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Posts Tagged ‘Cyber Stalking’

Beware: Free Google Play Flashlight Apps Could Cost You

March 24th, 2015 | Cyber, Privacy, Security | 0 Comments


March 24, 2015

By Stephanie Kent
Investigative Research Assistant

Why would you go to the store and pay $0.99 for a flashlight keychain when you could just download a free flashlight app from the Google Play Store? Perhaps because the latter could cost you your privacy, your identity and thousands more dollars in the long run.

Researchers have found that the most popular flashlight applications are secretly stealing personal data stored on users’ mobile devices. Gary Miliefsky, cybersecurity expert and CEO of SnoopWall, has called this issue “bigger than Ebola,” as he explains that “500 million people are infected without knowing it.” Based on his company’s research, Mr. Miliefsky asserts that “the top ten flashlight apps from the Google Play Store are all malware; they’re all malicious; they’re all spying; they’re all snooping; they’re all stealing.” It’s a costly assumption that these applications solely function as flashlights. Upon one click of the app, they can access and store any information you have ever entered on your device. Masses of such stolen data have been tracked and linked to three countries: China, India and Russia. Mr. Miliefsky states that this personal information is primarily used for criminal purposes, but also provides nation states an easy way to collect information on Americans.¹

How do they get away with this?

Let me refer you to a recent lawsuit: the Brightest Flashlight application was sued by the FTC for this malicious activity. As part of the settlement, Brightest Flashlight agreed to construct a 25-page Privacy Policy essentially stating that by accepting the terms and conditions, the user is allowing the application to access all personal data stored on the device. At the time of the lawsuit, Brightest Flashlight had 50 million downloads. Now, it has approximately 100 million downloads. Clearly, people are not reading the Privacy Policy.

What are the top-ten flashlight apps from the Google Play Store that have access to personal information?

 1. Super-Bright LED (Surpax Technology Inc.)
 2. Brightest Flashlight Free (GoldenShores Technologies, LLC)
 3. Tiny Flashlight + LED (Nikolay Ananiev)
 4. Flashlight (Zerone Mobile)
 5. Flashlight (Mobile Apps Inc)
 6. Brightest LED Flashlight (Intellectual Flame Co., Ltd.)
 7. Color Flashlight (Notes)
 8. High-Powered Flashlight (iHandy Inc.)
 9. Flashlight HD LED (smallte.ch)
10. Flashlight: LED Torch Light (Mobile Apps Inc)

What if I have already downloaded a malicious app?

First, uninstall the application from your device(s). Then, backup your crucial data (family photos, contacts, etc.). Finally, take your phone in for a factory reset, which will wipe hidden data areas where malicious trojans have been installed by the application.

Note: Simply uninstalling the app is not always sufficient, as trojans often operate in the background while you do important things on your phone, like mobile banking or online shopping!

How do we know which apps are safe?

1. Read the privacy policies! That means scroll and read through every page, and make sure they aren’t blatantly telling you they’re going to access your personal information.
2. Take note of the application size. Ex: Safe flashlight apps should be under 100KB. The malicious flashlight apps are generally 1.2+MB. Any flashlight around 1.2MB or larger is suspect – that is an abnormally large file to just turn a light on and off.
3. Know the features to which each app is requesting access. If the app requests information beyond the requirements for that particular app function, don’t install it!
Ex: If Google Maps wants access to your GPS, that makes sense! However, if Angry Birds or Candy Crush (for example) wants access to your GPS, you should be skeptical!

Note: 82% of malicious apps send, receive, read or write SMS messages. Very few legitimate apps require any SMS permissions; 10% of spying apps ask for permission to install other apps – another unlikely requirement of legitimate apps.²

How can we protect our smartphones and ourselves from eavesdroppers and privacy breaches?

