Cybercrime is everywhere, and the least you can do is read up about it. You might think Internet and email scams only affect those who are not tech savvy or do not keep up with the daily news, but that is not true. From IT professionals to teachers, to journalists, people from all fragments of society and professional fronts have fallen for these immaculately planned online fraudsBusiness Compromise ScamsPharming, etc, which might confuse anybody. And the notion of risk-taking obviously does not work in this context. With the advent of social network and the wide usage of emailing, these scams acquired quite a foothold.

Common Online, Internet & Email scams

Here are the 10 Internet and email scams you should look out for:

Nigerian Scam

Possibly the most talked about scams, these operate mostly through the mail and messaging services. People usually receive mails from a fake Nigerian individual, who claims to be from a very wealthy family and is looking for somebody to donate her money. Usually, these scams are fronts for black money or identity theft. The user is promised a huge amount of money if he or she would share his details, and a surprising number of people fall for it. They will also ask the unwitting user to sign a number of legal forms, which are actually pretty effective in taking money out of your account.

International Lottery Scam

The lottery scam is perhaps the oldest and most obvious scams in the history of Internet fraud, and yet people are duped by it. Basically, a mail reaches your server from an unknown lottery company, and it looks official and almost real. But there are obviously some red flags which expert can point out. Usually, when this happens, the mail will not address you by your name or your personal details. They promise to transfer millions of dollars into your personal account, if you give them your bank details, and then, of course, they drain the money out of your account. Millions of people around the world have lost a massive amount of their earnings through this scam. Sometimes, the emails take the name of a famous lottery company, which might be a global name, and with high-end techniques, conmen have better means of faking their credentials, so you should always be on the lookout.

Travel scams

This kind of fraud is pretty relevant even today, as people who are on these websites or get the fraudulent emails are not at all expecting to get swindled. People see huge discounts or really low rates on some travel packages and fall for it. They will also ask for your private details, and you will need to pay some money. Usually, these are quick scams and won’t drain your account, but you will never see the money you spent or get any tickets. Whenever you receive such a mail or spot something suspicious on a website, it is best to double-check.

Credit Card Scams

These frauds are also hugely common.Usually, you will get a mail from your an operator who claims to be your bank. They will tell you your credit/debit card has been canceled, or you are facing some breach in your account and thus, need to act fast. Most people, in a state of panic, give out their credit card details, One Time Passwords, and even their pin numbers. It is very important to remember that your bank would never ask you for this kind of sensitive information over mail or phone, and be careful.

Job Scams

These kinds of frauds prey upon those who are vulnerable. Most people are looking for jobs update their personal details, like mail ids and names on employment search portals. Anybody can access those details and contact the user. You will get a mail, asking for your resume, educational details, and other credentials. They will promise you an interview and possibly ask for a token amount of money, which would be reverted back to you upon hiring or at a later time. These scams are usually fronts for identity thefts and money swindling.

Digital payment scams

These are the easiest and the most dangerous frauds there is, and everybody should take note since people are so tech-reliant right now. Millions of people use digital wallets or online payment portals like PayPal or Venmo. Users often get an alert on their mail about how their account has been hacked, or an amount of money has been taken out of their account. Usually, people panic, and it never occurs to them that they are being duped by a third party.

Online ad scams

These are similar to the employment scam routine, just a little more creative. When you post an item for sale on a portal or post an ad to buy a specific item, in websites like eBay or Craigslist, or any other platform, fraudulent people can access those details and get back to you. They’ll tell you they have what you are looking for, and might even share pictures with you, but these offers usually come with a payment-first policy, and after you pay them,  you don’t hear back from them.

Investment scams

These frauds are like a short-term Ponzi scheme. You might get alerts or emails offering you ‘double your money on a month’ plans or any other such scams. Some fake portals even have provisions for your verification, where they ask you for a token amount of money, and hence dupe you.

Disaster relief or rescue scams

Whenever you get a mail asking you to donate money to a charity or a rescue operation, never respond to them. Most people obviously fall for these as they want to support a cause, but as there is no way to verify these scams, and people usually donate a substantial amount of money to disaster relief, this is a very dangerous fraud.

Ask for help scams

These frauds are more personal in nature, and you might get a mail with very specific details about a certain person, stuck in a situation in a random country, from where he/she cannot get back home and will ask for your money. People often get blindsided by the personal nature of these emails, but it is very important to remember that these are usually chain emails, and ask people to send over financial help.

Online scams are a huge risk as you can encounter them anywhere, and the smartest of people get affected by it, as they never see it coming. Whenever you encounter anything on a new portal or website, it is always best to verify their credentials before you send in your money or personal details.

Be aware, Stay safe!

 Source: This article was published thewindowsclub.com

Categorized in Internet Privacy

Educator Pat Deubel was concerned with the way elementary school students choose to conduct research for school projects. Fortunately, there are best practices for teachers to adopt and safe websites for learners to visit, which she shares here with THE Journal.

Recently, I had a brief discussion with a third-grader who was working on a science project on American alligators. She had included several interesting facts and her own drawing of an alligator on a poster. She and her mom were proud that she had done her own research. When she said that she got her information from Wikipedia, I suggested that she might wish to include her source on the project, but she did not want to. She did not know if she would be presenting the project to her classmates. This was an authentic project, as she had selected this topic because she often sees an alligator in the waterway behind her home. But, I was concerned.

What had the children learned about conducting research-based projects? Why was a third-grader using Wikipedia? Did the students have a list of safe sites to use for their research, appropriate for their grade level? Later, I easily found information about American alligators in Wikipedia using Google, as the student had done. Wikipedia articles often come up first in search engines and even might appear first when using safe search sites for kids, as I discovered using KidRex, a child-safe search tool. My concern was not just about the credibility of using Wikipedia for academic purposes. The reading level was too advanced for a typical third-grader. Researchers (Anderson, 2012) have found the overall readability of numerous Wikipedia articles too difficult for many readers. 
I was compelled to learn more. Other questions easily came to mind. I also sought input from the teacher via e-mail.

  1. How is the research process introduced to elementary students, particularly for using the internet? Are learners provided an age-appropriate online tutorial?
  2. Is there a standards document indicating skills that students should be developing in elementary grades for using technology to conduct research? 
  3. What guidelines/templates are students provided for developing their projects?
  4. Are they provided a checklist/rubric for how projects would be graded?
  5. Who sees their projects? 
  6. How do you make parents aware that their children will be doing internet research and that their children’s “online safety” has been considered?

The student just mentioned lives in Florida and formerly attended school in Texas, which is my rationale for considering those states in what follows.

