Phishing Goes White Collar

I was reading up on some posts from over at the ISC and I came upon an interesting read. A visitor to their site wrote in and had a pretty surprising phishing scam to tell about. Now, I don’t know that this will impact many of my readers (we’re all poor, here, right?) – but if you’ve ever rented a home to stay at for a summer vacation or similar trip, this may deserve your attention. I’ve also got a story, beneath that, of my recent personal experience dealing with a defenseless family.

The reader wrote in that they were an employee of one such rental firm, that rented out nearly 600 properties – what he experienced, was a client of his writing in and bringing something to his attention. The problem appeared to be a normal renting site, which had a Photo Shopped ‘dream vacation home’ for rent. The contact information was scarce, just a single Yahoo! Mail address. Doesn’t seem very trustworthy to me.

Upon contacting this Yahoo! address, the experienced renter received a reply which told him that the property was in demand, and urged him to quickly send some form of payment, and then his keys would be mailed out. That was it. Cut and dry. “Send me money, and I’ll send you keys.” If you really think this is how business works, you’d best be checking your credit reports right now. Even eBay has at least a few checks and balances in place to try to avoid you getting ripped off.

Last week, at work, I came across a family of distraught computer users. Odd, I thought, I’m always cheery when I’m around a computer (sure). They were using public access computers because they were away from home, on vacation – being as such, they were confused about the state of things with regards to their eBay account. They relieved an email “from eBay” saying their account as in danger… at least, that’s what they thought. Trouble was, the email was in Spanish. But it provided them a link and a log in! So they figured that if they just logged in to their eBay account, they could read the message on the site. But after the log in, they just kept getting error messages saying it couldn’t process their login.

My jaw about hit the floor. This phishing stuff really does work, doesn’t it? IE7, and similar browsers, are going to change the world – with their automatic phishing detection schemes. It’ll be a good thing, too. People are going to need it.

Needless to say, I immediately tried to help the family log in to their eBay account – but their password had been changed. I didn’t ask if they had a PayPal account, and I pray that if they did, their passwords weren’t the same, but I worried it might be. The biggest fright of all was that this family was SELLING THEIR HOUSE on eBay at the time they got locked out. The phisher could just finish the transaction, bank the money, and vanish.

The devastating size of this matter shook me to my most human core. All this was going on to this poor vacationing family in my town with a population under 15,000. I told them to call their bank immediately and talk to the fraud department.

If you get an email, even if you think it’s 100% legitimate, that contains a link to the site they want you to log in at, I encourage you to open a separate web browser and type the address yourself, and log in from that site’s homepage. Always know what site you’re at – and for heaven’s sake, if it’s in a language you don’t know – don’t give it your password! For all you know it could flat out say “I’m going to take this and you will have your first identity theft experience later this month” – and you would be none the wiser. Always know what you’re signing in to, just as you should always read contracts you sign. And never, ever just ‘send money’ without something else in place – use an escrow if you have to.

Peace on ya,
-G

Microsoft Zune – I told ya so?

So, I keep finding more and more stories related to “iPod Like Devices” but nobody but myself seems to believe that the up and coming Microsoft Zune could have anything to do with it.

Microsoft came clean, today, and announced their portable media player device would be named the Microsoft Zune (rumored to be previously codenamed “Argo”). Could this be the device I thought was perhaps an iTunes videoconferencing unit? Slashdot recently ran an article talking about other mp3 players and their designs, and how Apple will stick with the “clickwheel.” I can’t find the link right now, but there was another story I had even submitted to Slashdot that mentioned a different design for the iPod that appeared to be crammed in a cell phone. But now I’m wondering if the sites and articles I have been finding, which discussed strange patents similar to something Apple would work on, were really preliminary Zune patents?

By way of patents, I’d like to remind people that Microsoft and Apple still have open patent sharing, as per a 1997 agreement wherein Microsoft bought around 150 million dollars worth of Apple’s stock. But that doesn’t really matter when Microsoft patented the iPod’s clickwheel first. The words “iPod Killer” have been floating around the web for over a year now – but will anyone finally do it? Doubtful.

