Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Small Business Saturday is back...with a $10 to spend at any small business!

Attention American Express Card members: Register your card today and get a $10 statement credit when you make a purchase of $10 or more at a qualifying small business location on November 30. Registration is limited, so the sooner the better. Enroll at: https://enroll.amexnetwork.com/US/en/SBS2013.

On a related note, IES is a small business! Shop Small with us on Small Business Saturday - prepay your computer services, web design services, or purchase a great new tech toy! Browse our inventory at iesAdvisors.com/shop, but remember to phone in your order because online payments do not apply to the American Express promotion.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Jack Vale perfectly demonstrates how nothing is really private with his social media experiment...

Jack Vale is a California comedian that has been on TV shows such as "Lopez Tonight" (TBS), "Most Outrageous Moments" (NBC), "The View" (ABC), "Pranked" (MTV), "World's Dumbest" (TruTV), and many more. In his most recent YouTube video, he shows how easy it is to find out someone's most personal details using social media.

Source: YouTube

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Microsoft scam is back...and we have a first hand experience to tell you about!

"Hello. This is Microsoft tech support and we have detected a serious virus in your computer and we need you to log on right away so we can help you."
That's what the male voice said on the phone. He was insistent, almost in a panic, to help Grammie defend herself against a destructive virus that was attacking her computer.

Something about the call made her "suspect the caller's intentions". First, they didn't get her name right. Second, they sounded foreign.

When Grammie asked to speak to a manager, he dodged her request - he just kept talking, fast. And when she asked for a phone number so she could call to verify that it was Microsoft, he gave her an Atlantic City phone number, 609-318-6024. He also was insistent that she act right now because "we are trying to help you."

In reality, they were trying to scam her.

Grammie asked the "technician" how he knew that her computer had been compromised. He said "all computers have a number in them, that they're able to trace it". The fake technician persuaded Grammie to allow him to gain access to her computer using GoToMyPC. He continued to talk fast, using made up or false technical terms. The slick scammer continued on to tell Grammie that her computer "had no ssl," something that is actually for websites and has nothing to do with individual computers, while pulling up a fake website that says "Your computer is infected. No SSL available".

After pulling up a Western Union transfer, Grammie became even more weary of the caller's intentions. She said that she'd have to talk to her to-be son-in-law, a computer tech (me) and "that was the end of the conversation".

The best way to bust a scam is to shine a light on it, which is what I'm doing here. Tech-support scams have several things in common: The people on the phone talk fast and urgently to panic the victim into making a fast, unwise decision.

Scammers often say that "they have detected malware or a virus" and they even provide a product number for the victim's computer as proof they are for real. The product number of a computer is easy to find. The serial number, however, is not. If they do not have this information, I guarantee they are not calling from Microsoft.

In reality, "Neither Microsoft nor our partners make unsolicited phone calls (also known as cold calls) to charge you for computer security or software fixes. Additionally, Microsoft will never contact a consumer and ask for their credit-card number". (Source: Microsoft). Banks may call you to check charges, but once you give out your information, scammers are free to charge whatever they wish until the bank deactivates the card. It is very important to NEVER give out your credit card numbers. If phone scammers gain your trust, they will rip you off.

Currently, scammers are instructing the victim to type in a code, which allows them to take over the home computer. They may demand that you pay them for the nonexistent "fix." If you pay with your credit-card number, they may run up thousands of dollars in charges billed to you.

Even more notorious: They can take remote control of your computer, locking you out and all your records, documents and pictures in. They then demand that you pay a ransom to return control of the computer to you. If you pay the ransom, they release the computer back to you. Or maybe they don't and demand more money.

Unless you are certain of who you are talking to, don't be stampeded into revealing anything. If you have fallen victim to this scam, please contact us so we can try to clean up the mess left behind. And if you get a similar call, hang up and report the fraud to the FTC.

IES, Inc.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Bitcoin in the news again - Senate takes a close look.

It's clear Bitcoins are growing in popularity. The price of the currency soared to a new all-time high of $675 Monday, up from only $12 a year ago. Without meddling banks in between transactions, Bitcoins trade seamlessly and offer nearly as much privacy as cash.

