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Terrifying video on identity theft: dramatic or accurate?

After watching a pretty terrifying video on how easy it is to be the victim of identity theft, we wondered if it was accurate. Turns out it is even easier than this video portrays. Yikes!

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Identity theft video from lobbyists

Febelfin is a banking lobby in Belgium, representing the interests of small to large banks in the nation, and recently has set out to tackle the problem of identity theft. “Would you panic while internet crooks took over your life?” the company asks. “We put one real victim through the test. We scared the hell out of him by gradually taking over his life. His freaked out reactions, should urge people to be very vigilant and never to share personal and banking information by mail or by telephone.”

The video ends with directions to go learn more tips for safe internet banking at SafeInternetBanking.be.

So is it overly dramatic or accurate?

We all know that identity theft is serious, particularly as the world shifts to internet banking and alternative banking options like PayPal, but we wondered if this video which is said to be real is just entertaining and overly dramatic, or is this an accurate dramatization of identity theft.

For the answers, we asked PwnedList Co-Founder, Steve Thomas to asses the video. He explains that in the video the hacker first engaged in “catfishing” on Facebook and sending a successful phishing email for banking credentials to pull off the identity theft.

Thomas said, “The only questionable piece of information was the bank he used, which I guess someone might post that on Facebook, something like “I hate Bank of America!”, but people rarely talk about banks on facebook. The hacker could have guessed and tried a few different banks, though.”

It makes sense given that they are in Belgium, so perhaps their banking options are more limited than here in North America.

But how did they get someone to give bank credentials?

Thomas explains, “the phishing e-mail basically read (pardon my complete lack of knowledge of the German language) ‘Click here,’ which I’m guessing redirected to a website that looked identical to his bank, where he logged in, allowing his credentials to be stolen. Phishing e-mails do work, but they have been around for a long time, and some e-mail providers (Gmail) identify phishing e-mails to varying degrees of success. Banks also are well aware of what phishing campaigns are going on and can shut down campaigns to varying degrees.”

That sounds hopeful, right? Thomas told AGBeat that “It’s actually easier to get information about a person than the video makes it appear (at least in the US).” Additionally, Thomas notes, “The hacker stole someone’s identity and made a fraudulent purchase. This happens every day, with even less effort. Some banks try to prevent this with smart authentication (geolocation, identifying a new device and requiring two factor authentication, etc) but those are easy enough to get around.”

Uh oh.

“I routinely find out where someone lives, who they are friends with, where they have worked, where they work now, and what job they have without ever needing to friend them on Facebook,” Thomas stated. “The catfishing added some comedy, but was unnecessary.”

Privacy controls are not enough

What can someone do to protect themselves from catfishing damaging them? Thomas recommends the following steps be taken:

  1. Remove information about you that you don’t want to be public from Facebook. Assume anything you have ever put into Facebook is public. Privacy controls are not enough.
  2. Probably a bad idea to announce what bank you use on any social website. Same goes for when you leave for vacation or ‘check-in’ away from home (see pleaserobme.com for examples on how ‘check-ins’ make you vulnerable).
  3. Google yourself. Identify the websites that have information on you. Contact them to remove the information (they might if you ask nicely).

And what can someone do to protect themselves from phishing? Thomas suggests:

  1. Use an e-mail provider that identifies phishing attempts. Most major providers do, I know Gmail does.
  2. Don’t click links in e-mails that are not trusted. If someone is directing you to a website, type it in manually, so you know where you are going.
  3. Make sure you use HTTPS and check the SSL certifications (though this can be broken too, so don’t just rely on this).
  4. If you ever attempt to login to your bank account, but the website won’t let you in (and you know you are using the right password), then congratulations! You are most likely a victim of phishing. You need to know how to contact your bank properly to change your password and lock down your account.
  5. In general, make a plan right now for when a hacker steals your credentials. It is no longer an ‘if’, it’s a ‘when’.

How common is this?

Just in the AG offices alone, 75 percent of us have had our identities stolen in one way or another and had money drained from accounts. That’s a pretty substantial number, especially in light of our team being comprised of mostly tech savvy people that are fully aware of catfishing and phishing – it happens to the best of us.

Take Thomas’ advice seriously, because according to him, the video isn’t a dramatization and it is actually easier to get your information than they lay out in the video.

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Tech News

How Apple is trying to combat the AirTag backlash (hint – its not working)

(TECHNOLOGY) Apple’s weak-kneed attempts at fixing their AirTags issues aren’t working. They can be placed on anything (or anyone), and it is detrimental.

