Who Was Alan Turing? And Why Did Queen Elizabeth Grant Him a Pardon?

By Russell Goldman
Dec 24, 2013 10:47am

(In light of the Duck Dynasty ignorance, I thought this appropriate to post.)

Alan Turing, the British mathematician who helped defeat the Nazis by cracking their secret codes and laid the groundwork for modern computer science, was posthumously pardoned by Queen Elizabeth on Monday for a 1952 conviction for being gay.

Here’s what you need to know about Turing.

Alan Turing

Born: June 23, 1912

Died: June 7, 1954, at age 41. Turning killed himself, likely by eating an apple poisoned with cyanide, following a criminal conviction for homosexuality.

Accomplishments: Turing is widely considered the father of computer science. His developments in cryptography were instrumental in cracking the Nazi’s Enigma code, a vital step in turning World War II in favor of the allies.

Turing predicted the rise of computers and essentially invented the idea of software. He was first to define artificial intelligence and design a test to determine whether computers could truly appear to be human.

Controversy: Despite his contributions to the war effort and to science, Turning was charged with “gross indecency” in 1954, under laws that at the time criminalized homosexuality. Rather than serve prison time, Turning agreed to a form of chemical castration, in which he was injected with female sex hormones. Later that year he killed himself.

Legacy: Every computer today, from cells phones to those aboard the International Space Station, owe their existence to the “Turing Machine,” the first modern computer to run interchangeable software.

As computers become smarter and seemingly more human, the “Turing Test,” an experiment in which human subjects must determine if they are interacting with another person or a computer, remains the standard by which artificial intelligence is measured.

Turing’s life has been commemorated in books, a monument, a play and an upcoming feature film.

“His action saved countless lives. He also left a remarkable national legacy through his substantial scientific achievements, often being referred to as the ‘father of modern computing,’” British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement.

Crime pays very well

Cryptolocker grosses up
to $30 million in ransom

No wonder street crime is down. If you want to make a dishonest living, cyber-crime is the place to be. According to a Dell SecureWorks report by Keith Jarvis, the creators of the notorious CryptoLocker ransomware virus may have made as much as $30 million in a mere 100 days.That’s a lot more than you’d earn stealing people’s iPhones –and you’re far less likely to get caught. (It’s also a lot more than you’d get doing honest work.) The $30 million estimate comes from a Geek.com article by Lee Mathews, and is based on the SecureWorks report’s numbers. The original report includes a speculation that at least 0.4% of CryptoLocker victims end up paying the ransom, “and very likely many times that.” The report also admits that “These figures represent a conservative estimate of the number of ransoms collected by the CryptoLocker gang.”CryptoLocker first appeared in the wild in early September. Like most ransomware, it attempts to scare people into sending money by closing off access to their data or threatening to do so. But unlike previous such programs, CryptoLocker makes good on its threats. Whereas previous ransomware viruses might trick you into paying their blood money by hiding your documents and other data files where any competent techy could find them, CryptoLocker really encrypts the files. And it does a good job of it. Jarvis’ report states that “CryptoLocker uses strong third-party certified cryptography offered by Microsoft’s CryptoAPI. By using a sound implementation and following best practices, the malware authors have created a robust program that is difficult to circumvent.”

In other words, if CryptoLocker infects your computer, and you don’t have a recent and reliable backup, your choices are between paying the $300 ransom and kissing your documents, spreadsheets, and photographs goodbye. Surprisingly, if you do pay the ransom, you get your files back.Keeping promises — not a behavior usually associated with thieves — suggests that whoever is behind CryptoLocker is treating it like a real business. When people balked at using credit cards to send money to criminals, these particular criminals started accepting Bitcoins. They’ve even responded to the insane Bitcoin deflation of recent months. When they first started accepting the virtual currency, they priced your files at 2 BTC. But as the price of a Bitcoin skyrocketed against real currencies, that price dropped three times, and as of Wednesday was down to 0.3 BTC.That’s an awfully polite gesture for extortionists.Of course, the rising cost of Bitcoins may have helped the criminals considerably. Jarvis estimates that they received nearly $380,000 in Bitcoins (it appears that most people still pay with credit cards). “If they elected to hold these ransoms, they would be worth nearly $980,000 as of this publication.”

I don’t want to make the people running this racket sound like gentlemen thieves. They’re crooks who steal your vital information, then make you buy back what is rightfully yours. They deserve jail time, not $30 million.