That's why the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs is hearing from various sides Monday. According to prepared statements from the Justice Department, an official at the DOJ said it needs more help catching criminals who use the secretive currency. Meanwhile, Bitcoin users want the government to back off and let the system blossom.

Law enforcement doesn't like the anonymity - there are legitimate uses for Bitcoins. But it's also being used to anonymously buy drugs, hire assassins, trade child porn and dodge taxes.

The nation's acting assistant attorney general, Mythili Raman, described the more notorious ways Bitcoins are being used. She mentioned the recent FBI shutdown of Silk Road, an online black market. Illicit drugs and services were sold there using the untraceable currency. The agency arrested its alleged founder and seized 170,000 BTC, valued at $101 million as of Monday afternoon.

The way Bitcoins are transacted, using coded wallets and special keys that don't need real names, enables substantial privacy. That makes it more difficult to follow the money and catch criminals.

Along those lines, there are concerns that those making money from sex trafficking and pornography involving children have started to adopt Bitcoin.

The International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children noted how anonymity offered by Bitcoin has made it the currency of choice for predators. The nonprofit group's president, Ernie Allen, says he's not against the digital economy. But he wants it less private.

"If the perception of anonymity diminishes, we believe the criminal use will diminish with it," he said in prepared remarks.

Edward Lowery III, who leads the Secret Service's criminal investigative division, added that the technologically complex Bitcoin system makes it hard for everyday agents to stay on targets' tails. They need more tech-savvy investigators than the agency can currently afford.

Also chiming in was the potential regulator that could one-day ruin the unregulated Bitcoin party: The Treasury Department.

Treasury already issued guidance in March saying that groups exchanging Bitcoins must register with the government and keep records. Everyday Bitcoin users remain unregulated. Jennifer Shasky Calvery is head of the department's financial crimes unit and warned about leaving the Bitcoin community untouched.

"One of our biggest challenges is striking the right balance between the costs and benefits of regulation," she said.

The Bitcoin community doesn't want too much regulation. Fans of Bitcoin say the currency is going mainstream, and it's not just for internet weirdos. That's why they want the government to give it a chance to grow and thrive without tacking on burdensome rules.

The Bitcoin Foundation, a group that seeks to strengthen the digital system, is trying to convince politicians the currency works as is.

The group also notes that meetings with financial regulators have gone well so far, but the Treasury Department should have met with Bitcoin supporters before taking a stance earlier this year.

"The American people have been reminded this year of reasons to be concerned for their privacy," says the group's attorney, Patrick Murck, referencing the recent disclosures about unwarranted government spying on innocent citizens.

Source: CNN Money

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Facebook temporarily disables profiles as it grapples with 150 million hacked Adobe passwords.

Facebook is asking millions of people to change their passwords if they had an account with Adobe, the content creation and cloud marketing company. Adobe was hacked recently and up to 150 million passwords were exposed.

Facebook is taking those exposed passwords and searching its system to find users who may have used the same password for Facebook. Those people will be asked to change their passwords.

The password crisis was triggered because Adobe apparently used only one encryption key for all its stored customer passwords, according to Krebs On Security:

What’s more, experts say Adobe appears to have used a single encryption key to scramble all of the leaked user credentials, meaning that anyone who computes, guesses or acquires the decryption key immediately gets access to all the passwords in the database.

The Adobe password hack is causing a huge headache all across the web. At first, it seemed that just a few million passwords had been stolen. But then that estimate increased to 38 million. And Krebs said the total universe of compromised passwords could be as high as 150 million.

So Amazon, Diapers.com and Microsoft are struggling with the same issue: The Adobe password cache is so massive that there are likely multiple millions of users with accounts at other companies who used identical passwords. Because the hackers can match passwords to IDs (email for instance), anyone who used the same password at Adobe for any other online company is now potentially screwed.

(click to enlarge)

Friday, November 8, 2013

What stupid relationship app will someone come up with next? Apparently this one: hug, kiss, and keep tabs on your significant other.

Avocado is a new app that has recently hit the iTunes store, Google Play store, and the web. It offers private chat setting that allows users send pictures, texts and videos in one secure place. It also allows users to share lists and calendars in one place and gives them the ability to pinpoint their location through the GPS feature on their phone. (Because there's nothing better than an overly obsessive girlfriend tracking your every move).

