Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Microsoft Commends Chinese Court in Sentencing Ringleaders of World's Largest Software Counterfeiting Syndicate

/PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- The Futian People's Court in Shenzhen, China, handed down sentences to 11 ringleaders of the world's largest software counterfeiting syndicate today. The sentences, ranging from 1.5 to 6.5 years, include the longest sentences handed down for this type of crime in China's history. Based in the southern China province of Guangdong, members of the syndicate were arrested by Chinese authorities in July 2007, following an international investigation led by China's Public Security Bureau (PSB) and the FBI. Microsoft and hundreds of Microsoft customers and partners also provided information which assisted in the investigation.

The 11 accused were part of a criminal syndicate responsible for manufacturing and distributing more than an estimated $2 billion (U.S.) worth of high-quality counterfeit Microsoft software. The counterfeit software, found in 36 countries and on five continents, contained fake versions of 19 of Microsoft's most popular products and was produced in at least 11 languages.

"Microsoft greatly appreciates the work of China's PSB and the FBI in taking strong enforcement action against this global software counterfeiting syndicate," said David Finn, associate general counsel for Worldwide Anti-Piracy and Anti-Counterfeiting at Microsoft. "Unfortunately, software counterfeiting is a global, illegal business without borders. Criminals may be on the other side of the globe and may not even speak the same language, but they prey upon customers and partners all over the world. This case is a testament to the importance of Microsoft's commitment to close collaboration with government bodies and local law enforcement agencies around the world to bring these criminals to justice, wherever they may be."

"Software piracy negatively impacts local economic growth, stifling innovation, taking business opportunity away from legitimate resale channels and putting consumers and partners at risk. Enforcement of intellectual property rights is critical to fostering an environment of innovation and fair competition," said Fengming Liu, vice president of Microsoft Greater China Region. "Over the years, Microsoft has been working closely with the Chinese government to promote intellectual property rights. Thanks to the actions of the Chinese government, we have seen a significant improvement in the environment for intellectual property rights in China. Moving forward, we will continue to work with the relevant authorities in China to ensure that counterfeit software does not undermine the development of China's knowledge economy."

"This case is also a strong demonstration of the improvement in criminal law legislation and enforcement of intellectual property rights in China," said Zhao Bingzhi, president of the Criminal Law Research Committee of the China Law Society and vice president of the China Group of the International Association of Penal Law.

Evidence provided by Microsoft customers through the Microsoft piracy reporting tool proved to be essential in tracking down this criminal syndicate. Tens of thousands of customers used Microsoft's anti-piracy technology in Windows Genuine Advantage to identify the software they were using as fake. In addition, more than 100 Microsoft resellers played a key part in helping to trace the counterfeit software and provided physical evidence critical to building the case, such as e-mail messages, invoices and payment slips.

"Customs administrations around the world have seized thousands of counterfeit Microsoft software produced by criminal syndicates," said Christophe Zimmermann, the coordinator of the fight against counterfeiting and piracy at the World Customs Organization. "The action today by the court in China sends a very clear message to counterfeiters that governments around the world are serious about stopping this form of criminality and are willing to step forward to protect their citizens from the harm caused by counterfeit goods."

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Arbitron Commercializes the Portable People Meter Radio Ratings Service in Four New Local Markets

/PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Arbitron Inc. (NYSE:ARB) announced today that it has commercialized its Portable People Meter(TM) radio ratings service in four new local markets.

Arbitron has released radio audience estimates for the December 2008 PPM(TM) survey month (November 21-December 17) to its subscribers in Dallas-Ft. Worth, Atlanta, Washington DC and Detroit.

Effective today, the PPM radio audience estimates for these markets should be used as the basis for buy/sell transactions of radio commercial time among subscribing stations, agencies and advertisers. In addition, audience estimates from the October and November PPM survey months, which Arbitron had previously released as "pre-currency" information, are now designated as "currency" data. The Summer 2008 diary-based radio audience report (June 26-September 17) is no longer deemed "currency" for buy/sell transactions.

PPM audience estimates are now the buy/sell "currency" in 14 local markets: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Detroit, Nassau-Suffolk, Middlesex-Somerset-Union, Riverside-San Bernardino and San Jose. These markets account for 51.7 percent of the estimated radio station revenue in the top 50 radio markets.

In April 2009, Arbitron plans to commercialize the PPM radio ratings service in Boston with the release of the March PPM survey report (March 5-April 1.)

About the Portable People Meter

The Arbitron Portable People Meter service uses a passive audience measurement device -- about the size of a small cell phone -- to track consumer exposure to media and entertainment, including broadcast, cable and satellite television; terrestrial, satellite and online radio as well as cinema advertising and many types of place-based electronic media. Carried throughout the day by randomly selected survey participants, the PPM device can track when and where they watch television, listen to radio as well as how they interact with other forms of media and entertainment.

The PPM detects inaudible codes embedded in the audio portion of media and entertainment content delivered by broadcasters, content providers and distributors. At the end of the day, the meter is placed in a docking station that extracts the codes and sends them to a central computer. The PPM is equipped with a motion sensor, a patented quality control feature unique to the system, which allows Arbitron to confirm the compliance of the PPM survey participants every day.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Filter Forge for Mac OS X Beta Version Released

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Filter Forge, Inc. today released the long-awaited public beta of the Mac OS X version of Filter Forge, a high-end plugin for Adobe Photoshop allowing computer artists to build their own filters -- seamless textures, visual effects, distortions, patterns, backgrounds, frames and more.

Starting December 29, the beta version of Filter Forge for Mac OS X is available at http://www.filterforge.com/download/?mac. The beta is open for anyone with a Mac -- no registration required. The minimum system requirement is Mac OS X 10.4, on both Intel and PowerPC processors. Users who find and report bugs will be rewarded with free copies of Filter Forge, which will be granted after the Mac version becomes commercially available. For more information about the beta test, visit http://www.filterforge.com/download/mac-version.html.

The final commercial version is planned for release in the first quarter of 2009. Meanwhile, all editions of Filter Forge for Mac OS X are available for preorder at a special 45% discount -- preorder customers can save up to $135. To preorder Filter Forge for Mac at a 45% discount, click here: http://www.filterforge.com/buy/?mac.

Filter Forge is an innovative Photoshop plugin allowing its users to create their own filters -- seamless textures, visual effects, distortions, patterns, backgrounds, frames and more. The key features of Filter Forge include a visual filter editor and a free online library of user-created filters which contains over 5600 textures and effects at the moment. To download the free trial version, click here: http://www.filterforge.com.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Information Overload Now $900 Billion Cost to U.S. Economy

/PRNewswire/ -- Information overload costs the U.S. economy $900 billion per year in lowered employee productivity and reduced innovation, according to the latest research from Basex, the leading provider of research on the productivity of knowledge workers and how technology impacts them.

Information overload describes an excess of information that results in the loss of ability to make decisions, process information, and prioritize tasks. It has been identified as a key challenge for companies that operate in the knowledge economy.

Workers spend up to 50 percent of their day managing and searching for information, according to a recent survey conducted by Basex of more than 3,000 knowledge workers, and streamlining this process can have a significant impact on productivity. But determining the extent of the problem is the first step.

"In order to remain competitive in 2009, companies will need to begin an information overload bailout, i.e. taking active countermeasures, in order to remain competitive," said Jonathan B. Spira, chief analyst at Basex.

To help companies understand their financial exposure, Basex has created a free, Web-based "information overload calculator" (www.iocalculator.com) so that companies can calculate the impact of the problem on their own operations.

"The fact that companies need to undertake a 'bailout' to combat the problem tells us how serious an issue information overload has become," said David M. Goldes, president and senior analyst at Basex. "Nothing has been more disruptive to the way we work than information overload."

Intel, a company with 86,300 employees, sees information overload as a serious problem. "At Intel we estimated the impact of information overload on each knowledge worker at up to eight hours a week," said Nathan Zeldes, a principal engineer focusing on computing productivity issues at Intel and chairman of the Information Overload Research Group, an industry consortium. "We continuously look at applying new work behaviors that can help reduce its impact."

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Consumer Group Calls on Google to Offer Zero Personal Data Retention Policy; Seeks Meeting With Chairman Eric Schmidt About Privacy Concerns

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Google should offer users of its search engine the ability to leave no personal data on the Internet giant's servers, the nonpartisan, nonprofit Consumer Watchdog said today and asked for a meeting with Google's chairman to discuss the group's privacy concerns.

In a letter to Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court and Policy Advocate John M. Simpson noted that the search engine Ask.Com offers the ability for users' personal data to be removed almost immediately from its servers with its AskEraser service. "We call on you to offer Google's users such a clearly identifiable 'opt out' function on its search engine that is essentially a zero personal data retention policy."

