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.

You’re Getting More Secure

IMAG1400In case you don’t read the geek press, everything you touch digitally will soon have new encryption schemes built in. That lessens the chance anyone but you will ever see your stuff.

It’s the new world where JLa’s pics stay private.

But everyone knows it’s really about keeping the government out.

Apple and Google’s next operating systems are toughened against spying. It’s my understanding Apple is removing a ‘feature’ iPhones now have which enabled much of this.

More and more websites are https not http. They’ve added layers of encryption. Your transactions are hidden from prying eyes.

Businesses have been hurt by government’s massive spying efforts. Cloud companies, meaning Google, Amazon and a bunch of others, need to reassure nervous clients in our global economy. This is a sector where US companies have had great success.

Businesses and people want to flesh out ideas without later answering for early notes. We should be allowed to think in private.

In the end, by spying too invasively, the NSA and others made their own jobs more difficult. Is this how checks and balances work in the 21st Century? Maybe. Probably.

Facebook Goes After Click-bating

Whoa! Facebook is taking a positive step, or so it seems. They’re trying to diminish the influence of “click-baiting.”

I’ll let Facebook explain.

“Click-baiting” is when a publisher posts a link with a headline that encourages people to click to see more, without telling them much information about what they will see. Posts like these tend to get a lot of clicks, which means that these posts get shown to more people, and get shown higher up in News Feed.

You know the ones. Any head which includes, “You won’t believe,” “Unbelievable,” “Caught on camera,” or “The most…” gets on the list.

The trailblazer here was probably the Facebook scam with a suggestive photo and “You won’t believe what her father did after…”

Buzzfeed does this a lot. “21 Questions All Insanely Hot People Are Tired Of Answering.” Like I need them to tell me!

The first problem with click-bait is it’s unsatisfying to the person who clicks. That’s you!

Second, bad hyped content drives good content out. Is TLC still The Learning Channel? Does MTV play music? Did Larry the Cable Guy host a show on the History Channel? Schlock sells.

Google’s search algorithm changes have helped limit the reach of spammy content farms. Maybe Facebook’s change will seal-the-deal?

Your Privacy And The Free Internet

facebook-logoThis started as a comment on Facebook. I was asked about the new Facebook messenger. It’s been installed twice on my phone, uninstalled once, probably coming out again. Too invasive. Tentacles… Too… Tight…

We live in amazing times. The power of the world is at our fingertips. You have access to more information from more sources than any human before you. And the price of admission is cheap.

Google has never sent you a bill. Facebook doesn’t charge. Neither do Twitter, Instagram or Reddit.

All these companies and many more make their living selling access to you. The ads you see online are usually targeted. The better they define you, the more they charge.

If you aren’t paying, you’re not the customer, you’re the product. That is more true today than ever.

All these companies store vast tidbits of your life, connecting things you might not see as important. Using Boolean algebra (and other techniques too dweeby for me) data mining companies find markers that link similar persons. No piece is too small. Everything is evaluated. The details of your life have been graded and sorted. You have been objectified.

Google and others know your real friends, your passwords, the pet names spouses call each other, what you buy and where, even your taste in porn. Their computers have no trouble identifying my face in photos.

We all spend the day dropping breadcrumbs.

The power of these systems is you’re never an individual to them–but is that good for you? Don’t you see yourself as individual? We are already pushed into cubbyholes without a say in the process.

What do you or don’t you get in life because their incorrect classification is within an anticipated margin of error! A job? Better loan rate? Who knows?

Data miners live with little regulation. Their power is too strong to not politely police. At the very least we should be able to check what they know about us, the inferences drawn and to whom our data’s been sold.

Right now we’re entitled to nothing.

Ballmer? Really?

The NBA gets another schmuck as an owner. I see Ballmer behind Microsoft’s failure to innovate over the past few years. Even worse, I see his mean spirited imprint on most everything Microsoft has done.

Steve BallmerIt looks like the Clippers will go quickly. Published reports says Steve Ballmer, who recently left as CEO of Microsoft after seeing the writing on the wall, will pay $2,000,000,000. That’s an impressive number. Now I understand why Windows costs so much.

