A small security reminder: Beware of suspicious links!

Even if they come from friends and family on Facebook and other social sites. And always use different passwords on every site!

Worm steals 45,000 Facebook login credentials, infects victims’ friends

A worm previously used to commit financial fraud is now stealing Facebook login credentials, compromising at least 45,000 Facebook accounts with the goals of transmitting malicious links to victims’ friends and gaining remote access to corporate networks.

The security company Seculert has been tracking the progress of Ramnit, a worm first discovered in April 2010, and described by Microsoft as “multi-component malware that infects Windows executable files, Microsoft Office files and HTML fil…

One more reason to switch to Google+: No ads.

One more reason to switch to Google+: No ads.

Though I suspect we’ll see some eventually. Even so, Google’s ads in other servers like Search and Gmail tend to be surprisingly unobtrusive compared to many other places on the web.

Hot for 2012: Facebook Ads in Your News Feed! [Facebook]

Ads ads ads ads ads ads ads ads ads ads ads ads ads ads. We love ads. Ads ads ads ads. Facebook ads. Give us more ads! We want ads! What’s wrong with Facebook? Not enough ads! More ads? Phew!
TechCrunch, citing an anonymous Facebook ad bro, says Zuckerberg’s Like empire will soon start dropping advertisements in your news feed, which hitherto this point has been sacred ground. But in 2012, the place you once trusted as an untainted source of keg pics and meme links will be festooned with one …

Beware friends asking for emergency money via Facebook chat.

Pic of Facebook scam logo.Scammers are a clever bunch. They’re always coming up with ways to try and separate you from your cash. Lately it involves hacking Facebook accounts and then scamming friends of the victim into sending them money. The folks over at The Consumerist have two recent examples of the scam being thwarted by vigilant would-be victims:

Kevin was worried. His friend Mike said over Facebook chat that he and his wife and kids were stranded in London after getting mugged. They needed money wired immediately to settle their hotel bill. This was especially worrisome because Mike was supposed to be recuperating in the hospital from head surgery… Then Kevin realized that someone had cracked his friend’s Facebook account and was impersonating him.

If you check out both articles you’ll note that in both cases it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out that it was a scam simply from the rather amusingly bad English coming from the fake friends. Though, considering how poor some American’s typing habits are, I can see how it could be difficult to tell with some people.

Still, the scam tends to follow the same pattern. Said friend is stranded in some foreign country after having been mugged with the thief making off with their wallets and cellphones. Could you, pretty please, wire them some huge amount of money via Western Union so they can pay off their hotel bill and make their flight out of the country that’s due to leave in a couple of hours. No, they can’t call you. No, they don’t want you to send someone to pick them up. Just send them the fucking money and stop asking so many difficult questions like why it was they slept with your step-father in high school (see the first link for that amusing twist).

In short, much like the Windows operating system, Facebook has become a big enough thing that it’s now the target of criminals the world over who hope to take advantage of the trust you may have that the person claiming to be your friend really is your friend. You should always keep in mind how piss-poor most people’s password choices are and the fact that Facebook is like a sieve security-wise before rushing off to lend a hand.

Innocuous picture on Facebook gets a teacher fired.

Take a look at the following picture and tell me what’s wrong with it:

Pic of fired teacher.

Oh my! It's so scandalous!

Apparently that’s all it took for a Georgia high school principal to fire English teacher Ashley Payne:

“He just asked me, ‘Do you have a Facebook page?'” Payne said. “And you know, I’m confused as to why I am being asked this, but I said, ‘Yes.’ And he said, ‘Do you have any pictures of yourself up there with alcohol?'”

In fact, the picture that concerned the principal – showing Payne holding a glass of wine and a mug of beer – was on her Facebook page. There was also a reference to a local trivia contest with a profanity in its title.

Payne was told a parent of one of her students called to complain. And then, Payne says, she was given a choice: resign or be suspended.

“He told me that I needed to make a decision before I left, or he was going to go ahead and suspend me,” she said.

She resigned. Attorney Richard Storrs is fighting to get Payne’s job back.

via Did the Internet Kill Privacy? – CBS Sunday Morning – CBS News.

Again, this was a PUBLIC high school as opposed to, say, a private religious school of some sort. Apparently the idea that a young teacher might partake of both beer and wine was too much for those delicate Georgia sensibilities.

Here’s the kicker, and why the topic of the CBS articles is about the Internet and privacy, Payne thought she had set her FB privacy settings so that the picture wouldn’t be public:

But here’s the really troubling part: Payne had used the privacy settings on Facebook. She thought that only her closest friends could see her vacation photos or her use of the “B” word.

