Archive for Interviews & Surveys

Is the Internet essential to daily life?


Yes, it is, according to an Intel sponsored survey of 2,100 men and women. The poll conducted by Harris Interactive found that most adults found Internet access more improtant that watching televison or other, uhm, uh, ‘adult activities’. Here are some of the less risque and interesting ‘figures’:

  • 65% feel they cannot live without Internet access
  • 71% responded that it is important to have laptops, netbooks and mobile Internet devices
  • Most U.S. adults also identify the Internet as a key tool in today’s economy for managing personal finances, finding discounts and the best deals while shopping online
  • 84% have saved money by comparing prices online and finding the best deals before making purchases
  • 66% have saved money simply by shopping online
  • 78% say their ability to stay in touch with friends and family has improved.
  • 68% say they are able to shop more effectively.
  • 47% say they are able to manage their finances better because of the Internet through activities such as online banking and paying bills.

The following items and activities were ranked below Internet access in importance:

  • Cable television subscriptions (39 percent)
  • Dining out (20 percent)
  • Shopping for clothes (18 percent)
  • Gym membership (10 percent)

You can see the full press release on the report on the Intel web site.




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Apple’s MobileMe: A New Spammer Resource

Users of, that is, subscribers to, Apple’s MobileMe service have found themselves getting more spam than usual, as well as some “phishing” scams aimed directly at them.  And spammers are getting fewer bouncebacks.

The problem lies in the iDisk online file storage service every subscriber is provided with. The service comes with a “public” folder which cannot be hidden or deleted. Every public folder starts with the address http://idisk.mac.com/ and then it’s followed by their username and “-Public”. A programmer can write code to automatically generate random user names using words and names straight out of a digital dictionary.

“Why do this with iDisk’s public folder space?”, you ask.

iDisk: A Sample Public Folder

iDisk: A Sample Public Folder

The username associated with a public iDisk folder is also the first half of their email address assigned to them with the MobileMe service.  The second half of their address is either @me.com or @mac.com.  This hack allows a spammer to determine the validity of email address. Any http://idisk.mac.com/username-Public address that doesn’t result in a “Account Error: Inactive” message — as the link above probably will — means that they’ve found a legitimate account. A legitimate account would come up with a page as shown in the picture at right.

Furthermore, if the public folder shows that there are files stored in that location, as the sample picture shows, a spammer could tailor a message referring to that file in an effort to get the user to reply and reveal personal information.

Imagine if you used this service: You upload some of your files or photos to it, and then, a few days or weeks later you get an email mentioning one or more of your files by name. If you hadn’t thought about your “public folder” being “public”, you might take the message very seriously. Even more so if the sender claimed to represent Apple. (Of course that spammer would be breaking the law by falsely identifying themselves. See my article “Spammers Get CANned”.)

Anyone Can See The Files?

Anyone can see or read the names of your public files, assuming they find your public folder, but they won’t be able to access, open, or download them unless they take a guess at your login information, too; so make sure you use a good password and not your birthday or pet’s name.  They can’t upload anything to your folder either, unless they figure out your login info.

Simply said, Apple’s MobileMe iDisk service gives spammers a handy way to determine valid email addresses, so they get fewer, if any, bouncebacks and undeliverable messages. The names of files stored on iDisk could be used to make the spammer or phishers message appear legitimate.

Phishing. For those unfamiliar with this term, simply stated, it is an email message designed to get the recipient to reveal personal information such as account numbers or login information. The sender poses as well-known service or someone offering an enticement to respond. Popular targets have been eBay, PayPal, and online banking users.

In the iDisk problem discussed here, the phisher can determine if a username and email address exists. Furthermore, If the account owner stores files publicly on the service, the names of files can be referred to in a phishers email message to shore up their credibility.

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Q and A With FBI’s Cyber Division Chief

James Finch

James Finch

Brian Krebs, a Computer Security blogger and reporter at the Washington Post, recently interviewed James Finch of the FBI’s Cyber Crime Division.

At the end of the Black Hat hacker convention in Las Vegas a week ago Thursday, I had a few minutes to sit down with James Finch, head of the FBI’s Cyber Division. What follows is an excerpted Q&A from that discussion, in which Finch describes himself as a serious geek who refuses to be spooked by organized cyber criminal gangs that target online banking customers and other ‘Netizens.

Click to read the rest of the excerpted interview.

In addition to his thoughts and experiences in fighting cyber crime, James Finch discusses his computer and Internet habits from online banking to computer games. He also shares his thoughts on social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, and legal and economic ramifications of cyber crime and ID Theft.

Some readers of the interview have posted comments of their own on the subject.

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