Microsoft’s new free anti-virus

Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) is the brand’s new free anti-virus product. Trial version of the product has already been launched in US, Brazil, China and Israel. 2009 seems to be Microsoft’s year of relaunches with improvements. Bing was launched earlier as an effective search engine to answer Google’s mesmerising popularity after Microsoft’s previous version Live Search failed to create any ripples in the search engine market. Now its the turn of MSE which is being called an essential security solution. Windows Live One Care, the previous security package, failed to attract much fan following and accordingly met its end. But the real question is how essential is the MSE? Competing security application manufacturers have already suggested that the MSE is of course no match to their paid security packages. Some others are concerned that Microsoft’s global recognition and popularity with computer users may well end up making the users perceive the MSE as a total answer to cyber security worries. Read the BBC News Report .

What needs to be identified is that Microsoft’s free anti-virus is probably just a solution for those users who prefer not to spend any money on security thus exposing their computers to innumerable attacks. The free anti-virus perhaps will encourage a larger number of users to opt for MSE thereby reducing the risks compared to previously when the users had absolutely no security applications. Despite news and awareness about cyber crimes, hacking and intrusion attempts, it is alarming as to how many cyber users still venture out into the cyberspace without even installing a basic anti-virus package on their machines.

As far as MSE is concerned, the final verdict is yet to come in…

As far as cyber security is concerned, it is still preferable to opt for a complete updated security suite from one of the most reputed and recognised brands with a minimum of built in anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-spam modules.

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Governments must have Cyber Security Strategy

Cyber crimes including hacking and denial of service attacks, phishing, virus and worm influx are not only threats against individuals (i.e. consumers) but a number of these threats are increasingly being targeted at governments. With information being stored largely on online repositories, hackers (not just individuals but often large organized criminal groups) are aiming to infiltrate government websites and networks to steal or tamper with crucial data. And it is imperative that nations with major Internet population and broadband usage should look at a planned and effective strategy to counter the rising number of threats. Cyber warfare is becoming rather rampant and it is mandatory for nations to consider a cyber security strategy as an integral part of their arsenal to defend as well as respond to outside cyber threats. Specialised government funded cyber labs with state of the art technology to track, trace and crack resourced by talented individuals is now a major necessity.

The BBC News Reportstates that UK has already launched a cyber security strategy to counter such cyber attacks. The strategic units are aimed at ensuring that the government is better prepared to defend and combat such attacks.

Hackers now look to attack MAC systems

MAC system owners around the world feel quite invincible when it comes to security risks and data leakage threats compared to traditional PC users. MAC system owners are also arguably much less likely of using any kind of security applications on their machines. However a BBC news article seems to refer to a new risk with hackers creating malware to infiltrate MACs. Popular pornographic sites are increasingly being reported to be responsible for sending virus payloads in the guise of Video Active X Object. Users must ensure to refrain from downloading any Active X object which are not authenticated with a Digital Certificate. As a user of technology one should always remember a simple principle and that is “every technology can be hacked”.

Phishing targets banking customers in India

Phishing has been one of the most dangerous crimes affecting global cyber users for quite a few years now. Although apparently considered easy to spot, phishing scams can be rather deceptively intelligent and even the most educated and sceptical cyber users can often fall prey to the most basic phishing scams. Phishing essentially is a scam where the fraudster masquerades as a reliable source in an attempt to steal valuable confidential data i.e. passwords, credit card numbers, access codes etc. However the sheer variety of phishing methods deployed in the cyberspace has intrigued enforcement agencies and fooled users around the world. But an important platform for the phishing scam’s incredible outreach has been the alarming growth of spam or unsolicited emails. A vast majority of phishing emails are in fact unleashed indiscriminately targeting cyber users randomly but sometimes these emails are also sent to specific target databases acquired through nefarious means. However the rise of spam in the Indian cyberspace has played a dangerously direct role in the growth of phishing scams, password stealing URLs and victims in India. Most phishing scams are targeted to steal financial information or access codes to control financial data. Hence it is not surprising that the banking sector is undoubtedly one of the favourite hunting zones for scammers prowling the cyberspace. Databases of bank customers are being traded in the black market allowing phishing scammers to send more appropriate spams targeted at actual bank customers.

