Online Dating – Dangerous Ishq!


In this era of busy lifestyle, it is obvious that people have less time to dedicate to their personal lives and hence tend to become lonely. If I say that we live in the age of lonely hearts… I may not be wrong!

These lonely hearts always try to find some or the other way to escape their emptiness… With social media taking over… rather, leading the communication sector… it has proved to be the best tool and the most common way to find friends… and also that ‘special someone’.

Just like any relationship… online relationships too have their own success as well as unsuccessful stories. However, here the issue is that we begin getting closer and opening our heart to some one we never met… we don’t know at all about that person still we get in to the relationship and find a soulmate in that person… hence chances of things going wrong are comparatively more.

I consider such scams into two categories;

1. Personal

2. Cyber threats

When I talk about personal benefits, spying and money extortion tops the list. Any one who wants to spy an individual can fall in love with or make the individual fall in love online. People find this as an easy way to fool some one and earn money in the name of emotions and friendship.

I am sure many of us might have faced such situation wherein, we have met some one online who gradually becomes good friends and then at times love. Later that person may have asked for financial help stating that they are facing some unforeseen situations. Usually such online relationships are short-term though with a promise of long-term at the beginning. The intention is financial benefit. The day you deny helping such person, you do not love or rather trust that person!

As per FBI, chances of women being trapped in such romance Scams is double than men. Last year (2011) the losses reported from this type of fraud reached $50.4 million, with the average victim losing around $8,900 in the name of love. The FBI report also claims that at a rate of 15 complaints received per day, these scams saw daily reported losses of approximately $138,000, or more than $5,700 every hour.

 Most of the times, it is difficult to identify the intentions of the real people behind the fake profiles. The scam artists are innovative in terms of developing new tricks and excellent when it comes to creating characters online to run such frauds. They win trust and heart of victims and often leave them heartbroken and financially ruined.

 The second category of Online dating scams is cyber threats. With the growing cyber age… cyber terrorism, cyber espionage is on peak. Cyber criminals easily take advantage of people adapting to the online dating and relationships in order to exploit the vulnerabilities. Hackers know that in the name of love, fooling people is easy. Moreover, once the trust is won, it is easy to get access the victim’s financial information with an intention of identity theft. Such activities include less effort and help attain maximum output with zero percent physical interaction. No doubt, online dating is a billion dollar industry!

 These days online scammers have started a new scam campaign on Facebook wherein they alert you that someone has viewed your profile or has showed interest in you or has posted a message for you. Then to know more about it they ask you to click on the mentioned link (fraud). Once you click on that link, you welcome malware in your system that takes over your system by infecting it.  

 In addition, at times dating sites are hacked due to improper security measures deployed by the web site. Even if the user exercises utmost caution, the site itself may provide complete information about the member to the hackers including CC number, etc. in case the victim is a paid registered member. Recently, a military dating website – www.militarysingles.com was hacked into by hackers wherein they took confidential information such as passwords, email addresses, etc. from more than 170,000 records. 

 Moreover, in case the photographs are shared while in the online relationship, anyone can take advantage of those pictures. I hope you know about morphed images! People who fall prey of such scams not only face financial loss buy also embarrassment that is usually tragic.

 So, next time anyone who tries to find love online, always ensure of not sharing any kind of sensitive information while interacting on dating sites. Parents, especially of teens, should be cautious and ensure that the child is not getting in such practices. Remember that photographs are not the right proof to judge the genuinity of person and may not even show the real sender (scammer). There is a possibility that the love interest (scammer) of the victim may not even be the same gender that was informed at the beginning of the relationship. It is not that such scams may only happen when some one approaches to the victim. There is a possibility that the scammers may have created a profile on the dating site and then waits for a potential victim to contact them.

 At times, scammers send out random unsolicited emails stating that they are a loner or have a desire to begin a relationship in the hope that some gullible recipients will favourably respond. Many a times, such relationships also begin in chat rooms or messengers.

 Well, I know, anyone reading this may have a question in their mind – is it possible to find love online? I would say, anything is possible… however, I guess we ourselves are the better person who can think best for us! Or may be we are looking for love in wrong places!