What makes Avocado different from other couples apps, aside from its artistic layout, are a few features that focus on promoting that "surreptitious co-presence" feeling, namely the ability to "hug" and "kiss" your significant other from afar. The app asks you to hold the phone to your lips or your heart, and vibrates in reaction, letting the other person know you've made contact. (Because nothing looks stranger than someone kissing their phone in public).

The app also allows users to "sketch" and put stickers on pictures and personalize emoticons with pictures of yourself in different moods.

And for those who don't get the reference in the app's name, the avocado fruit only grows in pairs.

Although I am extremely nauseated after learning all the invasive features of this app, I must admit it is a great idea! There certainly is a market for it. Congratulations to the Avocado app creators - you just made a bunch of people insecure in their relationships feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Avocado is available free at Avocado.io, the iTunes store, and Google Play.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Silk Road, a drug & illegal services website, has somehow been reborn a month after being seized by the Feds.

The Feds may have taken down Silk Road, the online black market that's been coined the "Amazon of illegal drugs," but a little over a month later, it's re-emerged.

Not long after the bust, select users on the site received an email from a former active Silk Road user asking the community to help rebuild. The authenticity of the new forums was endorsed by former Silk Road user "Libertas."

Some users who wanted to be a part of the rebuilding gained access to "the Vendor Roundtable," a forum that outlined the details behind the launch of the new Silk Road. The administrator also called on users to volunteer for a "communication specialist" position in charge of organizing operations. "You will be assigned work to perform based on what needs to be done," read an email reviewed by CNNMoney.

Silk Road 2.0 emerged Wednesday alongside a number of other sites offering similar services.
The new Silk Road, like the original, offers everything from prescription medication to heroin.
"Silk Road is back up," a Twitter user who appears to be the owner of the new site tweeted. "Deja vu anyone? #weriseagain." The new Silk Road owner also took on the pseudonym of former leader Ross Ulbricht, Dread Pirate Roberts.

According to a former Silk Road user, the site was rebuilt by most of the major players who were heavily involved in day-to-day operations of the former site.

"Silk Road was something that had popularity that made it easy for people to continue down that path. As long as you can convince the bulk of the biggest buyers and sellers to move over to the new platform, it doesn't matter what it's called."

Before the original Silk Road was seized by the Feds, it had become one of the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplaces on the Internet, according to FBI Special Agent Christopher Tarbell.

But it certainly wasn't the only one. Other sites, including BlackMarket Reloaded and the Sheep Marketplace, have also been looking to attract sellers and buyers.

"Later on, newer versions that have improved in some way will pop up and regain the trust," another former Silk Road user told CNNMoney.

A priority for the reborn Silk Road is information security. The people rebuilding it are baking security measures into the site's code.

Source: CNN Money

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

American Airlines now allows personal electronics use throughout entire flight.

American Airlines now allows passengers on its airplanes to use portable electronic devices throughout their entire flight. The Federal Aviation Administration has approved the use of electronics on the company's fleet "gate to gate," meaning fliers can leave laptops, phones, and tablets powered on when they enter the plane, and keep them on through landing and disembarkation.

American Airlines is the third major airline to allow electronics gate to gate after Delta and Jet Blue made the switch earlier this month. Before airlines can allow passengers to use electronics during all phases of a flight, they have to prove to the FAA that their planes can operate safely with devices turned on. The FAA expects passengers on all US airlines to be able to use devices gate to gate by the end of this year.
The new American Airlines policy came into effect on Monday and is fleet wide, barring a few American Eagle flights. Although passengers on the company's flights will be able to leave cellphones on, they'll still have to switch them to airplane mode: phone calls from the sky remain prohibited.
Source: The Verge

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Woman receives ticket for driving in glasses....Google Glass glasses that is.

In what might be a first, a woman in California received a traffic ticket for wearing Google Glass while driving.

