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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Abney and Associates Internet Technology: Why we remain disconnected even though we now connect more

The ubiquitous use of Internet everywhere except for the remotest corners of our globe today requires a technology that is unprecedented in the history of the human race. Satellites that transmit signals through a worldwide wireless communication infrastructure now surround our planet even more since Marconi (or should we say Tesla) invented the radio.

Whereas the Internet used to be the sole domain of US government spies and other agents working in foreign lands; it now serves as the basic tool for communication for many individuals and most, if not all, commercial and industrial concerns. And to think that only a few decades ago, the beeper and the fax machine reigned supreme as the quickest way to transmit data and short messages. Today, people can send sms, photos and videos in a few seconds just by using a smartphone or a PC.

We ask ourselves this question: How are we different from the people who lived before the Industrial Revolution in terms of social cohesion? Are we much more “in touch” with others because of social networking or are we merely communicating more but not really getting closer as we should? Let us look at some tell-tale signs of our continuing modern social alienation.

1. We continue to be a planet of alienated people

Most people who use Facebook have at least 50 or 100 friends with whom they share a big part of their wakeful life – from what they eat for  lunch to what they wear at a party and to where they spent the last weekend. Ironically, however, those posts are not entirely for all your friends but for those who are closely tied to the people in the photo or the video posted.

Only a few people use Facebook as a forum for dispensing vital information to as wide an audience as possible. And these people are either members of an advocacy or have a group that serves special social or economic needs. That is, while Facebook and other social networks are potent tools for promoting or advertising products and services, real social networking in the sense of getting in touch with people as they are and where they are is not largely being addressed.

In general, most people use these services to remove their sense of alienation, insecurity or loneliness in a still largely-divided and disparate world. Social networking has provided a means to spread knowledge but not a genuine merging of sentiments and beliefs. China and other communists countries and many Islamic nations control the Internet to prevent the flow of corruptive and immoral western influences, and rightly so. But most democratic countries have no such similar fear or care for their people as they allow almost anything to be seen and heard online.

2. In reality, we still remain choosy as to who we communicate with

Given the choice or if only Facebook administrators were more protective of individual privacy, we would all limit access to our activities to just a few people. But the way the system works, everyone gets to see what you post online. It is a ripe place for spies and criminals to look for hapless victims.

Sure, we all want to have exchange of the latest news with our close friends and relatives; but as it is, the whole world can find out as much the same things your son or daughter knows about your recent activities. But as we have no choice as to how we can control the flow of information, we just let it pass, hoping people will not care anyway about what we do in the same way that we will not care about what they will do. Any amazing or tragic events will merely catch our attention now and then as if we were only reading the news. What is important is we know how our immediate circle of relatives and friends are doing.

3. With the alienation and parochialism preserved, we still fail to reach out

Sure, when calamities or tragedies happen, the Internet allows us to come to the aid of those in need in a more rapid though indirect manner; but sadly it is limited to merely expressing platitudes and, at best, sincere kind words and providing financial aid. There are people, of course, who go beyond the virtual connection and come to the aid of victims in a very personal way; but that remains a minority. Social networking may help spread the word as to the extent of the disaster and the necessary medium for coordinating relief efforts; but in the end, the real help needed by people in need does not come from people who sit before a PC or with a smartphone in hand but from people who carry no gadgets but food, clothing, shelter and medicine and from tireless people who can offer a helping hand or a listening ear to those who are hurting.

Victims of Yolanda had no electricity nor cellphones to use after they were hit by the super-typhoon. They needed food and shelter which did not come until after several weeks. The first photos of the disaster, however, were online in a matter of days. People watched online as people suffered and many, to be fair, did help to alleviate the suffering.

The technology may have allowed us to all suffer together, whether in truth or vicariously; but we have merely magnified the degree of suffering without the corresponding amount of compassion and commiseration to flow toward those who need it. That is, like the news that bears bad report, we have helped to spread tragic things without providing the real consolation we must provide for those who suffer the tragedy. Many of us also suffer as we see the suffering from a distance without doing anything about it and whether that is good for a society or not is something we can ponder upon for a long time.

4. Internet Technology still has to provide a real beneficial service other than to inform or to entertain

In general, social networking and online activities are for the purpose of information and providing recreation. The amount of time people spend in gaming and even merely chatting into the wee hours of the morning provide no saving grace for the misuse or abuse of the technology. Young people waste a lot of time playing inane games and doing nothing but gossiping and yapping (as they used to do with the old land-phones). As far as using the technology to transform lives and to provide a venue for real social change, we do not see any of that happening except for a few groups that are into advocacies or activities that had already been in place even before the Internet came.