During a question and answer period at a New America Foundation speech in Washington, DC, Schmidt told Simpson that he was "sympathetic" to the group's privacy concerns and told him to arrange a meeting "off line" rather than in front of 200 people. See a video of that exchange here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKybBlEjSyk&eurl

The letter to Google came after the announcement this week by its rival Yahoo! that it will anonymize personal data it retains after only 90 days. Google currently keeps the data for nine months. European privacy officials have suggested a six-month standard, a limit that Microsoft said it would adopt if all search engine companies adopt the standard.

"This is really about choice," said Simpson. "People should have the right to choose what they do with their personal data and if they provide it all."

Consumer Watchdog's letter requests a meeting with Schmidt to discuss the consumer group's privacy concerns and follows an Oct. 13 letter to Google. Read that letter here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/LtrGoogle10-13-08.pdf. Read Google's Nov. 26 response here:

http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/Googleresponse112608.pdf. Read today's letter to Schmidt here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/LtrGoogle121908.pdf.

"Google, because of its dominance on the Internet, stands alone as the entity most able to set and maintain a gold standard for protecting privacy," the letter said. "Conversely, it could also be the company that sounds the death knell for privacy protections on the Internet."

To guarantee privacy, Consumer Watchdog said, users need: 1) control over their private data; 2) transparency about how their data is gathered and used; and 3) the right to give informed consent through "opt in" functions, rather than having to sift through pages in order to even locate the "opt out" function, or in its absence, a clearly identifiable and accessible "opt out."

View videos that demonstrate how users are in an unnoticed conversation with Google when they use its services at http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/google.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New Computer for the Kids? 10 Tips to Keep Them Safe Online

/PRNewswire/ -- If the gifts under your holiday tree this year are going to include a new computer for the kids, now is the time to think about how you're going to shield them from the unsavory side of the Internet. For all the merits of cyberspace as a source of information, entertainment and community, there are also dangers ranging from well over 400 million pages of pornography to Internet predators posing as friends or confidantes. Children are likely to venture into the underbelly of the beast -- whether unwittingly or deliberately -- and they need protection.

InternetSafety.com, a leading developer of products that control online usage for consumers and businesses, offers these tips to ensure a safe and wholesome Internet experience for tweens and younger teens who may use the computer unsupervised:

1. Keep the computer out of the child's bedroom -- If it's in the family room or another common space where the screen is visible to passersby, it's easier for parents, other family members or caregivers to monitor a child's online activities.

2. Teach online safety -- Be sure that children know about online stranger danger, what to do if they come across a website or have an online conversation that makes them uncomfortable, and so on.

3. Provide a clear list of 'don'ts' -- Explain, for example, that children should never give out personal information such as their last name, address, city, phone number, siblings' names, school name or parents' workplaces.

4. Block inappropriate websites -- You can automatically prevent access to sites that have been "blacklisted" because of objectionable content by using parental control software like InternetSafety.com's Safe Eyes(R) (http://www.safeeyes.com/). Advanced programs let you select which website categories will be filtered (adult, alcohol, dating/personals, drugs, gambling, hate sites, pornography, profanity, sex, violence, weapons, etc.). You should also be able to block specific websites and/or keywords of your choice.

5. Explore the Web together -- Spending time online with your children, whether visiting websites or Facebook or playing an online game, can help you steer them in the right direction and enable you to better understand their digital world.

6. Limit time spent online -- Excessive Web usage interferes with other activities and increases the risk of getting into trouble, particularly in the late-night hours when Internet predators prowl chat rooms and social networking sites. Some filtering software can help enforce any time limits you impose by cutting off Internet access after a specified interval, as well as allowing access only during certain hours and/or days of the week.

7. Monitor 'live' communications such as chat and IM -- Online sex offenders usually meet victims in chat rooms; cyberbullying often happens during IM sessions; and both can happen either place. Some parental control software can block IM programs, save the full text of IM conversations, and alert parents if children post forbidden information.

8. Restrict email use to designated addresses -- There is no reason for younger children to correspond with anyone other than family members, close friends and perhaps teachers. Some sex offenders communicate by email after meeting a child online. Again, some filtering programs will let you specify acceptable email addresses and block the rest.

9. Beware of 'back door' dangers -- Sometimes an objectionable YouTube video will be sent by email or embedded on someone's social networking page, or a peer-to-peer file sharing program like BitTorrent may have inappropriate photos or other objectionable material. This is another reason to monitor your children's computer use.

10. Encourage trouble reports -- Children should feel comfortable coming to you if they encounter something or someone online that makes them feel uneasy or threatened. Be sure to applaud their honesty so that they will keep you informed of future problems.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Georgia Tech and CDC Work to Improve Safety of Blood Supply

The Georgia Tech College of Computing, working in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has developed a Web-based tool for tracking blood safety. The tool is expected to help developing countries improve the adequacy and safety of their national blood supplies through better monitoring and evaluation.

The tool, which is accessed through a standard Web browser, tracks about 80 blood safety indicators continuously at the hospital and provincial levels. A pilot test in Zambia showed that the tool could improve the timeliness and accuracy of data collection efforts, allowing blood safety officials to better forecast or predict regional and seasonal blood usage patterns.

“A simple, scalable, Web-based tool like this can make a tremendous difference in public health around the world,” said Santosh Vempala, distinguished professor in the College of Computing’s School of Computer Science and faculty leader for the project. “The Zambian health officials immediately saw the benefits of real-time data collection and the ability to compare different regions’ needs and see trends over time.”

The project started when John Pitman, public health advisor in CDC’s Global AIDS Program, met Vempala and explained the challenges involved in ensuring global blood safety. Their vision of a web-based tracking system was taken up in 2008 by students in the College of Computing’s Computing for Good class, co-taught by Vempala. Using information about current conditions and future demands within the target countries, the Georgia Tech team, computer science Ph.D. students Adebola Osuntogun and Stephen Thomas, built a Web-based system that resource-limited countries of any size could use to report data to national authorities. The system could also be used by a global organization, like CDC, to monitor multiple projects.

The Georgia Tech team developed the new Web-based tool from a Microsoft Excel version created by CDC. The team field-tested the Web-based tool in Zambia in July-August 2008 to obtain feedback from blood safety program staff.

“I was impressed by the team’s ability to adapt to the computing environment in Zambia, and to make the changes necessary to ensure this would be an appropriate solution for developing countries,” Pitman said. “Including staff from the Zambian national blood transfusion service in the development process was essential to be sure it fit their needs.”

Ministries of health in Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guyana, Haiti, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia will begin using the new tracking system on January 1, 2009. All 14 countries are recipients of U.S. financial support through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Georgia Tech’s Computing for Good class gives students the opportunity to understand how computing can be used to improve the human condition, according to Vempala. “Projects such as this collaboration with the CDC present computer science as a cutting-edge technological discipline that empowers our students to solve problems and make a positive impact on society.”

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FBI Warns of New Vishing Attacks Targeting Private Branch Exchange (PBX) Systems

The FBI has identified a new technique used to conduct vishing attacks where hackers exploit a known security vulnerability in Asterisk software. Asterisk is free and widely used software developed to integrate Private Branch Exchange (PBX) systems with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) digital Internet voice calling services; however, early versions of the Asterisk software are known to have a vulnerability. The vulnerability can be exploited by cyber criminals to use the system as an auto dialer, generating thousands of vishing telephone calls to consumers within one hour.

Digium, the original creator and primary developer of Asterisk, released a Security Advisory, AST-2008-003, in March 2008, which contains the information necessary for users to configure a system, patch the software, or upgrade the software to protect against this vulnerability.

If a consumer falls victim to this exploit, their personally identifiable information (PII) will be compromised. To prevent further loss of consumers’ PII and to reduce the spread of this new technique, it is imperative that businesses using Asterisk upgrade their software to a version that has had the vulnerability fixed.

Further, consumers should not release personal information in response to unsolicited telephone calls. Providing your PII will compromise your identity.

“As with all types of scams, whether by computer, phone, or mail, using common sense can protect you,” said Special Agent Richard Kolko, Chief, National Press Office, Washington, D.C.

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Rapid Routers Receives Patents for Green Technology Improvements

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Rapid Routers LLC announced today that it has been issued its first patent and believes it will soon have four more patents issued to the Atlanta firm. Rapid Routers produces technology that enables routers to select network routes more efficiently and, in certain cases, reduce power consumption by 90%. All these technologies reduce the network provider’s carbon footprint.

“The issuance of patents confirms we continue to be on the right track,” says Dennis Mitrano, president of Rapid Routers. “There are a total of nine patents and applications in the Rapid Routers portfolio. Our technology greatly increases efficiency and reduces consumed power which has a significant effect on a network service provider’s total costs while supporting a greener environment.” The technology development was led by Dr. Sartaj K. Sahni, Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Information Science and Engineering Department at the University of Florida.

Rapid Routers, a portfolio company of IP2Biz LLC, has been working with router manufacturers, semiconductor manufacturers, and has had direct discussions with network service providers. “We project that Internet traffic will increase six fold by the year 2012 with more large images, video clips and movies being transferred through routers,” continues Mitrano. “Our technology will allow networks to better handle traffic congestion.”