Introducing Research Models

It may surprise some readers to learn that research-based projects can begin as early as grades K–2. Of course, the level of sophistication increases on a continuum throughout the grades. In my teaching experience, even doctoral learners have difficulty with research. Fortunately, elementary learners can hop on the Research Rocket at the online portal Kentucky Virtual Library: How to Do Research and find an interactive and engaging tutorial designed just for them. Content might also benefit classroom lessons and discussions, particularly in K–2 when students are learning to read.

Some school districts develop specific resources on this topic. For example, library media specialists in the School District of New Berlin (WI) developed a series of research guides and templates, organized by grade-bands. Templates for grades 4 to 6 combine a checklist or rubric. Lankau, Parrish, Quillin, and Schilling (2004) developed the Research Project Guide: A Handbook for Teachers and Students for Humble Independent School District in Texas. The guide is posted on the district library website in three parts for elementary, middle school and high school research. The district also includes this resource among others it provides and uses Symbaloo, a social bookmarking tool, for this purpose. The Elementary Research Guide focuses on the Super 3 and Big 6 research models for grades K–2 and 3 to 5, respectively. Presentations on the Super 3 and Big 6 models, posted on Slideshare.net, illustrate that educators value both models. 

The Super 3 for K-2 includes Plan, Do, Review stages. Teachers and students are introduced to the research process, planning projects, selecting sources, taking notes, giving credit and evaluating projects. Specifically, they learn about topics, developing questions on what they’d like to know, and that information comes from books, computers, and people. At the beginner level, the teacher or librarian preselects age-appropriate sources and students are provided predetermined worksheets with the plan and what they will do. They circle the source, which might include a book, computer or person icons such as those found at big6.com, and review their work – checking “yes” or “no” if it was neat and if the information was correct. As they progress, they learn about finding the best sources and the realm of possibilities (e.g., print, non-print, field trips, online databases).  They learn about finding books using call numbers in libraries and using databases accessed from the school library site (Lankau et al., 2004).

These skills are enhanced in grades 3 to 5. Students are introduced to the Big 6information problem-solving process, choosing a topic and choosing their own research product. They learn how to define a task/topic of their own and where to look for ideas. They learn information seeking strategies and how to use multiple and different prints and non-print sources in their research, how to locate and access key facts in each and cite each source, and then how to synthesize the information gathered from their notes culminating in a final project format of their choice.

There are multiple formats they might consider, such as completing a data chart or K-W-L chart; writing a report; developing a pamphlet, brochure or timeline; or creating a mobile, collage or picture. Their projects might involve multimedia.  Software such as Kidspiration for K–5 would help them express their thinking visually using pictures, numbers, text, and spoken words.  Students might have other ideas. They learn to evaluate their own work. The concept of plagiarism is introduced. They still need assistance, so templates are also available to help them complete each step in the process and to organize their research (Lankau et al., 2004).

Safe Sites

Elementary learners must have safe sites to use for research with an appropriate reading level. Districts and individual schools post subscription-based and free options on their library web pages. They provide student passwords and usernames for subscription-based options; subscribing patrons can request those.   

Subscription-based options might include:

Britannica School, for instance, offers separate databases for elementary, middle and high school. Per EBSCO (2016), Explora is a dedicated search interface for schools and public libraries and is the replacement for Searchasaurus, Kids Search and Student Research Center, which was discontinued in 2016. Gale is a Cengage Learning company, which clearly states information it collects and how it is used in its terms of use.  

There are several free safe websites for learners. At DKfindout, as the title suggests, learners can "find out" a great deal about animals and nature, dinosaurs and prehistoric life, the earth, English, history, math, the human body, art, music, literature, science, space, sports and much more.  DK’s privacy and cookies policy assure parents that it is committed to complying with the United States Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and the UK English Data Protection Act.  Kidtopia includes only websites recommended by teachers, librarians, and educational consortia.  There are nine main content categories.  SweetSearch, a product of Dulcinea Media, contains over 35,000 websites that have been evaluated and approved by a staff of research experts, librarians, and teachers (Learn More section). Dulcinea Media’s mission “to help educators teach students how to use the Internet effectively, safely, and responsibly” is also largely accomplished via the Web Guides it provides in findingDulcinea.

Teachers might also have their favorites.  The Florida teacher I contacted (name not provided to protect her privacy) recommends Microsoft’s Bing in the Classroom. However, her students also have bi-weekly media sessions in which they are shown safe sites recommended in the district’s Elementary Virtual Library (personal communication, April 30, 2017). Bing in the Classroom provides ad-free searches for K–12 schools and districts in the United States, includes enhanced privacy protections for K–12 and ensures safe searches owing to its strict filtering setting to maximize filtering out adult content (FAQ section). It also provides videos to teach students how to search, evaluate search results, and stay safe online. A school or district administrator must register to use this free service.

Sometimes teachers pre-select specific resources for conducting research, which the school library posts, such as found in the fourth-grade research project on Texas Indian Tribes at Timbers Elementary and the fifth-grade biographical research projects at Atascocita Springs Elementary in Humble Independent School District.  Per Lankau and colleagues (2004), if students wish to use sources other than those provided, the district cautions them to get recommendations from their teacher or librarian and to first learn about evaluating website content. To learn about citation methodology (e.g., MLA), younger learners might be given a template to complete with a simplified version (e.g., fill in the blanks) of information required to cite books and websites.

Students should be taught to use more than one search engine and to not necessarily rely on the first entry that comes up from their search. Even if a safe site is used there is no guarantee that the reading level of the search result is age-appropriate. For example, a search using “American alligator” on KidRex reveals Wikipedia’s entry at the top of the list. However, the same search on Kids.gov, another free option, returns a more readable, age-appropriate, top entry from the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. Educators might be interested in the tool developed to test the readability of Wikipedia pages by entering the title of the page (Anderson, 2012). A table is provided at the test site to interpret results.

Standards and More Tools

Every good project is not only tied to a unit of study, but also to standards.  Not every state endorses a particular set of technology standards.  The Texas Education Agency’s technology applications curriculum (2012) is based on National Technology Standards for Students from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).  However, the Florida Department of Education(FDE, Instructional Technology, 2017) does not officially endorse a particular set of tech standards for teaching with technology.  It does list ISTE standards as an option and has developed grade-level matrices with suggestions for instructional tools matched to many of its technology-related English Language Arts standards.  For example, Google’s filtered search engine Safe Search Kids is introduced for the first time in the grade 3 matrix and is associated with Florida’s standard LAFS.3.RI.2.5: “Use text features and search tools (e.g., keywords, sidebars, hyperlinks) to locate information relevant to a given topic efficiently.”  Within matrices for grades 4-5, you’ll also find Study Blue for online note-taking and word processing software such as Word.  Safe Search Kids also includes options for safe images, safe videos, and searches via its Safe Wiki for Kids.  This latter is accomplished owing to a partnership with the KidzSearch Wiki.

