Posted by: David Harley | December 21, 2015

Washington Sues iYogi

Commentary for AVIEN on the State of Washington’s legal action against iYogi, accusing the company of a range of activities suggesting tech support scamming: iYogi tech support – sued by State of Washington.

Also added to the AVIEN Tech Support Scam Resources page.

iYogi bear in trouble again with Ranger Smith and State of Washington?

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | December 17, 2015

Facebook Memes: Check Before Spreading!

It’s not unusual to see dubious memes spreading on Facebook (and elsewhere) but I’ve seen so many today I feel obliged to comment on some of them.

  1. A post claiming that photographs of military emblems are considered ‘inappropriate’ by Facebook, including a representation of the badge of the Royal Engineers. The meme I saw today referred to the Royal Air Force, but the same false claim has made often in the past with reference to services in the US. For Snopes, a site that has for years done a great job of evaluating possible hoaxes, Kim LaCapria points out that ‘ the Marines, Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, and Navy, all … maintain verified Facebook pages on which their emblems are frequently and proudly displayed.’ The Royal Engineers Facebook page here is generated by Facebook itself and does include the RE badge. Ms LaCapria suggests that rumours of this sort may derive from instances where emblems are posted along with other material that may violate its community standards, and that other material has caused the post to be removed.
  2. A post claiming that photographs of the St George’s Cross (the national flag of England) is being blocked resembles claims that people posting photos of the US Confederate flag would risk being blocked from social media sites including Facebook. Thatsnonsense.com asserts that claims of the removal of such photos because they may offend people are often exploited by far right groups. In fact, Facebook itself encouraged its users to modify their profile pictures by overlaying them with the French tricolore as a gesture of solidarity with those killed recently in Paris. Mixed signals from Facebook? Probably not, given the number of times the cross of St George gets posted there.
  3. Another meme compares the number of people in the US killed by Jihadist attacks – 45, according to the meme – to the number of people killed by ‘gun violence’ from 9/11 to 2013 – 406,496, according to the same meme. Apparently the latter figure is based on CDC figures. I’m no friend to the US gun lobby, but feel compelled to point out that the figure seems to be based on a rather lax definition of ‘gun violence’. According to Iain Overton, author of Gun Baby Gun, that figure breaks down as follows: 237,052 suicides; 153, 144 homicides; 8,383 unintentional; 3,200 undetermined; and 4,778 as a result of ‘legal intervention’. I don’t say those aren’t disturbing figures, but defining them all simply as ‘gun violence’ is potentially misleading and isn’t very helpful.

Unfortunately, Facebook has taken on the role of dissemination of uncritically accepted hoaxes and half-truths that used to make managing corporate email such a pain. It’s really worth checking the validity of these claims, even if the person who shares them with you is your best friend. You know what Abraham Lincoln said

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | December 8, 2015

Copyright and Social Media: article for ESET

Recently I saw an enquiry from someone who wanted to repost an interesting article in a Facebook page but was worried about the legal implications. I expanded my response at the time into a lengthier summary of the main issues as I understand them, for an article for ESET.

I should probably make it clear that I’m not a lawyer, and not able to offer legal advice in that article (or anywhere else). The legislation relating to IP (intellectual property), copyright, patents, trademarks and so on, is a complicated subject (and widely ignored and difficult to enforce on the web). So while I hope to have cast a little light on a difficult subject, I can’t offer authoritative legal advice.

The article is here: Copyright and social media.

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | December 4, 2015

Terrorists, hoaxes and malware

And here’s another example of how social engineering and real malware sometimes seem to merge. A story my colleagues at ESET Ireland brought to my attention by Craig Charles about “Brutal Terrorist Attack” hoaxes go viral, and my comments for the ITSecurity UK blog: Terrorist Attacks, Hoaxes and Malware.

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | December 4, 2015

Support scams and malware

It’s a bit of a stretch from tech support scams to ransomware, but I’ve added a ransomware information page to the AVIEN site to accompany the tech support resource page already there. (Announcement here.)