Internet technology only quickens the speed at which information is passed on or received; but it has not improved the ability of people to respond to meaningful and fruitful endeavors. What they do in schools, churches and offices they can continue to do after the bell rings or the clock strikes five, leaving people less time to be with themselves in solitude to think or meditate. We are connected, yes; but we remain as disconnected as ever.

So, if Internet technology has failed to make us more socially receptive and responsive, what can we do to make it more beneficial? We need to go back to the old way of talking face-to-face and touching one another in a loving and sincere way. Turning off the phone and the PC may be the best way we can do to recover and maintain the real process for communicating our needs and our joys with one another. And that is, by opening our hearts and minds to people without the barriers we have set up before and between ourselves. Using technology to accomplish that is still the real challenge we have today.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

An Abney Associates Fraud Awareness Program: Cyber-Attacks Seen Defrauding Brazilian Payment System of Billions

Cyber- criminals have abused the Boleto Bancário online payment system to steal potentially billions of dollars, according to security firm RSA.

Cyber-Criminals have infected nearly 200,000 computers in Brazil and used their access to issue payment vouchers with an estimated value of $3.75 billion, according to an analysis of the attack published by security firm RSA on July 1.

Dubbed the "Bolware" gang, the criminals abuse the Brazilian payment system known as Boleto Bancário, which allows customers to promise to pay an online merchant, print out a payment slip with a barcode and remit money at a bank. While previous attempts to defraud the payment system used fake boleto, the latest attack, which started in late 2012, infects Web browsers on compromised computers and modifies legitimate boleto to route payment to the criminal accounts.

"The Boleto Malware (is) a newer and more sophisticated kind of fraud in Brazil that leverages MITB (man-in-the-browser) technology to attack online operations, and is based on transaction modification on the client side," RSA stated in its analysis. "Like any substantial cyber-criminal operation, the Bolware gang has continued to innovate, revising their purpose-built malware through 19 different versions.

While the details of the fraud differ from payment fraud in other nations, the techniques—such as using a man-in-the-browser attacks—are similar to how criminals are attempting to steal money from financial institutions in the U.S. and Europe. Criminals adopted man-in-the-browser attacks to defeat additional countermeasures—such as IP address and device identification—deployed by financial institutions.

"It is a class of problem where the arms race has migrated," Dan Kaminsky, co-founder and chief scientist of White Ops, an anti-fraud technology firm. "Once upon time, it was good enough to steal a customer's username and password and log into the bank from wherever and do whatever you wanted, but they soon figured out that a California customer should not be logging in from Latvia."

While banks in Brazil and other nations continue to fight against payment fraud, such attacks expose weaknesses and undermine trust in the financial ecosystem in most countries. Because customer-owned computers are generally thought to work on behalf of the user, banks typically argue that any fraud that originates from compromised customer systems are the responsibility of the victims. Such fraud rose more than 200 percent in the first nine months of 2013, according to Symantec.

Small U.S. businesses, for example, have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars to such attacks and sued their banks for allowing funds to be transferred to foreign nations, even though it was the business's machine that was compromised. Courts have generally split on whether the business is responsible for the lost money, or if banks should catch anomalous transactions and perform extra security measures.

A similar scam, where the attacker changed the banking information to which publisher Conde Nast sent funds, resulted in $8 million being transferred in six weeks, but the money was frozen before attackers could transfer it to their own bank accounts

While the Brazilian crime network is not large compared to other botnets, the potential profits for its operators are huge, according to RSA.

"Boleto malware is a major fraud operation and a serious cyber-crime threat to banks, merchants and banking customers in Brazil," the company stated. "While the Bolware fraud ring may not be as far-reaching as some larger international cybercrime operations, it does appear to be an extremely lucrative venture for its masterminds."

Monday, June 30, 2014

An Abney Associates Fraud Awareness Program: The resurgence of data-entry phishing attacks

‘Old school’ email social engineering or data-entry phishing is an attack method that has been on the rise in recent months, notably employed by the Syrian Electronic Army to hack seemingly every major media outlet in the Western hemisphere.

Data-Entry phishing emails lure employees into freely giving up their login credentials by taking them to a seemingly legitimate landing page. Attackers then use the credentials to establish a foothold in the network.

