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Posts Tagged ‘Privacy’

Beware: Free Google Play Flashlight Apps Could Cost You

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

malicious-apps

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.

Sources:
¹https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8xz8xKEFvU
²https://www.websense.com/assets/reports/websense-2013-threat-report.pdf
³http://www.snoopwall.com/threat-reports-10-01-2014/

Stay Low: Tips for Preventing Social Media Cyber Crime Victimization

March 11th, 2015 | Business Security, Cyber, Privacy, Security | 0 Comments

Social media cyber crime photo 1.

March 11, 2015

By Stephanie Kent
Investigative Research Assistant

Social networking websites have not only revolutionized social connectedness, but they have generated a powerful new means of advertising and marketing for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Although it may sound like the ideal medium through which to connect with old friends or engage masses of new customers, social media may be the single thing that will cost you your identity, wealth, business and reputation. Like anything that appears ‘too good to be true,’ social media can have irreversible negative consequences if users do not take the appropriate precautions. The number of con-artists, cybercriminals, and other fraudulent actors who exploit online social networks for iniquitous purposes continues to increase rapidly.

In December, 2013, security experts discovered a cache of approximately 2 million pilfered passwords to popular social media websites. Hackers across the globe had stolen usernames, passwords and credentials through 326,000+ Facebook accounts; ~60,000 Google accounts; 59,000+ Yahoo accounts and ~22,000 Twitter accounts.¹ Today, more than 600,000 Facebook accounts are compromised daily (that’s ~219 million jeopardized Facebook accounts a year)!²

According to the FBI, cybercriminals who exploit social networks can typically be divided into two tactical groups.³ The first employs computer savvy hackers who are well-practiced in writing and altering computer code to gain access or install undesired software on your device. The second group uses “social engineers” who exploit personal relations through social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. These hackers use the World Wide Web to gather information about a person through his or her history of statuses, photos, comments, tweets, online interactions, and other personal information they’ve posted. With this abundance of intimate knowledge about the victim, social engineers know exactly how to assume the target’s identity and manipulate people into getting through all types of security walls. They frame their stories as to appear totally harmless and legitimate, and with the help of human naivety, they often succeed. Falling for this type of seemingly harmless social media scam could be extremely damaging not only for a personal victim, but also for the organization that employs that victim.

To avoid becoming an easy target of social media cyber crime, refer to the simple steps listed below.

How to Better Protect Yourself on Social Media:

1. Create a Strong Password for Every Account

Although hackers may seem like masterminds, nearly 16,000 of the compromised Facebook accounts mentioned above used the same simple password, ‘123456’! These users may as well have gone on vacation, left the house key on the doorstep, and put their passport, wallet, and birth certificate inside the door! Make your password at least 10 digits long, with a combination of various numbers, symbols and letters (include capitals and lower-case). Avoid using the same password for multiple websites because once your universal password is decrypted, every account you own is easily accessible to the hacker.

2. Change Your Facebook Settings to “Friends Only”

View your privacy settings on your Facebook account. Make sure your default privacy setting is not set to public (along with posts and photos you publish on your wall). If you have set it to “Custom,” be sure you are aware and comfortable with any “Networks” with which you’re sharing data.

3. Be VERY Wary of Who You Add as a Friend or Contact on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

Many accounts are created under false pretenses in order to gain your information upon your acceptance of the friend invite. If the person inviting you to connect via social media has very few friends or connections, or has published limited information about him or herself, exercise caution! This is probably not someone you know. Even if the person shows one or two mutual friends, ask those friends of yours how they know this person before accepting the individual as your own friend. Remember, social engineers are very clever and will use whatever photos, info and aliases they can to access your profile publicly. Never add people to your social media that you do not surely know and trust with ALL of your posted information!

4. Avoid Posting Personal Information on All Social Media Venues

It is important to note that once something is posted to any social networking website, it is no longer private. Even when you enable the highest security settings on your accounts, your information can certainly be leaked on the Internet! It’s true that the “friends only” setting will help protect you, but the more information you post to social media, the more likely you are to become a target for hackers. The more info you share online, the easier it is for hackers to impersonate you and deceive your contacts into sharing their own information, downloading malware, or providing access to restricted sites, thus feeding the vicious cycle of cyber crime! Avoid posting your personal phone number, birthday, address and email on Facebook. Your Facebook contacts can always send Facebook messages to contact you privately, and if you are close enough to be Facebook “friends” they would most likely have your other personal info anyway.