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Apple airtag being held between two fingers.

A few weeks ago, I wrote up an article on how the Apple AirTag can be used to stalk and track people, and now it’s happening. Unfortunately, not all stalkers have the same glamour as Joe from the hit series You.

Engadget reported that model, Brooks Nader, says someone used an AirTag to track her. Per her account, she didn’t receive the notification until she was walking home, alone, at night. If that’s not scary enough, now imagine she was an android user. The only way for her to know someone was tracking her would be if she had installed the Tracker Detect app.

As stated by TechCrunch, “Apple has made its own post-launch efforts to tighten up how AirTags that don’t belong to a certain user can be detected, but these notifications have proven buggy and have often waited far too long to alert users. Add in the fact that Apple has seemed to treat Android integration as an afterthought, not a necessary partnership in order to ship a device like this, and Apple’s incompetence looks a bit more severe.”

The app itself, which was released on December 11, 2021, is getting a lot of negative feedback. One issue is that to see if you’re being tracked you have to manually scan to find the AirTag. How often and when you do that is up to the user. Whereas with the Apple Find My app, it alerts you automatically without the user having to scan anything. It’s not perfect, however. It’s buggy and can take hours to notify the user that an AirTag is tracking them. However, it’s still better than the android app.

Another dreadful scenario that hasn’t been factored in this equation is children. Not all kids have devices, much less Apple devices, nor should they necessarily, but if someone was going to track them, they would be easy targets.

Apple, for the love of all that’s decent, pull AirTags and reconsider how they function. Examine the ways an AirTag could be used without using the mesh network of all iPhone users so that it doesn’t continue to emit a location or, I don’t know, give up. If it doesn’t mean anything to you to risk other’s lives with this product then consider the possible dangerous consequences as a reflection on Apple.

Contrary to popular belief, not all publicity is good publicity.

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Robotics businesses have profit potential, but you must avoid these pitfalls

(TECHNOLOGY) Regardless of what happens in the world, tech keeps moving forward, including robotics businesses. To ensure success, avoid these…

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robocalling robotics business

There’s never been a better time to start a robotics business. Robots have been around long enough that you can find parts and support easily, but not so long that the market’s saturated. If you have an idea for a robotics company, now’s an excellent time to follow through on it.

Before you rush into creating your startup, though, you should consider a few things. No matter how desirable a market’s climate is, starting a business is a complicated and challenging venture. Of the millions of small businesses that start every year, only half will survive beyond five years.

It can help to see what other robotics businesses did right. It’s even more helpful to understand where failed ones went wrong. If you’re going to start a robotics business, avoid these seven common pitfalls.

1. Moving Too Quickly

Setting deadlines for yourself is an excellent way to stay motivated and productive. Just make sure your deadlines are reasonable. Too many robotics startups rush to push out their product without spending the necessary time refining all the small details.

Robots are tricky machines, so it’s worth spending the time getting them right. Starting a robotics business involves more than just making robots too. It’s a mistake to try to handle product development, financial management and legal paperwork all at once.

Even after launch, understand that it will take time to start earning any significant amount of money. Don’t be lazy, but don’t overwork yourself, either. Moving too quickly will result in bigger losses than anything you have to gain from it.

2. Having Too Broad a Vision

The robot market may not be saturated, but it’s still considerable. You need your robots to stand out in the crowd, and that requires a specific vision. What problem does your robot solve, and how does it do it better than any other option?

It’s not realistic to make a robot that everyone will buy. You need to identify a specific niche audience and create something that suits their needs. Even then, you need to specify what sets your robots apart from the competition.

Are you making a robot for factory work? What separates yours from the abundance of robotic arms in the manufacturing industry? Identify a need within your target audience and work to address it.

3. Rushing Into Hardware

If you’re starting a robotics company, then you probably want to start making robots immediately. Believe it or not, this is a mistake. Save your resources and save the hardware building for later.

Why shouldn’t you start working with hardware as soon as possible? It’s expensive, and robots are complicated. You need to work out all the kinks in your design before you start spending on materials.

You’ll most likely go through several models before you have your final product. If you build physical versions of each one, you’ll quickly burn through cash. Don’t mess with the hardware of your robots until you’re confident of your design and have more capital.

4. Waiting to Make Connections

You may want to wait to connect with consumers and investors until you have a finished product. It may seem like jumping the gun, but making connections early is crucial to your startup. If you don’t, your robotics business is almost sure to fail.