When spear phishing, data-entry style emails contain a link that takes the recipient to a webpage that appears to be a genuine corporate or commercial site soliciting login information.

Despite their pervasiveness and high-success rate, data-entry attacks seeking login credentials and other sensitive information have been a secondary concern for enterprises.

Information security teams have been more concerned with phishing emails that attempt to carry out drive-by attacks through a malicious link or malware delivery via an attachment.

Since data-entry phishing attacks don’t require malware, it’s quite possible to fall victim to this technique and never even realise it. Victims will often enter their information and not recognize something is wrong. Without the presence of malware, these attacks often go undetected by technical solutions.

However, this doesn’t mean the consequences are any less severe. 

Once attackers gain legitimate credentials into the network, their activity is difficult to detect. Using these credentials they can often exfiltrate significant amounts of information from overly permissive file shares, search for other devices with weak or default credentials, and possibly escalate privileges to dump entire username/password databases that can continue to grant future access.

This activity may have the appearance of an insider threat, so breaches caused by data-entry phishing are often attributed to this source. Is it really an inside job if they gained access through a spear phish?

From an attacker’s perspective, what is easier: researching social media to craft a spear phishing email, or recruiting an actual insider within the organisation?

Some experts in the security industry have identified two-factor authentication as a way to mitigate this threat; however, two-factor authentication will not prevent phishing. While two-factor authentication makes it more difficult to phish an account, it will not prevent this type of attack from being successful.

If a user is tricked into revealing login credentials to a false landing page, two-factor authentication will only limit the time the hacker has access to the account. Attackers would need to collect the second factor of authentication, but the underlying tactics would remain the same.

Even if two-factor authentication could prevent phishing, for large enterprises implementing the solution across the board is often cost prohibitive and a logistical nightmare. This isn’t to say that two-factor authentication doesn’t improve security, but it isn’t a panacea.

The same goes for technologies and services that take down phishing websites. At best, these technologies offer lead times of four to eight hours to take down phishing sites. It can often take longer, particularly if the site’s domain is in an unfriendly country or if the site is hosted using a subdomain on a large provider. Continue reading…

Sunday, June 29, 2014

An Abney Associates Fraud Awareness Program: Identity fraud is on the increase

Recent statistics by the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) reveal that identity fraud is on the increase.

Based on the year-to-date figure, 1 370 cases had been reported to the SAFPS as at the end of April. 

Experts warn that the figure could be the tip of the iceberg as the statistics only indicate the cases that have been recorded.

There was a 16% increase in fraud from a total of 3327 cases in 2012 to a total of 3873 cases in 2013. 

The crime cost the local economy a whopping R1bneach year. It is estimated that the number of incidents could exceed the 4000 mark by the end of 2014.

Frank Lenisa, director of credit bureau Compuscan, said they had been keeping a close watch on the situation and was endeavouring to educate consumers and assist them in preventing the negative impact that fraud can have on their credit reports.

“It’s concerning to see that there is an increase in identity fraud.

What worries us even more is that consumers are often unaware that they have fallen victim to such a crime and this could have a severe negative knock-on effect in their ability to obtain credit in future,” said Lenisa

Lenisa also said it was important for credit-active consumers to keep a close eye on account activity in their name to prevent and recover from identity fraud.

“This is one of the steps that can be taken to protect the health of their credit records.

Credit-active consumers can safeguard themselves by obtaining a copy of their credit reports as regularly as possible and carefully examining every piece of information. 

It is recommended that this is done once a month,” he said

He added that consumers should carefully examine their statements, keep their passwords and identity numbers secure and shred receipts and statements before discarding them.

“It must also be stressed that personal information should never be given over the phone and the authenticity of websites should be checked before entering any personal information,” said

According to the latest National Credit Regulator Credit Bureau Monitor, there were 20.

64 million credit-active consumers in South Africa as at the end of December last year and each one of these consumers are urged to pay close attention to the threat of fraudulent activity that could affect their credit records.

Credit-active consumers can safeguard themselves by obtaining a copy of their credit reports as regularly as possible and carefully examining every piece of information.

Friday, June 27, 2014

An Abney Associates Fraud Awareness Program: Little reform since Snowden spilled the beans

LONDON – A year has passed since the American former intelligence contractor Edward J. Snowden began revealing the massive scope of Internet surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency.