Common sense goes a long way when it comes to protecting our personal information. In order to accept this responsibility, we must recognize that our smartphones can be serious threats if not properly protected. Take the following free and easy steps to better safeguard your smartphone:

1. Disable your GPS and Bluetooth after each use. They should never be running when it’s not necessary.
2. Permanently disable your NFC (Near Field Communications) or, on Apple devices, your iBeacon.
3. Verify all app requirements and privacy risks before installing. Do some research and ask yourself “why is this app requesting access to my GPS, microphone, webcam, contacts, etc.?” Most apps only use these ports if they intend to invade your privacy. Don’t install these risky applications – there are usually safe alternatives.
4. iPhone users: Go to “Settings” > “Privacy” and see which apps request which information. You may switch a particular application to “Off” if you do not want it linking to certain data (like your contacts or photos, for example).
5. Either cover your webcam and microphone or disable your smartphone when you are not using it. This may sound extreme, but it will ensure your personal safety. It’s better to err on the side of caution when it comes to identity theft!³

If you or your organization has fallen victim to any malicious cyber activity, contact Jennings Smith Associates toll-free today at 866-629-3757 for a free consultation or visit us online at www.jsainvestigations.com.


Curt Schilling Case: Taking a Stand on Cyber Bullying

March 17th, 2015 | Cyber, Privacy, Security | 0 Comments

Don't be a victim of online bullies.

March 17, 2015

By Stephanie Kent
Investigative Research Assistant

Former Red Sox pitcher, Curt Schilling, found himself “trembling with rage” last week at the sight of heinous tweets directed towards himself and his 17 year-old daughter, Gabby Schilling. When Gabby had been accepted into Salve Regina University — where she will join the softball team — Curt posted a tweet publicly congratulating her. In response, he received a number of abominable and abusive tweets sexualizing and harassing his daughter. Despite my discomfort quoting such abhorrent words, I must do so in support of Schilling’s fight against these soulless Web users. Society needs to feel how deeply disturbing these words are, and take action against this malicious online behavior.

“how far is Salve Regina from Jersey? I wanna come and play but Gabby wants me to cum and stay”
“teach me your knuckle ball technique so I can shove my fist in your daughter”
“I’m sure she could fit a nice Easton in there as well for some DP”
“I’d put my 32oz Louisville slugger between your daughters tits” (accompanying an obscene graphic)
“curt bleeds more from his sock than gabby does from her pussy when she’s on her period”
“throw me a meatball curt so I can take it deep in your daughter”
“he doesn’t like answering. Might have to slide back in Gabs DMs like last week”¹

After reading these nauseating comments (amongst others), it’s easy to dismiss this as a unique attack made by a few disturbed people lacking intelligence, class and basic humanity. However, it’s time for the public to take action and fight this serious behavior as Curt Schilling has done. We must realize that this is merely one example of a grave cyber bullying issue that continues to worsen in the modern age. As in all cases like this, there is no explanation that could warrant such malicious behavior. This inexcusable online activity shouldn’t affect the intended targets alone; it should affect each and every one of us. How did we create a society in which “people” feel proud to bully innocent victims? We need to get the message through to everyone that cyber bullying will have detrimental consequences not only to their targets, but to themselves both legally and socially!

Legally, we are making progress as a nation. Each state has already passed some type of bullying law or policy. All states but Montana have passed at least one law defining “bullying” and entitling authorities or school officials to act appropriately to stop the phenomenon. Although anti-bullying laws vary on the state level, they typically list the distinct behaviors that constitute bullying. Among these behaviors are generally “teasing, threats, intimidation, stalking, harassment, physical violence, theft, and public humiliation. States may also identify certain characteristics or traits of students who are often targeted for bullying, as well as provide guidance to school staff regarding how to address bullying issues.”² The term “cyber bullying” refers to harassment or intimidation by means of mobile devices or internet. While no federal laws addressing bullying have been passed, certain civil rights and nondiscrimination laws may mandate schools to intervene with specific kinds of bullying.