I’ll be working on some news with my connection at Microsoft to see what the word is right now. Many of you won’t remember, or had no idea who I was at that time, but I was among the first to provide the web with pictures of Microsoft’s earliest “Tablet PC” running a Windows Whistler beta. I intend to do the same with anything relating to the Zune – so you’d better stay tuned.

Peace on ya,
-G

Billions (of dollars) says "It" doesn't make a bit of difference

Okay, so I awake this morning to hear about Warren Buffet giving Bill Gates and co. some 37 Billion Dollars, atop the billions that Bill Gates himself is intending to use to fight world diseases and such.

Great, Bill Gates’ move and shift to use his own money to start the BMGF was a good and kind gesture. I’ve actually worked for a beneficiary of the Gates Foundation. But now another rich white guy following suit? Am I just the “cynical son of a bitch” my college professor made me out to be last year, or is nobody else seeing the idea that Buffet’s contribution is tax deductible? I don’t know for sure that it is, but I mean – my only assumption is that it comes down to that, or, he just doesn’t want to look like a bastard because Bill beat him to the punch. I just have a hard time believing that all of these guys with their few hundred cars and 20-odd homes are suddenly feeling “generous.”

I’m sure tomorrow Bono will announce he’s leaving his estate to the One Campaign. That will only be a good thing if he kills himself by the following day. Fine, maybe I’m just a cynic – maybe I don’t think everyone is as good natured as they come off, but if there’s a forthcoming wave of generosity it will only be inspired by the spirit of “one-ups-manship” – not that these people actually care about what’s going on. Besides – I still don’t see what money will DO for these world problems. Why don’t they do something with their money. Throwing money at AIDS won’t kill it. Thousands of hours of distributed computing for cancer and AIDS have proven fruitless, and the longest running SETI hasn’t heard so much as a chirp from ET. If we can’t solve it with all of the actual work being done, and numbers being crunched, what is money in a vault going to do?

My suggestion? Gates should stockpile the money until there is a cure for these diseases, and then use the money to provide FREE inoculations to the populous. But nobody listens to me, because I’m not a rich old white guy. And if I were, I’d hate my own life. Why? Because I hate rich old white guys in general.

Seriously – who was it that said they had an invention that would change the world? That “it” would revolutionize every single day living in America. The known universe would never be the same and the sun might implode as soon as “it” hit the market! Why, rich old white guy Dean Kamen, of course! And “it” was the Segway Human Transporter. Ever see one of these bad boys in action? Neither have I! Wanna know why? Because not every American is a rich white guy who has five thousand bucks to plop down on a scooter. If you did, you can only get them in a handful of states. And if you were a rich, douche-baggy white guy, you would probably live in the San Fran (ooh, they hate that one!) Bay Area, and play Segway Polo.

If this is you, please raise your hand now, so that I know who to mock individually and oh so personally in my next editorial. Until then, please, get a life, and do something with your money… like cure diseases by investing in them!

Peace on ya,
-G

Bill Gates’ “Retirement”

Everyone’s blogging about Gates and this headlining news. So, why not thrown in my two cents? After all – I am a part of the blogosphere now.

Yes, he’s “leaving” Microsoft. But only in that he will be giving up his position as Chief Software Architect. Will he be gone for good? No chance. He’s lived it for far too many years to just wipe his slate clean. He cannot resist the draw of technology, just like many other founding-fathers of Silicon Valley.

What can Bill Gates do to “focus” more on things like world health? Various organizations can surely use his money – but is he supposed to be some kind of bio-chemist, suddenly? He might be able to offer some organizational skills to large corporations and organizations, but his need to “focus” on these issues is a bit sketchy.

This won’t change a thing about what we can expect of Windows Vista. There may be rumors that his leaving has something to do with poor expectations for Vista, and wanting to get out now – but he has planned his departure two years in advance. If he is not leaving until the summer of 2008, that’s well after the expected launch of Vista, and quite possibly near the time of a first service pack. No, Gates intends to see this one through.

He will also, likely, be the keynote speaker at many Microsoft conferences, and now, more than likely, will spend some time on the road at various colleges and institutions, as well as other tech-related conventions. Just, don’t expect to see William Henry Gates III at your local county fair, like Rush without Geddy Lee, or Adam West as Bat-Man.

Peace on ya,
-G