His disclosures have elicited public outrage and sharp rebukes from close U.S. allies like Germany, upending rosy assumptions about how free and secure the Internet and telecommunications networks really are.

Single-handedly Snowden has changed how people regard their phones, tablets and laptops, and sparked a public debate about the protection of personal data.

What his revelations have not done is bring about significant reforms.

To be sure, U.S. President Barack Obama, spurred by an alliance between civil society organizations and the technology industry, has taken some action. In a January speech, and an accompanying presidential policy directive, Obama ordered American spies to recognize that “all persons should be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their nationality or wherever they might reside, and that all persons have legitimate privacy interests in the handling of their personal information.”

Some specific advances, unprecedented in the shadowy world of intelligence agencies, have accompanied this rhetorical commitment to privacy. When technology companies sued the government to release details about intelligence requests, the Obama administration compromised, supporting a settlement that allows for more detailed reporting. Under this agreement, companies have the option of publishing figures on data requests by intelligence agencies in ranges of 250 or 1,000, depending on the degree of disaggregation of the types of orders.

Though this represents a step forward, it is far from adequate, with gaping loopholes that prohibit reporting on some of the most notorious NSA programs such as the dragnet collection of phone records under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act.

Moreover, Obama has demurred on the most significant recommendations of the independent review group that he appointed.

And the USA Freedom Act, which was meant to stop the mass collection of Americans’ phone records, is being diluted by a set of amendments that would enable the government to continue collecting metadata on millions of individuals without their consent.

This metadata — covering whom we talk to, when and for how long — can reveal as much about our private lives as the content itself.

Relative to the rest of the world, the United States has taken the strongest action since the Snowden revelations began. Of course, Snowden exposed more about the U.S. government’s surveillance activities than any other country. But the documents also included egregious examples of overreach by the Government Communications Headquarters, the United Kingdom’s signals intelligence agency and information about intelligence sharing in the so-called “Five Eyes” network of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

The agreements that govern the pooling and exchange of intelligence among these governments remain closely guarded secrets. Continue reading…

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

An Abney Associates Fraud Awareness Program on Apple implements MAC anti-tracking technique

Apple is going to implement random MAC addresses technology in its iOS8 devices, an anonymity-granting technique which late computer prodigy Aaron Swartz was accused of using to carry out his infamous MIT hack.

Swartz, who faced criminal prosecution on charges of mass downloading academic documents and articles, was also accused of using MAC (Media Access Control) spoofing address technology to gain access to MIT’s subscription database.

At the time of his suicide at the age 26, Swartz was facing up to 35 years in prison, the confiscation of assets and a $1 million fine on various charges.

Now computer giant Apple is installing a MAC address randomizing system into its products. The company announced that in its new iOS 8, Wi-Fi scanning behavior will be “changed to use random, locally administered MAC addresses.”

MAC-address is a unique identifier used by network adapters to identify themselves on a network, and changing it could be regarded as an anti-tracking measure.

David Seaman, journalist and podcast host of “The DL Show,” told RT that a single technology cannot protect users from being spied upon and advised users to trust no one, particularly the companies that have been caught cooperating with agencies such as the NSA, or those who used to turn a blind eye toward governments’ illegal activities.

RT: Why is Apple suddenly becoming interested in boosting the privacy protection of its devices by spoofing MAC-addresses?

David Seaman: That’s one of the techniques that Apple has adopted to spoof these MAC-addresses and it’s just another step to make smart phones and other devices, other mobile devices a bit more secure. Of course you have to keep in mind that a smart phone is to begin with not all that secure, because there are so many different application developers, as well as the fact that you have to rely on whatever cell phone company is providing you with a signal. So this definitely doesn’t make phones completely secure, but I think it’s a step in the right direction.

RT: Some argue that Apple’s attempt to protect the privacy of its users is pretty much useless because there are many ways to see where the device is. Do you agree that what they are trying to give us is perhaps not really the full picture?

DS: There are a number of other hardware identifiers, aside from the MAC-address that your cell phone is still emitting, and which, using cell towers, they can still find your exact location. So this definitely doesn’t restore total privacy to the user, it’s just one band aid. And I think if you’re injured, you should use as many band aids as possible.

But there’s also a larger thing here which is that governments are spying on us and these cell phones are not designed to be all that secure from day one. And there are a number of private companies that, I wouldn’t say spying, but eavesdropping on what you’re doing to make money out of you. And this is a growing problem as we spend more and more of our lives online and on our phones and we expect these things to be secure. Continue reading…

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

An Abney Associates Fraud Awareness Program on YouTube Video Teaches Credit Card Fraud

The YouTube video features Lil Wayne rapping over a melancholy beat: "I see that guilt beneath the shame. I see your soul through your window pane."