 

Customers usually receive an innocuous email requesting them to update their access information (password etc.) by going to the login site after clicking the URL provided in the email. As expected the URLs are spoofed links leading the innocent customers to a bogus lookalike or deceptively similar website of their banks. Whether owing to ignorance or negligence, often the customer ends up going to the malicious URL which then steals their passwords allowing scammers to log in to the customer’s actual bank account online and make money transfers  to their chosen beneficiaries. The beneficiaries chosen by these scammers are usually native citizens who are recruited to become the scammer’s money mule through simple recruitment methods including recruitment sites, newspaper adverts, online job alerts etc. The money mule or the beneficiary provides his banking details to the scammer who ends up depositing the entire phishing money into their legitimate accounts. The mules thereafter withdraw the stolen money and send it by various means to the actual beneficiaries suitably delegated by the original scammer. Unfortunately for law enforcement agencies, the only crucial link ends with these money mules who had physically received money in their accounts. However most of these money mules are being virtually operated by scammers sitting abroad and hence it becomes extremely difficult for cyber crime cells or investigating officers to collect evidence or gain anything substantial in a majority of these cases against the main perpetrators.

 

Rules to avoid bank phishing are rather simple. Banks providing online account management facilities to customers never send or request confidential data by electronic means. Customers receiving such emails must straight away delete such emails and never even bother to venture trying the sent URLs. If the customers really want to visit their online bank accounts’ login page, they should just type the URL in the Address Bar manually rather than clicking any link from an email or from a webpage. Customers should also check the SSL Security Status as all banks deploy the SSL Security System on their login webpages. Further customers should also ensure to inform their local branch about the receipt of any such emails so that the Bank can issue a general warning or notification to all its customers about any such scam which may be operating at that time.

New Cyber Fraud Hits India – “Online Journal Publishing Scam”

The cyberspace is increasingly becoming like a world where you spend more time avoiding frauds, scams and malicious attacks rather than actually using the space for something creative. Cyberspace is already crawling with millions of malware like viruses, worms, Trojans and spyware; hackers are attacking computers to create large botnets of compromised zombie computers and scammers spending their evil brain cells on designing effective scams through phishing, pharming, money mule or even the hopelessly simple yet effective advance fee fraud (419 Fraud). Whether it is a new type of cyber fraud or an old fraud with a twist, cyberspace is a dangerous place for those oblivious or unaware of its diabolical facade. For those who have been keeping themselves updated about the various tricks unleashed by cyber criminals, be surprised as a new scam seems to have hit town and is quite frankly deceptively dangerous. The “journal publishing scam” (as I would like to call it) is a fraud aimed at primarily the lecturers, professors, readers or researchers who like getting their creative writing and thoughts published in various online journals and e-magazines. Even students looking to debut on their publishing efforts and needing a viable space to pen their intellect in order to glamorise their CVs and profiles are an easy target of this shameless scam.

 