THE CONSTANT UPWARD GRAPH OF MALWARE ATTACKS


In the recent spate in high-profile attacks, malware has been the tool of choice for hackers. 2011 seems to be a landmark year hackers with scam attacks, including the politically motivated online attacks on social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, Android Market. These series of upsurge attacks are alarmingly the fact that nothing, rather no one is secure on internet. The World Wide Web continues to top malware infection wherein emails are a host to malicious attachments and links, while websites come in as a host to a wide variety of exploits and drive-by downloads targeting browsers and applications alike.

For online users, individuals or organizations, malware has always been a significant threat. A rapid rise is being witnessed that is more than capable of compromising, damaging or acquiring sensitive data which can either be personal or could lead to loss of intellectual property in the overall threat landscape. Statistics say that, rather than being hacked by using an exploit; IT users are more likely to be tricked into downloading malware. Hence, there is a continuous challenge in detecting and preventing such threats. Though, not all of these attacks are socially engineered, however, the technique is being used to evade security programs and is being applied to the web that increasingly triples the distribution of malware, of which 55% (Malware) is now delivered via Internet downloads, whereas only 14% is delivered through malicious emails. Which means that as there are more than a handful that don’t understand the complexity of web based threats, from a hacker’s perspective tricking users into installing malware is much preferred.

Also, the inappropriate use of SEO is on the rise. Attackers lure the users to the sites that contain the malware software and expose them to fake Anti-virus downloads, Trojans, worms and fake surveys. In addition to Search Engine Poisoning, the upturn in social networking sites makes them the prime focus of cyber criminals. As the information accessibility and services are interconnect and interdependent of each other, it opens more opportunities for more effective attacks on individuals and organisations.  The emerging Java threats due to Java plug-ins soon will be ruling the malware distribution. Also, URL Shortcut services and Location services contribute greatly in the business of malware distribution. URL Shortcut services will be witnessed.

Apart from creating new malware, Cyber-Criminals are effectively re-modifying the code of known deceased malware. A very good example would be that of the Ramnit Worm which has recently morphed into a financial malware. Moreover, there has also been an enormous increase in malicious programs accounting for at least 25% rise in fresh threats when compared to similar months in 2010. Trojans dominated the line of newly detected threats comprising of at least 70% of all newly created malicious software.

There was a whopping $114 Billion loss due to cyber crime itself cost the world last year. With over 2.9 million users falling as victims to cybercrimes, India alone stood at a loss of $7.6 Billion or Rs 36,200 crore out of which $4 Billion was the total financial loss while $3.6 Billion was the amount spent to resolve reported theft. Of the total amount reported a mere 21% of victims actually reported the crime to the police. Despite the efforts made by security vendors, only 16% had security software installed on their cell phone while 21% had on their PCs. Also, additional $274 billion was lost, based on the value victims placed on time lost due to their cyber crime experiences. More than two thirds of all adults who used the Internet more were victims of cyber crime. While most issues are more than preventable, over 54% of online users have experienced malware followed by 11% in online scams and 10% in phishing scams. In comparison to 2009 and 2010, there has been a decent increase in malware amounting to 19% in 2011.

There key reason for this increase in the cyber attacks is financial profit. Also, there been a whole automation in terms of the creation of malware due to the web attack toolkits that are growing at a rapid rate as the chosen weapon.

On the other hand, the way cyber crime is dealt by people online shown by the overall number of infected users itself signifies a defect. According to studies, in the last one year the overall number of users infected with regard to online cyber crime has tripled in comparison to offline crime. A major flaw is been noticed in the way users perceive online threats. There is a huge gap between awareness and the action that needs to be taken by IT users. Approximately, 80% of PC users are aware of cyber crime as a growing threat, however the necessary precautions are not being taken against it. At times, either the Security is outdated or the implementation of the necessary updates to protect users from complex threats id not up to the mark.

With respect to enterprises, cyber crime is increasing at an alarming rate with over $30 Billion being invested annually on corporate defences and cyber criminals are invariably being able to evade these conventional defences. In fact, even the most security conscious industries are vulnerable to online attacks such as HBGary, Epsilon, RSA and DigiNotar, Comodo– to name a few.