Enhancing Project-based Learning

Much has been written on the components of project-based learning and how to conduct it, chief among those resources being from the Buck Institute for Education.  Essential elements of BIE’s “gold standard” include a challenging problem or question, sustained inquiry, authenticity, student voice and choice, reflection, thoughtful critique and revision, and creating a public product.  The quality of projects will be enhanced if learners are provided checklists and rubrics and receive feedback during the development process to improve their work (Lamar & Mergendoller, 2015).  These help learners ensure essential elements are included and make them aware of what constitutes the highest level of attainment within criteria upon which they will be assessed.

“Students can have input and (some) control over many aspects of a project, from the questions they generate to the resources they will use to find answers to their questions, … to the products they will create.  More advanced students may go even further and select the topic and nature of the project itself” (Larmer & Mergendoller, 2015, Student Voice & Choice section).  Initial classroom experiences with this aspect of the “gold standard” can be an adventure in itself and a chance for learners to discover the nature of good research.  From my perspective, a beginner who is learning to use the internet might do so only to locate facts for a project and might not yet be able to reach a sustained inquiry level.  Starting small is fine, as the following experience of the Florida third-grade teacher illustrates.  

Per the teacher, a student suggested the science project noted at the beginning of this article.  Most research was to be done at home.  Students were only to give her the name of their animal, whether it was a vertebrate or invertebrate, and a drawing.  Any other facts students wished to include were up to them.  A few projects prompted a classroom conversation about information available on the internet (personal communication, April 30, 2017).  This is an example of learning by doing.  It provides the opportunity for all to reflect on what was learned and why certain elements, such as using trustworthy sources and providing citations, are essential.  Learners who included sources would be able to easily share them with others who’d like to learn more, unlike those who did not.  These latter would also have greater difficulty to prove where they got their facts.  It’s also a perfect scenario to introduce the concept of plagiarism.  From a teacher perspective, it’s a time to reflect on what you’d do differently the next time.  For example, young learners benefit from templates to help guide them in completing research, even for projects of their choice.

Such reflections and critique/feedback provide an opportunity for revision and have the potential to move students toward achieving the highest level of BIE’s gold standard, presenting their projects publicly to people beyond those in their classroom.  This adds to the “real-world” relevance of their efforts.  Of course, learners will “need to be well prepared to make their work public” (Larmer & Mergendoller, 2015).  Depending on the nature of the project, online presentation tools such as Prezi, Powerpoint, and Google Slides might enhance a presentation and are among suggested tools within Florida’s aforementioned technology matrices for grades 3-5.  Google Slides is one of several free productivity tools for classroom collaboration offered within Google’s G Suite for Education.   

Recommendations and Observation

There are numerous online tools to assist educators in introducing research-based projects to elementary learners. However, I found an inconsistency among elementary school library web pages within the same district in terms of the research tools available to learners. I’d recommend including the same core subscription-based resources and the same core safe search sites for learners. Not all school libraries I examined made an evident link to the district library or included a menu option for “Research Tools/Guides.” Ensuring these latter would greatly enhance introducing learners to research-based projects. I’d also recommend reviewing web page content in general. My investigation revealed links to resources that are no longer available. I also found some schools that posted passwords and usernames to subscription-based sources directly on their library pages, while others clearly stated to request those from the librarian or classroom teacher.

Parents should be alerted when their children will need to use the internet for research at home. BIE provides a sample template with a letter to parents, which can be modified for this purpose. Teachers might mention if students will be presenting projects to an audience that also includes parents and if projects will be displayed in the school. It’s a motivational element for learners, as well. Parents should also know where to find the list of “safe” sites provided to help them monitor work at home if they so wish. They would need to know the username and password for subscription-based sites. They need assurance that every effort has been made to ensure their children’s online safety, including security and protection of any data collected by sites students might be using. According to results of a 2016 large-scale survey and interview study from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (Alim, Cardozo, Gebhart, Gullo, & Kalia, 2017), there is a real concern that educational technology services are often collecting far more information on students than is necessary, often without their or their families knowledge or consent, and storing it indefinitely (p. 5). Parents and educators who examine terms of service and/or privacy policies from providers will benefit from the list of “red flags” (section 3) included in the Parent Toolkit for Student Privacy, developed by the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy and Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (2017).

On a positive note, individual schools and districts have empowered their educators to take a leadership role in developing resources for research-based projects. The role of school librarians is not dead, contrary what some might believe. The library is no longer just about the books it contains. Librarians take an active role in teaching students and staff about media, research, and online safety.  Individual teachers are indeed becoming “guides on the side.” By permitting learners to choose their projects and guiding them along the way to their completion, they are enabling learners to personalize their learning and build life-long skills. We know that if elementary learners are introduced to using the internet only for collecting facts, those facts will easily be forgotten when the activity is over. But, those facts will become memorable when students use those facts to create an actual project with meaning to them — “kudos” to these educators.

References

Alim, F., Cardozo, N., Gebhart, G., Gullo, K., & Kalia, A. (2017). Spying on students: School-issued devices and student privacy. San Francisco, CA: Electronic Frontier Foundation.  Retrieved from https://www.eff.org/wp/school-issued-devices-and-student-privacy

Anderson, K. (2012, September 4). Wikipedia’s writing—Tests show it’s too sophisticated for its audience [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2012/09/24/wikipedias-writing-tests-show-its-too-sophisticated-for-its-audience/

EBSCO. (2016). Reminder: Discontinuation of Searchasurus, Kids Search, and Student Research Center.  Retrieved from https://help.ebsco.com/interfaces/News_and_Alerts/Support_News/Reminder%3A_Discontinuation

_of_Searchasaurus%2C_Kids_Search_and_Student_Research_Center

Florida Department of Education. (2017). Instructional technology. Retrieved from http://www.fldoe.org/academics/standards/subject-areas/instructional-technology/

Lankau, L, Parrish, R., Quillin, L., & Schilling, S. (2004). Research project guide: A handbook for teachers and students. Humble, TX: Humble Independent School District.  Retrieved from http://www.humbleisd.net/Page/358

Larmer, J., & Mergendoller, J. (2015, April 21). Gold standard PBL: Essential project design elements [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.bie.org/blog/gold_standard_pbl_essential_project_design_elements

Parent Coalition for Student Privacy and Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. (2017). Parent toolkit for student privacy. Retrieved from https://www.studentprivacymatters.org/toolkit/

Texas Education Agency. (2012). 19 TAC Chapter 126. Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Technology Applications.  Retrieved from http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/rules/tac/chapter126/index.html

Source: This article was published thejournal.com By Patricia Deubel

Categorized in Online Research

After decades of unbridled enthusiasm — bordering on addiction — about all things digital, the public may be losing trust in technologyOnline information isn’t reliable, whether it appears in the form of news, search results or user reviews. Social media, in particular, is vulnerable to manipulation by hackers or foreign powers. Personal data isn’t necessarily private. And people are increasingly worried about automation and artificial intelligence taking humans’ jobs.