The Rapid Routers technology works efficiently and can be selectively applied to routers with specific congestion, thus not requiring a complete network overhaul. The technology eliminates the need for overlay network routing schemes because it works with both IPv4 and IPv6 addressing schemes. The result is significant throughput improvement with reduced energy consumption. “This team has made a quantum leap in efficiency for algorithms used in network routers,” says Mitrano. The portfolio of technologies is licensed exclusively to Rapid Routers from the University of Florida.

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Holiday Season Cyber Scammers Target Victims

The FBI is reminding people this holiday season that cyber criminals continue to aggressively seek ways to steal money and personal information. Scammers are using several techniques to fool potential victims including sending unsolicited e-mails that contain attachments such as electronic greeting cards containing malware (malicious software), setting up spoofing websites that look like legitimate commercial sites, and unleashing phishing and vishing attacks where
individuals receive e-mails asking for personal data.

“"These cyber scammers will do whatever they can to steal your money and personal
information this holiday season and are trying many different ways to commit these
crimes. The best way to protect yourself is to report these scams to law enforcement
or the Internet Crime Complaint Center, IC3,"” said Shawn Henry, Assistant Director, FBI Cyber Division, Washington, D.C.

In the greeting card scam, the cards, which are also referred to as e-cards or postcards,
are being sent via spam. Like many other Internet fraud schemes, the criminals use
social engineering tactics to entice the victim, claiming the card is from a family
member or friend. Although there have been variations in the spam message and attached
malware, generally the spam directs the recipient to click the link provided in
the e-mail to view the e-card. Upon clicking the link, the recipient is unknowingly
taken to a malicious webpage.

Spoofing scams are when criminals create a false or shadow copy of a real website
or e-mail in a way that misleads the recipient. All network traffic between the
victim's browser and the shadow page are sent through the spoofer's machine. This
allows the spoofer to acquire personal information, such as passwords, credit card
numbers, and account numbers.

Even though the e-mail looks like the real thing, complete with authentic logos
and working web links, it's a fake. The website where you're told to enter your
account information is also fake. In some instances, really slick spoofers direct
you to the genuine website, then pop up a window over the site that captures your
personal information. The information entered does not go to the legitimate site,
but rather to the spoofer's account. The information you entered will most likely
be sold to criminals, who'll use it to ruin your credit and drain your account.

In phishing and vishing attacks, individuals report receiving e-mails or text messages
indicating a problem with their account. They are directed to follow the link provided
in the message to update their account or correct the problem. The link actually
directs the individuals to a fraudulent website that looks legitimate where their
personal information, such as account number and PIN, is compromised.

Other reported scams have included victims receiving an e-mail message asking them
to complete an online survey. At the end of the survey, they are asked for their
personal account information to allow funds to be credited to the account in appreciation
for completing the survey. Providing this information will allow criminals to compromise
the account.

Here are some tips you can use to avoid becoming a victim of cyber fraud:
* Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) e-mail.
* Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail.
* Be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files
may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
* Avoid filling out forms in e-mail messages that ask for personal information.
* Always compare the link in the e-mail to the link that you are actually directed
to.
* Log on to the official website, instead of "linking" to it from an unsolicited e-mail.
* Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the e-mail to verify if the e-mail
is genuine.

To receive the latest information about cyber scams please go to the FBI website and sign up for e-mail alerts by clicking on one of the red envelopes. If you have received a scam e-mail, please notify the IC3 by filing a complaint at www.ic3.gov. For more information on e-scams, please visit the FBI's New E-Scams and Warnings webpage.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Busiest US Online Shopping Minute of the Year Will be at 10.25 AM, on Black Friday (November 28), Predicts Retail Decisions

/PRNewswire/ -- Retail Decisions (ReD), a payment card issuer and world leader in payment card fraud prevention and payment processing, predicts a bustling Black Friday on November 28 with 10.00 am - 11.00 am being the busiest online shopping hour of the year, with the peak shopping moment at 10.25 am. December 1, Cyber Monday's busiest hour will be between 9.00 am - 10.00 am. This will be the second busiest online shopping hour of the year with a peak shopping moment at 9.49 am.

ReD is forecasting that volumes will rise by 18% on a like-for-like basis vs. 2007. The Average Transaction Value in the United States will fall by 9%.

"A change in consumer behavior is evident with more and more consumers spending their dollars on 'stay at home' items such as fast food and "Pay As You Go" TV, as vacations are replaced by staycation. The recession has brought a new found frugality that is causing people to shop smarter, budget better and exploit sales," said Carl Clump, CEO of Retail Decisions.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Major Spam Botnets Yet to Recover After Host Shut-Down

/PRNewswire/ -- One week after the world's most significant breakthrough in the fight against spam, spam levels are yet to return to their previous levels, according to security experts from the Marshal8e6 TRACE Team. However, it is likely that spam levels will eventually return to their previous high levels in the future.

On November 11, the volume of spam around the world fell by as much as 70 percent due to the shutdown of a major spam hosting network, McColo.

McColo was shut down by its Internet Service Provider after an investigative journalist made inquiries about the Web hosting company's illicit activities. McColo was hosting the command and control infrastructure for three of the world's most prolific spam botnets: Srizbi, Mega-D and Rustock. When McColo was shut down, the spammers were disconnected from the networks of spam-sending bot computers under their control.

Throughout 2008, the TRACE team has published reports showing that just a handful of major spamming botnets are responsible for as much as 90 percent of spam. The TRACE Team has been campaigning within the IT security community for a coordinated effort against the top spamming botnets.

"This is the most significant single event in the fight against spam we have ever seen," said Phil Hay, lead threat analyst with the TRACE Team. "It shows that a coordinated effort against spammers by security researchers can have a positive and meaningful impact on global spam levels. It is something that we have been working towards for a long time and it is fantastic to see the flow-on effects on spam levels as a result of targeting the bigger botnets."

"Unfortunately we do not expect this situation to last," he continued. "The spammers are no doubt already setting up new command and control servers. The challenge for them is to re-establish connections with the thousands of zombie computers still infected with their bot code. We fully expect spam will resume in large volumes eventually. However, almost a week later, the spammers haven't managed to do that yet."

Marshal8e6 says that the command and control servers play a critical part in managing the hundreds of thousands of infected bot computers, also referred to as 'zombies'.

"An infected bot computer typically 'phones home' to the control servers periodically to get updated instructions and spamming templates. By shutting down McColo, the link between the zombie computers and their control servers has effectively been cut off for now," explained Hay.

The events that led to McColo's shut down involved months of collaboration and research by a variety of security professionals.

"Last week's events have proven that by drawing attention to the worst spam offenders, security researchers and law enforcement have the capability to focus their energies on the key players and take action," said Hay. "Five years ago when spam was dominated by numerous small-scale spammers it was extremely difficult to target an individual spammer and have any real effect on spam. Now, because botnets have enabled a handful of major spam players to dominate, the targeted actions of the IT security and law enforcement communities can have an immediate and palpable effect on spam."

Marshal8e6 says the command and control servers for the Srizbi, Mega-D and Rustock botnets were affected by the McColo shut down. According to Marshal8e6's statistics, just prior to McColo's shut down, these three botnets were ranked first, second and fifth respectively as the world's most prolific sources of spam, together responsible for nearly 70 percent of spam.

"It is a cliche, but the fight against spam is a game of cat and mouse," said Hay. "Over the longer term, the spammers will learn from this incident and will probably evolve their botnet control systems. They may adopt a more resilient peer-to-peer or layered model where control servers are harder to access and spread among many hosts. Only time will tell if these botnets recover. The key thing is that the IT security and law enforcement communities learn from last week's events as well. We have to work together to maintain the pressure on the key spam players."

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Facebook, Google, YouTube, MTV, Howcast, Columbia Law School and the U.S. Department of State Convene the Alliance of Youth Movements Summit

PRNewswire/ -- Facebook, Google, YouTube, MTV, Howcast, Columbia Law School, the U.S. Department of State and Access 360 Media are bringing leaders of 17 pioneering organizations from 15 countries together with technology experts next month in New York for the first-ever conclave to empower youth against violence and oppression through the use of the latest online tools.

These young leaders will form a new group, the Alliance of Youth Movements, which will produce a field manual for youth empowerment. The field manual will stand in stark contrast to the Al-Qaeda manual on the basics of terrorism, found by Coalition Forces in Iraq.

The gathering was inspired by the success of the One Million Voices Against the FARC, a group started on Facebook.com by young people in Colombia. Aided by social networking technologies, the organization inspired 12 million people in 190 cities around the world to take to the streets in protest against the FARC, an extremist group that has been terrorizing Colombia for more than 40 years. The magnitude of the marches illustrated once and for all that the FARC lacked a strong support base. Within days of the protests, the FARC witnessed massive desertions from their ranks. The Colombian group will share their ideas with leaders of other groups that use social and mobile technologies to promote freedom and justice and oppose violence, extremism and oppression.

The New York summit will bring together such organizations as One Million Voices Against the FARC, Save Darfur Coalition, Genocide Intervention Network, Burma Global Action Network and Invisible Children.

