Don't fall for it - Phishing SCAMS are on the rise

Jul 28, 2008 at 12:51 PM

Hi - 

I've blogged about phishing emails before, but since I've seen a massive increase lately in phishing (SCAM) emails that supposedly come from "Google AdWords" but DO NOT, I want to make sure all of you know some basic facts.

1. ANY email address can be faked. I could easily send you an email today that says it is from:

  • elvis.presley@heaven.com
  • account-management@your-bank.com
  • adwords-noreply@google.com 
  • yo-mamma@dissing-you.com
  • any_email_at_all@any-domain-I-want-to-use.com

(if you don't believe me, go ahead and email me asking me to respond from any address you want. I will!)

So, NEVER use the return address or the "sent from" info as a trust factor.

2. A clickable link is easy to fake. We do it all the time, to pretty them up. Any link can have any text.  

en.wikipedia.org

Google Search - use it!

www.pretending-to-be-something-else.com

All of the above links actually go to Google search.

Hover over any of them and you'll see (down in the information bar at the bottom of this window) that it actually links to Google Search.

So, NEVER trust the text in a link. It has NO requirement to match where the link goes.

In the case of a phishing email, the link says it goes to "www.known-safe-site.com" but it actually goes to "http://www.criminal-organization.com". 

While your browser tries to help you stay away from known phishing sites, they are a BILLION dollar industry and growing.

3. Find out where EVERY link goes before you click it.

Here is how. (I'm using a photo I took of a REAL PHISHING EMAIL I got today - one of hundreds gotten in the last 24 hours. I manage hundreds of email addresses and almost all ofthem are getting this particular email, with hundreds of phishing sites at the other end.)

Email arrives saying it's from a known safe entity. Email looks EXACTLY like every single other email you've ever gotten from this known safe entity. Email may even have logos and "verified safe" notices and "trust us" seals that look just like ones you're used to seeing.

Here is one I just got (email changed to protect my clients).

Looks normal enough:

Then I hovered over the link (NEVER CLICK!!) and saw...

It does contain the right domain to all appearances, and if you only read the beginning, you'd see "adwords.google.com..." and think, A-OK. Right?

WRONG!

Keep reading until you see the part right before the first slash -- that's the real website.

And so you can see that this really went to a phishing site in China. (The actual website it went to has been removed from this blog post because ANY mention of the URL will probably get the post banned now that I've reported the phishing website. But the URL is usually a random string of letters, and a foreign TLD, like ghsaytd.ru -Russia - or df5ascx.cn -China- or something like that.)

Don't EVER follow a link from an "official" sounding email. EVER EVER EVER. If your banking institution actually sends you emails with links to click on in order to access important information - NEVER follow them. There will be a way to access the info after you go to the website directly by typing it into your browser.

If you follow any such link, even if you NEVER gave them any personal information other than your log-in details, they can easilyrob you blind.

Someone I know once gave an email like the above one nothing but their Google AdWords login email and password. They thought they were safe because they hadn't given their account info over. And guess what?

Even though there is no way to log in and steal the credit card info at AdWords, the thieves still managed to create new campaigns that used up I think over $40,000 in one weekend of the poor guy's MONEY - selling god-only-knows-what -- probably pharma drugs or other sleazy stuff. 

I'm sure they would have spent more but the card on the account reached it's limit. And so Google shut down his campaign. It took ages to handle the hassle of not having to pay for the clicks - and there is NO CERTAINTY that Google will agree and refund the "oops" charges.

And all through that he wasn't able to advertise his own wares -- because his account was shut down.

It's far worse if they break into your bank account or into your paypal account. 

Even if the thieves only break into your facebook and myspace accounts, they can wreck your credibility. I've had to delete several friends from myspace who didn't realize that their usernames were hacked -- I got sick of getting constant alerts from those friends about SLEAZE and RINGTONES and DRUGS and all that other crud.

Plus these accounts usually contain an address book and your date of birth - that's awfully sensitive data as far as YOU are concerned. Isn't it?

So start playing it safe and remember what I said above.

ANY email address can be faked.

NEVER trust the text in a link.

Zip Lining

Jul 27, 2008 at 5:58 PM

results of Zip lining quiz

Happy 60th Mom!

at 5:54 PM

Today is my momma's 60th birthday.

Cats and Bats and Puppies

Jul 21, 2008 at 4:43 PM

This morning my cat went spastic. 

He was jumping up the curtains in my bedroom as though attempting to fly. Meowling, and then falling. Jump, fall, jump, snag, meowl, fall.

I investigated.

I found out what Cole was trying to reach - there was a tiny little bat attached to my curtains, trying to be as small and high up as possible. I scooped him up with a book and a steel mesh penholder off my desk, and I showed him to the girls .