And, almost immediately, a story came up about a site that was serving a support scam, a data-stealing Trojan, and ransomware – Cryptowall, no less. So maybe it wasn’t such a bad call after all.

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | November 26, 2015

Tech Support Scams Beginner’s Guide

Tech Support Scams: a Beginner’s Guide – a blog for IT Security UK. I thought maybe it was time we reconsidered what we tell end users what they need to know about support scams, as the scammers change their approach from cold-calling to pop-up fake alerts.

Also added to the AVIEN page PC ‘Tech Support’ Cold-Call Scam Resources.

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | November 16, 2015

Hotel Key Cards: not usually a Security Issue

I first heard alarming stories about hotel keycards over a decade ago, though I don’t think I’ve written about the issue recently, or outside the healthcare organization I then worked for: I only started to blog publicly some time after I started writing for ESET. (My earliest blog piece for ESET seems to have been published in February 2008, though I’d been writing other articles for them for a while.)

The story that circulated when I first heard it concerned chain messages claiming that you shouldn’t let hotels have your key card back because they store potentially sensitive personal information such as the customer’s name, partial home address and credit card information, as well as more obviously relevant information (room number, check-in date, check-out date). The suggestion is that your data might be leaked or stolen when you return the keycard before it is re-encoded for the next visitor.

The story seems to derive from a case investigated by Pasadena police in 2003, and on the basis of information that was not intended to be shared with the general public until its accuracy was verified and actually referred to a somewhat different issue of stolen keycards being re-used by criminals as cloned credit cards. In a subsequent retraction, the Pasadena police stated:

As of today, detectives have contacted several large hotels and computer companies using plastic card key technology and they assure us that personal information, especially credit card information, is not included on their key cards. The one incident referred to appears to be several years old, and with today’s newer technology, it would appear that no hotels engage in the practice of storing personal information on key cards. Please share this information with anyone who has a concern over the initial information send out to others as a precautionary measure.

The rumour was debunked by the ever-reliable Snopes site long ago, but I’m guessing from the fact that  has just revisited the topic for Kaspersky suggests that the story is still circulating, though I can’t say I’ve seen it recently myself.

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | November 16, 2015

Tech Support Scams and the FTC

Commentary from me for the AVIEN blog, and added to the tech support scam resource page there, regarding an interesting article from The Register – FTC fells four tech-support operations in scammer crackdown – by Shaun Nichols, about the FTC’s latest move in the war against support scams.

The FTC (the US Federal Trade Commission) has turned its attention to ‘four companies and four individuals in its legal complaint (PDF) alleging violations of both the FTC Act and the US Telemarketing Act’.

The violations cited here are in the form of fake system alerts, fake browser alerts, or fake security software alerts that advise the victim of a ‘problem’ with their device and direct them to a ‘helpline’ purporting to represent one of the major operating systems, not only for old-school computers (Windows, OS X, Linux) but for mobile devices such as smartphones.

A preliminary injunction ordered by The United States District Court for the Eastern district of Pennsylvania prohibits the named parties from fraudulent marketing and billing (though you’d think that would be illegal anyway), and effectively freezes their assets while the FTC’s complaint is investigated.

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | November 12, 2015

Buhtrap, Ammyy, and support scams

It occurred to me that the Buhtrap gang’s misuse of Ammyy Admin, as reported by my colleague Jean-Ian Boutin for ESET – Operation Buhtrap, the trap for Russian accountants – might have affected some tech support scam victims. See my blog article for AVIEN: Buhtrap and Ammyy. (Both articles added to the AVIEN tech scam resources page, of course.)

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | November 6, 2015

Additions to the AVIEN support scam resources page

The following links have been added to the tech support scam resources page at AVIEN:

“Since May 2014, Microsoft has received over 175,000 customer complaints regarding fraudulent tech support scams. This year alone, an estimated 3.3 million people in the United States will pay more than $1.5 billion to scammers.”

David Harley

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