Tag Archives: Technology

500,000 Users May Lose Internet in July

26 Apr

If you haven’t heard, as many as a half a million people may lose Internet services in July. Although it sounds like a bad joke, it’s not.  The FBI says that hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide may have been infected by hackers in an online advertising scam. These computers will most likely lose their ability to connect to the Internet on July 9th.

In November, the FBI, along with two other organizations, arrested several cyber criminals in “Operation Ghost Click.” The criminals operated under the company name “Rove Digital” and distributed DNS (Domain Name System) changing viruses.

Computer Virus

Is your computer infected?

The DNS system is a network of servers that translates a web address into the numerical addresses that computers use. Victim’s computers were reprogrammed to use rogue DNS servers owned by the attackers. This allowed the attackers to redirect computers to fraudulent versions of websites.

The hackers earned profits from advertisements that appeared on websites the victims were tricked into visiting. It also made thousands of computers reliant on these rogue servers for their Internet browsing. Unbeknownst to most people, the FBI has been using a system of government computers to prevent Internet disruptions for infected users. That system is due to be shut down in July, however, which is why there will be a sudden loss of connectivity.

The FBI is encouraging users to visit www.dcwg.org, a website run by its security partner. This website shows users if they are infected and explains how to fix the problem. To check your computer, go to www.dcwg.org and click on “Detect” in the upper left corner. A new screen with a list of languages will appear. Click on the URL to the left of your language and a message will appear that shows whether you are infected or not. If you are not infected, you do not need to do anything more. If you see a message saying your computer appears infected, you will be directed to a new page with websites that provide antivirus tools that cybersecurity experts have identified as being effective in removing the viruses.

Are Smart Cards Safe?

5 Jan

Staying on top of trends means we sometimes run across technologically oriented information we like to pass on to our readers. Recently, we read some interesting information about Smart Cards that seems worth sharing.

What are Smart Cards?

Smart Cards, known as contactless credit or debit cards, carry a little chip with a radio frequency identification (RFID) antenna that allows you to make payments without swiping the card through a terminal. Introduced six years ago, an estimated 90 million of them are now in use.

Smart Card

Smart Cards contain an embedded microchip along with a radio antenna.

How Do They Work?

Contactless Smart Cards have two components: a microchip that stores details like your credit card number and expiration date, and a radio antenna that reflects radio waves back to a store’s smart-card reader. This technology is similar to what allows cars with pass cards to breeze through tollbooths.

What are the Benefits

Although the perceived benefit is to consumers who don’t need to remove cards from wallets or pocketbooks, the real  benefit is to credit card companies. Smart card technology puts them a step closer to mobile payments which will allow cardholders to make payments through their smart phones. This will be a huge cost savings to card companies who will no longer need to mail out bills.

Are They Safe?

The concern with swipeless cards is that anybody with a handheld RFID reader can potentially scan a card. While possible, the likelihood is slim and the damages are usually less than seen with a lost or forgotten credit or debit card. For one thing, while the magnetic strip on regular cards contains your name, account number, expiration date and three-digit security code, an RFID chip holds only your account number and expiration date. Instead of a security code, smart cards generate a unique verification number for each transaction and no number is used twice. Even if someone scanned your card while you were in the middle of a purchase, the security code would be invalid on the next purchase.

Part of the concern about the safety of Smart Cards is stemming from television reports late last year where reporters were able to scan smart-card account numbers of cards tucked inside of wallets or purses. While it is true that account numbers can be scanned, the information is not enough to allow unauthorized transactions. For people who are still concerned about the possibility of their card unknowingly being swiped, wrapping the card in aluminum foil or carrying it in an aluminum wallet will eliminate the threat.