Aurora wanted to pet the "teensy furry little guy". 

I reminded her that rats and bats sometimes carry rabies, as many small wild mammals do, and asked them both to weigh the possibility of rabies against the wonderfulness of petting something small and furry.

They chose to look at him and admire his cuteness instead.

We all contributed (the girls by walking beside me and squealing) to leading him outdoors and trying to free him.

Bats are actually very cute. All the ones I've seen at least. I can't help but wonder at the long path to being what they are considered now - associated with death, with vampires, with bites and with omens -- so terribly maligned. Nothing at all like reality.

I let him go by placing the penholder on the front porch, open side up. He didn't fly away. In fact he appeared to have gone back to sleep.

I came out an hour later and he was still curled up in the penholder, fast asleep.  Either that or weak, he's been without food or water in my room for a few days at least. Just in case he was simply too pooped to climb out, I decided to trust adrenaline to get him out of the penholder.

So I swung the penholder like a discus and flung that bat out into oblivion. He was probably a bit startled to find himself awakened at top speed, but he quickly gathered up his nerve, took flight and found refuge in a very low branch in the tree across from my front door, in the little glen above the creek. 

I admired his taste in spots - that's my favorite spot in my yard, too. Lots of bugs and lots of water there. He'll be fine.

Shortly afterward, Charlie (the puppy) started jumping up to get the bat (fast asleep again) and barking.

The bat, seeing Charlie was nothing like the cat, hasn't done much but inch up his little branch and stay asleep.

Ethical Friends

Jul 18, 2008 at 4:11 PM

I think it is a good sign of how I'm doing in life that I'm one of the first people my friends stop talking to when they know they're doing something shady. I don't put up with that kind of thing anymore. I tell it straight -- what the solution is and invariably that means having to work at it - fix it and confront it.

(You know who you are. Get your act together. We'll talk about how silly it is to live a complicated life when you're done pulling yourself up by the bootstraps.)

Everyone in my life right now is living well and doing good things. How amazing is that?

I feel very lucky.

Get a Better ROI on Life

Jul 17, 2008 at 12:45 AM

I'm going in session on weekends. I am a Scientologist. "Going in session" means spending time in one on one counseling sessions with an auditor - someone who listens. That's their whole job. Ask questions, listen. It is structured around helping me address whatever it is that I feel needs to be addressed.

Old situations are magically correcting themselves. 16 years of having a problem I thought was unfixable. 12 years of having done the seemingly "unforgiveable", resolved now happily.

New situations are suddenly improving or looking far more hopeful, too.

It's practical magic. It works easily and well and better than anything else for the same reason that aquaducts worked better than hollow logs - better technology means better results. I use it for the same reason we use computers and not an abacus - once you figure out the science behind better tools, you're never going back to the old way to do things.

In my book, Scientology is better tools for living based on better and more organized data.

I highly recommend Scientology counseling to anyone who wants a better ROI on life - anyone who finds that their outlook isn't ideal, that their hope for future is less than steller, or simply thinks things in their life need a little improvement, or that they're frustrated getting nowhere on things that seem unhandleable.

I feel like I've played a trick on the universe, cheated my way around the way you're "supposed to" do things by finding the magic button that solved the problem. And it was this simple:

ME REALLY CONFRONTING AND HANDLING IT

The universe wants me to just live with my problems. Deal. Get over it. A little worry never killed anyone. Ignore it and it'll go away. You don't have the time or money to resolve your problems. Ignore it. Deal. 

Sorry, but I want to have a better life. I disagree.

So, anyway. I took a look at three very old situations in less than 6 hours of counseling and all three of them are completely resolved as of today in real life, without all the drama. Just a few days after getting my auditing, and everything I addressed is resolved. Everything. Not just my attitude toward it, but the real situations, too. Most without my trying or doing anything but being truthful and really looking at what was really there.

The ratio on this is amazing:

Cumulative hours of time spent worrying or grappling with or refusing to confront these three problems on my own: 36 years 

Cumulative time spent resolving these three situations in or out of counseling since last weekend: 8 hours

And only one of these was worth it.

Non-cumulatively, I've spent 16 years machinating and hemming and hawing over some of this stuff... How much wasted time and effort, emotion and drama? Wow! That is a major drain on my life. Just getting that out of my life is priceless for me personally.

I am looking forward to more...

My communication with my entire family is wide open and happy right now. It's wonderful.

If you're a close friend, call me and I'll update you more personally with everything else happening. It's way better than I can easily state here -- I don't have everyone's permission to spread our lives out for all to see by blogging about it all. But I'm really jazzed!