Hackers exploit critical IE bug; Microsoft promises patch

Sep 18, 2013 12:24 PM
Microsoft on Wednesday said that hackers are exploiting a critical, but unpatched, vulnerability in Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) and Internet Explorer 9 (IE9), and that its engineers are working on an update to plug the hole.

As it often does, the company downplayed the threat.

“There are only reports of a limited number of targeted attacks specifically directed at Internet Explorer 8 and 9, although the issue could potentially affect all supported versions,” Dustin Childs, a manager in the Trustworthy Computing group and its usual spokesman, said in a blog post Tuesday morning.

“We are actively working to develop a security update to address this issue,” Childs added.

According to Childs and the security advisory Microsoft also published Wednesday, the vulnerability affects all supported versions of IE, from the 12-year-old IE6 to the not-yet-officially-released IE11, the browser that will accompany Windows 8.1 when it ships Oct. 18.

“There is no escaping this one,” said Andrew Storms, director of DevOps at cloud security vendor CloudPassage, referring to the bug affecting all versions of Microsoft’s browser. “IE zero-days are never a good thing, especially when they affect every version,” Storms added.

Although Microsoft’s advisory did not put it in these terms, the vulnerability can be exploited using classic “drive-by” attack tactics. That means hackers need only lure victims running IE to malicious sites—or legitimate websites that have previously been compromised and loaded with attack code—to hijack their browser and plant malware on their Windows PCs.

Until Microsoft produces a patch, the company offered customers several options to protect themselves, including advice on configuring EMET 4.0 and running one of its “Fixit” automated tools to “shim” the DLL that contains the IE rendering engine.

EMET (Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit) is a tool designed for advanced users, primarily enterprise IT professionals, that manually enables anti-exploit technologies such as ASLR (address space layout randomization) and DEP (data execution prevention) for specific applications.

But the Fixit route will be easiest for individual users: Microsoft’s posted a link to the Fixit tool on its support site, and customers need only click the icon marked “Enable.” Microsoft has used the shim approach before when faced with unexpected attacks against IE.

Based on past practice, Microsoft’s Fixit workaround probably uses the Application Compatibility Toolkit to modify the core library of IE—a DLL (dynamic link library) named “Mshtml.dll” that contains the browser’s rendering engine—in memory each time IE runs. The shim does not quash the bug, but instead makes the browser immune to the attacks Microsoft’s seen in the wild thus far.

Users can also temporarily ditch IE for an alternate browser, such as Google’s Chrome or Mozilla’s Firefox, to stay safe until Microsoft comes up with a permanent fix.

Microsoft today declined say when it plans to patch the IE vulnerability. But because the next regularly-scheduled Patch Tuesday is three weeks away, it’s possible the Redmond, Wash. company’s security team will deliver a so-called “out-of-band” update before Oct. 9.

Out-of-band updates from Microsoft are rare: The last one it shipped was MS13-008, an the emergency patch issued Jan. 14 that plugged a hole in IE6, IE7 and IE8 that had been exploited since early December 2012.

Facebook Scam Alert – What Really Happens When You “Like”

You’ve seen pictures posted on Facebook “type ‘move’ into the comments and watch what happens” or “If I get a million likes my dad will get me a car.”  They seem innocent enough, but they are big business, and you are not doing yourself any favors if you like or comment.

The classic example is a colorful picture of a prism with the image from the cover of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album in it. It’s accompanied by the caption:

 “OMG it really works ♥

Step 1: Click on the Picture.

Step 2: Hit Like.Step

3: Comment “MOVE” Then see the Magic!!”

You see in your news feed that your friends have liked and commented on the image, so clearly something amazing must happen when you interact as directed.  So you click, you comment, and… nothing happens.

Or at least you think nothing happens.  But your activity has now spread this image and the page into the news feed of all your friends.

Like Farming

It’s called Like Farming. Here’s how it works. Someone creates a page and starts posting photos inspirational quotes or other innocent content. You like the page and it now shows up regularly in your news feed. Anytime you interact with a post, that activity shows up in your friends’ news feeds. The more likes the page gets, the more it shows up. The more comments each picture gets, the more power the page gets in the Facebook news feed algorithm. And that makes it more and more visible.

