Over the past few months, I’ve been writing a lot about cyber crime and security vulnerabilities, especially as it impacts social media and blogs. The April 1, 2009, expansion of the Conficker/Downadup Worm Infection worried many as the 1 in 16 ratio of infected computers increased dramatically around the globe and attacks were aimed at social media services like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.
We live in an age of transparency. I’d say that “transparency” should have been the word of the year last year, and it’s popularity as a buzz word this year continues. It pops up in most news reports, demanding transparency from banks and financial institutions, politicians, governments, corporations, and individuals.
It also litters our social media interaction. We want our online social interchanges to be with real people who want to know us as real people. We want people leaving comments on our blogs to have names. We want folks on Twitter to have real names, not CD Handles and cute nicknames or keywords. So is it okay to be anonymous any more?
Over the years, there as been an ongoing debate about anonymous bloggers as more and more people take to the Information Highway to have their say. For some, anonymity is a matter of life or death. For others, it’s just wiser. But it isn’t for everyone.
Some use a pseudonym, similar to what writers and artists have been doing for many years, either for protection and security, or because their real name, Hildibob Slibbervitzenson, just isn’t “writerly” or “artistic.” Would women have swooned over Archie Leach? Sang the memorable songs of Barry Alan Pinkus, or sang along to Bohemian Rhapsody with Farrokh Bulsara? Or believed in the sung words of Robert Allen Zimmerman with such fervor? Would Moses have been so memorable if played by John Charles Carter? Would the sexy pottery scene in “Ghost” have been so memorable if performed by Demetria Gene Guynes? Replaces those real names with their pseudonyms of Cary Grant, Barry Manilow, Freddy Mercury, Bob Dylan, Charlton Heston, and Demi Moore and everything changes.
There are many people who blog under a pseudonym without condemnation, but there are still those who choose to publicly blog anonymously. They use CD Handle style names, making a visible statement about their need to be private and choosing to hide behind a masked name while not hiding their opinion.
And there continues to be a witch hunt on to out them when their opinion doesn’t agree with the government or politicians. [Read more…]
According to Investor’s Business Daily, evil is sweeping social networks, moving beyond email and blogs to where you like to virtually hang out and congregate:
Security experts last week warned that a new strain of the Koobface virus is hitting Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites. It looks for links and passwords to other social networking sites.
Social networking site owners work actively to put a lid on nefarious activity. On Tuesday, a federal judge in northern California issued a temporary restraining order against three people accused of widespread spamming and phishing attacks on Facebook. It comes three months after Facebook won a suit that prevents another group of spammers from using or accessing Facebook data and applications.
Virus creators are increasingly targeting social networking sites and other Web 2.0 technologies such as the micro-blogging site Twitter and instant messaging services from Google, AOL and others. Virus writers are also creating fake profiles of celebrities, real friends or business associates hoping people will link with them. Users can be tricked into linking to the fake profile, which can be loaded with various forms of malicious software.
The article by Brian Deagon showcased Facebook users who responded to an email from a “friend on Facebook” to visit a link that initiated a program that “rifled through his hard drive, installed malicious software and sent the same e-mail to all of Daradics’ friends on his Facebook profile.” [Read more…]
While this could be seen as another day-in-the-life update, the warning came with an interesting twist:
Do note that while we are recommending users move away from Adobe Reader, we are not recommending any particular replacement.
…Instead, we recommend users to find their own Adobe Reader replacement.
This way we get more heterogeneous userbase, which is a good idea security-wise. Nobody wants to repeat what happened with the great IE —> Firefox switch. As 40% of users switched to Firefox, about 40% of the attacks switched to target Firefox.
Monocultures are bad.
In the new world of online social, more and more people using the same tools, putting us all at risk as hackers and attackers move towards the natural migration of popularity. Monocultures are bad as they open the door to mass risks. [Read more…]
I’m working on my annual Things I Want Gone from the Web article and I’ve personally designated this “The Year of Original Content.” We’re done playing around with feed scraping and autoblogging.
The blog echo chamber effect of someone blockquoting and linking the same content as a recommendation, echoing through the web without original content, is a beginner’s mistake. Don’t do it. Always add your original voice and content to your recommendations, telling your readers why it is important to leave this blog and go to another, then come back for more.
Google took action to penalize duplicate content within a site and between sites, and added bonus points for original and unique, appropriate and relevant keywords around links, especially link lists, rewarding original content providers with nicer PageRank scores. Similar actions are being taken by other major search engines, directories, and legitimate content aggregators.
As a serious blogger, you’ve learned the lesson and stay focused on creating original content. You link to other people’s content appropriately, taking care to protect their copyrights and not confuse your reader’s, putting other people’s content in blockquotes with clearly indicated links and credits.
For scammers, scrapers, and plagiarists, other people’s content has turned into a major money-maker as they use other people’s content for financial gain and misdirection. [Read more…]
As a quick update from the information in Downadup Worm Infection: Cyber Attacks on the Rise in 2009 and Security and Hacking: Protect Thyself and Thy WordPress Blog concerning the still spreading Downadup worm, ComputerWorld and others are reporting that the Downadup worm now infects 1 in every 16 PCs for an estimated current total of over 9 million infections.