Donald Sterling, disgraced current owner, gets to laugh all the way to the bank. The value of his team seems to have doubled over the past few weeks. He can buy new friends.

The NBA gets another schmuck as an owner. I see Ballmer behind Microsoft’s failure to innovate over the past few years. Even worse, his mean spirited imprint is on most everything Microsoft has done recently.

But let me allow Steve to speak for himself. On the iPhone:

“There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.”

Of Google’s Eric Schmidt:

“F**king Eric Schmidt is a f**king pussy. I’m going to f**king bury that guy, I have done it before, and I will do it again. I’m going to f**king kill Google.”

On Apple’s Macbooks:

“Apple gained about one point, but now I think the tide has really turned back the other direction.”

And, on business in general:

“That doesn’t mean nobody else ever thought about it, but ‘How do you make money?’ was what I got hired to do. I’ve always thought that way.”

After a friend posted this sale on Twitter, I replied, “Until Sterling, he was my most despised CEO.”

Good luck to all of us.

We Are Doing Security Wrong

My friend’s email password was compromised. Is he the weakest link? Possibly, though recent personal experience shows he may have been sold out by the companies he deals with.

One of my former co-workers wrote me this morning under the subject: “VERY URGENT!!!!!Help & a favor.”

I really hope you get this fast. I could not inform anyone about our trip, because it was impromptu. we had to be in Turkey for Tour.

OK — it didn’t come from my friend. It was just made to look like he is writing.

i will be indeed very grateful if i can get a short term loan from you ($2,600). this will enable me sort our hotel bills and get my sorry self back home.

I didn’t follow up. Had I replied I would have been led to send the money via Western Union in a way that’s untraceable.

These emails go out because people fall for them!

passwordMy friend’s email password was compromised. Is he the weakest link? Possibly, though recent personal experience shows he may have been sold out by the companies he deals with.

Yesterday eBay asked me to reset my password because of their security problems. This follows Target’s faux pas which led to our credit cards being reissued (and the hassle that followed).

Companies screw up, but I’m obligated to help clean their mess.

In most cases, if a hacker gets hold of your email account he’s got everything! Passwords can be reissued and ownership of a specific email account is all the ID you need!

This is crazy.

Google and a few others have begun offering 2-step verification to cut back on fraud. I tried Google’s offer and switched back. It was an incredible hassle.

Passwords were good protection when the Internet was young and its users mostly trustworthy. That’s no longer the case. We live our lives online. We need a better way.

They Know Where I Parked

I should be angry at Google because it’s a slippery slope getting more slippery every day. If it wasn’t so damn helpful.

I want to be angry. I really do. I want to be pissed at Google. I can’t be!

They know where I parked.

SNP_C11A49EE156AD55CFC1F05D484A7CFDAB9D8_6024129_en_v1When the card shows up in Google Now, you’ll see an indicator showing the approximate location of your car. To see other locations where you’ve recently parked, touch Previous locations. Your location data for parking location cards isn’t shared with anyone else.

My car has been lost more than once. This will help, especially since the function happens automatically.

And, of course, that’s why I should be angry.

Google is using ‘metadata’ to draw inferences. Parking consists of a series of moves they sense from your smart phone.

The system is not infallible.

Google uses your device’s sensors to know when you leave a moving vehicle, which means you may see parking location cards even if you didn’t park your car. For example, these cards could show up after you exit a bus or a friend’s car.

Data that’s poorly parsed will be the bane of the 21st century. When Google gets your parking spot wrong it’s no big deal. When the NSA uses similar technology to jump to the wrong conclusion it is.

I should be angry at Google because it’s a slippery slope getting more slippery every day. If it wasn’t so damn helpful.

Where I Learned To Not Be Good At Sports

electchester playground

The photo (above) shows the playground where the Electchester Athletic Association had its games when I was a kid. I played softball there… poorly

I caught in a softball league that had no stealing! The Witness Protection Program couldn’t have found a better place to hide me.

It’s tough to see the field’s surface from Google Streetview, but there’s no grass. The surface is probably forgiving today, but when I played there on busy 164th Street the field was paved!

Yeah, we played on concrete.

No sliding in our league either!