While we’re creating laws to abolish cyber bullying, we must also hold ourselves to a much higher standard as a society. We need more people to take a public stand against bullying of any sort — whether or not it involves us directly. What can you do to strengthen the fight against cyber bullying?

1. Be aware of signs of bullying. As stated above, teasing, threats, intimidation, stalking, harassment, physical violence, theft, public humiliation and embarrassment can all be considered bullying. And that is according to most laws!

2. If you witness any type of bullying, report it to an authority immediately. Do not let time pass. The following are authorities to whom you may report a case of bullying: school administrator (teacher, principal, dean, guidance counselor or academic adviser), coach, police officer, lawyer, even your parents if you are a minor! Informing someone who may have more insight and authority to act on the matter is extremely important.

3. If you are being targeted by a cyber bully, do not engage yourself with that person. No matter how tempting it is to rebut and stand your ground, do not respond to aggressive chats, posts or emails sent by the bully. Do not give them fuel for their behavior.

4. Keep a record of everything. Collect and document every piece of cyber bullying evidence you have received. Save every post, every message, every missed call, and record every word (if he or she bullies verbally as well).

5. If you see social media posts that are inappropriate, even if they’re irrelevant to you, report it to that social media network. Online cyber bullying can take place on many public sites, not just Twitter. Keep an eye out, and be ready to act.

6. Do not “follow” cyber bullies or add them as friends on any social media networks. Do not “like” any of their inappropriate comments. Don’t be a bystander who stoops to this level to see what else that person may post. Peer support enables cyber bullies, and if they feel that their heinous comments are gaining publicity and followers then they feel supported to proudly say such things in our society. Take the high road and do something about it, do not stand by and watch as they bully more victims.

7. Avoid posting any material that could be used against you by a cyber bully. This means no provocative photos, no evidence of illegal or inappropriate activity, no status updates that you wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing with the world (including parents, children, employers, etc.). A common case of cyber bullying is an ex targeting his or her former partner. If during a relationship, you send explicit photos of yourself to your significant other, realize that he or she will still have those photos when you break up! In many cases, photos like this have been publicized out of jealousy or to get revenge after a break-up.

If you or your child has been a victim of cyber bullying, contact Jennings Smith Associates toll-free today at 866-629-3757 for a free consultation, or visit us online at www.jsainvestigations.com. All inquiries are strictly confidential.


¹http://www.huffingtonpost.com/good-men-project/as-a-father-and-as-a-man-i-am-disgusted-by-curt-2. schillings-twitter-trolls_b_6848008.html

1 in 5 Americans Experience Cyber Stalking

January 16th, 2013 | Cyber, Privacy, Private Investigator, Security | 0 Comments

The National Cyber Security Alliance and McAfee released a shocking statistic this January, stating that one in five Americans experience a type of cyber stalking. January is the Annual Stalking Awareness month and in response to that, a survey was completed to show that about 20% of Americans have been affected by a form of cyber stalking. Cyber stalking can take the form of constant emails, constant contact in Facebook, Twitter, etc.

1 in 5 Americans Experience Cyber Stalking

It’s also important to know that not only adults are affected by cyber stalking. Cyber stalking can also happen with young teenagers online. That’s why it’s crucial for parents to keep an eye on what their kids are doing online. You should have certain restrictions.

With all the media that is available online today such as pictures and videos on Facebook, photos and videos on Twitter, videos on YouTube, and more it’s allowing stalkers more and more room to enter the lives of others unwillingly.

When the National Cyber Security Alliance and McAfee completed the survey, they found that 17% of Americans have been affected by identity theft, data theft, online stalking, online bullying, or online fraud. And 29% stated that they know of someone who’s been affected by this type of crime.
Most people don’t even worry about it because they consider cyber stalking to be unreal and more targeted toward celebrities. However, cyber crime can take many forms such as online bullying through any online medium, identify theft, data theft online, and more.

Do you think you are a victim of some form of cyber crime? Feel free to contact us to find out more information on how we can help you find out what’s going on and how to resolve your online issues.

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