Displayed on the screen is a message for aspiring credit card fraudsters.

"Everyone...I'm selling full cc generator...I also sell full cc...Have much more hacking tools, software   and other Business to offer. Only serious buyers."

The pitch for credit card fraud plays alongside an ad for American Express credit cards -- which means that the apparent cybercriminal who posted the video may profit not just on the stolen data   but also on the ads purchased by the credit card companies that had their data stolen.

The odd set-up, it turns out, is not unique. YouTube is littered with videos marketing stolen credit cards and other tools for criminal ventures. (Many liven up their pitches with unauthorized samplings from famous musicians.)

A report to be released Tuesday by the Digital Citizens Alliance, an Internet safety advocacy organization, blasts Google Inc., YouTube's parent company, for profiting from ads paired with such videos.

The illicit videos are so common that it's almost inevitable that legitimate advertisers will get paired with them.

The process begins with a user posting a video onto the site and agreeing to allow ads. If the videos get a certain number of hits, their producers can get a cut of the revenue coming from the ads.

A search   of credit card fraud terms reveals the extent of the problem: "CC Fullz" brings up 2,030 videos, according to the report. (Fullz is slang for a full package of identifying information on a credit card holder.) "Buy cc numbers" shows 4,850 results. And "CC info with CW" brings up 8,820 hits.

"Many of these videos are embedded with advertisements, which means that Google is effectively in business   with crooks peddling stolen or bogus credit cards," the report states.

The videos are commonly displayed alongside ads for major companies. In one instance, the accompanying pitch was for Target, a company still reeling from the kind of credit card attacks these videos help facilitate.

Asked about the pairing by The Times, Target spokesman Evan Lapiska said "the ad placement in question is a clear violation of the contract terms with the vendor who manages ad placements online."

"We are working with them to address this issue as soon as possible," Lapiska said in a statement.

Target and other advertisers have little control over whether their promotions get paired up with fraud videos. The responsibility for weeding out such videos falls on YouTube and Google.

Tom Galvin, executive director of Digital Citizens Alliance, said Google has failed to implement a systemic fix for keeping such videos from going live.

Galvin acknowledged that it would be untenable for YouTube to check every video that gets uploaded onto the site. But he said common search terms such as "fake credit card numbers" should be vetted.

"YouTube is supposed to be this mainstream site," Galvin said. "It's not a good thing when these mainstream sites start looking like the dark corners of the Internet."

Galvin said he didn't blame the advertisers, such as Target, who ended up on the illicit videos: "They're kind of captive to the system."

Google, which owns YouTube, did not respond to questions from The Times.

Monday, June 23, 2014

An Abney Associates Fraud Awareness Program: Mock email scam ensnares hundreds of bureaucrats

OTTAWA – Many of the Justice Department’s finest legal minds are falling prey to a garden-variety Internet scam.

An internal survey shows almost 2,000 staff were conned into clicking on a phoney “phishing” link in their email, raising questions about the security of sensitive information.

The department launched the mock scam in December as a security exercise, sending emails to 5,000 employees to test their ability to recognize cyber fraud.

The emails looked like genuine communications from government or financial institutions, and contained a link to a fake website that was also made to look like the real thing.

Across the globe, an estimated 156 million of these so-called “phishing” emails are sent daily, and anyone duped into clicking on the embedded web link risks transferring confidential information – such as online banking passwords – to criminals.

The Justice Department’s mock exercise caught 1,850 people clicking on the phoney embedded links, or 37 per cent of everyone who received the emails.

That’s a much higher rate than for the general population, which a federal website says is only about five per cent.

The exercise did not put any confidential information at risk, but the poor results raise red flags about public servants being caught by actual phishing emails.

A spokeswoman says “no privacy breaches have been reported” from any real phishing scams at Justice Canada.

Carole Saindon also said that two more waves of mock emails in February and April show improved results, with clicking rates falling by half.

“This is an awareness campaign designed to inform and educate employees on issues surrounding cyber security to protect the integrity of the department’s information systems and in turn better protect Canadians,” she said in an email.

“As this project progresses, we are pleased that the effectiveness of this campaign is showing significant improvement.”