The Alliance of Youth Movements Summit will take place December 3 to 5 at the Columbia Law School in Manhattan. "We at Columbia are excited about helping, designing, and studying innovative public-private partnerships that leverage new technologies to tackle some of the world's greatest challenges. This summit is a great opportunity to do this," said Matthew Waxman, associate professor of law. The event will also be streamed live online by Howcast.com and on ThinkMTV.com. Howcast Media is organizing the Summit with additional support from Facebook, Google, YouTube, MTV, Columbia Law School, the U.S. Department of State and Access 360 Media.

Speakers at the Summit will include:
-- Whoopi Goldberg, Host of ABC's "The View"
-- Dustin Moskovitz, Co-Founder, Facebook
-- James K. Glassman, Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public
Affairs, U.S. Department of State
-- Oscar Morales, Founder, One Million Voices Against the FARC
-- Luke Russert, MSNBC
-- Matthew Waxman, Associate Professor of Law, Columbia Law School


Panels will discuss a variety of practical topics, including How To Build Transnational Social Movements Using New Technology, How To Use New Mobile Technologies and How To Preserve Group Safety And Security.

Summit participants will also be honored at a red-carpet event with entertainment celebrities, business leaders, and civil society figures at the former home of MTV's Total Request Live ("TRL") overlooking Times Square.

Howcast will use the field manual for youth empowerment developed at the Summit as the cornerstone of a much larger online "hub," where emerging youth organizations can access and share "how-to" guides and tips on how to use social-networking and other technologies to promote freedom and justice and counter violence, extremism and oppression. The hub (http://howcast.com/youthmovements) will include instructional videos and text guides, links to related online resources and discussion forums for sharing experiences, ideas and advice.

"The Summit provides a unique opportunity to bring these socially conscious groups together for the purpose of making real, positive change in the world," said Jason Liebman, Co-Founder and CEO of Howcast Media. "Howcast's mission has always been focused on making it easier for people to learn how to do just about anything, and I'm particularly proud to see Howcast being used to help people learn how to make a difference in improving the world that we all share."

"I'm thrilled and inspired to see how people, especially young people, are using Facebook and other technologies to work together to improve the lives of entire nations of people," said Elliot Schrage, VP of Communications, Public Policy and Platform Marketing, Facebook. "We often focus on the value technology brings to the individual but the true promise of technology is unlocked when it connects people and enables them to work with a common purpose."

"The State Department is proud to play a role in highlighting the new wave of civil-society empowerment that is happening online," said James K. Glassman, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. "What is so encouraging is that this effort is being led by public-spirited technology firms like Howcast and innovative educators like those at Columbia University."

"It's critical that young people continue to utilize the technological tools available to them to band together and rally around causes and movements that can make a difference in the world," said Ian Rowe, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Strategic Partnerships for MTV. "On Think.MTV.com, we encourage young people to engage in and take action on the issues that matter to them most. This Summit revolves around how young people can do this, through multiple technology platforms."

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Study Finds Both Students and Teachers Lack Basic Cyber Security Education

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Less than 25 percent of educators feel comfortable teaching students how to protect themselves from online cyber predators, cyber bullies and identity theft, according to a recent study by The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and Educational Technology, Policy Research and Outreach (ETPRO).

At a time when children ages 10-to-14 spend more time on the Internet than watching television, the study found that only the Commonwealth of Virginia has education curriculum requirements that include information on how students can protect themselves online. Since completion of this study, several more states including Georgia, Illinois and Tennessee, have passed legislation requiring online safety education in the classroom. In addition, 90 percent of educators have received less than six hours of professional development on cyber security in the past year.

The 2008 National Cyberethics, Cybersafety, Cybersecurity Baseline Study was conducted to explore educational awareness policies, initiatives, curriculum, and practices currently taking place in the U.S. public and private K-12 educational settings. The survey was administered online. 1,569 public and private U.S. K-12 educators and 94 technology coordinators took the survey and local and state technology directors and 219 educators participated in focus groups for the survey.

"Children are integrating technology into their lives at lightning speed. Our schools need to find ways to introduce cyber security education as a fully integrated part of the K-12 curriculum," said Michael Kaiser, executive director of the NCSA. "We take the time to teach our children how to safely cross the street. Given the amount of time children spend online, the continuously emerging role of the technology in everyday life, and the risks that young people face, we are obligated to ensure that every child learns about safety, security and responsible use of the internet; yet we are not yet to the point of teaching children how to 'look both ways' to avoid the 'accidents' that can occur online."

"Schools are not alone. Nonprofit groups, government, the private sector and parents all play critical roles in ensuring children's safety online. However, educators and school systems will need to make the issue a priority if we can expect to see widespread adoption of cyber safety curricula in the classroom."

As part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, all students are required to be digitally literate by the 8th grade but half of the survey's respondents said there were no clear methods chosen by their school or school district to convey information on cyber safety and cyber security to students. Despite feeling unprepared or uncomfortable discussing C3 topics with students, more than 60 percent of educators are interested in learning more about C3 issues in general and in many cases the percentage increased on specific topics such as cyber safety, which was rated their highest priority.

"Policies need to be updated regularly and reviewed to ensure that teachers, students and parents understand the basics of cyber security. We must ensure our teachers are given the training necessary for them to inform their students on these topics," said Davina Pruitt-Mentle, PhD, Executive Director and Senior Research Analyst for ETPRO. "However, the burden cannot be placed solely on our education system. From media to corporate America to our federal, state and local governments, a variety of partnerships need to be formed to protect our children."

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Emory University Libraries, George Mason's Center for History & New Media, Announce Zotero Partnership

PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Emory University Libraries and The Center for History and New Media (CHNM) at George Mason University have entered a cooperative partnership on Zotero (www.zotero.org), the free, open-source bibliographic manager. A team of librarians, information technologists and faculty members led by Connie Moon Sehat, Emory Libraries' new director of digital scholarship initiatives, will extend research capabilities of the software in collaboration with Zotero's main development team. Sehat is a former co-director of Zotero and CHNM.

For Dan Cohen, who is associate professor of history at George Mason University and director of CHNM, a relationship with Emory exemplifies the powerful opportunities for institutional cooperation offered by digital media.

"The Center for History and New Media and the Zotero Project are lucky to now have the resources and experience of Emory on their side," says Cohen, "and the continued insight and direction of Connie Sehat. We look forward to what will undoubtedly be a tremendously productive collaboration." Cohen oversees Zotero with Sean Takats, assistant professor of history at George Mason and CHNM's acting director of research projects.

At Emory, participation in the Zotero project represents a step toward the realization of larger transformations happening in the libraries as well as the university overall.

"Developing exciting and innovative tools and capabilities to support digital humanities research is a cornerstone of our strategic plan," says Rick Luce, Emory University vice provost and director of libraries. "Partnering on the development of open source software with CHNM, an established center of excellence in the digital humanities, allows the Emory Libraries to create value for the research community while sharing the risks in developing innovative software."

Already a powerful research tool, Zotero allows users to gather, organize and analyze sources such as citations, full texts, Web pages, images and other objects. It meshes the functionality of older reference manager applications with modern software and Web applications, such as del.icio.us and YouTube, to amass large amounts of data in easy ways.

Over the next two years, Zotero will allow researchers--and their data--to interact with one another in Web 2.0 communities, help scholars archive information with the Internet Archive and offer text-mining capabilities. Zotero also will expand educational offerings to provide more support for its growing national and international communities of users, many located in university settings. Working in conjunction with the Zotero team at CHNM, Emory's Zotero team will take advantage of local research environments and library expertise to contribute to Zotero's anticipated growth.

Since its introduction in 2006, Zotero has earned significant accolades for its facilitation of online research. It was named a PC Magazine's "Best Free Software" in 2007 and again this year, as well as "Best Instructional Software" of 2007 as determined by the Information Technology and Politics section of the American Political Science Association.

The Emory University Libraries (http://web.library.emory.edu/) in Atlanta and Oxford, Ga., are an intellectual commons for Emory University, Atlanta and the world. The nine libraries' holdings include more than 3.1 million print and electronic volumes, 40,000-plus electronic journals, and internationally renowned special collections.

The Center for History and New Media (http://chnm.gmu.edu/) at George Mason University uses digital media and computer technology to democratize history. Since its founding in 1994 by Roy Rosenzweig, CHNM has used these tools to incorporate multiple voices, reach diverse audiences and encourage popular participation in presenting and preserving the past. Each year CHNM's many project websites receive over 16 million visitors. More than one million people rely on its digital tools to teach, learn and conduct research.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Chuck Leavell, Keyboardist for The Rolling Stones, Announces the Opportunity for College Students to Become Correspondents for Mother Nature Network

PRNewswire/ -- Today, The Mother Nature Network announces its College Correspondent initiative. One student from each major U.S. college will be selected to be the Mother Nature Network correspondent for 2009. MNN is running the contest in partnership with YouTube to find the country's best college environmental journalists. ( http://www.youtube.com/mnn )

With a new President waiting in the wings, 2009 is going to be a year of extraordinary environmental coverage. Mother Nature Network's college reporters will be at the forefront of this transformational change. Each of the winning correspondents will become a highlighted contributor at MNN for 2009 with his or her own video program or blog that will provide access to a nationwide audience. In addition, winners will receive a "Flip Ultra" video camcorder, and the top five correspondents will be selected to participate in an exclusive, all-expense paid summit where they will share ideas with top environmentalists, business leaders, scientists and entertainers.