“I wouldn’t use it in a classroom, no,” she said. “But Facebook is not the classroom. And it’s not open to the students of my classroom. They are not supposed to see it. I have privacy in place so they don’t see it.”

I would argue that even if they did manage to see it, which apparently they could have, there’s nothing present that should be a concern. She’s not half-naked in the picture, she’s not obviously drunk, she’s not breaking any laws, and swearing outside of work shouldn’t be grounds for dismissal. (If it is, I’m in big, big trouble.)

The rest of the article is the usual ‘we’ve lost all sense of privacy in the Internet age’ stuff that’s no surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention. Though as an interesting aside, I did try the Reputation.com website that the reporter used to learn what personal info was on the net:

Michael Fertik, a Harvard Law School grad who runs a company called Reputation.com, came up with information I thought was private. I was wrong.

“I think this is your Social Security number,” Fertik said. It was!

He also revealed what he called my “online reputation,” based mainly on where I happen to live.

“Our query is pretty confident that you’re a Democrat and pretty confident that you’re a Catholic,” Fertik said.

“But that may not be correct,” said Moriarty.

“It may just not be correct,” he explained.

And then there’s something that could cause a real headache down the road …

“There’s an Erin F. Moriarty who grew up just a few miles where you did, who has been convicted of serving alcohol to minors,” Fertik said. “And it’d be very easy for a machine to confuse you and that person, and to think that you are a convicted criminal.”

They offer a free scan to give you a taste of what they can find. I came away from it totally unimpressed. I put in “Les Jenkins” and the email address I most commonly use with it (les@stupidevilbastard.com) and it failed to find me. I tried my jenkinsonline.net email address and it still didn’t find me. Then I tried my full first name and my SEB email address.

That was enough for it to kind of find me. It listed my name as Lesley R Jenkins (my middle initial is a T), got my age right at being 43 and having been born in August of 1967, and listed my address as still being in Orion Township, MI. I’ve not lived there for over 12 years now. When I went to the next step it congratulated me for not having any significant personal info on the Internet. Well, I thought, considering that’s technically not my real full name and I no longer live there, I’m not at all surprised by that revelation.

Considering that putting “Les Jenkins” into Google will list me in 7 of the first 10 results (and the first 4 results to boot), it should go without saying that I’m not at all difficult to find on the Internet. SEB, Twitter, and my LinkedIn profile pages are all right there with all manner of publicly viewable info about me and without getting my middle initial wrong. This doesn’t speak well to the data gathering ability of the folks at Reputation.com.

Anyway, the point I wanted to make is that Payne’s firing is pretty fucking ridiculous regardless of how public or private that picture happens to be. There’s nothing any reasonable person would consider objectionable about it and, even if there was, so long as she’s not taking it into the classroom it shouldn’t be a problem.

Mother shakes baby to death for interrupting FarmVille game.

Pic of Alexandra Tobias

Least likely to win Mother-Of-The-Year award.

A 22 year-old Jacksonville, Florida mother is facing second degree murder charges for killing her 3-month-old son. Seems his endless crying was interfering with her mad crop growing skillz in FarmVille and her creative solution was to shake the living shit out him:

Alexandra V. Tobias, 22, was arrested after the January death of 3-month-old Dylan Lee Edmondson. She told investigators she became angry because the baby was crying while she was playing a computer game called FarmVille on the Facebook social-networking website.

Tobias entered her plea Wednesday before Circuit Judge Adrian G. Soud. A second-degree murder charge is punishable by up to life in prison.

[…] Tobias told investigators that she shook the baby, smoked a cigarette to compose herself and then shook him again. She said the baby may have hit his head during the shaking.

Now I’m a fairly hardcore gamer myself — though you won’t catch me dead playing FarmVille — and I can understand the frustration of having an intense session being interrupted — though again I can’t imagine FarmVille being all that intense — but I can’t begin to imagine how anyone would consider this an appropriate response. At the very least it shows a seriously twisted set of priorities on Tobias’ part.

It sounds like this lady has deeper issues than just an overwhelming addiction to a crappy Facebook game, though that’s not what the media will focus on. Here we have someone who’s “addicted” to both Facebook and video games showing how two evil things become even worse when combined! The real tragedy here is that a young baby boy had to die for his mother’s problems to come to light.

If she’s lucky she’ll get the help she needs while she’s in prison, but it’s a huge price to pay for not seeking help sooner.

Puttering around with SEB.

You may have noticed that I’ve removed the ability to edit comments for the moment. The Ajax based plugin I was using wasn’t working for everyone and it’s since gone commercial. I’ve yet to find an alternative solution that is both 1) updated relatively recently and 2) easy to install. The one prospect I did find requires adding code directly to the template files and this template is complex enough that doing that is no small undertaking. So, for the moment, make use of the Preview function before hitting submit.

