The Fake Review Site Scam

Dont always believe online reviewsThe internet has opened a whole new avenue for marketing of products. E-business volumes have gone up significantly and with the proliferation of the internet these will increase many times over in the future. The internet apart from creating a marketing opportunity has enabled a lot of creative means to market products.

Initially it was just plain vanilla marketing, and then came in the online procurement and payment systems. Along with this came the process of evaluation of the products. Forums were created to discuss the products etc. If done with a good intent this would have been excellent way of letting the consumer make a right decision based on the actual inputs and feedback from other consumers. Unfortunately, the internet has huge disadvantage of being anonymous and as a result this facility can be misused in wither promoting a product or vice versa.

In many cases, it could be that there is a cabal formed by affiliates who can post very positive reviews about a product which can lead a potential customer to believe about the product based on the feedback only to understand later when they actually receives the product.

Can this be curbed? Not really.

However there can be other checks and balances that a potential consumer can put to use. Post queries in forums that are not managed by the site that you are referring to. Check the trend of the responses. If you find all positives with very little negative inputs then you need to find out be extra careful and cautious so as to make additional checks. Also try to find patterns in the language, the date of the posting and such other pointers as these could sometime give away these aspects quite blatantly.

Additionally, try finding out feedback from other websites which may sell a competing product as there could be a reference available about the product that you are looking for. Use other set of data pointers like whether the company is a listed and reputed brand, its existence, your ability to check out the product at a local store, the place from where the company is conducting its business, the mode of payment etc.

One must not be carried away by the fact that this is internet marketing. After all it is human and therefore there has to be caution exercised.

Another aspect to be borne in mind is the information available on the internet has not reached a point where it can be easily used in a court of law for mis-representation as the marketers could always claim that they were not aware of the person who posted that information. It will take time for cyber laws to evolve, and it is doing so slowly.

If you cannot make a decision, then you may choose not to buy it. It is better to buy a known product for a few dollars more than buying something worthless and repenting. It is better to be safe than sorry. In summary, whatever the checks and balances, the maxim – Caveat Emptor – Let the Buyer Beware prevails and products sold on the internet are no exception.

Happy online shopping!!
Read More

Protect Your Identity – Don’t Be Scammed

Internet Scams Are EverywhereThe internet provides a whole host of opportunities that were not available just a short time ago. One less desirable opportunity that has become a part of using the internet is coming into contact with unscrupulous people who are using the internet to rip people off.

And there is no shortage of opportunities to be ripped off if a person is not careful!

So to avoid being ripped off you have to make every effort fend off the many rip off artists that now prowl the net. There are some basic steps that you can be taken to protect yourself from internet rip off scams.

The first step to take is to make sure that you have a current version of a comprehension antivirus, anti spam, anti spyware program loaded on all computers that you use to access the internet. The cost of the program verses the risk and likelihood of attack is very good. The average software package can be purchased for fifty to sixty dollars.

The second step to take is to develop some routines that you follow when using the internet. Never go to a website that you are not certain is safe. Good  antivirus protection software such Trend Micro will flag sites that are potentially being used to scam and rip people off. If that warning comes up do not progress onto that page.

Trend Micro Internet Security 2010

Next if a website requests personal information without good reason, do not give out the information. The only site that you want to give personal information to is a site that you have contacted to do business with. If you haven’t contacted the site for the purpose of making a purchase or doing some kind of internet activity such as playing a game do not fill out anything that requests your personal information.

The next step to take is to avoid giving information in response to confirmation requests. Your bank or online payment website or online auction site will not request that you give personal information in response to an email. They will ask you to visit their site and update it. Scam artists are sending requests to confirm information for all kinds of different types of accounts including credit cards, online payment sites, bank accounts, college financial information, or anything else that might contain personal information.

Protect Yourself From ScamsAnother key step you can take to protect yourself is to avoid websites that are typically used for scamming.

Many different types of websites tend to be favorites for scammers.

Any website that offers you something for free in exchange for taking a survey that includes personal information should be avoided. Sites that offer adult content and sites that offer video games that you can play are also favorites of the scammer.

Both are addictive type sites that can catch you in a weak moment and steal your personal information. Another ploy that scammers use is dating and singles websites. The scammer will try to make a personal connection in order to build trust that leads to the theft of your personal information.