A February briefing note on the exercise was obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

The document indicates there are more such exercises planned – in June, August and October – and that the simulations will be “graduating in levels of sophistication.”

Those caught by the simulation are notified by a pop-up window, giving them tips on spotting malicious messages.

The federal government’s Get Cyber Safe website says about 10 per cent of the 156 million phishing emails globally make it through spam filters each day.

Of those, some eight million are actually opened by the recipient, but only 800,000 click on the links – or about five per cent of those who received the emails.

About 10 per cent of those opening the link are fooled into providing confidential information – which represents a worldwide haul of 80,000 credit-card numbers, bank accounts, passwords and other confidential information every day.

“Don’t get phished!,” says the federal website, “Phishing emails often look like real emails from a trusted source such as your bank or an online retailer, right down to logos and graphics.”

The site says more than one million Canadians have entered personal banking details on a site they don’t know, based on surveys.

In late 2012, Justice Canada was embroiled in a major privacy breach when one of its lawyers working at Human Resources and Skills Development Canada was involved in the loss of a USB key.

The key contained unencrypted confidential information about 5,045 Canadians who had appealed disability rulings under the Canada Pension Plan, including their medical condition and SIN numbers. The privacy commissioner is still investigating the breach.

The department has some 5,000 employees, about half of them lawyers.

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An Abney Associates Fraud Awareness Program on Google disruption in China

BEIJING — When Yi Ran is working on new designs for his Yinshen Clothing company, he often turns to Google to search for pictures to use as inspiration. “The results are more complete and objective than Chinese search services,” the 30-year-old from Guangzhou said.

But for the past two weeks, when Yi has tried to call up the U.S. search engine, it’s been unavailable — as have a wide variety of other Google services, including Gmail, Google Books, Google Scholar and even country-specific search pages like, the company’s German home page.

Chinese authorities have given no explanation for the disruption, which began about five days before the 25th anniversary of the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters that culminated June 4, 1989, at Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Certain Google services such as YouTube have been totally unavailable in China for years, and politically sensitive periods like the Tiananmen anniversary often bring intensified, if temporary, censorship of many foreign news websites and Internet search terms.

But experts said the current broad-based and prolonged disruption of Google offerings seems to be an escalated — and possibly long-term — crackdown on the Mountain View, Calif.-based Internet giant.

“It would be wrong to say this is a partial block. It is an attempt to fully block Google and all of its properties,” said a founder of, a well-known website that has been monitoring China’s Internet censorship program since 2011. The founder said via phone that the site’s administrators do not disclose their names publicly because of the sensitive nature of the content on their site. He would not reveal his real name, apparently fearing retribution.

So far, Google is taking a low-key approach. Spokesman Matt Kallman said the company had “checked extensively and there are no technical problems on our side” but refused to comment further. According to Google’s Transparency Report, an ongoing update on worldwide service disruptions to the company’s products, the slowdown in traffic from China began May 31.

Tensions between Beijing and Washington over cybersecurity have been escalating in recent weeks. Last month, the U.S. Justice Department formally charged five Chinese military officers with hacking into American companies and stealing trade secrets; China then said it would implement a security review on imported technology equipment.

Earlier this month, the state-run newspaper China Daily ran a story warning that companies like Google and Apple could pose a threat to Chinese users because of their cooperation with U.S. government surveillance activities. Those charges mirror warnings by American officials dating back several years that Chinese businesses, including Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp., have deep, suspicious ties with China’s government.

“We can only surmise that the step-up in blocking is linked to the increase in rhetoric and threats of retaliation sparked by the (FBI) ‘wanted’ posters with (People’s Liberation Army) officers, plus the smoldering resentment from the (Edward) Snowden disclosures,” said Duncan Clark, chairman of BDA, a Beijing investment consultant firm.

“All of this is emboldening the nationalist and protectionist camp, and weakening the voices of more pragmatic actors” such as corporate customers, consumers and those concerned about trade frictions, he added. Continue reading…

Sunday, June 15, 2014

An Abney Associates Fraud Awareness Program: Symantec issues warning over FIFA scam malware

OWN GOAL: Security software company said fraudsters were attempting to entice users to click on corrupted links with the offer of World Cup tickets

Security software firm Symantec Corp yesterday issued an alert ahead of the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament, calling on Internet users to heed the threat of malware scams disguised as free ticket give-aways.

The antivirus vendor said that there has recently been a rise in Internet scams, with many using offers of free World Cup tickets to spread viruses or malware.