Yet, around the world, people are both increasingly dependent on, and distrustful of, digital technology. They don’t behave as if they mistrust technology. Instead, people are using technological tools more intensively in all aspects of daily life. In recent research on digital trust in 42 countries (a collaboration between Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where I work, and Mastercard), my colleagues and I found that this paradox is a global phenomenon.

If today’s technology giants don’t do anything to address this unease in an environment of growing dependence, people might start looking for more trustworthy companies and systems to use. Then Silicon Valley’s powerhouses could see their business boom go bust.

Economic power

Some of the concerns have to do with how big a role the technology companies and their products play in people’s lives. U.S. residents already spend 10 hours a day in front of a screen of some kind. One in 5 Americans says they are online “almost constantly.” The tech companies have enormous reach and power. More than 2 billion people use Facebook every month.

Ninety percent of search queries worldwide go through Google. Chinese e-retailer, Alibaba, organizes the biggest shopping event worldwide every year on Nov. 11, which this year brought in US$25.3 billion in revenue, more than twice what U.S. retailers sold between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday last year.

This results in enormous wealth. All six companies in the world worth more than $500 billion are tech firms. The top six most sought-after companies to work for are also in tech. Tech stocks are booming, in ways reminiscent of the giddy days of the dot-com bubble of 1997 to 2001. With emerging technologies, including the “internet of things,” self-driving carsblockchain systems and artificial intelligence, tempting investors and entrepreneurs, the reach and power of the industry is only likely to grow.

This is particularly true because half the world’s population is still not online. But networking giant Cisco projects that 58 percent of the world will be online by 2021, and the volume of internet traffic per month per user will grow 150 percent from 2016 to 2021.

All these users will be deciding on how much to trust digital technologies.

Data, democracy, and the day job

Even now, the reasons for collective unease about technology are piling up. Consumers are learning to be worried about the security of their personal information: News about a data breach involving 57 million Uber accounts follows on top of reports of a breach of the 145.5 million consumer data records on Equifax and every Yahoo account — 3 billion in all.

Russia was able to meddle with Facebook, Google, and Twitter during the 2016 election campaign. That has raised concerns about whether the openness and reach of digital media is a threat to the functioning of democracies.

Another technological threat to society comes from workplace automation. The management consulting firm, McKinsey, estimates that it could displace one-third of the U.S. workforce by 2030, even if a different set of technologies create new “gig” opportunities.

The challenge for tech companies is that they operate in global markets and the extent to which these concerns affect behaviors online varies significantly around the world.

Mature markets differ from emerging ones

Our research uncovers some interesting differences in behaviors across geographies. In areas of the world with smaller digital economies and where technology use is still growing rapidly, users tend to exhibit more trusting behaviors online. These users are more likely to stick with a website even if it loads slowly, is hard to use or requires many steps for making an online purchase. This could be because the experience is still novel and there are fewer convenient alternatives either online or offline.

In the mature digital markets of Western Europe, North America, Japan and South Korea, however, people have been using the internet, mobile phones, social media and smartphone apps for many years. Users in those locations are less trusting, prone to switching away from sites that don’t load rapidly or are hard to use, and abandoning online shopping carts if the purchase process is too complex.

Because people in more mature markets have less trust, I would expect tech companies to invest in trust-building in more mature digital markets. For instance, they might speed up and streamline the processing of e-commerce transactions and payments, or more clearly label the sources of information presented on social media sites, as the Trust Project is doing, helping to identify authenticated and reliable news sources.

Consider Facebook’s situation. In response to criticism for allowing fake Russian accounts to distribute fake news on its site, CEO Mark Zuckerberg boldly declared that “Protecting our community is more important than maximizing our profits.” However, according to the company’s chief financial officer, Facebook’s 2018 operating expenses could increase by 45 to 60 percent if it were to invest significantly in building trust, such as hiring more humans to review posts and developing artificial intelligence systems to help them. Those costs would lower Facebook’s profits.

To strike a balance between profitability and trustworthiness, Facebook will have to set priorities and deploy advanced trust-building technologies (e.g. vetting locally generated news and ads) in only some geographic markets.

The future of digital distrust

As the boundaries of the digital world expand, and more people become familiar with internet technologies and systems, their distrust will grow. As a result, companies seeking to enjoy consumer trust will need to invest in becoming more trustworthy more widely around the globe. Those that do will likely see a competitive advantage, winning more loyalty from customers.

This risks creating a new type of digital divide. Even as one global inequality disappears — more people have an opportunity to go online — some countries or regions may have significantly more trustworthy online communities than others. Especially in the less-trustworthy regions, users will need governments to enact strong digital policies to protect people from fake news and fraudulent scams, as well as regulatory oversight to protect consumers’ data privacy and human rights.

All consumers will need to remain on guard against overreach by heavy-handed authorities or autocratic governments, particularly in parts of the world where consumers are new to using technology and, therefore, more trusting. And they’ll need to keep an eye on companies, to make sure they invest in trust-building more evenly around the world, even in less mature markets. Fortunately, digital technology makes watchdogs’ work easier, and also can serve as a megaphone — such as on social media — to issue alerts, warnings or praise.

Bhaskar Chakravorti, Senior Associate Dean, International Business & Finance, Tufts University

Source: This article was published salon.com By BHASKAR CHAKRAVORTI,

Categorized in Online Research

In a move that goes beyond ordinary ad blockers, Google announced Chrome will begin blocking a large variety of advertisements. Because Chrome is the number one browser, this change will have a dramatic impact on how websites do business. While there is no cause for worry, you should still be concerned. In the long run, this may actually benefit the Internet.

Why Will Google Chrome Block Ads?

Google earns a significant amount of income from displaying ads on websites. However third party ad blockers currently block a significant amount of Google ads, even though Google’s advertising conforms to the standards created by Coalition for Better ads. This move will likely undercut third-party ad blockers that currently block Google’s own ads.

Chrome Ad Blocker may be a life saver for publishers who rely on standards compliant advertising.

Will Google’s Ad Blocker be Bad for Publishers?

The short answer is no. In the long run, Google’s ad blocker may be good for web publishers who rely on advertising revenue.

Google’s ad blocker will likely allow the display of Google’s own visitor-friendly advertising. In the long run, the use of third-party ad blockers may decline, resulting in more of Google’s own advertising being shown.

This is a win-win for any publisher who relies on Google’s advertising for earnings and for site visitors who are tired of intrusive advertising.

When Will Chrome Ad Blocker Affect You?

Chrome’s ad blocker begins blocking ads on February 15th, 2018. Google has provided a tool that will allow you to troubleshoot your site to make sure it will conform to the Better Ads standards.