MNN was co-founded by former environmental marketing executive Joel Babbit and Chuck Leavell, keyboardist for The Rolling Stones, and one of the world's most respected environmentalists. Its mission is to provide the most reliable and comprehensive environmental news and information available and to do so in a voice and design that is engaging and easily understood by the mainstream business and consumer audience.

"Providing environmental news coverage on a local level is a major component of the Mother Nature Network," says Joel Babbit, CEO and President of MNN. "Today's college students are so knowledgeable and involved in environmental issues -- we are hoping they will inspire others in their communities to become more informed as well. Those students who are selected as our correspondents will have the opportunity to report on important issues in their community, improve their skills as aspiring journalists, and gain an important addition to their resume."

Entry Submission Process

Participants will be chosen in two categories -- online and video. Students can audition by submitting a two-to-four minute video to http://www.youtube.com/mnn or a 500-word blog to http://mothernaturenetwork.blogspot.com/2008/10/announcing-mnns-college- contest.html . (Due to Length of URL please copy and paste into your Browser). People 18 years or older, and currently enrolled in college, are eligible to submit content. All entries must be in by January 15, 2009.

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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Reinventing the Way People Learn to Play the Piano

Georgia Tech researchers are using technology to make learning to play instruments a little easier. Piano touch is a light-weight glove that is outfitted with electronics that cue the musician with vibrations on each finger that lets them know which finger they need use to play the next note.

The technology doesn’t stop there. The glove is wireless and can actually be synchronized with an iPod, cell phone or other music playing device so that musicians can hear the music as they are being cued to play it.

Kevin Huang, a second year master’s student majoring in Human-Computer Interaction, created the device and has been collaborating with Thad Starner and Ellen Do, two of his professors, to improve the invention.

“Adults today are so busy that they have a hard time finding the time to practice,” said Huang. “With this glove you can learn to play music while you’re at your desk or on the move.”

“Every once in a while, you have a project that comes along with relevance in two different domains,” said Thad Starner, professor in the College of Computing. “In this case, we have something very useful for learning the piano, but also may have applications for rehabilitation for people who have hand trauma or dexterity issues.”

During the initial round of research, Piano Touch was successful.

“Our pilot study showed that students learned the songs that they were practicing with the Piano Touch glove better than the songs that they were practicing without the glove,” said Huang.

The new device isn’t ready for prime time just yet, but Huang is preparing the next round of research to see how effective the device is. Part of the new study will include adding another component to the Piano Touch by synchronizing lights on a keyboard with the Piano Touch glove to also give musicians a visual cue for when and where to play. He is currently recruiting adults to be a part of the study.

“It is so exciting to see how we can enhance human life with music and technology,” said Ellen Yi-Luen Do, professor with joint appointments in the College of Architecture and College of Computing. “Whether the research can be applied for education, entertainment, rehabilitation or just the enjoyment of music, I think it is a wonderful opportunity to combine disciplines and knowledge.”

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Creating Music with Your Cell Phone

If you own a cell phone, then new software created by Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology director Gil Weinberg and his students will allow you to be the next composer and performer of your own original music.

The new software, called ZooZ Beat, allows the user to play and record a variety of instrumental sounds by shaking and tilting the phone. It also allows entering and transforming voice recordings and sharing the music in a group. The software interprets the movements and manipulates the music accordingly.

Weinberg says he created the software after realizing how his previous research on musical expression and creativity for novices could be applied to cell phones, which have become much more ubiquitous and powerful than in years past.

“My research focuses on developing algorhythms that would allow musical instruments to analyze and interpret a player’s intention,” said Weinberg. “With this technology, you don’t have to have a lot of skill or know a lot of music theory to become musically creative. You can just use your own expressive, intuitive gestures to create music that you can relate to.”

The new software, called ZooZ Beat, allows the user to play and record a variety of instrumental sounds by shaking and tilting the phone. It also allows entering and transforming voice recordings and sharing the music in a group. The software interprets the movements and manipulates the music accordingly.

Weinberg says he created the software after realizing how his previous research on musical expression and creativity for novices could be applied to cell phones, which have become much more ubiquitous and powerful than in years past.

“My research focuses on developing algorhythms that would allow musical instruments to analyze and interpret a player’s intention,” said Weinberg. “With this technology, you don’t have to have a lot of skill or know a lot of music theory to become musically creative. You can just use your own expressive, intuitive gestures to create music that you can relate to.”

Weinberg says that he always wanted to put this technology into the hands of everyone, but his previous instruments were too expensive and difficult to maintain.

“Cell phones have become so powerful as far as their capabilities, which led me to think that I could bring some of my research ideas into this realm,” says Weinberg. “I don’t have to develop the hardware, and everyone already has a cell phone. By making the software easily accessible, people will be able to create, manipulate and share music in a very intuitive and expressive manner.”

Weinberg has also applied the software technology to gaming by using the cell phone device as a game controller for PC games.

Georgia Tech Venture Lab has supported the commercialization of Weinberg’s technology, and he has a number of patents pending. The software will be available to the general public at http://www.zoozmobile.com.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

National Cyber Security Survey Finds Americans More Wary of Cyber Crime

PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- More and more Americans are conducting online banking, stock trading and health management, but nearly 60 percent of Americans say that the risks of identity theft have changed their online behaviors, according to a recent survey conducted by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA).

More than 40 percent of Americans said that they only visit Web sites that they are familiar with and 20 percent said that they have stopped or limited their online purchases. The change in behaviors is perhaps not so surprising when you consider that, of those surveyed, 22 percent claimed they had their identity misused to compromise a bank account, steal a credit card number or take out an unauthorized loan.

More than 73 percent of those surveyed said they use the Internet to bank, trade stocks or review personal medical information so the violation of trust that an online security breach can cause is massive. When Americans were asked if having their bank account or credit card account robbed of $5,000 was worse than having their home broken into and robbed of $5,000, 51% said online fraud was worse. Only 37% said the home break-in was worse and 12% were not sure.

"The convenience of conducting part of our lives online has transformed the way we live, but it's not without risk," said Michael Kaiser, executive director of the NCSA. "Only visiting Web sites that you trust is one aspect of good online security. In addition, home users should be vigilant about keeping their anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall up-to-date and use unique passwords that contain numbers, letters and symbols. These tools combined with good online behavior equal good cyber security."

The survey also found that:

-- 53 percent of Americans use the same online password for multiple
accounts.
-- 68 percent surveyed store more than a quarter of their photographs
digitally.
-- 63 percent for respondents said that they back up sensitive
information from their computers


For the survey, NCSA commissioned a Zogby online poll of more than 3,000 Americans. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 1.6%.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

'Dark Market' Takedown

“What’s worked for us in taking down spy rings and entire mob families over the years—embedding an undercover agent deep within a criminal organization—worked beautifully in taking down Dark Market. And once again, our global partnerships paid off.”
FBI Cyber Division Assistant Director Shawn Henry

Last week the FBI and its global partners wrapped up a two-year undercover cyber operation that resulted in 56 arrests worldwide, the prevention of $70 million in potential losses, and the confirmation that while there might be honor among thieves, in the end, they are still just thieves.

Here’s what happened:

...A discerning group of cyber criminals established a forum on the Internet called “Dark Market,” where they bought and sold stolen financial information such as credit card data, login credentials (user names and passwords), and even electronic equipment for carrying out financial crimes.

...At its peak, this vast criminal network had over 2,500 registered members, who all believed they were operating in a protected cyber environment because they went to great lengths to vet members and to weed out undesirable elements.

...What they didn’t know was that one of the site’s administrators and most respected members, who called himself Master Splyntr, was one of us—an undercover FBI agent who had infiltrated the site posing as a cyber crook.

“It was a group of people who trusted each other,” said the undercover agent after the arrests. He explained that there are two types of cyber criminals: those who steal, but not from one another, and “rippers,” who steal from anyone.

Keeping the rippers off the Dark Market site, the agent explained, gave the other members a false sense of confidence. “They did a good job of trying to be secure, and they felt secure. There was honor among thieves, so to speak.”

Master Splyntr was on the site nearly every day, anywhere from one hour to 15 hours a day. Dark Market was like an exclusive club for cyber crooks, a meeting place for getting advice and brokering deals. During his time online, the undercover agent said, “we saw millions of dollars being exchanged.” At the same time, the operation prevented the millions of dollars in losses by tipping off potential cyber crime targets.

