Monday, June 18, 2012

Why Cyber Criminals want Your Password

Jake Nonnemaker, Axicom CEO
Following is a  re-post from CEO Tech Blog, by Jake Nonnemaker, CEO/Founder of Axicom:

"Gaining your password is the Golden Ticket to a cyber-criminal.  But why would they want your password?  Some people think that they have nothing valuable that a criminal would want so they use weak, convenient passwords.  The truth is that you have valuable treasure sitting in your inbox.

Your Email is a Gateway to Criminal Riches

You may think that it is ridiculous that a criminal wants access to your email account.  After all, your mailbox only contains some bad jokes, chain letters, and a ton of spam.  Wrong!  Don't you remember that bill reminder from your bank? If a cyber-criminal gets access to your email, they now know where you bank.  But that's okay, because your online bank account is protected by personal security questions that you only know the answers to, like your mother's maiden name, your high school mascot, or your favorite movie, right?

But wait, the criminal has full access to your mailbox so it's not much of a problem to go to Facebook and request a password reset which sends a reset code to your mailbox.  By creating a new Facebook password, the criminal now has full access to your Facebook account and can view the names of your family members, your high school you attended, and favorite books and movies.  That means that they could easily ascertain your mother's maiden name, your high school mascot and your favorite movie.  That information could allow them to access your online banking account information.

If the cyber-criminal has access to your  bank account, they can use the bill pay to send themselves a check or transfer money to one of their disposable online accounts like PayPal.  Cyber-criminals can use the same techniques to access your online credit card account and download your latest bill which contains the full credit card number.
Other Mailbox Gems

Another gem for a cyber-criminal who has access to your mailbox, is your Social Security Number (SSN).  Maybe you sent a copy of your tax return or tax prep organizer or a completed credit application, to your bank, mortgage broker, a product vendor or tax preparer.  Or you may have emailed your SSN to your spouse for one reason or another.  Perhaps you one time sent or received a copy of your credit report.  If your SSN is anywhere in your mailbox, a cyber-criminal with access to your mailbox will find it.

With your SSN, personal address, phone number and other contact info, mother's maiden name, a cyber-criminal can open up credit card accounts or bank loans in your name and start running up charges.

With access to your mailbox, they can download your address book which has the names, addresses, phone number and email addresses of all your friends and family.  These are great leads for a cyber-criminal's next victim.

Cautious Passwords

One needs to exercise much caution and forethought when choosing a password for their mailbox and Facebook.  See your mailbox through the eyes of cyber-criminal as a treasure chest and toolbox to do evil.

Your best protection is to use a long password of 12 characters or more using a complex mix of letters, numbers, and/or special characters. Plus it must be remember.  The technique I prefer is to use a phrase and substitute special characters for the spaces.  Here are some examples:


This password technique will foil most tools used by cyber-criminals, namely guessing and dictionary attacks.  They will be forced to use a brute force hack or rainbow tables.  Both techniques will be impractical because it will take too much computing power, storage and time to crack your password and they will move on to easier targets."

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Does Using Paper Kill Trees?

If you receive any bills by mail, you have probably received the message that "Paper Kills Trees." If so, you are the target of a marketing campaign by NACHA, The Electronics Payment Association. In their efforts to convince people to receive and pay bills electronically, they found that the message, "Paper Kills Trees," was a strong motivator to switch to electronic bill pay. Although a large part of the public believes this message, it is far from accurate.

In understanding the environmental impact of any product or service, it is necessary to delve into the upstream and downstream impacts. In the case of paper made from wood pulp, the source of the product is trees, a 100% renewable resource. The demand for paper and other wood products insures that forests remain valuable - as forests. And in fact, the Society of American Foresters reports that forested lands in the U.S. increased by 49% from 1953 to 2006. Every year, private landowners plant 3 to 4 times as many trees as they harvest. Using paper and other wood products provides an income from these forested lands which is an economic incentive to maintain and manage them. Without this income, there is an economic incentive to convert the forests to farmland for more valuable crops or to sell it for development.

In contrast, electronic devices require minerals, metals, plastics, hydrocarbon solvents and other non-renewable resources to produce. Some of these resources are classified as "conflict metals" and their use from the Congo requires reporting to the U.S. government.

Approximately 89% of the electricity in the U.S. comes from non-renewable fossil fuels. But paper in the U.S. is made with about 60% renewable energy. Printed products have a one time carbon footprint. But electronic devices and data centers require a constant supply of electricity. Many of these centers are located where power comes from coal, some of which may be supplied through mountain top removal mining, with devastating ecological consequences.

Paper is totally recyclable and some 63.5% of all paper used in North America is recovered for recycling. In contrast, only 13.6% of electronic waste is recycled. The bulk of electronic waste is shipped overseas to be dismantled, often by processes that are unsafe for workers and surrounding communities. Some of it is burned to recover metals.

In ecological terms, using paper does not "kill" trees. Of course, there are environmental impacts from both electronic media and paper. The impacts from paper can be, and are being, reduced and minimized. An informed public can further reduce these impacts, as they can with electronic media as well. Misleading or oversimplified marketing slogans are not going to help in that effort.