What Kind of Advertising Will be Blocked?

In general, anything that blocks a significant amount of content and prevents users from comfortably reading content is subject to being blocked. Fortunately, there are standards that can be consulted to know exactly which ads will be blocked.

Here is a list of the kinds of advertising that will be blocked:

Desktop Ads that Chrome will be blocked:

  1. Pop-up ads
  2. Auto-playing video ads with sound
  3. Prestitial Ads with Countdown
  4. Large Sticky Ads

Mobile Ads that Chrome Will Block:

  1. Pop-ups
  2. Prestitial ads w/without countdown (blocks entire content)
  3. Ad density greater than 30% of content vertically. This can be 15% top and bottom blocked.
  4. 50% single-column ad density
  5. 35% single-column ad density
  6. 30% single-column ad density
  7. Flashing Animated Ads
  8. Auto-play video ads with sound
  9. Positial ads with a countdown (that cannot be dismissed) – These are ads that spawn after a link is clicked, that prevents a user from reaching another web page.
  10. Full-screen Scroll over ads. These are ads that force a user to scroll past it to get to the content. They usually block about 30% of the browser viewport.
  11. Large sticky ads – These are ads that take up more than 30% of a screen and is persistent. It does not go away no matter what direction a user scrolls, obscuring the content and resulting in a poor user experience.

The complete official standards are available as a PDF download here.

Will Chrome’s Ad Blocker Affect Affiliate Advertisers?

It’s difficult to say with certainty. But it may be safe to say that if your affiliate ads and links are standards compliant, then there’s a good chance this will not affect your earnings. Google has created a tool to take the guesswork out of this question.

How to Know if Your Ads Will be Blocked?

It’s a simple matter to test if your ads will be blocked. Google is providing a tool that will scan your site and issue a report of any pages that are in violation. If any page is in violation you will be able to fix it then resubmit those pages for approval.

Visit this page for your Ad Experience Report: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/ad-experience-unverified

Chrome is currently the most popular browser in the world. This move will change how users experience the web. There’s no incentive for publishers to stop using intrusive advertising. Chrome will simply block them. Consumers on other browsers may continue seeing those intrusive ads. This may be a win-win for the Chrome browser and those who use it. But this may also be a win-win-win if you include web publishers who rely on advertising income.

Source: This article was published searchenginejournal.com By Roger Montti

Categorized in How to

Using the internet makes people happier, especially seniors and those with health problems that limit their ability to fully take part in social life, says a study in Computers in Human Behavior.

The issue: A generation after the internet began appearing widely in homes and offices, it is not unusual to hear people ask if near-constant access to the web has made us happier. Research on the association between internet use and happiness have been ambiguous. Some have found that the connectivity empowers people. A 2014  study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior notes that excessive time spent online can leave people socially isolated. Compulsive online behavior can have a negative impacton mental health.

A new paper examines if quality of life in the golden years is impacted by the ubiquitous internet.

An academic study worth reading: “Life Satisfaction in the Internet Age – Changes in the Past Decade,”published in Computers in Human Behavior, 2016.

Study summary: Sabina Lissitsa and Svetlana Chachashvili-Bolotin, two researchers in Israel, investigate how internet adoption impacts life satisfaction among Israelis over age 65, compared with working-age adults (aged 20-64). They use annual, repeated cross-sectional survey data collected by Israel’s statistics agency from 2003 to 2012 – totaling 75,523 respondents.

They define life satisfaction broadly — on perceptions of one’s health, job, education, empowerment, relationships and place in society — and asked respondents to rate their satisfaction on a four-point scale. They also measured specific types of internet use, for example email, social media and shopping.

Finally, Lissitsa and Chachashvili-Bolotin also analyzed demographic data, information on respondents’ health, the amount they interact with friends and how often, if at all, they feel lonely.

Findings:

  • Internet users report higher levels of life satisfaction than non-users. This finding:
    • Is higher among people with health problems.
    • Decreases over time (possibly because internet saturation is spreading, making it harder to compare those with and those without internet access).
    • Decreases as incomes rise.
  • Internet access among seniors rose from 8 to 34 percent between 2003 and 2012; among the younger group, access increased from 44 to 78 percent. Therefore, the digital divide grew during the study period.
  • Seniors who use the internet report higher levels of life satisfaction than seniors who do not.
  • “Internet adoption promotes life satisfaction in weaker social groups and can serve as a channel for increasing life satisfaction.”
  • Using email and shopping online are associated with an increase in life satisfaction.
  • Using social media and playing games have no association with life satisfaction. The authors speculate that this is because some people grow addicted and abuse these internet applications.
  • The ability to use the internet to seek information has an insignificant impact on happiness for the total sample. But it has a positive association for users with health problems — possibly because the internet increases their ability to interact with others.
  • The findings can be broadly generalized to other developed countries.

Helpful resources:

The Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) publishes key data on the global internet economy.

The United Nations publishes the ICT Development Index to compare countries’ adoption of internet and communications technologies.

The Digital Economy and Society Index measures European Union members’ progress toward closing the digital divides in their societies.

Other research:

2015 article by the same authors examines rates of internet adoption by senior citizens.

2014 study looks at how compulsive online behavior is negatively associated with life satisfaction. Similarly, this 2014 article specifically focuses on the compulsive use of Facebook.

2014 study tests the association between happiness and online connections.

Journalist’s Resource has examined the cost of aging populations on national budgets around the world.

Categorized in Online Research
  • Bitcoin's rise could help lead to the creation of a so-called "decentralized internet," according to a venture capitalist
  • Decentralized internet is the idea that the web is run across a number of machines that are owned by regular users rather than owned in a central place like a server
  • This could ultimately reduced the power of tech giants, the VC said

Bitcoin's rise could help lead to the creation of a so-called "decentralized internet" that could take power away from large technology firms, two venture capitalists told CNBC on Thursday.

The internet works thanks to large centralized services such as server owners, cloud providers, search engines and social media. As a result, many internet giants are dominant in their respective area of the internet.

A decentralized internet promises to spread the running of these services across users. So, a number of independent machines would power services across the web.

The money pouring into cryptocurrencies like bitcoin is helping to bring resources to developing a decentralized internet, according to Hemant Taneja, managing director at U.S. venture capital firm General Catalyst.

"The underlying reason for cyrptocurrencies is about building a decentralized internet. And I think that's a profound reason," Taneja told CNBC in an interview at the Slush technology conference in Helsinki, Finland.

"So, when you think about all these large platform companies that have become so powerful… wouldn't it be nice if we could get the benefit of what these companies provide but without these centralized authorities that have so much control."

Related...

Taneja said that the industry is "nowhere near" having the technology ready for such a project, but the cryptocurrency bubble is helping to bring capital and talent to the development of a decentralized internet.