From the outset, our agent pointed out, “the goal was to infiltrate the organization.” The operation was extremely successful in developing intelligence on Dark Market’s leading members and the ways in which they conducted their far-flung crimes.

Throughout the operation, we worked closely with our international law enforcement partners, including the U.K.’s Serious Organised Crime Agency, the Turkish National Police, and the German Federal Criminal Police.

“What’s worked for us in taking down spy rings and entire mob families over the years—embedding an undercover agent deep within a criminal organization—worked beautifully in taking down Dark Market,” said our Cyber Division Assistant Director Shawn Henry. “And once again, our global partnerships paid off.”

As for our undercover agent who became a trusted member of the forum, he explained that he often had to think like a crook when signing on as Master Splyntr. “But at the same time,” he added, “you remember what your job is—to get the criminals.”

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

FBI: The Cyber Threat Today

Crooks and spies using the Internet to commit crimes against U.S. businesses and to attack government networks are getting more sophisticated, and the increasing number of such crimes not only impacts the economy but threatens national security.

That’s the message Shawn Henry, recently appointed head of the FBI Cyber Division, delivered to a group of reporters on Wednesday, revealing that we have thousands of open cases into cyber crimes and organized cyber attacks and detailing our strategy to protect the nation’s networks.

One case in point: We joined our international partners yesterday in announcing a major takedown of a transnational criminal network that was buying and selling stolen financial information through an online forum known as “Dark Market.”

“The business of the United States is done on the Internet,” said Henry, a veteran cyber crime investigator. And the information that flows electronically 24/7 is increasingly the target of not only identity thieves and scammers, but organized crime groups, terrorists, and overseas governments.

“There are a number of countries who have an interest in stealing information from the United States,” Henry said, explaining that as many as two dozen nations have taken an “aggressive interest” in penetrating our networks. In the past year, he added, “the malicious activity has become much more prevalent.”

Malicious activity could come in the form of attacks that deny access to websites, that compromise sensitive information, or that introduce “botnets” that spread viruses and covertly co-opt computers to carry out data theft.

“There are a number of countries who have an interest in stealing information from the United States,” Henry said, explaining that as many as two dozen nations have taken an “aggressive interest” in penetrating our networks.

New groups of hackers—virtual gangs—are a growing threat as well, banding together to pool their expertise and carry out coordinated cyber attacks. Henry pointed out that in years gone by, if a gang wanted to rob a bank, it needed crooks with various skills—safe cracker, get-away driver, look-out, etc. That’s essentially what we’re seeing in the cyber world today, only these virtual gang members have never met in the physical world. “There are organized groups that are very successful,” Henry said.

The 3 Ps. To address the rising threat, the Cyber Division has a threefold strategic plan—“Prioritize, Proactive, Partnerships.”

By prioritizing our efforts, we can go after the most critical threats. Being proactive means adopting the same time-tested investigative techniques that have been so successful in our physical crime investigations—the use of informants, electronic surveillance, and placement of undercover agents to penetrate and dismantle virtual criminal operations.

The third “P”—partnerships—means building even stronger relationships with law enforcement agencies worldwide. He said we’ve worked with such countries as Great Britain, Canada, Russia, and Turkey to swap best practices and techniques. We’ve also sent agents to Romania to work with law enforcement there, leading to nearly 100 arrests in cyber crime cases representing “tens of millions of dollars” in losses, Henry said.

And the Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3—a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center—continues to assist state and local law enforcement in fighting cyber crime. Since its establishment in 2000, IC3 has received more than a million complaints. In the last couple of years, there’s been an “uptick” in the number of reports, according to Henry. Lately, they’re coming in at the rate of nearly 20,000 per month.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fraudulent Spam E-mail Purported From FBI Deputy Director John S. Pistole

A spam e-mail claiming to be from FBI Deputy Director John S. Pistole is currently being circulated. This attempt to defraud is the typical e-mail scam using the name and reputation
of an FBI official to create an air of authenticity.

As with many scams, the e-mail advises the recipient that they are the beneficiary of a large sum of money which they will be permitted to access once fees are paid and personal banking information is provided. The appearance of the e-mail leads the reader to believe that it is from FBI Deputy Director John S. Pistole.

This e-mail is a hoax. Do not respond.

The IC3 continues to receive and develop intelligence regarding fraud schemes misrepresenting
the FBI and/or FBI officials. The scam e-mails give the appearance of legitimacy through the use of pictures of FBI officials, seal, letter head, and/or banners.

These fraud schemes claim to be from domestic as well as international FBI offices. The typical types of schemes utilizing the names of FBI officials and/or the FBI are lottery endorsements and inheritance notifications but can cover a range of scams from threats and malicious computer program attachments (malware) to online auction scams.

These scams use the social engineering technique of employing the FBI's name to intimidate and convince the recipient the e-mail is legitimate.

Please be cautious of any unsolicited e-mail referencing the FBI, Director Mueller, Deputy Director Pistole or any other FBI official claiming that the FBI is endorsing any type of Internet activity.

Always be cautious when responding to requests or special offers delivered through
unsolicited e-mail:

* Guard your personal information as well as your account information carefully.
* You should never give any personal, credit, or banking information in response to
unsolicited e-mails.

Consumers always need to be alert to unsolicited e-mails. Do not open unsolicited e-mails or click on any embedded links, as they may contain viruses or malware. Providing your PII will compromise your identity!

If you have received this e-mail, or a similar e-mail, please file a complaint at www.IC3.gov.

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Georgia Tech Information Security Center Releases Emerging Cyber Threats Forecast for 2009

(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Georgia Tech Information Security Center (GTISC), a national leader in information security research and education, today announced the release of the GTISC Emerging Cyber Threats Report for 2009, outlining the top five areas of security concern and risk for consumer and enterprise Internet users for the coming year. The report was released at the annual GTISC Security Summit on Emerging Cyber Security Threats – a gathering of leading industry and academic leaders from organizations with a stake in protecting the online user community.

For 2009, GTISC is forecasting five key cyber security areas where threats are expected to increase and evolve:

* Malware— specifically under the guise of benign social networking links
* Botnets – specifically the spread of botnet attacks to wireless and peer-to-peer networks
* Cyber warfare — including targets on the U.S. economy and infrastructure
* Threats to VoIP and Mobile Convergence—specifically voice fraud and cellular botnets
* The Evolving Cyber Crime Economy – including the rise of sophisticated malware-for-sale kits and programs

According to the report, data will continue to be the primary motive behind future cyber crime – whether targeting traditional fixed computing environments or mobile applications. Experts from across the IT security spectrum – from government to industry to academia – join GTISC’s call for closer coordination between the security industry, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), application developers and government regulators to safeguard the user community and hinder the spread of sophisticated cyber security threats.

“At GTISC, we strongly believe that a proactive approach to understanding emerging threats will help us develop more effective information security technologies and strategies,” said Mustaque Ahamad, director of GTISC. “The annual GTISC Security Summit on Emerging Cyber Security Threats and this report seek to give us a better understanding of the increasingly sophisticated cyber security challenges we will face in the years ahead. We wish to thank the esteemed members of the IT security community who assisted us with the creation of this report.”

More than 300 corporate executives, industry leaders and technologists from across the country attended the GTISC Security Summit on Emerging Cyber Security Threats, keynoted by Lt. General Robert J. Elder, Jr., Commander Eighth Air Force of the Barksdale Air Force Base. Following Lt. Elder’s address on “Global Operations and Mission Assurance in a Contested Cyber Environment” in the morning, Summit panelists engaged in a lively discussion moderated by IT Security Entrepreneur, Thomas E. Noonan. This year’s panelists, from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, IBM Internet Security Systems, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Cisco, Motorola and SecureWorks, helped to educate the audience on the proliferation of cyber threats, including those listed in the report, and highlighted possible countermeasures to safeguard the user and business communities.

To view the entire GTISC Emerging Cyber Threats for 2009 report or to watch a pre-recorded Web cast of the Summit, please visit http://www.gtiscsecuritysummit.com.

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News to Use in Fayetteville, Atlanta, Savannah, Peachtree City and all of Georgia

Teaching Consumers On-Line Safety Easiest When They Take the Bait

(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) and Carnegie Mellon University’s Supporting Trust Decisions Project have established a phishing page redirect initiative that protects global online consumers who have been tricked into clicking links in scam emails by delivering them to Web pages that instruct them on the dangers of phishing – and how to avoid them. The program was announced today at the APWG conference in Atlanta.

The AWPG/Carnegie Mellon Phishing Education Landing Page program builds on the philosophy of using the “teachable moment” to warn users immediately after they’ve fallen for a phishing lure and then give them on-line safety instruction precisely at a time when they are receptive to it. Phishing sites are designed to resemble Web sites of legitimate businesses, such as banks and online retailers, to trick people into revealing credit card numbers, bank accounts or login names and passwords. Actionable messaging will help consumers to avoid falling victim to these scams a second time.

