Flashback Trojan has Infected Over 600,000 Macs

April 19, 2012

This week Apple patched a flaw in their Java code to prevent Macs from becoming infected with the Flashback Trojan – a malicious program that steals infected users’ user names and passwords, and has continued to evolve to exploit other elements.

Unfortunately, the malware has run rampant the last two months – when the malware was first detected. The Russian antivirus company, Dr. Web, reports that over 600,000 Mac’s are infected – and that 56% of the infected Macs are in the hands of U.S. consumers.

A ZDNet article includes these links for Mac users to get “the new version of Java that patches the security hole in question from Apple here: Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 7 and Java for OS X Lion 2012-001. Additionally, F-Secure has instructions on how to remove this malware if you think your Mac may already be infected.”

If you are among the Mac users who have clung to the belief that Macs don’t need strong malware protection, let this be a wakeup call.



New Online Safety Lesson: Texting and Driving Don’t Mix

April 19, 2012

The 15th installment in the lesson series I’m writing on behalf of iKeepSafe, looks at distracted driving. Would you let someone cover your eyes for two seconds while you were driving? No way.

But teens will be surprised to learn that if they are on the freeway going 65 mph, a quick two-second glance to read a text means they have driven nearly two-thirds of a football field without looking. And those precious seconds can kill them, their passengers or the people in other vehicles.

More than 3,000 people died, and thousands more were injured, due to distracted driving in 2010 alone.

This lesson discusses eye-opening statistics on the perils of distracted driving and alerts teens to the hazards of looking away from the road, plus offers tips for avoiding the temptation of phone use while driving.

To see and use this lesson, the companion presentation, professional development materials, and parent tips click here: TXT + DRV = Total Fail.


It’s Official, Half of Cell Phones in U.S. Are Now Smartphones

April 16, 2012

New data from Nielsen shows that half (49.7%) of U.S. mobile subscribers have converted to smartphones, a 38% increase over February 2011, when only 36% of mobile subscribers used smartphones.

Nielsen’s research also shows that Android remains the leading cell phone platform with 48% of the U.S. smartphone market, followed by 32.1% who use an Apple iPhone, and 11.6% who remain Blackberry owners.

Up until last week, I was among the diehard Blackberry users, but I’ve purchased an iPhone and will never look back.

As a further indication of the imminent demise of Blackberry, their stock has plummeted.

Among consumers who acquired their smartphone within the last three months, 48% surveyed said they chose an Android and 43% bought an iPhone.

Not only was Blackberry absent, so was any mention of Windows phones.

In the now two-horse race, the rising frustration by developers and users of the Android platform indicates their market lead over Apple is far from assured. From a safety perspective, choosing Apple and Apple apps is the best bet.


What Does the Future of Mobile Look Like? Here’s a Peek

April 5, 2012

Business insider just hosted their Future of Mobile conference, and kicked it off by creating a presentation of current mobile trends. It’s pretty cool and worth not only looking through, but also pondering the implications for your own mobile use as well as that of whatever company you work for.

Among the stats:

  • In 2011, the number of smartphones sold exceeded the number of PC’s sold but that’s just the tip of the iceberg because….
  • Off all the mobile device users, only 835 million are smartphone users, whereas 5.6 Billion are still on ‘dumb phones’.
  • Mobile apps are now a ~10 billion dollar market – growing at 100% a year.
  • It took AOL 9 years to get 1 million users. It took Facebook 9 months. But it only took the new “Draw Something” mobile app 9 days.  (NOTE: Draw something roared onto the mobile app scene to now be the #1 App in 79 countries, with more than 20 million downloads. It generates over $100,000 in revenue a day, and has more than 12 million users a day.

Take 5 minutes to flip through the deck and be awed by the sheer volumes represented.


Generation OMG – Infographic and Data on How Teens Use Mobile Devices

April 3, 2012

Frustrated at your mobile data download speed? Or, Irritated that most carriers have put bandwidth limits their data plans? Blame the apps – or the teens that love to use them.  A great new infographic highlights the trends, but first, here’s a little background.

In December 2011, Nielsen research found that “in the third quarter of 2011, teens age 13-17 used an average of 320 MB of data per month on their phones, increasing 256% over last year and growing at a rate faster than any other age group.”

That’s not to say teens are the biggest data hogs, those aged 25-34 take that distinction, but teens are rapidly overtaking other generations in their data demand.

The data usage among teens isn’t for talking; they’d rather text – though the biggest texters are also the biggest talkers. According to Nielsen’s research voice usage has seen its greatest decline among teen users – from an average of 685 minutes to 572 minutes. Over the same time period, the average number of text messages sent by teens hit a shocking 3,417 messages a month, or roughly 114 texts every day.

When surveyed, the top three reasons teens said that they prefer messaging to calling was because it is faster (22%), easier (21%), and more fun (18%).

Last week (March 2012) new research  from the Pew Internet & American Life Project provided new evidence on the preference to text over calling:

  • 14% of all teens say they talk daily with friends on a landline, down from 30% who said so in 2009. Nearly a third (31%) of teens say they never talk on a landline with friends (or report that they cannot do so).
  • 26% of all teens (including those with and without cell phones) say they talk daily with friends on their cell phone, down from 38% of teens in 2009.
  • 63% of all teens say they exchange text messages every day with people in their lives. This far surpasses the frequency with which they pick other forms of daily communication, including phone calling by cell phone (39% do that with others every day), face-to-face socializing outside of school (35%), social network site messaging (29%), instant messaging (22%), talking on landlines (19%) and emailing (6%).