It now has its own Wikipedia page called Conficker as the worm is also known as Downup, Downadup, Conficker, and Kido.
According to the Wikipedia article, the computer work first appeared in October 2008 but spread fast after the first of the year. It specifically targets Microsoft Windows and Windows Server services using Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008. It has infected a few governments and hospitals, but mostly corporate computer networks.
On October 15, 2008 Microsoft released a patch to fix the bug. Heise Online estimated that it had infected 2.5 million PCs by January 15, 2009, while The Guardian estimated 3.5 million infected PCs. By January 16, 2009, an antivirus software vendor reported that Conficker had infected almost 9 million PCs making it one of the most widespread infections in recent times. Conficker is reported to be one of the largest botnets created because 30 percent of Windows computers do not have a Microsoft Windows patch released in October 2008.
The virus can spread through websites and USB drives, like flash drives, cameras, portable hard drives, and other USB connecting devices that trigger AutoRun, so Microsoft is recommending people upgrade their Windows programs and turn off AutoRun. [Read more…]
The front page of CERT/CC, the Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute and cyber security experts, looks back at 2008 as the 20th anniversary of the Morris worm, sometimes called the “Great Worm,” which crippled the Internet in 1988. Created by Robert Morris, now an associate professor at MIT, it was one of the first computer worms to infect the brand new Internet, exploiting known vulnerabilities and causing millions in damages. It also was the first conviction in the United States as part of the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Years ago, a friend of mine worked for Boeing IT and taught many company workshops and training programs that began with an amusing lecture on “Safe Computer Sex.” She taught fellow employees to take care when flipping floppies to avoid transferring computer program infections across the network. How far we have come from those days.
As our dependence upon the web increased with email communication, spammers, hackers and attackers spread evil through your email inbox. Now, they are attacking our websites, social media tools, and web browsers.
Microsoft announced recently security issues with the Internet Explorer web browser and the dangers of visiting websites that could exploit that security vulnerability. Many warned to not use Internet Explorer until it was patched and updated.
Google created the Browser Security Handbook to help people and developers understand the security issues facing web browsers and the steps to take to protect individuals and web applications.
As mentioned in the last article in this series on web and blog security and hacking, Security and Hacking: The State of WordPress Blogs, WordPress, Movable Type, and other popular web services are not immune from security hacks or vulnerabilities. [Read more…]
SecurityFocus reports an estimated 3.5 million computers have been compromised due to a “Downadup worm,” a malicious bot that spreads through websites and blogs.
The Downadup worm, a malicious program that spreads using a recently patched Windows flaw, has compromised more than 3.5 million computers, security firm F-Secure stated this week.
The Downadup worm has successfully spread because it uses a major flaw that Microsoft patched in October to remotely compromise computers running unpatched versions of the Windows operating system. However, the malicious program’s greatest strength appears to be a feature that allows worm-controlled computers to download malicious code from a random drop point.
The program generates addresses for 250 different domains each day. The botnet controller need only register one of the domains and set up a download server to update the bot program with different functionality, said Mikko Hyppönen, chief research officer at F-Secure.
“The bad guys only need to predetermine one possible domain for tomorrow, register it, and set up a website, and they then gain access to all of the infected machines — pretty clever,” Hyppönen said in a blog post.
According to the report, the Downadup worm uses Windows XP’s vulnerability in processing remote procedure call (RPC) requests. While a patch was issued and warnings announced, not everyone has upgraded. The top countries hit by the MS08-067 Worms, as F-Secure calls them, are China, Brazil, and Russia, but it is expected to spread further unless server administrators and webmasters update and patch their Windows Servers and Windows programs immediately, including Internet Explorer.
ZD-Net Security Threats reports that the first sign of infection is usually found when users accounts cannot access their accounts and they are locked out of the Active Directory domain as the worm tries to crack passwords in Windows Servers.
Tracking the Downadup infection, F-Secure reported that reports of infections are up by more than one million within just one day, and growing. As last check, they estimate 3,521,230 infections worldwide. [Read more…]
Happy Monday, folks! I’m sure by now you’ve heard the big news: Six Apart bought Pownce. The Pownce team will join 6A, and the Pownce service will shut down. It’s a shame they’re closing the site — it had some really nice features. Hopefully, we’ll see some of those social networking and microblogging features show up in a future version of Movable Type.
Speaking of MT versions, MT 4.23 — the security fix that I told you was coming over a month ago — has finally been released. This is just a security fix, so it should be an easy upgrade. If you’re using the community templates, though, you will need to update those. [Read more…]
Happy Monday, folks! We told you last time about this being Movable Type’s 7th birthday. The celebration concludes this week with a huge party at MT HQ. If you’re going to be in San Francisco, don’t miss it.
But before the party starts, we’ve got work to do. On with the MT news!