“We are excited about the opportunity to educate consumers as they are falling victim to a phishing site,” said Dr. Laura Mather, Managing Director of Operational Policy for the APWG and CEO of Silver Tail Systems. “We see this initiative as having real impact in helping people understand when they have received a phishing communication so that they can protect themselves going forward.”

This education-at-time-of-action is accomplished by leveraging the URLs of the phishing sites themselves after anti-phishing investigators have identified the sites and shut them down. Instead of leaving the URL file blank, returning a ‘PAGE NOT FOUND’ message to consumers following phishing links, they will be served a page of instruction on how to avoid phishing and reduce the risk of falling victim to electronic crime. (Redirect scripts placed at the sanitized phishing URL will automatically forward the advisory content.)

“Our research has shown that most Internet users don’t know very much about online scams and don’t realize that there are some simple things they can do to protect themselves,” said Dr. Lorrie Cranor, an associate professor of computer science and engineering & public policy at Carnegie Mellon and director of the Supporting Trust Decisions Project.

Ponnurangam Kumaraguru, a computer science Ph.D. student who is leading the effort to design and evaluate anti-phishing training materials at Carnegie Mellon added, “Nobody wants to spend their time taking on-line safety courses. But we’ve demonstrated that users are receptive to on-line safety instruction immediately after they fall for a phishing attack and they tend to remember this instruction."

The phishing education landing page developed by APWG and Carnegie Mellon teaches would-be victims not to give out personal information upon email request and to use a skeptical eye in judging online communications.

The implementation of the program depends on the participation of both takedown service providers and the ISPs and other companies whose servers have been co-opted to host phishing sites. The APWG is already successfully recruiting companies that perform phishing site takedowns, victimized brandholders and trade associations to encourage ISPs and other organizations that remove phish sites to use the APWG’s education landing page program.

The program is based on a similar program initiated by Bank of America in 2007. The APWG/Carnegie Mellon program builds on Bank of America’s ideas by creating a page that can be used for phishing site against any brand. Bank of America has already implemented the APWG/Carnegie Mellon program.

“Bank of America is committed to providing its customers with industry leading security tools and advice to protect them and enhance their overall customer experience. Educating our customers about the risks of identity theft and fraud is critical,” says David Shroyer, SVP for eCommerce Online Security at Bank of America.

"We know from experience that an educated customer is the best defense against fraud, and with this program we are educating our customers at the point of incidence, and letting customers know that we are working to protect them,” Mr. Shroyer said.

The APWG/Carnegie Mellon scheme will augment the usual procedure for communicating to the hosting organization about phishing sites. Instead of asking that the site be disabled and file content associated with the phishing URL removed, the takedown provider or victimized brandholder would request that the URL be preserved and a redirect script send the duped user to a webpage hosted by the APWG.

The education landing page will automatically determine whether the user is using a PC or laptop or handheld device and vend the device-appropriate page. Users of PDAs and Web-enabled cell phones will receive a page exclusively of text. People using PCs and laptops will receive an enhanced page of text, graphics and a number of links to online resources.

The APWG/Carnegie Mellon scheme will augment the usual procedure for communicating to the hosting organization about phishing sites. Instead of asking that the site be disabled and file content associated with the phishing URL removed, the takedown provider or victimized brandholder would request that the URL be preserved and a redirect script send the duped user to a webpage hosted by the APWG.

The APWG page will automatically determine whether the user is using a PC or laptop or handheld device and vend the device-appropriate page. Users of PDAs and Web-enabled cell phones will receive a page exclusively of text. People using PCs and laptops will receive an enhanced page of text, graphics and a number of links to online resources.

“This initiative gives takedown teams, ISPs, registrars, and registries the opportunity to take one more step in protecting consumers against identity theft and the other crimes perpetrated by Phishers,” said Dr. Mather.

As a next step, the APWG will organize the translation of the pages into various languages to serve the larger international community of consumers, brandholders and ISPs who are confronting the threats of electronic crime and engaging questions of efficacious consumer education.

Links:

Redirect education page: http://education.apwg.org/r/en/

Text only redirect education page: http://education.apwg.org/r/index.html

About the redirect education page initiative: http://education.apwg.org/r/about.html

About the APWG: The APWG is an industry, founded as the Anti-Phishing Working Group in 2003, is an industry, law enforcement and government coalition focused on eliminating the identity theft and fraud that result from the growing problem of phishing, email spoofing, and crimeware. Membership is open to qualified financial institutions, online retailers, ISPs, the law enforcement community and solutions providers. There are more than 1,800 companies and government agencies worldwide participating in the APWG and more than 3,200 members. The APWG's Web site (www.antiphishing.org) offers the public and industry information about phishing and email fraud, including identification and promotion of pragmatic technical solutions that provide immediate protection. APWG's corporate sponsors include: 8e6 Technologies, AT&T (T), Able NV, Afilias Ltd., AhnLab, BillMeLater, BBN Technologies, BlueStreak, BrandMail, BrandProtect, Bsecure Technologies, Cisco (CSCO), Clear Search, Cloudmark, Cydelity, Cyveillance, DigiCert, DigitalEnvoy, DigitalResolve, Digital River, Earthlink (ELNK), eBay/PayPal (EBAY), Entrust (ENTU), Experian, eEye, Fortinet, FraudWatch International, FrontPorch, F-Secure, Goodmail Systems, Grisoft, GeoTrust, GlobalSign, GoDaddy, Goodmail Systems, GuardID Systems, HomeAway, IronPort, HitachiJoHo, ING Bank, Iconix, Internet Identity, Internet Security Systems, IOvation, IS3, IT Matrix, Kaspersky Labs, Lenos Software, LightSpeed Systems, MailFrontier, MailShell, MarkMonitor, McAfee (MFE), MasterCard, MessageLevel, Microsoft (MSFT), MicroWorld, Mirapoint, MySpace (NWS), MyPW, MX Logic, NameProtect, National Australia Bank (ASX: NAB) Netcraft, NetStar, Network Solutions, Panda Software, Phoenix Technologies Inc. (PTEC), Phorm, SalesForce, Radialpoint, RSA Security (EMC), SecureBrain, Secure Computing (SCUR), S21sec, Sigaba, SoftForum, SOPHOS, SquareTrade, SurfControl, Symantec (SYMC), TDS Telecom, Telefonica (TEF), Trend Micro (TMIC), Tricerion, TriCipher, TrustedID, Tumbleweed Communications (TMWD), SurfControl (SRF.L), Vasco (VDSI), VeriSign (VRSN), Visa, Websense Inc. (WBSN) and Yahoo! (YHOO)

About the Carnegie Mellon Supporting Trust Decisions Project. The Supporting Trust Decisions Project (http://cups.cs.cmu.edu/trust) is a research project affiliated with Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab and the CMU Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory. The project has developed a number of approaches to end-user security education as well as automated tools for detecting phishing attacks. These user education tools and phishing filters are being commercialized by Wombat Security Technologies, Inc. This project is sponsored by the US National Science Foundation, Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia Portugal under a grant from the Information and Communications Technology Institute at Carnegie Mellon, and by the Army Research Office.

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News to Use in Fayetteville, Atlanta, Macon, Peachtree City and all of Georgia

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

GT Models Predict the Remaining Life of Mechanical and Electronic Equipment

New research at the Georgia Institute of Technology could soon make predicting the degradation and remaining useful life of mechanical and electronic equipment easier and more accurate, while significantly improving maintenance operations and spare parts logistics.

Nagi Gebraeel, an assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, has developed models that use data from real-time sensor measurements to calculate and continuously revise the amount of remaining useful life of different engineering systems based on their current condition and health status. These predictions are then integrated with maintenance management and spare parts supply chain policies as part of an autonomous “sense and respond” logistics paradigm.

“Recent advances in sensor technology and wireless communication have enabled us to develop innovative methods for indirectly monitoring the health of different engineering systems,” said Gebraeel, who started working on this project at the University of Iowa. “This has created an environment with an abundance of data that can be exploited in decision-making processes across different application domains such as manufacturing, aging infrastructure, avionics systems, military equipment, power plants and many others.”

Gebraeel’s predictive models were detailed during two presentations on October 14 at the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences Annual Meeting. Funding for model development was provided by the National Science Foundation.

Because Gebraeel’s sensor-driven prognostic models combine general reliability characteristics with real-time condition-based signals, they provide an accurate and comprehensive assessment of a system’s current health status and its future evolution. These accurate predictions are then used to determine the most economical time to order a spare part component and schedule a maintenance replacement by accounting for different costs, including those due to unexpected failures, spare part inventory holding and out-of-stock situations.

Gebraeel began his research by monitoring the vibration and acoustic emissions signals from rotating machinery, namely bearings. He extracted degradation-based characteristics pertaining to key components on the machinery and used them to develop condition-based signals. Gebraeel then created stochastic models to characterize the evolution of these condition-based signals and predict the remaining life of these critical components.

After extensive experimentation and testing, results showed that his techniques can potentially reduce the total failure costs and costs associated with running out of spare parts inventory by approximately 55 percent. With such positive results, Gebraeel turned his attention to developing models for electronics. He recently began working with Rockwell Collins to develop adaptive models to estimate the remaining useful life of aircraft electronic components.