"The more smart money that starts believing there are benefits around decentralized internet the better it is for us," Taneja said.

Albert Wenger, another venture capitalist at Union Square Ventures, echoed the sentiment, but admitted that reducing the power of internet giants is a long way off.

"In the long run, I think that's the goal we are shooting for. I don't think they (tech giants) have to tremble in their boots any time soon," Wenger told CNBC in an interview on Thursday.

Source: This article was published cnbc.com By Arjun Kharpal

Categorized in Internet Privacy

When her youngest daughter, Naomi, was in middle school, Ellen watched the teen disappear behind a screen. Her once bubbly daughter went from hanging out with a few close friends after school to isolating herself in her room for hours at a time. (NPR has agreed to use only the pair's middle names, to protect the teen's medical privacy.)

"She started just lying there, not moving and just being on the phone," says Ellen. "I was at a loss about what to do."

Ellen didn't realize it then, but her daughter was sinking into a pattern of behavior that some psychiatrists recognize from their patients who abuse drugs or alcohol. It's a problem, they say, that's akin to an eating disorder or gambling disorder — some consider it a kind of Internet addiction. Estimates of how many people are affected vary widely, researchers say, and the problem isn't restricted to kids and teens, though some — especially those who have depression or anxiety disorder — may be particularly vulnerable.

 

Naomi had always been kind of a nerd — a straight-A student who also sang in a competitive choir. But she desperately wanted to be popular, and the cool kids talked a lot about their latest YouTube favorites.

"I started trying to watch as many videos as I could so, like, I knew as much as they did," says Naomi. "The second I got out of school, I was checking my phone." That's not unusual behavior for many teens and adults these days.

But in her hillside home across the bay from San Francisco, Naomi would dart to her room after school, curling up until after dark, watching video after video after video. When she finally emerged, she says, she was often bleary-eyed, and felt hazy and extremely agitated.

Ellen soon found herself walking on eggshells around her daughter; Naomi was often in a foul mood and quick to anger after staring at her small screen for hours. The anger and gloom were unusual for Naomi, and it went beyond typical teen moodiness, Ellen says. Her parents didn't realize it yet, but Naomi was falling into clinical depression, and her compulsive use of the Internet was speeding the descent.

The videos turned from comedy to violence

Over time, Naomi started watching videos of girls fighting each other. They'd pull each other's hair, scratch violently and sometimes knock each other out. Naomi and her friends rooted for certain fighters.

"I think it was just fun to watch because they would make me laugh," Naomi recalls. "And at that time I was having a pretty hard time dealing with depression and anxiety."

 

Naomi's parents were arguing a lot and she wasn't connecting with her dad at all. Then her grandmother died. For the first time in her life, it was tough to keep up with school.

"She woke up one morning really depressed, and I brought her to the hospital," Ellen says quietly. Naomi had received a poor grade on a test and told her mom she wanted to hang herself — she spent nearly a week at a psychiatric hospital under a suicide watch.

After she was released, Naomi turned back to her phone for comfort and companionship. She'd stopped going outside or visiting friends after school. She started clicking on how-to videos about ways to commit suicide. "I got the idea to overdose online," says Naomi. "I was researching how many pills I had to take to die."

Three weeks later, she ended up in the hospital again, after downing a bottle of Tylenol.

"She was home alone and we had been told to lock it up, but we just didn't think this would ever happen," says Ellen, who is now in tears.

Naomi's parents were shattered, and desperate to find a way to help their daughter.

The road to recovery

When Naomi was released from her second hospital stay, her family checked her into an addiction recovery center for teens called Paradigm. The high-end facility is a converted mansion at the end of a winding road in San Rafael, Calif. The family is tapping their retirement accounts to pay the $60,000 fee for Naomi's six-week, in-patient stay.

Jeff Nalin, head psychologist and co-founder of Paradigm, has been treating teens for substance abuse for more than 20 years. In the last few, he says, he's seen an increasing number of cases similar to Naomi's. She was diagnosed with a depression that led to what Nalin sees as an addiction disorder.

 

"I describe a lot of the kids that we see as having just stuck a cork in the volcano," says Nalin. "Underneath there's this rumbling going on, but it just rumbles and rumbles until it blows. And it blows with the emergence of a depression, or it emerges with a suicide attempt."

These teens are using smartphones and tablets, he says, for the same reasons others turn to hard drugs — to numb themselves from what's really going on inside.

Most teens with this compulsion come to Paradigm because they've hit bottom in the same way someone addicted to drugs or alcohol does, Nalin says. But the treatment for compulsive Internet use is trickier, he says, because you can't really function in today's society without interacting with the digital world.

"The best analogy is when you have something like an eating disorder," says Nalin. "You cannot be clean and sober from food. So, you have to learn the skills to deal with it."

When does obsession become addiction?

"Digital addictions," whether to social media, video games, texting, shopping or pornography, are not official mental disorders listed in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), and there's a debate among psychologists about whether that should change.

Dr. Anna Lembke, a Stanford University psychiatrist and assistant professor in addiction medicine, says she is seeing a classic addictive pattern of behavior in many of her clients who compulsively use the Internet.

"Addiction begins with intermittent to recreational use, then progresses into daily use, and then progresses into consequential use, which in some cases will progress to life-threatening use," Lembke says.

"That's followed by a pattern of consequences like insomnia, dysfunctional relationships and absent days at work or school," she says. "That's the natural narrative arc of any addiction, and the same is true with an Internet addiction."

China has labeled Internet addiction as a mental disorder, she notes, and that's surprising — historically the Chinese have considered addiction a moral failing rather than a clinical disorder.

Some experts attribute China's change in attitude to the widespread involvement of middle- and upper-class Chinese adolescents in what looks like addictive online behavior.

"A little like our opioid addiction here," says Lembke. "People say no one cared about the opioid epidemic until it affected white suburban kids."

 

Lembke predicts Internet addiction will become a validated clinical diagnosis in the U.S. as more and more cases mirror Naomi's.

Dr. Elias Aboujaoude, a psychiatrist and the director of Stanford's Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Clinic, says there's also increasing physiological evidence that the use of the Internet can become addictive for some people. Some studies using scanning technology have looked at people's brains while they're online, he says, and compared them to scans of the activated reward pathwaysin the brains of people who have a substance abuse disorder. "Similar pathways seem activated," he says.

He also says tolerance builds in people who compulsively use the Internet, just as it does with the use of hard drugs. He sees "people needing more and more time on a particular online video game, for example," he says, "to get the same kind of euphoric feeling."

Psychologists are still studying whether it is the overall use of the Internet that becomes pathologically compelling, or specific behaviors that people engage in while online — like shopping, gambling, playing video games or viewing pornography.

"My view is that it is both," says Aboujaoude. "These behaviors have long been known to be addictive, but the Internet, in part by making them so easily accessible, changes the equation and increases the likelihood that they will become addictive."

