it, enabling “Wannacry” to cause massive disruptions. Your phone is also vunerable so make sure to lock it and keep your apps updated—new versions are not just used to download new emojis, they also contain important security patches.
DANGER! WILL ROBINSON. DANGER! Remember the article I posted almost a year ago to today's date, see below. Well the Ransomware is real and it's back! Read on. Don't take chances, update your computers.