Other things I’m toying around with is trying to work in some alternative methods of allowing sign-ins when commenting. There are plugins that allow you to validate via your Facebook/Twitter/OpenID/Google FriendConnect accounts. Alas, the ones that seem to support everything tend to be commercial options requiring me to sign up with an external service which I’m trying to avoid. The other option is to use several different plugins for each platform I’d like to support which also is unappealing. So I’m poking around a number of other sites to see what they’re using these days.

Which all brings me back to one of my issues with WordPress. There’s a ton of plugins out there most of which are so far behind the current version of WP that it’s questionable whether or not they’ll even work. Even if they are compatible with the current version they may or may not work properly with the theme you’re using. And even if they do work with the theme you’re using there’s no guarantee they won’t conflict with each other. Sometimes it’s possible to have too much choice.

Still, that’s what makes being a blogger a challenge I suppose. The hours spent reading through plugin descriptions. Testing them out. Google searches to see what others are using. Etc. I’ve found a pretty decent Facebook Connect plugin that I’ll probably try sometime soon. Not only will it allow you to login using your FB credentials, but it’ll put your FB avatar in the comment and allow you to post it back to your statues updates if you wish.

Oh, almost forgot to mention that the About tab actually has content in it now. I found that I had written an About SEB entry back in 2007 so I moved the content up there where it won’t be so lonely. It’s horribly out of date, but at least it’s more than one sentence now.

Episode 2 of The SEB Podcast is now online.

A pic of a microphone.Technically it’s actually episode 3 if you count the Great Lost Episode that was brought about by my momentary technical ineptitude. In this episode we spend way more time than we probably should have recapping what we talked about in the Great Lost Episode. Alas, my ADD was in full force tonight and ***Dave was along for the ride so we end up veering all over the place. For example we start to talk a little about the whole South Park Muhammad controversy and somehow we end up talking about playing Dungeons & Dragons and from that we get to talking about the new Tron movie due out this year through one of the most geeky admissions on my part ever. There’s a Catholic hierarchy lesson, some talk about jury duty, Facebook’s devious changes to their privacy policies, people’s general carelessness about what they post on Facebook, and, as always, the hobby of blogging.

I have to admit, this is not as good an episode as the one I lost which makes its loss that much more tragic. Still, we had a good time doing it and I hope it’s at least mildly entertaining for you folks as well. It’s just a little over an hour and a half in length and you can either download it by clicking here or by using the little flash player below.

Let us know what you think, what you liked and what you didn’t, and any suggestions you have for the next episode in the comments.

Play

This Just In: Teachers not allowed to have a life outside of school.

How’s this for being totally unfair:

A Brownsville high school teacher has been suspended for 30 days without pay after she appeared in a picture someone else posted on Facebook that included a male stripper at a bridal shower.

[…] Board member Stella Broadwater says the suspension is appropriate because the photo became public, but member Sandra Chan says it was too harsh because the teacher had no control over the photo being posted.

via Teacher suspended over stripper photo – Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

It’d be one thing if the teacher had printed out this picture and passed it around to her students, but to be suspended because someone else posted the picture on Facebook is pretty stupid. Granted I’ve not seen the picture in question, but I’m not sure it should matter much. Short of staying home and never doing anything outside of work, I’m not sure how she had any control over the posting of the pic.

This also reflects one of the problems with Facebook’s move towards removing the privacy options that it has traditionally made available to its users. As these barriers come down you’ll be reading about more and more news items like this as pictures that were once thought to be limited to family and friends become viewable by the public at large.

There are already a number of sites popping up to chronicle embarrassing Facebook postings including Failbook.com from the folks who brought us I Can Has Cheezeburger? I mean, do you really want wall updates like this one viewable by the whole world?

Funny Facebook Wall Posting

It’s embarrassing enough that your mom knows you’re brushing up on AMAZING SEX, but what happens when a potential employer is able to do a Google search and has this come up? At least the Failbook.com folks remove last names and blur pics. Google isn’t going to do that.

OK, I’ve gotten off on a tangent here so allow me to wrap this up. The point I’m trying to make is that, sure, the idiot in the above screenshot probably shouldn’t have posted something like that if he didn’t want folks (including his mom) to know about it, but the teacher that got suspended didn’t post the picture that got her in trouble and that’s not fair. Which is basically my point.

I am now on Facebook.