Cecilia Abadie was pulled over for speeding on Tuesday in San Diego and given an additional citation for driving while wearing her Google Glass. The officer considered the head-mounted display a monitor that was visible to the driver. Shocked, Abadie posted a copy of the ticket on Google+.
Traffic laws vary state by state, but many now have broad distracted-driving laws or bans on certain monitors that could easily apply to Google Glass.
The California law cited in Abadie's case is meant to prevent people from watching television while driving. V C 27602 prohibits televisions and similar monitors from being turned on and facing the driver. There are exceptions for GPS and mapping tools and screens that display camera feeds to help the driver navigate. If a device has a safety feature that limits its display to approved uses while driving, it can be allowed.
"I think the law is broad enough to say it violates the law," said San Diego attorney Mitchell Mehdy, also known as "Mr. Ticket." Mehdy has been working in traffic law for 25 years and said this is the first case he's heard of involving Google Glass.
Abadie says her Google Glass was not turned on when she was pulled over, and that the officer said the screen was blocking her view. The Google Glass display is located slightly above the right eye, not directly in front of the eye.
Google does warn users about running afoul of traffic laws in its Google Glass FAQ: "Most states have passed laws limiting the use of mobile devices while driving any motor vehicle, and most states post those rules on their department of motor vehicles websites. Read up and follow the law!"
However, in another section on navigation, it says Glass can give turn-by-turn directions, "whether you're on a bike, in a car, taking the subway, or going by foot."
Glass fans defended the technology in comments on Abadie's post, saying that a voice-activated screen close to the eye could actually be safer than trying to check a smartphone or other monitor while driving.
"Glass is far safer than any other means of information delivery. It is out of your view and not distracting," said Aaron Kasten, who compared it to checking speed and other information on a car's dashboard, which requires taking your eyes off of the road.
The turn-by-turn directions on Glass can be turned on with a voice command. The display will show a map view, but for extra safety the screen can be turned off while driving so there's only voice navigation.
A Google Glass spokesperson didn't address the ticket directly but emphasized responsible Google Glass usage, saying, "As we make clear in our help center, Explorers should always use Glass responsibly and put their safety and the safety of others first. More broadly, Glass is built to connect you more with the world around you, not distract you from it."
State laws are always adapting to new technology, and Google Glass is still a somewhat rare sighting. The device is only available as part of a beta program and is not yet sold commercially. According to Mehdy, new technology is a tempting target for law enforcement looking for new ways to bring in money.
Law enforcement is increasingly enforcing distracted driving laws. During the month of April, there were more that 57,000 distracted driving tickets issued in California as part of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety.
Source: CNN

Monday, November 4, 2013

How do you handle bad online reviews?

It's not uncommon to receive a few negative reviews, but what's the best way to handle it?
Here's what you don't want to do: Call online reviewers punks, trash or other expletives on your company Facebook page like the owners of Amy's Baking Company did last spring. Their outrageous behavior became a story in and of itself and escalated the negative feedback far beyond where it started.

While most business owners probably aren't tempted to call commenters "fat, disgusting losers" and threaten legal action, it's easy to make a misstep. Here are some tips on how to respond to negative reviews.

1. Don't post fake positive reviews
"Fake reviews happen everywhere," says Giorgos Zervas, a Boston University marketing professor who analyzed reviews of thousands of Boston restaurants. About 80% of the restaurants had at least one "filtered" review, which means Yelp (YELP) software found it suspicious. "[It] might be real or it might be fake," he says. "But Yelp finds it suspicious enough to avoid publishing it."
Related: Best social network for your business

Yelp will publicly shame businesses it thinks buy reviews, like it did to Discount Mattress and Furniture in La Mesa, Calif. The profile has a "consumer alert," reading: "We caught someone red-handed trying to buy reviews for this business."

Faking reviews can also get you in trouble with the law. Last month, officials in Taiwan investigated Samsung for paying people to criticize rival HTC online. And in September, New York regulators cracked down on the same practice, forcing 19 companies to pay $350,000 in penalties.

2. Address negative feedback personally, but carefully
Lockbusters, a New York City locksmith, is approached often by companies offering to craft reviews, according to owner Jay Sofer.

He turns them down, preferring to connect with negative reviewers personally. In a phone call or email, he asks questions, lets them vent and if the company didn't meet expectations, offers a discount or even a refund.

He also prioritizes customer service. "I treat every person like a potential reviewer," he says. "I know they can praise you or trash you."

His approach works: Sofer says much of his business is driven by his 5-star rating on Yelp. "If you want to take your online reputation seriously, put customer satisfaction first," he says.

3. Move conversations offline
When it comes to Facebook and Twitter vents, it's often more productive to have conversations in private.