A little caution can go a long way in protecting oneself while on the internet. The reality is that you do not have to be ripped off. Many online scams these days are so well put together people don’t realise they were scammed even after the event!

We will take a look at some popular scams over the next few weeks.

Getting ripped off is not mandatory.
Read More

Windows 7 – Improved Security?

When Microsoft debuted Windows Vista on January 30th, 2007 it was clear that they had made online security one of their top priorities with this operating system. In fact, Windows Vista was the most secure Microsoft operating system to date.

So how did the Microsoft team approach the security issue when they decided to create Windows 7? Well first, they decided to take into consideration suggestions from Vista users to see what they could possibly improve with their online security features. These suggestions allowed the programmers to make the system more user friendly when it came to the security features.

Microsoft developed Windows 7 according to the Security Development Lifecycle (SDL). The goals of SDL are to minimize the number of security related design and coding defects, and to reduce the harshness of the defects that remain. This alone doesn’t make the system unique from Vista, as Vista was also developed according to the SDL. But seeing how Vista’s online security features were Microsoft’s best yet, it was clear that Windows 7 needed to be molded from that version.

Along with implementing the SDL into this new system, Microsoft also included such Vista key security features as Data Execution Prevention (DEP), Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR), Kernel Patch Protection, and Mandatory Integrity Levels.

So now you’re scratching your head asking yourself, “Then what makes this operating system special? Looks like it is just Windows Vista repackaged with a new look and name, but same security features.”

Though it’s true Windows 7 shares some of the same features as Vista on the security standpoint, it is also fair to say that some of those same features have been tweaked a little, improving their performance and reliability. Such as the Enhanced UAC you will find with Windows 7.

The UAC, or User Account Control, gives the administrators more power over what features and applications to grant access to when it comes to certain guest users and employees. UAC is what controls those pesky, annoying security prompts that you see pop up from time to time. Vista users gave this feature some heavy negative feedback, thus forcing Microsoft to re-think the way this feature works. They have worked out all the kinks and have reduced the number of applications and operating system tasks that trigger the prompts. Now if you access User Accounts in the Control Panel you can even adjust this feature to your liking and customize it to fit your own security needs.

Everyone knows you need more than just a password these days to protect yourself and your computer. Heck, nowadays most web sites require that you make your password at least so many letters long, include so many numbers, and on top of that you not only have to create a security question and password but also pick a picture from a series of graphics to be tied to your account. Windows 7 actually upped the ante when it comes to password protecting your computer. They have implemented better driver support and more reliable fingerprint reading across different hardware platforms. So now you don’t have to worry about some computer hacker logging into your computer to access all of your important files because if you have fingerprint access enabled on your computer, no one but you can get into your computer.

Windows 7 preserves Vista's data-protection technologies, such as EFS (Encrypting File System) and support for AD RMS (Active Directory Rights Management Services). Microsoft tinkered with those technologies to make them perform a little better, and they notably improved on Vista's BitLocker drive encryption technology, and it adds BitLocker to Go for encrypting data on separable media. You see, Windows vista was capable of protecting the volumes and drives that were part of the computer, but it could not do the same for removable drives. That’s part of the reason Windows 7 differs from Vista in that it is capable of protecting all of the files on your removable drives with BitLocker to Go. It’s a nice feature that will surely add more needed protection to your important files which you may keep on things such as Floppies, Jump Drives, or disc.

Also, with BitLocker to Go, administrators can block anyone from adding information to their removable files or even from removing information if those files are accessed. BitLocker requires Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip to store BitLocker encryption keys and smooth the progress of the encryption and decryption of the BitLocker-protected data. Many desktops and laptops do not come with a TPM chip, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world for you and your internet safety. Microsoft has included the option to use BitLocker Drive Encryption without a compatible TPM, though it’s not a cake walk in order to access it. Though the lack of a TPM chip can create a small road block, it can be overcome.

So in closing I must say that I am very impressed with the online security features within Windows 7. Like I discussed above, the final product does mimic Vista in the features implemented within the operating system, but most of those features have been slightly modified in order to offer the Windows user a safer and easier way of obtaining protection when surfing the net.

