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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.

Tech News

Google set to release new AI-operated meeting room kit… and it’s pretty baller

(TECH NEWS) Google’s newest toy is designed to “put people first” by alleviating video and audio issues for conference room meetings.

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Google Meet Series One is a new meeting kit that puts people first.

Remote meetings can be the worst sometimes. The awful video and audio quality are frustrating when you’re trying to hear important details for an upcoming project. Even with the fastest internet connection, this doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to clearly hear or see anyone who’s in the office. But Google is re-imagining conference rooms with their new video conferencing hardware.

Yesterday, the company introduced Google Meet Series One. In partnership with Lenovo, this meeting room kit is made exclusively for Google Meet and is poised to be the hardware that “puts people first.”

The Series One has several components that make it stand out. First is the “Smart Audio Bar,” powered by eight beam-forming microphones. Using Google Edge TPUs, the soundbar can deliver TrueVoice®, the company’s “proprietary, multi-channel noise cancellation technology.” It removes distracting sounds, like annoying finger and foot-tapping noises, so everyone’s voices are crystal clear from anywhere in the room.

The hardware also has 4K smart cameras that allow for high-resolution video and digital PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) effects. Processed with Google AI, the device knows to automatically zoom in and out so all of the meetings’ participants are framed in the camera. With an i7 processor and Google Edge TPUs, the system is built to “handle the taxing demands of video conferencing along with running the latest in Google AI as efficiently and reliably as possible.”

The meeting kit has Google grade security built-in, so the system automatically updates over-the-air. The system also works seamlessly with Google services and apps we already use. Its touch control display is powered by a single ethernet cable. From the admin controls, you can manage meeting lists and control room settings. Powered by assistant voice commands, their touch controller provides a “touchless touchability”; if you want to, you can join a meeting just by saying, “Hey Google, join the meeting.”

These new meeting kits are easy to install and are versatile. They can be configured to fit small, medium, and large-sized rooms. “Expanding kits for larger rooms can be done with just an ethernet cable and the tappable Mic Pod, which expands microphone reach and allows for mute/unmute control.”

According to the Google Meet Series One introductory video, the meeting room kits are “beautifully and thoughtfully designed to make video meetings approachable and immersive so everyone gets a seat at the table.”

Currently, there is no release date set for Google Meet Series One. However, pre-orders will soon be available in the US, Canada, Finland, France, Norway, Spain, Ireland, United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Netherlands, Denmark, and Belgium.

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Tech News

One creepy way law enforcement might have your private data

(TECH NEWS) Wait, geofences do what? Law enforcement can pull your private data if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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Man walking on crosswalk with phone, but his private data could be vulnerable.

By now, it’s pretty common knowledge that our smartphones are tracking us, but what you might not be aware of is just how much law enforcement is taking advantage of our private data. Now, the good news is that some places have gotten wise to this breach of privacy and are banning certain tactics. The bad news is: If you were ever in the vicinity of a recent crime scene, it’s quite possible your privacy has already been invaded.

How are law enforcement doing this? Well, it starts with a geofence.

At its core, a geofence is a virtual border around a real geographic location. This can serve many purposes, from creating marketing opportunities for targeted ads to tracking shipping packages. In the case of law enforcement, though, geofences are often used in something called a geofence warrant.

Traditionally, warrants identify a subject first, then retrieve their electronic records. A geofence warrant, on the other hand, identifies a time and place and pulls electronic data from that area. If you’re thinking “hey, that sounds sketchy,” you are–forgive the pun–completely warranted.

With a geofence, law enforcement can dig through your private data, not because they have proof you were involved in a crime, but because you happened to be nearby.

This practice, though relatively new, is on the rise: Google reported a 15-fold increase in geofence warrant requests between 2017 and 2018. As well as invading privacy, these warrants have led to false arrests and can be used against peaceful protesters. Not to mention, in many cases, geofence warrants can be extremely easy to acquire. One report in Minnesota found judges signed off on these cases in under 4 minutes.

Thankfully, there have been signs of people pushing back against the use of geofence warrants. In fact, there have been multiple federal court rulings that find the practice in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from “unreasonable searches and seizures,” including your electronic data.

If you’re still worried about your privacy, there are ways to keep your electronic data on lock. For example, turn off your location services when you’re traveling, and avoid connecting to open Wi-Fi networks. You can also work to limit location sharing with apps and websites.

These and other tips can be a great way to help you avoid not just geofence warrants, but others who want to use your electronic information for their own gain.

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Tech News

Incoming! Amazon drones will be dropping off packages soon (we hope)

(TECH NEWS) The Federal Aviation Administration has approved Amazon for drone delivery service, but when will the drones actually take flight?

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One of Prime Air's drones ready for test flights.

Amazon has finally received the stamp of approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to deliver packages by drones. This pivotal step brings the online retailer closer to their promise of delivering packages to customers in 30 minutes or less.

In 2013, during CBS’s “60 Minutes” interview, Amazon CEO and Founder, Jeff Bezos, said drones would be delivering customers’ packages within five years. Although the estimate is a couple of years off, it seems like that day might be right around the corner.

Personally, I’m looking forward to the day when little floating presents are sailing through the sky (Animal Crossing balloons, anyone?). Despite our excitement to see our latest Amazon impulse purchase land on our doorstep, it isn’t going to happen overnight.

The Part 135 Air Carrier Certificate Amazon obtained for its fleet of Prime Air drones will allow the company to use unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) “to carry the property of another for compensation beyond visual line of sight.” Although the FAA certification is allowing Amazon to begin test trials, Bloomberg reports that the retail giant still has “regulatory and technical hurdles” to overcome.

In addition, the FAA has yet to set regulations that will “serve as a framework to expand drone flights over crowds, a building block necessary for deliveries.” Amazon hasn’t said when and where it will start testing the delivery service either.

David Carbon, Amazon Vice President who oversees Prime Air, made this statement: “This certification is an important step forward for Prime Air and indicates the FAA’s confidence in Amazon’s operating and safety procedures for an autonomous drone delivery service that will one day deliver packages to our customers around the world.”

This approval is definitely a step forward, but Amazon has been working on the drone delivery service for years. Early last year, the giant retailer revealed they would start offering one-day shipping. They have followed through on this, at least. And during a Las Vegas Conference in June 2019, they revealed their “fully electric drones that can fly up to 15 miles and deliver packages under five pounds to customers in less than 30 minutes.” But it still doesn’t answer when we can expect to see whizzing drones overhead.

I’m not sure when Amazon will fulfill their last promise. But it is getting closer. What I do know is that I look forward to the Amazon drones taking flight. I can’t wait to place my orders knowing that I will get that last-minute present I ordered just in time.

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