Some people studying the condition compare the development of an Internet addiction to that of a gambling disorder (sometimes called gambling addiction), which is included in the DSM-V. With gambling, even though most of the time when you're sitting in front of a slot machine you don't win, every once in a while you do. And that intermittent reward is what hooks people.

Think about your own use of personal electronic devices. Most of the time when your phone dings, the notification is about something trivial. But, every once in a while, it's something meaningful to you — like, perhaps, a notification that someone has tagged you in a Facebook photo. Researchers studying Internet use say that kind of message is irresistible.

Still, not everyone is convinced that "addiction" is the right way to think about this compulsion. Chris Ferguson, a psychologist at Stetson University, believes moral panic is fueling the rush to label the problem an addiction. "Sometimes with new technology you see these heightened claims of harm, these exaggerated focuses on the detriment of the new media."

Patrick Markey, a psychologist at Villanova University, agrees that society should go slow in using the "addiction" label. He worries some researchers are casting an age bias on younger generations.

"If we see kids playing video games or watching YouTube videos, in our eyes it's as if they're wasting their time and not being productive," Markey says. "We might want them to be outside playing baseball or something, but for that generation that's their pixelated playground. It might not be a sign of a pathological behavior."

Markey acknowledges it's possible to spend too much time interacting with a screen. But both he and Ferguson believe that spending long hours on the Internet falls into the same category as other behaviors that healthy people can overindulge in — like sex, food, exercise, religion and work.

"There's no agreement about whether these pathological behavioral disorders are really the same things as substance abuse addictions," says Ferguson. "But in my opinion they're not comparable to, say, methamphetamine addiction or heroin addiction."

A crusade for change

Even as researchers debate whether the Internet is clinically addictive, many if not most of us feel tethered to our devices. That's not a coincidence. Tech companies are invested in hooking people into spending more and more time online, and they're getting better and better at it, says Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google. His job, he says, was to help the company create products that weren't inherently manipulative.

"When you look at the Facebook news feed, it's not just some neutral thing," Harris says. "That's powered by massive farms of computers who are calculating, with Ph.D.s and large data sets: 'How I can get you to scroll?' "

Harris eventually quit his gig at Google to form a nonprofit called Time Well Spent, because, he says, he was disgusted by the tech industry's race for our attention. He says Google had good intentions, but it was too difficult to turn the tides at the tech giant.

"Never before in history have a handful of technology designers working at three tech companies influenced how a billion people spend their attention," Harris says.

He's now on a crusade to inspire Facebook, Google and Apple to design products that don't deliberately hook kids like Naomi.

Back at Paradigm, Naomi is getting ready for a session with her therapist, who is helping her integrate her devices back into her life. She is now in a month-long outpatient program four days a week after school. She says she doesn't plan to isolate herself again. In fact, she's asked her mom to restrict her phone use, so that she can't use the phone when she's alone.

"I've realized what it's done to me in some ways," Naomi says, "and I've seen what it has done to some of my friends."

Recently some of Naomi's friends were suspended from school for posting inappropriate videos to YouTube. Naomi doesn't want to follow in their footsteps. She hopes she can resist the allure of the digital world and return to the activities she used to love.

Source: This article was published npr.org By LESLEY MCCLURG

Categorized in Science & Tech

I’ve been hearing a lot these days from friends who are finding it more difficult to find pertinent information from their Google searches? There are many reasons for this, one is the way the search is written. I’m a big advocate of Search Strings, and have a comprehensive list in my full Internet Research workshop. There is a lot more information in the Deep Web if you know how to find it.

These databases and search engines offer a “deep dive” into the Internet and will help you get closer to the specific types of information you are looking. Be aware these don’t respond to typical Google type searches. They will ask you for more information and you will need to spend more time creating your search. However, the result will be more specific than a typical Web search.

  1. SurfWax. This search engine works very well for reaching deep into the web for information.
  2. Academic Index. Created by the former chair of Texas Association of School Librarians, this meta-search engine only pulls from databases and resources that are approved by librarians and educators.
  3. Dogpile. Dogpile searches rely on several top search engines for the results then remove duplicates and strives to present only relevant results.
  4. Yippy. Save yourself the work by using this search engine that looks among major search engines, social networks, flickrfor photos, Wikipedia, and many more sites.
  5. Clusty. Clusty searches through top search engines, and then clusters the results so that information that may have been hidden deep in the search results is now readily available.
  6. Mamma. Click on the Power Search option to customize your search experience with this meta-search engine.
  7. World Curry Guide. This meta-search tool with a strong European influence has been around since 1997 and is still growing strong.
  8. Fazzle.com. Give this meta-search engine a try. It accesses a large number of databases and claims to have more access to information than Google.
  9. Meltwater. Search blogs as well as the general Internet, the news, and more to receive results by posting date.
  10. iZito. Get results from a variety of major search engines that come to you clustered in groups. You can also receive only US website results or receive results with a more international perspective.
  11. pipl. Specifically designed for searching the deep web for people, this search engine claims to be the most powerful for finding someone.
  12. Mensur. Metrics from Scholarly Usage of Resources. The project’s major objective is enriching the toolkit used for the assessment of the impact of scholarly communication.

I hope these additional tools will help you with your search process.

Source: This article was published huffingtonpost.com By Geri Spieler

Categorized in Deep Web

GOOGLE CHROME users will soon be getting a new update to download that could change the way they browser the internet forever.

Google Chrome fans will be able to download a new ad blocker update that lets them mute entire websites.

Within a few clicks, Google Chrome users will be able to mute adverts that automatically plays video or audio thanks to a brand new incoming feature.

Google’s Francois Beaufort took to Google+ to reveal the brand new feature that the Google Chrome team is working on.

In a screenshot he shared, you can see that you’ll be able to click ‘Info’ or ‘Secure’ label on the left of the URL you’re visiting to access the feature.

This will open a pop-up menu and in it will be a new Sound option that lets you mute any and all sounds from the particular website.

The feature, which was reported by 9to5Google, will be useful when visiting websites that automatically play videos.

Also this summer Google announced they would be launching the Google Chrome ad-blocking features in early 2018.

The upcoming Google Chrome feature won’t block every advert, but will block ones that are deemed unacceptable.

The group that decides this is known as the Coalition for Better Ads, which includes Google, Facebook, News Corp, and The Washington Post.

This includes things such as pop-up adverts and ads that expand on their own.

Describing the upcoming feature, Google said: “Chrome has always focused on giving you the best possible experience browsing the web. 

“For example, it prevents pop-ups in new tabs based on the fact that they are annoying. 

“In dialogue with the Coalition and other industry groups, we plan to have Chrome stop showing ads (including those owned or served by Google) on websites that are not compliant with the Better Ads Standards starting in early 2018.”

