I Almost Fell For It!

If you fell for this, here’s what happened. Your Google password is owned. You’ve installed software that probably also controls your computer and owns your other passwords.

I don’t want to hurt myself patting my own back, but I’m pretty good at sniffing out scams. Today I came perilously close to falling for one. Bravo to the scammers. You’re getting better.

It started with an email from a friend I haven’t spoken to in a long time. Actually, the email said I had a message from her via Whats App. I have Whats App installed, but don’t use it.

So far, plausible.


I clicked the green “Play” button and was asked to sign in to my Gmail account. Again, this is something that happens… but I don’t give up my password easily. I looked closely and noticed the password page didn’t have a green lock next to it.

Bad sign!

Gmail (and Facebook and Twitter) always have a green lock. The green lock assures you the connection is secure and from the company listed.


I continued to log in but with a phony password. I wanted to see where this led.


Next screen was an install page for Flash. If the flashing red lights weren’t already going off, this would do it!

If you fell for this, here’s what happened. Your Google password is owned. You’ve installed software that probably also controls your computer and owns your other passwords.

I opened up the web pages. They’re reasonably well written code. All the images are served from their rightful owners websites. In other words, Google, Twitter and Whats App (among others) are paying for the bandwidth to run this scam!

How the hell did this get past Gmail’s filters? At least it didn’t get past mine.

Unhappily, The Walls Have Ears

I’ve been trading emails back-and-forth with the bank providing our mortgage in California. The sidebar on my Gmail page has two ads for financing. Google/Gmail knows what’s going on.

It’s no secret you are being followed incessantly as you traipse across the Internet. Sometimes the result of this data mining is beneficial, sometimes not.

It’s always creepy.

Last year the New York Times revealed how Target knew customers were expecting without asking.

As Pole’s computers crawled through the data, he was able to identify about 25 products that, when analyzed together, allowed him to assign each shopper a “pregnancy prediction” score. More important, he could also estimate her due date to within a small window, so Target could send coupons timed to very specific stages of her pregnancy.

It’s upsetting that Google, Facebook, Target and an untold number of data brokers know. It’s even worse when it’s the government.

News reports in December 2005 first revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been intercepting Americans’ phone calls and Internet communications. Those news reports, combined with a USA Today story in May 2006 and the statements of several members of Congress, revealed that the NSA is also receiving wholesale copies of American’s telephone and other communications records. All of these surveillance activities are in violation of the privacy safeguards established by Congress and the US Constitution.

That’s the Electronic Freedom Foundation’s spin in the last sentence, but I agree. The 4th Amendment has this covered.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Of course the 4th offers no protection when it’s disregarded!

Beyond that, what’s promised and what’s delivered are often two different things. Recently a former FBI agent appeared with CNN’s Erin Burnett.

More recently, two sources familiar with the investigation told CNN that Russell had spoken with Tamerlan after his picture appeared on national television April 18.

What exactly the two said remains under investigation, the sources said.

Investigators may be able to recover the conversation, said Tom Clemente, a former counterterrorism agent for the FBI.

“We certainly have ways in national security investigations to find out exactly what was said in that conversation,” he told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Monday, adding that “all of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not.”

“It’s not necessarily something that the FBI is going to want to present in court, but it may help lead the investigation and/or lead to questioning of her,” he said.

Some folks doubt what Clemente claims, but even if it can’t be done now it’s aspirational. Certainly the government is looking for easy snoop access wherever they can get it.

The FBI has been lobbying top internet companies like Yahoo and Google to support a proposal that would force them to provide backdoors for government surveillance – Wired.com

I am not one of those people who worries about government gone wild. I am much more worried about government employees connecting the wrong dots and making bad assumptions. I don’t want to be undone by some bug in the system. Even a tiny error rate (or a small number of agents with an agenda), multiplied by our 314 million citizens, could cause trouble for millions.

Mistakes already happen.

Officials say an 18-month-old girl was mistakenly pulled off a JetBlue flight before it left Fort Lauderdale because airline employees thought her name was on the U.S. no-fly list.