Machinations

Jul 15, 2008 at 3:57 AM

Lots of info about the machinations behind the gas prices rising - long but really informative:

http://www.netcastdaily.com/broadcast/fsn2008-0712-3a.mp3

Acronyms

Jul 9, 2008 at 5:29 AM
Here is my list of standard conversational acronyms for web use - not talking about tech stuff or any of that.

By the Way = BTW
For What it's Worth = FWIW
For Your Information = FYI
For Your Eyes Only = FYEO
I Am Not A Lawyer = IANAL
In Any Event = IAE
In My Considered Opinion = IMCO
In My Humble Opinion = IMHO
In My Opinion = IMO
In Other Words = IOW
Just One of Those Things = JOOTT
Laughing Out Loud = LOL
Never mind = NVM
No Reply Necessary = NRN
On the Other Hand = OTOH
Real Soon Now = RSN
Rolling on Floor Laughing = ROFL
Rolling on the Floor Laughing = ROTFL
Rolling on Floor Laughing my Ass Off = ROFLMAO
Still in the Dark = SITD
Talk to You Later = TTYL
Tata for Now! = TTFN
Thanks in Advance = TIA
There Ain't No Such Thing as a Free Lunch = TANSTAAFL
Three Letter Acronym = TLA
Tongue in Cheek = TIC
With Respect To = WRT
What you See is What you Get = WYSIWYG
Later = L8R

Any additions?

Some were gotten from a Fookes NTP clip library I have (more tech talk you can ignore) and some were added based on having to decipher other people's IMs or emails.

Baby deer and my secret outdoors

at 12:38 AM
Yesterday, we were driving to town and ran across two new fawns with their mother, the doe. They were spotted and beautiful, amazing lithe, agile little creatures. They were too young to be afraid of my car, but their mother ran off without them and probably bleated from her point of safety, trying to beckon them to her. Another car came from the opposite direction and we were both stopped in the middle of the road, with a pair of adorable fawns between us.

We waved, and started scooting closer. The fawns ran off the road. Aurora says they then ran right back out into the road after we passed.

A few seconds later, a big old rock truck (delivering gravel to somewhere up the road) came thundering along, and my hopes for the baby deer were thrown out my back window toward them.

It i odd to live in a place with such gorgeous natural wonders and so many threats to them. We found a half-eaten fawn by the creek -- the girls think it was a boar, so don't tell them I confirmed it was a baby deer. We lose a few a year on the roads, but we still have a thriving population of deer here, and it is wonderful fun to watch them grow, and then have babies the year after.

The ranch has many wonders, and one is to watch nature in all it's beauty.

We have a few natural bee hives here on the ranch, I've seen one so far this year. I'm amazed at that I see any at all. Supposedly America's wild bees are down my a ridiculous 90% due to some virus or something. Nothing human caused, just more of nature doing it's thing. But it's hard to believe we're having bee trouble with this many wild flowers abounding. I'm surrounded every day by TONS of flowers. We've got snapdragons and tiger lilies and heal all and daisies and bluebells and now blackberry flowers.

Can't wait for the blackberries to ripen.

It is such a dichotomy to live in a wilderness of such beauty and yet work on the Internet, in the world of sterile code - where each and every thing in it was crafted with keyboards and written into the void - nothing but wires and servers, satellites and cables.

Such profundity of significance, no real matter. Significances about significances. And more significances piled on top for good measure. There is action and purpose to it, but there is nothing to touch. I have nothing to touch in my job except my keyboard, nothing to really look at except my screen. it is all postulated to exist and made of nothing but agreements. An entire alternate universe that cannot be touched.

Well, there is touchable reality - ridiculous wild acres of it -- right outside my door every day to make up for it. I could not imagine living in an insulated world and also worked on the Internet - what would one do for escape from it? How would one return yourself to feeling connected with life?

Taking walks around here is something I think I cannot even explain the wonderfulness of. I can wander for miles in any direction I want. There are overlapping, wildly curvy old roads that go nowhere and wind there way to the tops of hills only to end there, but with a beautiful, prolific view and there are countless deer trails, creeks and streams of water, rocky outcroppings, trees, savannas, lush moist green areas that never get much sunlight, springs welling up out of the rock, and so much to be seen that I have yet to see the vast majority of this place despite regular walks.

It certainly helps me gather myself after a particularly stressful work day.

I took a great walk with my kids today. Just a standard walk we've taken a bunch before - to the creek beside my house and back, but it was such fun. They stayed at the creek longer than I did. The dogs were playing in the water and they wanted to throw rocks for the dogs to try to fetch. Lots of splashing and squealing.

Wish everyone could live here - but then it'd be a city instead.