The social engineering of these sites is impressive, stimulating pictures like the Pink Floyd image described above or moving stories of ’causes’ that need your likes for support. The most famous of these revolved around a girl called “Mallory”

“This is my sister Mallory. She has Down syndrome (sic)and doesn’t think she’s beautiful. Please like this photo so I can show her later that she truly is beautiful.” But there is no Mallory. The picture is of a girl named Katie whose mother is horrified that her daughter’s image is being used for the scam.

Scammers Are Making Money Off Your Likes

So why would the owners of these fan pages go to such lengths to scam us into liking? Because there’s money to be made from them.

When the page gets enough fans (a hundred thousand or more)the owner might start placing ads on the page. Those ads show up in your news feed. They could be links to an app, a game, or a service they want you to buy. It could be a “recommendation” for a product on Amazon where the page owner gets a commission for every purchase made through the link. Or more nefariously, the page owner could be paid to spread malware by linking out to sites that install viruses on your computer for the purposes of identity theft. Bottom line: access to your news feed is lucrative.

Fan Pages For Sale

Just as a magazine that sells ads, these pages are a business, and they can be bought and sold just like any other business. Online message board, Warriorforum.com listed multiple sites for sale. A site about cuddling has over a million fans and was listed for sale on Warrior Forum for $7000. Many of these postings on Warrior Forum come and go for fear that Facebook will find out about them and take the sites down. For example, I found a page for sale for $8500 but the Warrior Forum listing has since been removed. Anotherpage has 1.8 million likes and posts a note right on Facebook stating it’s for sale –  no price listed –  just a warning against “low offers.”

A spokesperson for Facebook says selling pages is specifically against the terms of service, and any page that is sold or engages in fraudulent behavior can be removed. But clearly this is a cat and mouse game, with Like Farms popping up on a regular basis.

How To Unlike

If you’ve liked something and now regret it, you can unlike it. Go to your profile, choose “more” button and choose “likes” from the drop down menu – then “Unlike.”

If you have friends who are over-liking on scammy posts, share this on your Facebook Page so they’ll get the message.

Privacyfix: Clean out your YouTube watch history

Posted 8 days ago by Jim Brock

Did you realize that YouTube keeps a history of the videos that you’ve viewed, whether on YouTube.com or when embedded across the web?

Having that history can be convenient to re-find something you’ve already seen. Your history can also help YouTube and Google personalize your video recommendations. Of course, Google also uses the information to select the ads that you see.

But your viewing history might include videos you don’t want associated with your profile. Your view history might also be inadvertently available to hackers or people who share your computer or devices.

Fortunately, Google leaves that choice up to you, by giving you the power to edit or completely clear your viewing history, and to pause it so that future video views don’t accumulate in your history.

We’ve just added this as a new privacy setting within Privacyfix, but you can also go directly to the page where you can manage it.


Summer Travel Mobile Safety Tips

Posted 18 days ago by Omri Sigelman

We all love to travel and get away somewhere in our summer months to recharge the batteries and relax with gentler pace of life…or not, if you’re someone who prefers high-octane activity.

Whatever your getaway of choice, it’s important to remember, particularly as we approach the main holiday season for many parts of the world, to keep safe.

Think of it like this: When you take valuables with you on the road, you protect them. You use a padlock on your baggage, keep jewellery in the hotel safe and keep expensive items like tablets close to hand.

But it’s important to remember that as you travel with your tablet or smartphone, the device itself isn’t the only valuable you’ve brought with you. As these devices have become the cornerstones of our digital lives it’s important to remember that when you travel, you take your data with you.

Much like your baggage, there are simple, cheap and easy steps you can take to make sure that nothing goes wrong while you are out in the big wide world.

Try a Tech Free Holiday:

The most obvious place to start when it comes to protecting your data when you travel is to leave it behind. Have you considered having a tech free holiday? Leaving your tablets, phones and laptops behind?

Even if you want to take your tech with you, try and make concessions about how many of your devices you need to bring. After all, a wallet that’s safe at home can’t be lost in an airport!

Watch out for Wi-Fi

If you’re taking advantage of public Wi-Fi, make sure it’s from a trusted source. Insecure, public connections can often be fakes where the data you send and receive is monitored by opportunists and your personal information can be extracted.

Back up!

Backing up your data as you travel can be a lifesaver if something happens to your equipment. Take advantage of any secure connections by backing up any work, pictures or other files you may have added since your last backup.