You can check your credit report and undo errors. You can’t do that when you’ve been surveilled. Most likely you won’t even know.

When data is secret and conclusions drawn based on secondary or tertiary actions there’s nothing you can do. That’s wrong.

I wonder if writing this will get me watched?

Whatever Happened To Email?

The problem with Facebook and Twitter is they lack the ability to look back in an organized fashion.

I used to wake up to dozens of email messages every day. Now I get very few. People have chosen to communicate via social networks like Facebook and Twitter rather than ‘actual’ email. That’s a problem.

I am a pack rat as far as email is concerned. I try not to throw any messages away.

A few years ago I ran up against Gmail’s storage limit and just bought some more! Problem solved.

Facebook and Twitter both lack the ability to easily look back in an organized fashion. With Gmail (and even my geofffox.com email address is served by Gmail) everything is fully indexed. Everything is easily to find.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve looked for a shred of information contained in an email years old. A few keystrokes entered and it’s there!

I am a very disorganized person. This was the most organized facet of my life!

It’s tough to fight the tide. More-and-more people ask questions or make comments by posting on my Facebook wall, sending me a Facebook message or tweeting. There’s really nothing I can do.

I miss the good old days.

The Mysterious ITunes One Percent Tax

The funny thing is I wouldn’t have bothered looking had the tax not been as small as it is! What tax is 1%?

A few days ago I bought two games for my iPhone. EA had a 99&#162 sale. I couldn’t resist.

Today the receipt came via email (which Gmail thought was spam and not really from Apple). Added to my $1.98 purchase was 2&#162 for tax.

The tax rate works out to 1%. Connecticut’s sales tax is 6%.

Apple has a physical presence in-state. There are a few Apple Stores. That normally means they must charge state sales tax.

There’s no explanation on the receipt beyond “tax.” Something is weird.

I entered “iTunes tax” into Google. A few other people have asked the same question I’m asking, but with no good answer. Some were in states with no sales tax!

From the search results it’s also obvious lots of states would like to tax iTunes purchases, but as far as I see don’t.

A search on the iTunes support page also produced no info.

The funny thing is I wouldn’t have bothered looking had the tax not been as small as it is! What tax is 1%?

Now this 2&#162 charge will drive me crazy!

I’ve Been Hacked From China – Someone Call General Tso

Seriously, is there anyone who doesn’t use the same password on more than one account? I already balance five or six passwords in my head. One for each site I visit would be nuts!

I checked in with Gmail a little earlier. Those Google boys run all my email accounts. There was a message with scary red type. Someone had logged into my account from China! The Gmail crew was wondering whether that was OK by me?

I’m a tech savvy guy. It really was from Gmail containing some details no spammer could ever conjure.

I have accounts on lots of sites. Many use the same password. That’s probably how whoever broke in gained access. This is the kind of password you can’t just guess. It’s now changed.

Thankfully this particular password wasn’t associated with any account that has access to my money. It was however my favorite. I’ve used it since the early days of the Internet.

I looked through Gmail again after the change. Everything seems intact. This should be an effective remedy.

It’s time we found a way to replace passwords. Seriously, is there anyone who doesn’t use the same password on more than one account? I already balance five or six passwords in my head. One for each site I visit would be nuts!

Gmail Problem. Slow/No Login. I Forgot. I Depend On This!

Screenshot.jpgOMFG! Gmail… dear sweet dependable Gmail is having problems.

I first signed on with my laptop and waited. Finally the connection times out. I’m upstairs now, on the Linux machine I use as a DVR. It’s not much better.

We’re aware that a subset of users are reporting seeing Temporary Error (502) on logging in. We’re investigating the issue and will keep you updated on this thread. We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.


Gmail Guide

A full paragraph and yet, no real information contained! Nice. That’s a skill. If there was smoke coming from the Gmail server with my account, would they tell me?

I depend on Gmail. It is the aggregation point for all my email accounts (admittedly, too many). I am going through some sort of Gmail withdrawal at the moment. This is what heroin users feel, right?

This must be a small subset, because I’ve seen nothing from anyone else posted. Maybe they’ve all just crawled in a corner.