Not that it would have presented a problem for me. I don’t think I ever hit the ball out of the infield.

Most folks are surprised to learn baseball can be played on the same surface used to land airplanes or park trucks. Oh yes it can. And, if I’m any indication, it can be played poorly.

electchester sledding hill

As long as I was looking, I slid Google Earth a little farther down 164th to the hill where we went sledding. After a snowstorm this little topographical bump would be crawling with kids.

No!!! Who did this? I am incensed. There are now fences and hedges to prevent sledding.

Sure, we used to slide out into traffic from time-to-time, but this was our place. For a kid in an apartment this was the great outdoors.

Is nothing sacred?

Computers Make Life Easier And Scarier

google-now-screenI’m very confused. Computers looking over my shoulder have made life easier and scarier. This isn’t a new subject from me, but it hit home last week as we prepared to leave for the weekend.

My phone and tablet both run the Android operating system. That means they both have Google Now, which claims:

“Just the right information at the right time.”

I opened Google Now and saw my flight times listed. I didn’t tell Google I was flying. It figured that out from reading my email.

It figures a lot out from what I do.

There are currently offers to track packages heading my way and links to articles about Comet Ison. It knows about the packages from my email and the comet from my browsing history.

Google Location historyMy weather is there too. While in Milwaukee, Google Now posted the local forecast plus a link to the weather at home.

It knows where home is.

Because I often use my cellphone’s GPS there are maps tracking my every move! Actually, I’m tracked when I’m not using the GPS too. The readings just aren’t taken as often.

Google Location history 2I assume Google can figure out who my doctor is and where we shop for groceries. It knew I was at Fenway Park June 24th. It can tell when I’ve spent the day at home.

Remember, it’s not just my location they know. Google also knows what’s at those locations.

I can turn most of this off. I don’t. There are two main reasons.

First, if I turn it off I’m the only one deprived of the info. Google and their pals will still know.

Second, it’s valuable to me.

Having my flight information, or weather in a strange city, or sports scores from just the teams I follow are more valuable when easily found.

Having Google Now is like having my own personal assistant. Does it know any less than a flesh and blood personal assistant would?

The downside is this information will be used in ways we can hardly imagine. And it will be used without your knowledge even when it’s wrong!

While we were in Milwaukee my GPS readout briefly shows me at my parents old condo in Florida. Who do I see to correct that glitch?

When the government pushes back against fears of surveillance it’s often stated the information is anonymized. Red herring. My actual name is the least important part of this equation.

I’m truly conflicted about all this. So much power to do good. So much potential to be evil.

Our Taxing Problems

Tim Cook from Apple testified to Congress yesterday. To summarize, Apple moves money around the world to reduce/eliminate taxes as the law proscribes.

Our tax laws make this possible! This is a face palm moment, right?

Before we let Apple off the hook, let’s remember tax policy is greatly influenced by lobbying which is paid for by people/corporations whose ox is about to be gored.

During the last election Mitt Romney said he paid all the tax he owed and not a penny more. Left out was these were tax rules Bain Capital had rallied for.

What I’m getting at is, when someone says they’re just following the law, take that with a grain of salt.

Meanwhile, what’s going on here with Apple has been going on in England with Google.

From BBC.com: Google’s boss has told UK politicians to “sort out” the tax system, after criticisms of the internet search giant by Labour leader Ed Miliband.

Mr Miliband told a meeting of the firm’s staff that he was “disappointed” it had paid just £6m in corporation tax on UK sales worth £3.2bn in 2011.

But executive chairman Eric Schmidt said Google followed “the tax laws of the countries we operate in”.

I’m sure they have, but I close my eyes and see accountants playing Twister on the books!

There was a time when big business and the American dream were closely aligned. We could afford to give corporations a little slack, because in the end we knew they’d employ people and drive prosperity. Those days are over. We shouldn’t favor corporations with gifts for acts they no longer perform.

We can’t afford big corporations being financial takers. We just can’t.

Huffington Post: Citizens for Tax Justice, which advocates steeper corporate taxes, said it surveyed major U.S. companies and found that 26 on average paid no net federal income taxes between 2008 and 2011, among them General Electric and Duke Energy .