Talking with potential customers helps you see what their needs are. This information will help you create a more marketable robot. These conversations also help you establish your name in the industry before you bring your product to market.

It’s also essential to connect with investors early on. To build your company, you need capital, and capital comes from investors.

5. Turning to Too Many Investors

While you’re talking to these investors, make sure you don’t turn to too many of them. You need investment, but you also need to have control of your company. You need to walk a fine line between getting capital and remaining in power.

Accredited investors typically have a net worth of more than $1 million, but they’re still putting their own money in your business. Because they’re dealing with their personal bank accounts, they’ll likely want their investment fits their desires. This can lead to investors trying to push your company in a direction you don’t want.

Your robotics company is your dream. Bringing on too many investors can take that dream away from you. Turn to investors, but not so many that you lose control of your own company.

6. Focusing on Advances Over Profitability

When you do secure investors, don’t let the money go to your head. After investors give you an advance, it can be tempting to start spending more rapidly. Don’t let a few commas in the bank account distract you from making a profitable company.

Robots are expensive machines. You can burn through an advance quickly in this business, so don’t think a big check makes you invincible. Focus on profitability, no matter how much money is coming in.

Large sums of cash are nice, but they’re not what keeps your business alive. Keeping costs low and maximizing profit is how you’ll survive.

7. Not Documenting Everything

When you first start, you may think you can keep track of everything in your head. You’ll quickly find that this isn’t true. You need to document everything that goes on in your business, from profits to losses to failed ventures.

Details that seem small now may matter more later on. You have too much on your plate to be able to remember everything. It also helps to get used to keeping records, so you’re prepared when your company takes off.

As your robotics business grows in size and worth, you’ll need to start documenting everything. Why wait? Start bookkeeping now, even if it means hiring staff to do it.

Start Carefully and Build Slowly

Robotics is a multi-billion dollar industry, so you have a lot of potential for profit. To survive in this business, though, you’ll need to start carefully. Don’t fall for the same mistakes that failed startups in the past have.

If there’s one common thread through all this advice, it’s that building a company takes time. You won’t achieve success overnight, so why shoot for that? If you tread carefully and slowly build your company, your robotics business could be the next big thing.

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Tech News

Zoom acquires Liminal, the company that makes broadcast tools for…Zoom

(TECHNOLOGY) Zoom had its peak heyday when companies were all rushing to go remote, but they aren’t relaxing. They have plans up their sleeve…

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Zoom app showing on IOS App store with Apple Airpods.

After 2020, most people are very familiar with Zoom, as it became a way to still be able to participate in work, school, and events even as the stay at home in order were in full swing. The video conferencing software became an invaluable part of many people’s daily lives.

They recently acquired a startup, Liminal, which creates tools for Zoom-based broadcasts. Sounds like a twofer deal.

Spiderman pointing at Spiderman representing Zoom acquisition of a partner.

Liminal created Zoom OSC, a software that is designed to amplify professional meetings and events with Open Sound Protocol, enabling the integration of the platform with third-party software, hardware controllers, and media servers.

Liminal also created ZoomISO allows users to export each participants’ video feed as separate output to professional production software, five of which can be chosen to have output in HD.

These tools will help seamlessly create large-scale events while keeping the ease of use interface users have come to expect from Zoom. They first announced its events features in May and added the ability to create hubs, sell tickets and create multiple live streams all within the platform. The goal is to acquire apps that increase user experience and productivity and bridge the gap between “emerging” and “traditional” broadcast tools.

As Zoom improves, businesses like theatres, broadcast studios, and other organizations can benefit from their newly enhanced features. Going forward, the company predicts a large demand for hybrid opportunities in the workplace, and these new features can help achieve that.

Currently, Liminal’s add on’s remain a third-party feature, accessible only through the Liminal website, however, integration of Liminal’s features into Zoom software is inevitable.

They have acquired other companies, such as VMWare which enables more secure and improved collaboration for hybrid work experiences. Another notable company is German-based startup, Kites. Acquired in June 2021, Kites focuses on developing real-time machine translation solutions and will provide multi-language translation capabilities via Zoom. They acquired these companies to bolster its offerings and make a seamless experience for a multitude of businesses.

All in all, Zoom is constantly growing and shifting to fit customers’ needs and changing the way business is done in the 21st century. Let’s just hope they don’t have too much mission creep, as part of their appeal is the simplicity.

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