So what is the online journal publishing scam all about? Well the whole thing starts with the set up of a website designed as a popular journal publishing site with journals available in a wide variety of areas including science, technology, law, medicine or anything creative and believable. The scammers put up their site along with links to description of each and every claimed journal and even go to the extent of providing an Editorial Board filled with representatives from across the world. As expected the fictitious Board Members are ofcourse made to look like they have seriously academic profiles with little room for doubting their genius. Nothing in these sites look apparently suspicious and information about these alleged journals look almost believable for anyone looking to seriously publish their work. This scam is perhaps aimed more at those individuals who have little or non existent knowledge about publishing online as a frequent publisher would perhaps be able to sniff out the scam. In reality there is neither a publishing team nor editorial board and most frankly the senders of the email have also never published any online journal or magazine. The claim on their sites is usually that they are a charitable organization with no sponsors and hardly any revenue. They sustain themselves on a meagre amount of “Handling Fee” that is to be sent by those authors who are allowed to publish their work by the Editorial Team. Emails are sent to the possible targets requesting the recipients to submit articles for publishing. The emails contain links to their site and a number of email addresses where the articles or white papers can be submitted for perusal and scrutiny. Although initial emails never mention the dangerous “handling fee”, the websites will inadvertently mention this in a naive and innocent manner hoping to lure oblivious and budding writers. For those who mistakenly send their articles receive a confirmation from the Board informing them that their articles or papers have been accepted for submission and that a “handling fee” must be paid by the successful author in order for the paper to be published. Authors who have probably already been lured into this scam end up paying the small amounts hoping to see their writing online in the chosen journals. Money gets transferred and the scam is complete. I dont think I need to expressly mention here but nonetheless I will state that ofcourse the journals (or the articles) never get published. As far as hitting the database for potential victims are concerned, I guess that they are targetting academic organizations (with email addresses), professors or lecturers (with direct email contact available online) or even students going through online advertisements in order to publish their work somewhere. As far as the scam is concerned, it is designed for specific target populations and hence not expected to get major returns for the scammers unlike the popular and very obvious 419 frauds or advance fee frauds reaching millions of email users everyday. Email users are becoming increasingly aware of the scam techniques and methods and hence it is only natural that the perpetrators are coming up with new ideas. Although the new journal publishing scam may not be churning out billions of dollars, it surely has the potential to rake in quite a signficant amount considering the number of people who are looking for options to publish online.

 

The golden rule of almost any form of the Advance Fee or 419 Fraud is that there is always undoubtedly a request for a small payment irrespective of the jargon used whether “processing fee” or “handling fee” or “commission” or even “bank transfer charges”. So beware the next time an email crops up in the inbox or the junk folder inviting article submissions for academic journals online. Frankly any reputed or credible online publishing journals will never be sending unsolicited emails randomly to users across the world inviting article submissions.

India at No.4 among Top Countries with Internet Users

India is at No. 4 among the Top20 countries with the highest number of Internet users in the world. World Internet User Statisticsupdated till 31st March 2009 puts India at an enviable fourth position behind China (1st), USA (2nd) and Japan (3rd). With an Internet population of almost 81 Million users and the exponential growth of broadband facilities in the country combined with the affordable tariff rates makes it look like India may well reach the TOP2 very soon. In Asia alone, India is at No. 3 just behind China andJapan. Although India with 81 Million users is just a little behind Japan (94 Million), the gap between China and the rest of the Asian countries is quite massive with the Chinese Internet population alone standing at a staggering 298 Million. China is currently the world’s top country for highest Internet users with US trailing behind with 227.2 Million users.

 

Although Internet user statistics look quite promising for the Indian cyberspace, the dampner comes in the form of statistics for Internet penetration in the country which looks quite abysmal at a lowly 7.1% compared to China (22.4%) andJapan (73.8%). However these Internet penetration statistics are not that surprising considering India’s population (1,147,995,898) is only behind that of China (1,330,044,605). But with the major attempts by Internet Service Providers in India to provide competitive tariffs, India’s Internet may well reach further than it ever has in the next few years.  There is a definite requirement to stress on ensuring a competitive and comprehensive digital infrastructure.

Statistics available from www.internetworldstats.com

International Intellectual Property Laws Program

Global School of Tech Juris launches the International Intellectual Property Laws Program which is one of the first such attempts to provide undergraduate and postgraduate students with the opportunity to compare and study as many as four IP law regimes including India, UK, US and the European Union. Scheduled to begin in 2009, the Classroom Program is expected to give students a valuable foothold in the complex and fascinating world of intellectual creativity and its legal protection.

For more information, visit http://gstj.org/international-intellectual-property-laws.php .