How good is being social?


“Are you on Facebook or Twitter or Google+?” This is the most generic question asked these day to anyone you meet or interact with.

In the recent past, there seems to be an unprecedented growth of these so-called social interaction platforms. The main intention of the invention of Internet is for the exchange of information. Social networking sites took this trend further. Though over the last few years, they have simply taken the world by storm. It was initiated with MySpace, Badoo.Com, Bebo, Flingr and Orkut and now the most popular are Facebook, Twitter and the recent one- Google + joining the world of Social Networking sites.

It is strange that in the span of just last 6-7 years these social networking sites have picked up a great momentum and now have garnered the global attention, making people badly addict to it. They have successfully attained the must-visit web destinations on internet on daily, rather hourly basis. Today, many of us just can’t imagine living without social networking. It has become a daily routine no matter wherever we are. And with mobile phones getting more advanced day-by-day with their applications, use of social networks today is not an issue anymore.

Social networking websites work by asking you to create a profile by filling in basic information and personality, adding people you know to your friend’s list. These profiles are generally quite open and can be easily viewed by anyone. And, the worst part is that there is no way to guarantee that the people viewing your profile are the people you want to see it.

These sites no doubt come with the advantages of you getting connected to your long lost friends, which can be otherwise impossible in the case of many of us. Also, these sites have proved to be a great platform for marketing by entrepreneurs considering that it has emerged as a viable, profitable marketing tool. However, these networking sites do come with a whole lot of package of some unavoidable disadvantages!

I know at the first instance, you many not agree though this is the hard fact!

Forget about alcohol, the addiction of these social networking sites is taking new dimensions! It has no doubt turned many of us emotionally dependent on the virtual relationships developed by these sites. But the other big concern which is the worst is privacy. Until, you have a habit of regularly updating your privacy settings to ensure that your personal information is not viewed by unknown people and their pictures are not misused, you are in a big problem. And the other health issues that come along with this package… we usually don’t even think about them!

If you ask my granny, she feels that we- the so-called new generation has become lethargic because of social networking feature. She feels that it is simply making us unsocial by just being stuck in front of computer and least bothered about interacting face-to-face. It’s true to quite an extent that social networking is slowly taking over face-to-face communication, and these days’ people prefer expressing themselves online. They feel a great comfort zone. So the bottom line is communication has become rapid and easier, though at the cost of personal interaction.

It’s been observed that these days the companies spy on future employees on social networking sites. Well my point is, isn’t that supposed to be just for social networking and not to be mixed with our professional lives?

Hence, I feel that one needs to be serious about what you have in your social networking account. The stuff that you don’t want some one to see needs to be secured or blocked. We can’t consider this as spying as social networking sites are public spaces on internet. Anyone can have access to them and use the data for their own purposes. There is no such thing as separation between personal and professional anymore.

I know many people with worst experiences in their life due to these networking sites, especially teenagers who are more attracted to these sites as they meet different people not really knowing their original characters, habits etc. They call their relation as ‘love’ and ruin their live by inviting disasters. I have seen many people adding 1000 or more friends and feel happy about it. Though what I don’t understand is that what is the need of having such a huge friend’s list when from that list you don’t know about the 99% of them…. You don’t talk to them… how can you call them as your friends… just because they are in your friend’s list ???

Looking at all this, at times a though comes to my mind that if this is the scenario in the span of 6-7 years of the existence of social networking sites, then what will be the scenario after 5 years?

Agreed, technologies and inventions do make our lives easier along with some added pleasures. Though it is up to us, whether to make them become intrusive in our lives… or just stay on the sidelines as helpful tools!

I guess… let technology not master us!

The Great Internet Robberies!


If I say that the current scenario of cyber attacks, hackers and the increasing threat to information security is very clear and dangerous, I am not wrong I guess.

These days nothing is hidden. Hackers inform well in advance about their hack attack schedules. Currently, I am waiting to know what will happen to Facebook… waiting for November 5, 2011, the day when Anonymous have claimed to target the famous social networking site- Facebook shut down!