Another way to look at the rise in data use is to consider that AT&T’s mobile data traffic grew 8,000% in the four years from 2008 and 2011 – and they expect mobile data traffic to be eight to ten times higher by 2015.

Now, research by social entertainment company Fun Mobility has leveraged existing research and added their own to create an infographic titled “Generation OMG: How Teens Use Mobile Devices” that illustrates the growth of teen (ages 13-17) data usage and how much of that increase comes from gaming and mobile applications.

Check out the infographic:



Internet Dating Bill Passes Illinois House – But it Does More Harm than Good

March 30, 2012

A new piece of legislation designed to increase safety of online daters passed by a vote of 83-26 in the Illinois House Thursday. The legislation, HB4083, would require all internet dating services operating in Illinois to show whether or not they conduct background checks on their members.

According to Stltoday, one of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Michelle Mussman said the purpose of the bill is to help usersbecome more savvy and take better steps to protect yourselves” from sophisticated online predators. “A lot of them aren’t just another nice guy looking to meet a nice girl. This is a predator looking for prey,” Mussman said. “They’re going to look for somebody who’s vulnerable and they’re going to trick you into revealing information about yourself that they can use to their advantage.”

Opposing the legislation on grounds that it overreaches the state’s legislative responsibility. State Rep. Jim Durkin, R-LaGrange, said adults should be responsible for their own safety when using online dating services, reports Stltoday. “If they’re going to participate in this type of social networking, they have responsibilities to perform their own due diligence. This is overstepping what is necessary,” Durkin said.

Adding to the dissent, State Rep. Dennis Reboletti joined in calling the protective disclaimer unnecessary. And he gets to the core of my concern when he said, People go on dates all the time without the aid of Match.com or True.com and we don’t have any requirements for those individuals. Websites providing disclaimers revealing that they conduct background checks could do more harm than help. “What if people lie? Now we have the situation where we think there’s a background check and all the information is validated but in reality it isn’t. Aren’t we actually giving people a false sense of security?”

Mussman countered this objection by saying there will always be people who manage to fool background checks. “Any sort of background check is never a full proof method, Mussman said. “We’re not going to catch every single person, but not being able to catch everybody is not a reason to not take any step forward.”

4 reasons this legislation should not pass

While the goal of protecting online daters sounds good, the problems this legislation create are significant and the gain dubious.

  1. Dangerously false sense of security – Most background checks will not reveal a problem.For example, less than 10% of sexual predators are ever caught and convicted for their crimes – so even if a background check caught every registered sex offender, the sense of safety users felt would be dangerously false. Add to this that most stalkers, swindlers, etc. aren’t caught and the enormity of the misrepresentation of safety becomes apparent.The best any dating website can do is to say that the site cannot guarantee that daters will not behave badly, that users must use caution when meeting anyone – whether they met online or offline, and provide clearly discoverable safety guidelines for users to follow.
  2. Falsely banning legitimate users. Many background checks have inaccurate ‘false negative’ information. Consumers do not have access to see the information pulled about them in background checks, and are therefore unable to challenge or correct information that inaccurately claims negative behavior. People with the same or similar names for example may have ‘data bleeding’ where the information from one person negatively impacts another. In other cases victims of identity theft may appear to be someone with a criminal record when in fact it was the thief who committed the crime, not the innocent victim.
  3. Places an unreasonable burden on online dating companies.  I’m not a lawyer, but this legislation would seem to favor dating sites that claim they perform background checks – essentially forcing others to perform the same checks to compete, in spite of the issues just highlighted with background checks. Additionally, it would seem to open the dating sites to increased risk of lawsuits by any user who comes to harm from contact through the site with any form of criminal – rapist, swindler, stalker, etc.
  4. The false sense of trust gives criminals greater freedom. The implied safety assurance that a prominent notice that ‘our users have been screened’ sends would be a godsend to criminals of every ilk as it means users would be less likely to remain vigilant against their exploits.

In other words, while on the surface the legislation sounds like motherhood and apple pie, in reality it makes online dating a potentially more dangerous endeavor.

If you want greater safety for online daters, encourage sites to provide excellent safety materials so users are armed with the skills and knowledge they need to protect themselves, and encourage sites to have strong moderation to be watching for issues and to respond to issues raised by their members.


New Online Safety Lesson: Online Hate Crimes: Are you part of the solution or part of the problem?

March 21, 2012

The 14th installment in the lesson series I’m writing on behalf of iKeepSafe, looks at taking a stand against hate crimes and content groups on the internet.

The vast majority of people in every country oppose hate, hate groups, and hate crimes. Unfortunately however, the number of hate groups around the world is increasing. In the U.S. hate groups have surged by 54% since 2000 when there were 602 hate groups, to 1,018 official hate groups in 2011.

The rise in hate groups isn’t just an American problem; Germany, South Africa, France, Britain, and other countries also struggle with rapidly expanding numbers of hate groups.

To see and use this lesson, the companion presentation, professional development materials, and parent tips click here: Online Hate Crimes: Are you part of the solution or part of the problem?