Google is also set to introduce an option for website visitors to pay websites directly – in compensation for the adverts they're blocking.

Dubbed Funding Choices, Google has been testing a similar feature for some time, but it hopes a next-generation of the model will be ready to roll-out alongside its blanket ban on adverts.

One set of websites that have been left fearing for their future in light of the upcoming Google Chrome ad-blocker is torrent sites.

Chrome is the world’s most popular browser, and the leading browser for many torrent websites.

The upcoming ad blocker is expected to have a big effect on torrent sites and the revenue they bring in.

The owner of one torrent site, who did not want to be named, told TorrentFreak that the Google Chrome ad blocker could signal the end of torrents.

They said: “The torrent site economy is in a bad state. Profits are very low. Profits are f***** compared to previous years.

“Chrome’s ad-blocker will kill torrent sites. If they don’t at least cover their costs, no one is going to use money out of his pocket to keep them alive.

“I won’t be able to do so at least.”

Source: This article was published express.co.uk By DION DASSANAYAKE

Categorized in Search Engine

A new form of malware hit the internet Tuesday, shutting down systems across Europe and impacting companies from the U.S. to Russia. Unfortunately, the attack, which early reports indicate seems to have hurt Ukrainian organizations and agencies more in particular, is still largely a mystery for security researchers.

A form of ransomware, the malware encrypts a victim’s PC and demands that they pay $300 in exchange for the keys to unlock their computer or lose all of their data. The attack even managed to affect radiation monitoring equipment at the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site, forcing workers to rely on manual checks instead.

Cybersecurity firms originally believed the malware to be a perviously known form of ransomware called Petya, but Kaspersky Lab says it’s actually a different, unknown version kind of ransomware, causing the cybersecurity company to dub it NotPetya.

Interestingly, the Petya/NotPetya software uses a Microsoft (MSFT) Windows vulnerability similar to the one exploited by the WannaCry 2.0 ransomware which hit the web a few weeks ago. But it looks like that exploit, which was originally used by the NSA and called EternalBlue, is just one of three attack points this ransomware takes advantage of.

If your computer is infected with malware, your best bet is to simply erase the entire system. Ransomware programs sometimes require you to pay in Bitcoin, an anonymous currency that can’t be tracked.

However, criminals have increasingly begun demanding payment in the form of iTunes or Amazon gift cards, since the average person doesn’t know how to use Bitcoin, according to McAfee’s Gary Davis.

The amount you have to pay to unlock your computer can vary, with some experts saying criminals will ask for up to $500.

To be clear, ransomware doesn’t just target Windows PCs. The malware has been known to impact systems ranging from Android phones and tablets to Linux-based computers and Macs.

Where it comes from

According to Davis, ransomware was actually popular among cybercriminals over a decade ago. But it was far easier to catch the perpetrators back then since anonymous currency like Bitcoin didn’t exist yet. Bitcoin helped changed all that by making it nearly impossible to track criminals based on how victims pay them.

There are multiple types of ransomware out there, according to Chester Wisniewski, a senior security advisor with the computer security company Sophos. Each variation is tied to seven or eight criminal organizations.

Those groups build the software and then sell it on the black market, where other criminals purchase it and then begin using it for their own gains.

How they get you

Ransomware doesn’t just pop up on your computer by magic. You actually have to download it. And while you could swear up and down that you’d never be tricked into downloading malware, cybercriminals get plenty of people to do just that.

Here’s the thing: That email you opened to get ransomware on your computer in the first place was specifically written to get you to believe it was real. That’s because criminals use social engineering to craft their messages.

For example, hackers can determine your location and send emails that look like they’re from companies based in your country.

“Criminals are looking are looking up information about where you live, so you’ll click (emails),” Wisniewski explained to Yahoo Finance. “So if you’re in America, you’ll see something from Citi Bank, rather than Deutsche Bank, which is in Germany.”

Cybercriminals can also target ransomware messages to the time of year. So if it’s the holiday shopping season, criminals might send out messages supposedly from companies like the US Postal Service, FedEx or DHL. If it’s tax time, you could receive a message that says it’s from the IRS.

Other ransomware messages might claim the FBI has targeted you for using illegal software or viewing child pornography on your computer. Then, the message will tell you to click a link to a site to pay a fine — only to lock up your computer after you click.

It’s not just email, though. An attack known as a drive-by can get you if you simply visit certain websites. That’s because criminals have the ability to inject their malware into ads or links on poorly secured sites. When you go to such a site, you’ll download the ransomware. Just like that, you’re locked out of your computer.

How to protect yourself

Ransomware attacks vulnerabilities in outdated versions of software. So, believe it or not, the best way to protect yourself is to constantly update your operating system’s software and apps like Adobe Reader. That means you should always click that little “update” notification on your desktop, phone, or tablet. Don’t put it off.

Beyond that, you should always remember to back up your files. You can either do that by backing them up to a cloud service like Amazon (AMZN) Cloud, Google (GOOG,GOOGL) Drive or Apple’s (AAPL) iCloud, or by backing up to an external drive.

That said, you’ll want to be careful with how you back up your content. That’s because, according to Kaspersky Lab’s Ryan Naraine, some ransomware can infect your backups.

A ransomware attack screen designed to look like an official message from the F.B.I

Naraine warns against staying logged into your cloud service all the time, as some forms of malware can lock you out of even them. What’s more, if you’re backing up to an external hard drive, you’ll want to disconnect it from your PC when you’re finished, or the ransomware could lock that, as well.

Naraine also says you should disconnect your computer from the internet if you see your system being actively encrypted. Doing so, he explains, could prevent all of your files that have yet to be encrypted from being locked.

Above all, every expert I spoke with recommended installing some form of anti-virus software and some kind of web browser filtering. With both types of software installed, your system up to date, and a backup available, you should be well-protected.

Oh, and for the love of god, avoid downloading any suspicious files or visiting sketchy websites.

What to do if you’re infected

Even if you follow all of the above steps, ransomware could still infect your computer or mobile device. If that’s the case, you have only a few options.

The first and easiest choice is to delete your computer or mobile device and reinstall your operating system. You’ll lose everything, but you won’t have to pay some criminal who’s holding your files hostage.

Some security software makers also sell programs that can decrypt your files. That said, by purchasing one, you’re betting that it will work on the ransomware on your computer, which isn’t always the case. On top of that, ransomware makers can update their malware to beat security software makers’ offerings.

All of the experts agree that the average person should never pay the ransom — even if it means losing their files. Doing so, they say, helps perpetuate a criminal act and emboldens ransomware makers.

Even if you do pay up, the ransomware could have left some other form of malware on your computer that you might not see.

In other words: Tell the criminals to take a hike.

Source: This article was published Yahoo Finance By Daniel Howley

Categorized in Internet Privacy

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