When criminals inform about their action in advance, I feel this means that they seem to more intelligent, confident and with advanced form of knowledge than anyone else around.

Look at the havoc these cyber criminals have been successful in creating. Network infrastructure of many companies like Google, Sony, several government institutions have been compromised resulting in the loss of sensitive intellectual property. These days it seems as if every day major companies are being attacked. Rather every major company, every major institution have been penetrated. It’s difficult to pinpoint a particular person or group behind these attacks as there are so many different potential suspects to worry about – ranging from nebulous groups of hackers, to organized crime, to competing corporations, to nation-states and military agencies – and frequently even the motives for the security breaches are unclear. This leaves victims and also the investigators wondering who was behind an act and the reason behind the attacks. One thing is very much certain that cyber attacks and the vulnerabilities faced by companies as well as society (referring to social networking sites) are intensifying day-by-day and reaching pandemic levels. With this, the appropriate protection to prevent such thefts seems to be challenging.

I agree that security is always a cat-&-mouse game between hackers and security software providers. And with time, both – companies as well as hackers have grown sophisticated. Most of the security softwares are now capable of preventing basic threats, though the malware and viruses are now too sophisticated. At times, even the IT experts fall prey to cyber attacks. Interactive media is very dangerous and now as social networking is becoming the part of marketing strategy of almost each and every company, they are more likely to be victim. Millions of Botnet-infected computers are running in homes as well as businesses across the globe. Data from more than 12 million PCs including Fortune 1000 companies and 40 major banks is being compromised. The hackers not only just steal specific data or intellectual property, but take advantage of anything and everything they can access. Either hacker increasingly knows exactly what they want, while their targets often struggle to understand the threat or where it is coming from. Or attackers continue to rapidly develop new ways to access what they want, and as a result, the threats can come from anywhere. Or else, observers believe that almost everyone and every company ultimately is at risk, a result of today’s highly networked global economy and communications infrastructure.

At one end these hackers are rapidly building malware and on the other end the security experts are trying to stop attacks using the same sophisticated programming tools available. There seems to be a constant change in the boundaries between professional and private activities the network. Also, there seem to be too many different ways by which users can access information. This is resulting in increasing potential points of weakness, thus contributing to the growing vulnerability of even the most resource-rich companies.

The more hyped concept of cloud computing brings more security. More and more companies these days outsource their IT infrastructure to Internet-based utility computing models. Thus, monitoring and controlling access to information no doubt become more challenging. Risks are becoming more interdependent as we are more and more dependent on IT systems. The supply chain and telecommunication systems in business are more interconnected today than ever and everything, everywhere; all the time can not be protected.

The only way out to be on the safer side is to protect the IT infrastructure and the actual information or data that is supported by that infrastructure, whether the information is in motion, in use or in storage. Also, make sure that access of the information and services are restricted as per the specific requirement.

Risk of anything happening anytime is the current security scenario. However, we can’t just sit thinking it’s difficult and impossible to handle. As it is truly said that thinking your enemy is more powerful than you, it should not restrict you from being more prepared and strong. They only way out is keep fighting!

Internet Threats to children


I recently read about investigation that resulted in child rape charges against a 19-year-old in Salisbury with an ugly journey into the world of Internet crime and child pornography. As the investigation proceeded deeper into the underground realm of child pornography and Internet crime, this extensive nature of the danger to children goes far beyond what most of us would imagine.

Internet has proved to be a both boon as well as bane for this generation. With the rapid & intense penetration of Internet in our lives, our screen time is increasing day-by-day. Today’s world is full of information that is accessible to all age groups just with a click. This age group can be as young as 4 years to as old as 70 years. All the information, good or bad is right in front of children which can be both misused and put to good use.