Read More

Protecting Your Online Privacy By Using Encrypted Connections though Proxy Servers

Too many people take it for granted that what they do online is private and protected, but the truth is that most people have data that is vulnerable, all too ready for sophisticated people to capture.

Even people who work on private networks are at risk, but for those using public networks the risk is even greater. Keeping data secure is crucial for anyone who wants to avoid the damaging loss of personal or critical business information.

The simple act of hitting “Reply” on an email is task fraught with risk.

There are many safe guards that can be put in place, but one of the most secure ways to protect your online privacy is by using encrypted connections when working through a private proxy server.

Encryption, in terms of moving information, is the process by which data is put through a complex algorithm which makes it unreadable to anyone who does not have the key to decrypt it. Encryption can be used to protect data on computers and storage devices and is the first round of defense for those wanting to keep their personal data private when working online.

Another weapon in the arsenal of those wanting to protect their online privacy is the use of a private proxy server. A proxy server is a computer or application that serves as go-between for information requests between servers. Requests can be for information such as a web page, a file download, or other services and these are made through a proxy server rather than connecting directly to the server that houses the actual data.

The proxy server has two primary purposes, one is to maintain anonymity of the computer behind it for security reasons and the other reason is to speed access to a data resource.

There are numerous types of proxy servers including a caching proxy, a reverse proxy, a tunneling proxy, and a content filer proxy server. All of these different type servers provide different functions and features.

Many public proxy servers will accept unencrypted information and this can create a security risk because the data could be collected and thus make it vulnerable. It is important that those who use proxy servers know the integrity of the proxy servers they connect to, which is why the use of a private proxies with a good reputation is advised.

In some cases, malicious proxy servers have been intentionally set-up to record all unencrypted data and this data can later be harvested and used by those that have captured it. The key to protecting your personal data is encryption and this applies whether you are on a private or public network and specifically when accessing data through a proxy server. Using an encrypted connection can provide a great line of defense against internet hackers who employ packet sniffers and other sophisticated means of capturing private data.

Read More

The Need To Protect Your Identity Online

Who you are has become a precious commodity to identity thieves. For this reason, many people now shred credit card statements, order items by cheque again, and pay with cash instead of debit card.

However, they often forget that the same hackers who stole personal information from corporate and government databases do not have to go so far to gather all the information of your personal identity online.

Why is it important to protect your identity online?

  1. If someone has your account information, researching your personal information can result in finding the answers to your personal questions. Finding your birth certificate can result in knowing the mother’s maiden name, or it could be as simple as asking that information of you at a genealogy chat room. Reading about your favorite sports teams could lead them to your most likely password. Reading your blog could lead them to know where you consider home to be, another common security question. Thus a little online sleuthing can yield the answers to the security questions that were meant to protect your accounts, and it is information we have often already made available if you do not take steps to protect your identity online.
  2. Your online identity can provide the information necessary to perform identity theft in the real, financial world. Without your current account information but armed with your real information, they may learn enough from your online identity enough to pretend to be you in the real world. Your name, address, and phone number are easily looked up. A social networking site can provide your employer and perhaps even income verification. Information on where you shop, your opinions of credit cards, your online portfolio analysis – all of this information attached to your online identity can give a would-be thief enough information to fill out the necessary forms to get a solid Gold credit card with your name on it.
  3. If you do not protect your identity online, it is easy for someone to gather all of your personal information and then pretend to be you. A former business partner who wants to discredit you through professional forums, an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend who wants to destroy your life online, all of the information to do can be gleaned unless you have already protected your personal identity online.
  4. Spear phishing is targeted phishing with the goal of either hacking someone’s computer or eliciting information out of them. This may be done by foreign corporations wanting technical information from a rival firm. It may be done by foreign nationals targeting those with security clearance in the United States. If you have not protected your identity online, you have given these predators the ability to approach you wrapped in a protective cloak. Potentially worse is that you have an insecure online identity, and the phishing attacks of these entities can be done from your online identity, leading law enforcement and searchers to your doorstep
  5. Many companies now do social networking searches of potential employees. If your online identity is either less than perfect or easily made falsely slanderous, you will lose out on employment and consulting opportunities.

Thankfully there are ways to protect your identity online, and the use of anonymous browsing software is the first step we all should take.


Read More