Hayneedle.com, an Omaha, Neb.-based online furniture store, handles Facebook complaints with direct messages, signing the name of the person who will be handling it.

"It gives us the flexibility to find the best solution without multiple fans jumping into the conversation or making the customer feel like we've forgotten about them," says Donna Faust, Hayneedle's director of brand management. Once the problem is solved, the company asks the customer to write a follow-up post.

4. Be proactive
Houston-based Blinds.com takes a more proactive approach. The company sends customers an email asking how they did, hoping to catch complaints before a person vents publicly. The positive feedback has landed in marketing campaigns, and the gripes have helped identify problems at the company, says Daniel Cotlar, the chief marketing officer.

"We've uncovered a lot of stuff that is broken," says Cotlar, such as software glitches, vendor problems, misleading product images or customer service holes. "For every customer who will tell you something is wrong, there are 10 people who don't bother. So you're fortunate to get that information."

Source: CNN Money

Friday, November 1, 2013

7 signs that your child is an iPad addict...

Withdrawal symptoms and cravings may seem like the province of hard-drug addiction, but increasingly, psychologists are noticing these same signs of addiction in people who use devices ranging from smartphones to tablets.

And as more and more households get iPads, more children may start to get hooked.  In April, reporters pounced on a story about a 4-year-old who was seeing a therapist to kick her iPad obsession.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders V (DSM-V), sometimes called the psychiatrist's "bible," has not officially added Internet gaming to its roster of disorders, but it's under consideration. And it's likely that iPad, smartphone or other device addiction will be viewed similarly as more data show their harmful effects, Amitay said.

From physical withdrawal symptoms to losing touch with the outside world, here are seven signs your child may be hooked on the iPad:

1. Withdrawal

Withdrawal from heroin or alcohol causes headaches and the shakes, but device addiction has physical withdrawal symptoms as well. In a 2011 study, researchers asked 1,000 college students around the world to go 24 hours without using their smartphones, other mobile devices or the Internet. Many reported symptoms such as anxiety and depression, and one anonymous student even said he or she was "itching like a crackhead" from the longing to use a phone.

If your child is irritable, anxious or sad after having the iPad is taken away, he or she may have an unhealthy attachment to the device.

2. Tolerance

Just as heroin addicts need bigger and bigger hits to get the same effect, iPad users can also develop a tolerance.

3. Loss of interest

If children who once loved playing soccer, picking on their kid brother, or climbing trees have lost interest in all those activities in favor of hours of "Air Hockey Gold," it may signal a problem. (An occasional preference for the iPad over other activities isn't a problem; the screen craving has to be crowding out everything else to a significant degree).

4. Lack of control

Addicts typically have an inability to control their usage. And though 4-year-olds are not known for their self-control, children may have a problem if parents have a really hard time taking the tablet away from their child without a huge meltdown. On the other hand, parents of young children should be able to set limits.

5. Deception

Have you caught Henry hiding underneath the kitchen table hunched over a lit-up screen, playing his favorite game? Yes, another red flag of addiction is children lying about iPad use, sneaking the iPad into their bedroom or other hideout, or otherwise deceiving family members to get more screen time.

6. Trouble dealing

Addicts often use a substance or an activity as a way of escaping from a negative mood or feeling.

Kids who are using the iPad to avoid dealing with sad, stressful, or negative emotions could have a problem. For instance, if your kid always grabs the iPad after a fight with a sibling or a parent, he may be coping with his negative emotions using the iPad.

7. Losing opportunities

Losing significant relationships, failing in school, or performing poorly at work are all signs of addiction. Though young children have probably not lost their shot at the corner office as a result of too much Candy Crush Saga, they may be losing friends or their grades may be slipping.

Normal or not?

For all these symptoms, it's important to note that mentally healthy children, especially young children, become slightly obsessive about any new activity.

In young children especially, most symptoms of iPad addiction can be short-circuited early on if parents set limits, create consequences for excessive use and provide daily structure for their children. The fact that parents have trouble taking an iPad away from a 3-year-old doesn't necessarily mean they have a toddler addict; it means the parent have trouble saying no.

*We at IES, Inc. are not psychiatrists or doctors. Under no circumstance should this article be considered as medical advice.

Source: Yahoo News