Nothing ruins a trip like losing your happy memories!

Public Computers:

Be very careful about what you do when using a public computer in an airport or internet cafe. You can never be sure about what programs are on the system and how safe your data is.

Some things to avoid:

  • Online Banking
  • Making online purchases
  • Logging into important online accounts (medical etc)

Lastly, be sure that every time you use a public computer you successfully log out of any accounts you access. The last thing you want is a stranger sitting down after you and having access to your Facebook account!

Get protected:

If you are traveling with a smartphone, laptop or tablet computer, it’s essential that you protect your device and your data.

Crooks can be smart and having a password on your iPhone is no guarantee that your data and saved passwords won’t fall into the wrong hands.

AVG Antivirus for Android is FREE and easy to use and can help keep your phone or tablet free from malware and viruses.

We know that there are few things worse than losing your mobile when traveling. It’s often your lifeline to your family, social life and can be a one-stop guide to wherever you need to go.

That’s why we included powerful remote locking and locating functions to help you recover your phone or tablet if you lose it while out and about.

There’s even a worst case scenario remote wipe function so that you can be sure that even if your device is stolen, your data will stay perfectly safe.

If you are traveling and want to protect your device and your data, download AVG Antivirus for Android now and keep your belongings and your personal data safe.

(For a few dollars you can purchase AVG Pro)

Ten things you should know about mobile security

Posted 32 days ago by Omri Sigelman

Everyone knows about the stratospheric growth of mobile usage throughout the world, but what is often overlooked is that as smartphone use is growing, so are the threats targeted at mobile users.

Technology research firm Gartner is predicting that Smartphone sales in 2013 will hit 1 billion units, and while consumers clearly love them, there’s a lack of awareness of just how much information they could stand to lose if their device gets hacked or compromised.

Consumers still seem to be unaware that their smartphone is really a  little pocket computer which stores a wealth of information, such as a contact’s details in your phonebook, emails, sometimes even corporate data or business intelligence, and mobile online banking, and that’s forgetting for a moment the trove of personal information contained in photos, apps and games, email and social media accounts.

Your smartphone really is your digital world in a handy device that makes phone calls as well and with it comes a level of security risk nearly comparable to your laptop or home PC, just without the same amount of data stored on the hard drive!

So here are some stats that may make you sit up and think a bit more about mobile security.

  1. In Q4 2012, AVG’s Threat Labs detected close to 4 million mobile threats, many of which were designed specifically for Android™ devices, which currently is the most popular mobile platform. The most common Android malware app out there today is is a simple compass tool and the most prolific type of mobile attack is PUPs (Potentially Unwanted Programs), along with app repackaging, malicious URLs and smishing (phishing with SMS).
  2. An AVG study in the US and UK  this year found that one in four mobile customer’s stores intimate photos or videos on their smartphone or tablet.
  3. 70% of mobile users are unaware of security features that will allow them to remotely wipe or delete data if a device is stolen or lost, according to the AVG study.
  4. Most mobile threats are detected in Russia (14%), then Thailand (8%) and UK (7%), according to AVG Quarterly Threat Report, Q4 2012
  5. Last year, AVG detected a type of malware called Zitmo, (aka Zeus-in-the-mobile), which is a form of man-in-the-mobile attack. This is sophisticated malware that side-steps the two-step authentication required to complete mobile banking transactions and so allows cyber criminals to gain access to your bank accounts.

Here are some tips to help you keep your mobile safe and secure.

  • Banking Apps: If you do use an online banking app, ensure you only use the official app provided by your bank. Download the app from official app stores only and not from unknown sources, that could lead to your device becoming compromised by hackers.
  • Emails and SMS messages: Be wary of clicking on links in email or SMS messages. As a rule, do not respond to unsolicited messages on your phone.  Remember: your bank will never email you a message that asks you to disclose your personal PIN number or full password.
  • Passwords: Ensure you set up a password or PIN properly to protect access to your device.
  • Avoid Public Wi-Fi Networks:  Tempting as it maybe avoid public wifi, particularly for making sensitive transactions, such as online banking.  Any time before you log into your account, make sure you are not connected to public Wi-Fi. If you are using a smartphone, disable the Wi-Fi and switch to a cellular network.
  • AntiVirus:  Make sure you have downloaded a decent anti virus program for your smartphone and consider using a reputable brand, such as AVG’s free AntiVirus for Android devices.