“This isn’t fair to the rest of us,” said Bob McIntyre, director of the left-leaning tax research group.

No joke. It isn’t.

This doesn’t just go on with money moving to Ireland or the Cayman Islands. There is a state-to-state competition as well.

Take a look at your phone bill (if AT&T is your home or cell carrier). Look down near the bottom for a copyright notice.

Since 2008 all of the current and past AT&T trademarks and previous regional Bell names are now owned by various Nevada Limited Partnerships based at 645 East Plumb Lane Reno, Nevada. This office location is currently an AT&T main office-formerly occupied by SBC/Nevada Bell.

That means when your Connecticut phone bill comes, a rights fee is paid to AT&T Intellectual Property for displaying logos, etc. That lowers AT&T’s taxes here by shifting the income to Nevada where there’s no corporate income tax! Any time you see an AT&T logo, money is being moved to Nevada.

The problem with fixing the tax code is those who want the code fixed (you and me) will be outspent and outmaneuvered by those who want to avoid paying taxes. I wish I had the solution.

Back in the Eisenhower administration, Charles Wilson was nominated for Secretary of Defense. He had been president of General Motors so there was concern he’d make any decision that affected GM in the company’s favor. He said he would not…

“because for years I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa”. – Wikipedia

Those days are gone.

Google’s Real Weakness

It’s tough to remember the Internet before Google. Page and Brin’s Stanford project only started going as “Google” in 1997. It’s used by so many people, it drives the web! As of Friday Google’s worth was $258.1 billion.

In the late 90s and even the early part of the aughts the Internet was young. Everything was new. There was little ten year old material online, because ten years earlier the web hadn’t existed.

Of course there’s more new stuff coming online every day right now than there was at the turn of the century. Unfortunately the old stuff is still here too.

Tonight I searched for ways to make money through youtube. Many of you have suggested I start a video podcast or some other online series.

I entered what I thought was a good search.

The first result (which looks kind of skeevy) had the title, “How To Make Money On You Tube (Tutorial) Not MLM – YouTube.”

It’s from 2008.

A 2008 tutorial for making money with youtube can’t be valid in 2013! The Internet has moved too far. How we personally use the net has changed as well. Certainly, youtube has changed.

I get this kind of response all the time, especially for tech problems. If I’ve got a hardware or software problem I need an answer that’s current.

Yes, you can go back and specify a date range, but that’s not what Google’s supposed to do. The whole idea of this search engine is to bring you the right answer the first time.

Even if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, finding an answer on the web is our problem, not yours. We try to anticipate needs not yet articulated by our global audience, and meet them with products and services that set new standards. – Google-“What We Believe”

This problem is steadily getting worse and will continue that downward slide until Google takes action.

I’m assuming they’ve taken no action, because if they have, they’ve failed terribly.

The Power And The Fear Of The Power

What if some pre-crime program makes a mistake with you?

Here’s the perfect example.What if some pre-crime program makes a mistake with you?

Here’s the perfect example.

Part of the power of the Internet is the ability of companies to put tiny pieces of your life together in order to serve you more meaningful ads content.

It’s also one of the scariest powers of the Internet!

What if some pre-crime program makes a mistake with you? “We know you haven’t done anything wrong yet, Mr Fox.”

Nothing is infallible!

Here’s the perfect example. Google’s Play Store recommends apps to me based on my history with them. Uh huh.

Look what they think I want!

I Thought By Now I’d Be Skyping More

I saw Judah this afternoon. Judah is my not quite three year old nephew&#185 from Milwaukee. We met up via Skype with the help of his parents Jessie and Evan. Baby sister Gabby looked on.

The conversation started with Judah burrowing his head into Jessie’s neck. Cute, but not a confidence builder there’d be much substance to the chat. He says he’s looking forward to Helaine and my upcoming trip to Milwaukee to see the hapless Brewers play the hapless Phillies.

Just establishing the chat tonight was like pulling teeth. Jessie favors iChat. I’m using a Samsung phone. Oops. We settled on Skype.

It took at least a half dozen attempts before we were able to connect. A few times Jessie’s face appeared briefly before the whole thing shut down. My hopping between 4G and WiFi here at work is probably the culprit. Maybe the Skype app isn’t resilient enough to follow along?