“Aircraft take off at ambient ground temperatures and quickly reach their cruising altitudes, where the temperatures tend to be below zero,” explained Gebraeel. “It’s these changes in temperature coupled with inherent vibrations that affect the deterioration and lifetime of electronic equipment.”

Gebraeel’s goal is to embed his prognostic methodology into key avionic systems so that decisions can be made about whether an aircraft is capable of carrying out a specific mission or if it should be assigned to a shorter mission or grounded.

Gebraeel is also working closely with Virginia-based Global Strategic Solutions LLC, which has funding from two U.S. Navy Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants. The focus of one of the grants is to advance the development of embedded diagnostics and prognostics to predict the remaining life distributions of electrical power generation systems on board U.S. Naval aircraft. The focus of the second grant is to develop advanced health monitoring and remaining useful life models for aircraft communication, navigation and identification (CNI) avionics systems used on the Joint Strike Fighter.

“The long term impact of all of these projects on human safety and maintenance costs will be tremendous, especially in the airline industry,” noted Gebraeel.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Keep YouTube 'Clean' for Your Kids With Safe Eyes: Leading Parental Control Software Adds Clip-by-Clip YouTube Filtering

PRNewswire/ -- Blocking YouTube from your children's Internet surfing is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The site has its share of R- and even X-rated content that is as easy to find as typing "naked pictures" or "hot girls" in the search box, but it's also packed with harmlessly funny and even educational videos. Now InternetSafety.com's Safe Eyes(R) parental control software screens each YouTube video individually instead of blocking the entire site, allowing children to enjoy unobjectionable material while protecting them from over 8,000 clips about phone sex, 130,000 about girls kissing and 457,000 in the porn category.

In this latest enhancement to its award-winning program, Safe Eyes automatically evaluates YouTube videos for inappropriate content. The system then blocks offending clips while allowing the computer to display the rest. This goes beyond YouTube's own self-policing system -- which enables site users to voluntarily flag videos as unsuitable for viewers under 18 -- to ensure that individual clips are screened against filters defined by Safe Eyes' pre-configured controls.

Because so many YouTube videos are shared virally through online channels other than the YouTube site itself, Safe Eyes' new intelligent YouTube filtering also evaluates videos embedded in emails, blogs, and sites like Facebook and MySpace. This feature -- unique to Safe Eyes -- prevents children from accidentally or deliberately viewing undesirable footage through the back door. It also makes Safe Eyes the first program to filter YouTube videos no matter where they appear on the Internet.

The new YouTube controls are included with the latest edition of Safe Eyes, now available at http://www.safeeyes.com/. Parents also have the option to block YouTube entirely if they wish.

"YouTube is the third most heavily trafficked website in the world and the fourth in the U.S., after Google, Yahoo and MySpace. Blocking the whole site is unnecessary for families because it means blocking good content along with bad, including perfectly innocent videos making the rounds among friends," said Forrest Collier, CEO of InternetSafety.com. "Safe Eyes' new ability to filter out only the offensive clips solves the problem."

"Internet filtering is a useful tool for shielding children from online material they shouldn't see, but being too restrictive can backfire. There is no reason to keep kids away from every YouTube video just because some of them are off-color or otherwise undesirable," said Aaron Kenny, CTO of InternetSafety.com. "Evaluating each video on its merits is a smarter way to handle the issue and one that will give children access to positive content ranging from footage of migrating birds to a speech from the latest political convention."

Safe Eyes enables parents to easily block objectionable websites, control Internet use by length of time as well as time of day and day of the week, block or record instant messenger chats, and block peer-to-peer file sharing programs that may expose children to dangerous material. It also allows parents to limit email use to certain addresses, and detect the posting of inappropriate or personal information on social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook.

The software provides broader controls than any other filtering product, including the ability to define which websites will be blocked by category, URL and keyword; receive instant alerts about inappropriate online behavior by email, text message or phone call; and remotely change program settings or view reports from any Internet-enabled computer.

Safe Eyes is also the only program of its kind that can be used in mixed Mac/PC households. A single $49.95 annual subscription covers up to three Mac and/or PC computers with the ability to customize settings for each child and enforce them on any machine. The product's website blacklist is updated automatically every day, eliminating the need for manual updates.

The new Safe Eyes edition with YouTube controls can be purchased at http://www.safeeyes.com/ or downloaded free of charge at the site by existing owners.

About InternetSafety.com

Established in 1999, InternetSafety.com(TM) specializes in providing Internet safety solutions. Its flagship software, Safe Eyes(R), is the two- time recipient of the PC Magazine Editors' Choice Award, earned a separate Editor's Choice Award from LAPTOP magazine, and was rated as the #1 parental control solution by America's leading consumer advocacy publication. The company's Safe Eyes and EtherShield products are providing online protection for PCs and Macs in homes, businesses and schools across more than 125 countries.

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Equifax's Marianne Johnson Named Woman of the Year in Technology

Equifax Inc. (NYSE:EFX) today announced that Marianne Johnson, Senior Vice President, Equifax Global Technology New Product Innovation, was honored with WIT's 2008 Woman of the Year (WOTY) in Technology Award. Selected from a roster that included many of Georgia's most esteemed names in technology, Johnson was presented with this accolade at an industry event that drew more than 400 attendees.

"Marianne's leadership and superb business and technology skills have played an integral role in driving new product innovation at Equifax, said Rob Webb, Chief Information Officer, Equifax. "Through her vision, Marianne inspires her teams to leverage technology with industry know-how to deliver solutions that add customer value and accelerate growth."

The WOTY Awards are sponsored by WIT, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of Georgia's businesswomen in technology. This year the awards focused on "Women of Impact," who exemplify outstanding leadership in technology and serve as role models and mentors in their organizations and communities.

"Programs like WIT play a vital role in enabling women to gain greater visibility in business and drive change within their industry and beyond," said Marianne Johnson, Senior Vice President, Global Technology New Product Innovation. "I am honored to receive this award and be spotlighted among a community of peers who not only recognize the needs of today's IT market but are committed to transforming the technology landscape for women."

Now in its ninth year, the WOTY Awards recognized the accomplishments of 42 nominees in three categories: enterprise business, mid-market/medium organization and emerging/small business. Three finalists were selected in each of the three groups, with Johnson taking home the WOTY Award in the enterprise category.

Equifax supports a number of WIT initiatives such as Careers in Action, the WIT Foundation and various leadership activities. Equifax is also a sponsor of WIT Connect, an annual fundraiser and auction.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Google Trends Used to Promote Fake Anti-Virus Software

PRNewswire/ -- Internet criminals are using Search Engine Optimization tactics to promote links to free hosted blog sites in an attempt to dupe unsuspecting visitors into infecting themselves with malware and fake anti-virus products, say experts from Marshal's TRACE threat team.

Criminals are using tools such as Google Trends to identify the most popular and current Internet search terms. The same criminals then use new blogs on free hosting sites, such as Windows Live Spaces and AOL Journals, featuring the same search terms. When an Internet user then makes a search using those popular terms they get multiple links to these hosted blog sites in their search results. If the user then clicks on the link, thinking it is relevant to their desired search, they are taken to a blog site with an apparent embedded video player. If the user clicks on the video player, they are prompted to load a 'codec', which surreptitiously loads malware, including fake anti-virus software that promises to clean non existent viruses from the computer in return for their credit card details.

"A recent example of an exploited search term was 'OJ Simpson Verdict'," said Phil Hay, lead threat analyst for Marshal's TRACE Team. "The criminals identify this as a 'hot' search term and then ensure their Windows Live Spaces blog contains 'OJ Simpson Verdict'. This promotes the blog up the order in Google search results and increases the chances that users will hit those web pages."

"Using search engine optimization to promote web pages hosting malware shows increasing levels of sophistication and professionalism on the part of the criminals," said Hay. "The use of fake video players to disguise the installation of fake anti-virus programs is not new. This kind of activity has been going on for many months now, but previously the links have been promoted via spam. This new approach shows a diversification of tactics."

According to Marshal, the malicious executables downloaded by clicking on the fake video player are not reliably detected as malware by established antivirus programs, further adding to the seriousness of the criminal's activity.

"Fake anti-virus programs are especially prevalent right now," said Hay. "Once installed, the program pops up and tells you it has found viruses on your computer and offers to clean these if you are willing to pay via credit card. The viruses the program reports are fake, the program itself is fake and the so called legitimate company you deal with is fake. The whole thing is a con designed to part you from your money. It is fairly sophisticated and convincing."

"Now the criminals are trying new methods of promoting their malicious web pages that aren't dependant on spam. Our advice is to not blindly trust results from Google searches, and be wary of these kinds of links to hosted blog sites. Also, if you are unfortunate enough to be infected by one of these fake anti-virus products, do not provide any credit card information or payment of any kind. Use a legitimate and reputable anti-virus solution from a name brand vendor," said Hay.

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