A couple of folks have been chatting with me about Facebook in email and, while I’m still not sure I understand it, I decided to take the plunge and sign up. I was surprised to have one friend added almost immediately, fellow blogger Neil Turner, after the system figured out that I was friends with him because he’s in my Windows Live Messenger contact list. Neil must sit by his PC waiting for friend notifications or something.

So anyway, if you’re on Facebook and you want to add me as a friend you can now do so, though I’ll be honest and admit that my profile there will probably be ignored much the same way my Friendster profile and Last.fm profile currently are. I originally signed up for Facebook using my full name because it said to, but very few people outside my family know me by my full-including-middle name so I changed it back to just Les Jenkins.

What’s really sad is that my Friendster profile just got some much needed attention because I was there trying to look up how to link to it. I’ve updated my location from being in Canton (which I’m not anymore) to being in Ann Arbor (which I’m not actually there yet), changed the registered email address, and updated my current employment as I am no longer unemployed. I suppose if you wanted to add me as a friend on Friendster you can do so as well, but as I said it’s been ages since I last looked at it.

At this pace I’ll eventually have profiles on all the big social networking sites that I’ll gleefully ignore for years at a time. Try to collect them all!

I must be getting old. I still don’t understand what Twitter is for.

Or most of the other social websites that are out there. Twitter is wildly popular, but it seems like the sort of thing you’d use if you didn’t have a blog. Here’s what it’s for according to their about page:

Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

Why? Because even basic updates are meaningful to family members, friends, or colleagues—especially when they’re timely.

  • Eating soup? Research shows that moms want to know.
  • Running late to a meeting? Your co–workers might find that useful.
  • Partying? Your friends may want to join you.

With Twitter, you can stay hyper–connected to your friends and always know what they’re doing. Or, you can stop following them any time. You can even set quiet times on Twitter so you’re not interrupted.

Twitter puts you in control and becomes a modern antidote to information overload.

As much as my mother loves me dearly, I’m not sure she’d really give a shit to know that I’m, at this very moment, eating soup. My co-workers would probably appreciate a phone call over a twitter entry and if I’m partying then my friends probably already know about it. In short it sounds like a service that promotes the sharing of trivial minutiae at a level that makes blogging look like high journalism in comparison.

The only reason I’m even thinking about it at the moment is because of this TechCrunch entry about it wherein they talk about how Twitter is suffering from major problems with high traffic loads. Whereas Twitter fans usually bitch up a storm when the service fails lately they’ve been doing something else: switching to a competitor:

But that magic is created by the simple Reply feature – when you add “@TechCrunch” to a Twitter message, it tells me you are saying something directly to me, to start a new conversation or reply to an existing one. Without Reply, Twitter turns into a one way telephone conversation. Pulling the feature out is equivalent to a frontal lobotomy – Twitter is still walking around, but there’s a blank stare in its eyes.

So why aren’t people screaming about the feature being gone? Because this time, they’re just heading over to Friendfeed to have those very same conversations. Friendfeed for most users was just a place to bookmarks all their activities on other social networks. Now, more and more, it’s a place that people start conversations. The early adopters got that a while ago. Now, the not so early adopters are using it as a Twitter replacement, too.

As an example the author links to an entry he made on FriendFeed that spawned a whole conversation. It’s a one sentence entry about how he should be blogging, but keeps looking at the ocean and thinking of playing with his dog. It has 40 some odd replies, none of which are more than a sentence or two long themselves.

It appears, to my eyes anyway, to be a form of mini-blogging and I’m not sure why you wouldn’t just use a blog to do it. I mean, I can understand why he didn’t post something like that to TechCrunch, but for me it seems like it’s redundant when I already blog about whatever trivial thing catches my attention anyway. It just makes for another site someone would have to go to or subscribe to in order to catch up on what I’m following. I already feel bad enough about the fact that I’ve been relying on Google Reader sharing to pass along items I can’t be bothered to blog about.

And what the fuck is Facebook all about anyway? According to their site:

Facebook is a social utility that connects you with the people around you.

OK, so how is that different from what Twitter says it does? You can’t see much of the service without signing up, but it looks like a less obnoxious version of MySpace and MySpace always struck me as the white trash equivalent of blogging only with even more inane content than the average blog and a design aesthetic bordering on the criminal.  Is Facebook more like LinkedIn? I do have a profile on LinkedIn because it appears aimed more at networking for possible jobs, but I’ve not done a very good job of setting up my profile yet.

As I said, maybe it’s a sign that I’m getting old, but I just don’t get the point of all these services. At least not if you already have a blog to call home. It just seems like it makes for more places people have to go to find out what you’re up to when they could just pick up the phone or drop you an email and say, “Where the hell have you been?”