I have my tablet. I have my smartphone. I use a laptop with a camera built into the bezel. I expected to be using Skype or Oovoo, or Google’s video chat service a lot more than I do… which is nearly nil.

Maybe my expectations were too high? Maybe the ease of connection needed still isn’t there?

I don’t Skype with my folks. I don’t Skype with my daughter. Friends? Nah.

It was fun when I used to video chat with my friend in Kabul (he’ll soon move just north of the equator in West Africa). It really was like being there, which was good for both of us during his isolation. The only problems were his horrendous Internet service and undependable electric supply. We’ll see how Africa compares.

I’ve been a big believer video chat would be the favored method of person-to-person comms going forward. Not anymore. Keyboard-to-keyboard continues to grow strongly while even cellphone voice minutes fall off.

Facebook, Google and others promote their video services, but I never hear about them being used.

Video is still too difficult. Communications are best when easiest.

Video is best saved for special occasions like talking to Judah.

&#185- I’m not very good with this, but Judah is my sister’s daughter’s son. Nephew? Maybe great nephew? I’m always confused.

The Big Deal In Kansas City

My tech story on FoxCT today is about Google’s plunge into the cable TV/Internet provider market&#185. They are about to wire Kansas City with fiber to-the-home. That’s the holy grail for online speed addicts! It’s very exciting to geeks like me.

For non-geeks it means Comcast Google is bringing competition to cable, an industry that mostly operates in monopolistic fiefdoms.

Google has made the loudest noise talking about the Internet aspect of the deal. That says a lot about the future of television and broadcasting, doesn’t it. Scary for me.

For $120/month subscribers will get hundreds of channels of HD programming (Google has not yet made deals with all the cable channels including many big names like ESPN, so exact lineup is still fuzzy) plus 1 gigabit bidirectional Internet service with no caps or restrictions. I checked today. My download speed is 1/50th of Google’s! My upload speed is slower still.

Because fiber has much more available bandwidth the quality of video, even from broadcasters like my station, should be far superior. Right now cable and satellite heavily compress broadcasters signals. They’re trying to squeeze as much into their coax as will fit. You can see the difference.

For $70 Google will offer a 1 gigabit Internet only package. This is a nod to the growing (but still small) community of cable cutters.

Beyond that, for a $300 installation charge (waived on the other plans) Google will provide 5 megabit Internet access guaranteed free for seven years! Somehow Google has figured out how to install fiber for under $300. When Verizon was still rolling out FIOS their cost was north of $600.

On paper (and without knowing the full TV Channel lineup) Google’s offering is looks superior to traditional cable.

With some minor exceptions cable’s never really been in a competitive situation. You’ve got to figure they’ll offer something better or cheaper than today’s packages.

As bad as cable’s reputation for customer service is, Google’s is worse! Try reaching a human should your Gmail fail or Google removes your website from its search engine! Will they fix that? Is Google even capable of meaningful human-to-human contact?

Lots of people will be watching what goes on in Kansas City. Most likely blood will be spilled. Both Google and the cable operators have lots of cash to throw around and a vested interest in protecting their turf.

Who knows, the public may even benefit! How often does that happen?

&#185 – Disclosure: I own a small position in Comcast within my 401-K. Comcast owns WVIT, one of our competitors at FoxCT.

Google’s Worthless Recommendations

I was looking to see if there are any free, open source video editors that work in Windows. The image at the top of this entry is a screen grab of what I got.

Two of the highest rated results are so old they’re worthless! Google shouldn’t prioritize a software recommendation from 2005 or 2007.

This is their problem. It’s a big problem.

I just did a Google search. It’s one of the hundreds I do everyday. The answer is not satisfying, a big problem in Mountain View.

I was looking to see if there are any free, open source video editors that work in Windows. The image at the top of this entry is a screen grab of what I got.

Two of the highest rated results are so old they’re worthless! Google shouldn’t prioritize a software recommendation from 2005 or 2007.

This is their problem. It’s a big problem.

Meanwhile, as Google worries more-and-more about friend based recommendations on Facebook and Twitter they had better see this as the weakness it is.