The tricks involve e-mails about such popular soccer stars as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to entice people to click on corrupted links, it said.

There are also false “live broadcast” links which carry the threat of phishing.

This kind of Internet scam usually asks the user to download and install a video player or fill out a questionnaire — both of which are designed to deceive soccer fans into sending money to the fraudsters, it added.

Saying that it expected scammers to turn to social networks soon, Symentek reminded Web users to be alert to potential fraud perpetrated in the name of the FIFA World Cup.

Fans wishing to follow the latest news about their favorite soccer players are advised to go to the official Web site of the sports event, it said.

Those who plan to watch the event online should keep away from dubious Web sites and use services provided by trusted sports channels only, it said.

As an added precaution Web users should also update their operating systems and other software to the latest versions, which would ensure that their Web-enabled devices have the best protection against malware, it added.

Friday, June 13, 2014

An Abney Associates Fraud Awareness Program on IBM patents technique for killing fraud

A new technology would pick up on suspicious changes in people's online activity

Someday, if you use your non-dominant hand to control your mouse or touchpad when you're say, shopping online, websites might interpret your irregular scrolling and clicking as a sign of fraud and require you to prove your identity, thanks to an IBM fraud-detection patent.

The company has patented a technique for better detecting fraud online to prevent the theft of log-in credentials and other sensitive information, particularly in e-commerce and banking, it said Friday.

U.S. patent #8,650,080 is intended for a "user-browser interaction-based fraud detection system."

How people interact with websites, such as the areas of a page they click on, whether they navigate with a mouse or keyboard, and even how they swipe through screens on a smartphone or tablet, can all be identified, IBM said. The technology could identify sudden changes in online behavior, which would then trigger a secondary authentication measure, like a security question. It would work on a mobile device or PC.

If the technology works as IBM says it will, and other businesses license it, it could help to secure online transactions against cyberattacks, such as the recent eBay hack. Sensitive information of up to 145 million people may have been breached in that recent attack.

It would also lend credence to IBM's previously stated ideas related to a "digital guardian" that would protect Internet users.

"It's important to prevent fraudulent financial transactions before they happen," said Brian O'Connell, an IBM engineer and co-inventor of the patent.

Trusteer, an IBM-owned company that makes malware detection technology mostly for banks, is already using some of the technology in the patent, IBM engineers said Friday. Other sites like eBay or Amazon might one day choose to license it as well.

While it might seem that the technology has the potential to cause false positives, IBM said the prototype it tested successfully confirmed identities and showed that sudden changes in browsing behavior were likely due to fraud.

And some Internet users might consider the technology to be an invasion of privacy. But the data gathered through the technology would not amount to personally identifiable information, said Keith Walker, another co-inventor on the patent.

Tackling fraud and financial crime is high on the agenda for IBM. Recently the company announced new software and services to address the US$3.5 trillion lost each year to fraud.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

An Abney Associates Fraud Awareness Program on Tap-and-go card fraud in Australia

Tap-and-go card fraud in Australia is costing about 2¢ for every $100 of legitimate spending – half the rate of conventional card fraud, and a third of the rate of international card fraud, according to Visa.

And that's why Australia’s major banks, the Australian Payments Clearing Association and cards issuers such as MasterCard and Visa have been left scratching their heads over suggestions by the Victorian Police last week that there is a runaway increase in theft and fraud associated with contactless payment cards. They all claim that is at odds with their experience.

A meeting of the Fraud in Banking group, which brings together financial institutions, regulators and police forces from around Australia, is scheduled to be held later this week in Melbourne, when the topic will again be raised.

What sparked the controversy was the release last week of Victoria Police statistics which revealed a 45 per cent increase in deception cases. The police said most of that increase was due to misuse of tap-and-go cards with thieves specifically seeking the cards in car and home burglaries.

Victoria Police has been contacted for further comment.

Visa’s senior director of risk services, Ian McKindley, said the company monitored card fraud internationally, adding that the Australian rate of card fraud in face-to-face (not online) transactions was one of the lowest in the world. He added that the rate of contactless fraud was half that of other cards despite 45 per cent of all face-to-face card transactions in Australia now being contactless.

Mr McKindley said that after removing internet fraud (transactions knows as card-not-present are a bigger financial fraud problem for the banks) the Australian cost of fraud using conventional cards was 4¢ in $100, contactless was around 2¢ in every $100, while the global figure is 6¢ in the $100.