Today, children are exposed to a wide variety of information on the internet. Statistics shows that approximately 80% of children who are five years of age use the Internet at least once a week. And I am astonished to know that over 60% of children from three years are watching movies on the Internet and mostly are using Internet TV. It is estimated that time spent watching TV is 47% of all time spent to the media devices by children and 90% of 5-9 year old children on a daily basis reads books for at least an hour. However, children’s screen time is increasing day-by-day every year, though the books time remains the same. Well, that is the only reason I feel that children of such an age are quite vulnerable to Internet threats. Frankly speaking, at times, they even don’t exactly know, at which link they are clicking and whether the Internet site is free of Malware, Spyware and Viruses. No doubt, many times they land up navigating child-sensitive content sites that can affect child’s psychological health. Their inquisitive mind does also have some questions about some aspects of life. They have found the answer on internet and now know how to access the tool quite well. They easily become victims as they don’t know what they’re getting themselves into when they respond to Internet predators.

With social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and many, the current generation seems to be too much obsessed with themselves. They have these so-called ‘short attention spans’ and a childlike desire for constant feedback on their lives. Well, why should someone be so much interested in what someone else has had for breakfast or gets stuck in traffic or goes out for shopping? Though the present scenario is that, children who are these social networking site users, feel the need to become mini celebrities who are watched and admired by others on a daily basis. They do things that are Facebook status worthy and keep updating about their lives on these walls because they feel that this is the only way they can define themselves by ‘people knowing about them’.

It is almost as if they are going through some kind of identity crisis…

In a sense it seems as if keeping the brain in a sort of time warp…

It is almost as if people are living in a world that is unreal where what counts is what people think of you or if they can click on you…

And to gain attention children don’t even bother to know much about whom they are adding… all they want is to have a fan following…! They don’t know that with updating almost about every move and activity, there are chances of them being kidnapped easily, too!

I am not a psychiatrist, though somewhere I feel that this growth of so-called ‘Internet friendships’ have the capability to effectively rewire a child’s brain that can result affecting their concentration, a need for instant gratification and poor non-verbal skills, such as the ability to make eye contact during conversations…!

Talking about the child rape charge in Salisbury, the fact that somehow the victim’s mother discovered those disturbing e-mails sent to her son by the criminal was the reason behind the investigation which was initiated. The e-mails were soliciting the boy to pose nude for money for pictures to be posted on a graphic Internet pornography site and criminals very clearly told victim that he earned a lot of money doing exactly the same thing. What if the victim’s mother could not have been able to get access to those emails? Imagine the mental state of the innocent who is going through such situations!

Well, the ideal solution for parents to prevent their children from falling victim to such Internet-borne child predators is, knowing where your child is wandering in the Internet. I have heard about many parents logging onto social networking sites like Facebook to spy on what their children are doing. They did it to avoid having ‘awkward conversations’ with the children but I feel the reason here is also that they feel it is the only way they could find out about their lives. Yes, ‘overprotective’ instincts are the reason… and I respect that!

On the other hand, majority of the cases are found where children know more about computers than their parents do; they even know how to hide things. At times I feel the need to pull in some kind of law enforcement to make sure that parents are educated enough about computers and the Internet so as to safeguard their children. It’s a new age. Hence parents need to be alert!

Children on the other hand may feel that their privacy gets disturbed with parents doing so. And I have come across few groups on face book such as ‘For the love of god-don’t let parents join Facebook’, with more than 7,700 group members. Well, all can say is that this is the world we live in now!

So if you feel that your child is spending a lot of time on the Internet, I recommended you to use a good Internet Security Suite that offers you with an effective ‘parental control’ feature. Because as a parent, it is your duty to take control of the website/content they are viewing or gathering information and e-security plays a major role in this. If the computer is secured and protected with the good security suite then the website/content can be guarded and children’s interest can be taken care off. There are innumerable websites that contain adult content, games and objectionable pictures or movies that can create a long lasting impression on these tender minds. Hence, a good security suite would help the parents as well as their children to answer the questions only relevant to their age and interest and the website/content which is not required can be filtered.

Also, if possible computers at home should be in places where you can walk by and see the screen, not in children’s bedrooms behind closed doors. Also a good idea is to set up all computers and be the administrators so you as a parent can control access to all its parts and programs. Avoid children being the administrators of their computers. They are capable enough to control their parents’ access to it, allowing things to be hidden!

Quite smart enough… right! 🙂

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