5. Avoid Dropping Pins with Your Device’s GPS on Social Media

Allowing people to pinpoint exactly where you are in the world at a specific time is not the wisest idea when trying to stay safe from criminal activity (whether cyber or not)! You may as well post a sign on your front door saying “At the international airport, going to be in Europe for two weeks… make yourselves at home!” Just don’t do it. Either privately inform your friends about the upcoming trip, or wait until you have returned to post about it.

6. Password Protect All of Your Devices

Yes, folks, that means your Macs, your PCs, your tablets, your iPads, your iPhones, your Androids, your iPods, your Blackberrys, and every other device under the sun that connects to Wi-Fi! Not only password protect them, but get those creative juices flowing beyond ‘123456.’

7. Put a Google Alert on Your Name4

This is a very easy way to be aware of what’s being posted about you online. It takes under a minute to do. Go here: https://www.google.com/alerts and enter your name and variations of your name with quotation marks around it. Finished!

8. Log Out Of Your Online Accounts When You’re Finished Using Them

Not only does this help reduce the chances of being tracked as you surf the Web, it prevents the next person who uses that computer from loading one of your accounts and snooping. This is especially important when using a public computer. Remember, ‘x’ing out of a page does not mean you are logging out! People often forget this and suffer the horrible consequences of personal invasion.

9. Turn On 2-step Authentication in Gmail

One small step for a Gmail man, one giant leap for his Gmail security! 2-step authentication requires that you enter a code (that’s sent to your phone) each time you attempt to access your account from a new device. Therefore, even if the malicious type decodes your password, they won’t be able to sign into your account from an unauthorized device.

If you believe that either you or your organization has been victimized by cyber-criminal behavior, 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.

References:

1http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2518540/Facebook-Twitter-hackers-steal-passwords-2m-social-mediaaccounts.html
2http://www.insecpro.com/index.php/articles/cyber-crime-statistics
3http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/counterintelligence/internet-social-networking-risks
4http://www.forbes.com/pictures/gdfd45efkm/put-a-google-alert-on-your-name/

Google Glass – A New Investigative Tool

May 30th, 2013 | Privacy, Private Investigator | 0 Comments

This is the new tool that has been creating the buzz all over the internet. Google has held four public discussions showing off their new amazingly innovative product – Google Glass. The product is a pair of glasses that allows the user wearing them to surf the internet, record video, and more.

Could this be the new investigative tool? In order to get the product early, you need to do a video of why you want the product and why you should be one of the chosen ones who get it. What person than a private investigator to need this product? It’s smooth, slick, and only costs $1200! The coolest aspect about this new product is that it looks just like the person is simply wearing reading glasses.

To find more information on this new product – check out Google Glass for yourself. ☺

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.

Why Your Mobile is at Risk for a Cyber Attack

January 10th, 2013 | Business Security, Cyber, Privacy, Private Investigator, Security | 0 Comments

We know that that little device that you carry around with you all day long, sleep with, and use the washroom with (we’re all guilty!) – is amazing. However, because of just how amazing it is, it also poses a danger. Users across the world are experiencing malware attacks everyday.

Why Your Mobile is at Risk for a Cyber Attack

With people using so many different types of applications such as banking applications, shopping applications, social media applications, and more, this is providing all the vital information to criminals around the world. Although so many people think changing their password to these applications regularly will keep them safe, the truth is that this amazing technology poses a major threat to users and their private and confidential information.

The main issue with these “hackers” is that they are experts in their field. These hackers aren’t high school schools, they are well trained professionals in the computer science industry.

Banks across the world are trying to find more and more methods of protecting their customers when using these applications, however, the reality is that with all these customers using these applications, once the hacker gets into the application, they have all the information they require to get access to your banking details, which is obviously terrifying for customers.

Please keep this in mind when you are using your mobile phone to check your bank accounts, pay bills, and transfer money.

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