Not only was the cost of fraud lower, criminal gangs had been unable to counterfeit the contactless cards, he said, alluding to the active underground market for stolen credit cards and payment details.

Mr McKindley said that Visa had been liaising with the Victorian government over its concerns since September.

Unlike most other states and territories in Australia, which simply record any reports of card theft at local police stations, in Victoria copies of reports of card theft are provided to issuing banks, which investigate the cases in place of Victoria Police.

Police forces were, however, alerted by the banks and card issuers if there was evidence of possible criminal gang activity in a particular area.

Australian Bankers’ Association chief executive Steven Munchenberg agreed that contactless card fraud levels were low.

“These cards use the same intelligent systems that look for stolen card activity to identify possible fraud on customers’ cards. This helps prevent fraud if the systems believe your card has been stolen. As is the case with credit cards, the bank may contact the customer to check that a transaction is legitimate. If a customer cannot be contacted, a staff member will decide whether to block the card until the bank can talk to the customer.”

Consumers who are issued with contactless payment cards are not yetable to disable that function, which was one of the concerns raised by Victorian Police and consumer protection bodies. However eftpos Australia, which is developing its own contactless payment card and smartphone app, is still deciding what limits it will set for contactless transactions (it may be lower than the $100 limit on the major cards) and whether it will allow users to turn off the tap-and-go function.

While the ABA was unable to comment on the extent of smartphone-based tap-and-go payments fraud, the still relatively low penetration of mobile payments apps coupled with the fact that many are secured with a PIN, suggests this is less of an issue for the banks and card issuers at present.

APCA CEO Chris Hamilton welcomed any efforts to reinforce the need for consumers to treat payment cards or apps with the same care as cash, but said APCA’s own statistics had not revealed a sudden surge in contactless card fraud.

However, he noted that the rise of chip and PIN cards, and the planned move away from the use of signatures to complete payments, was perhaps forcing an “opportunistic” change in criminal behaviour. Chip and PIN cards “shut down counterfeiters and skimmers” he said, which may have prompted a rise in direct card theft.

That had also been seen in other markets, such as Britain, when chip and PIN were rolled out, he said.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

An Abney Associates Fraud Awareness Program on Most common cyber crimes in UAE

Dubai: The number of people reporting cyber crimes has almost doubled in Dubai, according to Dubai Police.

Statistics from the cyber investigation department of Dubai Police show that they received a total of 1,419 reports in 2013, 792 in 2012 and 588 in 2011.

Lieutenant Colonel Saeed Al Hajiri, Director of the Cyber Investigation Department at Dubai Police, told Gulf News that the most common cybercrimes are fraud involving money and blackmail or extortion, especially sextortion.

He said these crimes are common because they are easy to commit from anywhere in the world.

All the cyber crimes that are found in the UAE, he said, are also found everywhere in the world, as the internet is an open environment.

“But what matters is how we handle them. We work with international organsiations such as the Interpol, VGT [Virtual Global Taskforce] and the Europol to fight all kinds of internet crimes.” he said.

He added that the “internet has a lot of evil; we get a lot of different reports and complaints, so we have up-to-date data of all the trends in cyber crime.” Recently, the department launched a campaign to raise awareness about cyber crimes such as promises of non-existent jobs, personal information theft – especially photos, money-related fraud and so on.

No tolerance for paedophiles

Lt Col Al Hajiri, said they get reports from people of all ages, and there is no specific age group that is most vulnerable.

However, he said, they have a zero tolerance policy for paedophiles.

“We are proactive in protecting children from internet predators. Anyone who posts photos or videos or content that have paedophilic themes is tracked and arrested immediately, and sent to court for trial and deported.”

He said that they do not wait for someone to report such a crime; they monitor the internet and handle it instantly.

In the UAE, he said, there aren’t many instances of children-related internet sex crimes.

People fall into the trap of internet criminals due to a number of reasons, all of which have nothing to do with how well educated they are, he said.

He explained that usually people who fall into the trap of online criminals have some weakness or character flaw that the criminal uses to abuse and exploit them. Lack of social intelligence, being greedy, not being content, having an emotional void, and having financial troubles are some weaknesses that criminals target, he said.

Pornographic activities are illegal, and people should not get into illegal activities that can later on lead to sextortion. Lt Col Al Hajiri added that the country has a proxy in place to block pornographic content in order to protect people. However, he said, some people bypass this security measure and get into problems related to sextortion.