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Monday, June 17, 2013

Important Reminder For My RSS Subscribers!

Hey All!

Just a quick reminder to those of you who subscribe to my blog via RSS and use Google Reader to read Spilled On The Kitchen Table. There are only two weeks left before Google shuts GR down, so if you haven't done so already and would like to continue to follow me through RSS, (and I would be honored if you did!) please make sure to choose a new reader and import your subscriptions to it!

Not sure which RSS subscription reader you want to use? See my post about the choice that I made, which also includes links to reviews of other alternative readers, written by different folks around the web.

Thanks so much for continuing to be such an awesome blog friend!


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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Wait! Don't Click That Link!! (Or Answer That Call!)

Update!! When you're done reading my post, I found a pretty good explanation of how these bots work and why they hit our blogs on Wikipedia. Click HERE to read it. (It's OK... I clicked/read it and nothing bad happened, so I can attest to the fact that this is a safe link. lol)

Just a little warning/update about a new spammer that's been bombarding the blogosphere....

Please, be extremely careful and more importantly, DO NOT click on a referring URL link in your stats called:

top blog stories (dot) com (it will appear as one solid line without spaces in your stats)

I've posted about referring URL links in Blogger stats before, but I wanted to revisit this because there's a new culprit out there and it's looking a bit different. The rule of thumb for those of us who blog is that unless you recognize a link in your referral stats, (like a known blog or Pinterest, etc) you should never click on it, because 99% of the time it's referral spam. And while most of them are basically harmless, clicking on them will draw more "false" traffic hits and in turn, more spam comments to your blog. Well, it's looking like this particular link might not be so harmless.

I'm not sure how long this spammer has been around the blogosphere, but it showed up in my stats for the first time a couple of weeks ago. Overall, there's been an increase in referral spam over the last 6 to 8 months and I'm usually pretty good about spotting it right away, but I'll admit that I was almost fooled by this one. Luckily, something caused the hair on the back of my neck to stand up and stopped me from clicking that mouse.

I was curious, so you know me... I did a little research and according to the google/blogger forums, the link belongs to a really nasty and aggressive porn site, based out of Mumbai India. The word is, that if you click it, not only will it bombard your blog with considerably more of those false hits than the others, but some folks are claiming that it's downloading malware or spy ware onto their hard drives and some are even saying that they've been hacked after clicking the link. Now, these could just be rumors, but I sure don't want to take any chances.

What makes me nervous, is that this new breed of spammers is getting a lot more clever with their method of attack. More and more, they're using language or key words that are familiar to the blogging vernacular. I mean, think about it... With a name like "top blog stories", it wouldn't be hard to imagine seeing it in your stats and wondering if maybe it's some fancy schmancy new website that ranks or showcases blogs of a certain genre and maybe they've mentioned your blog. As bloggers that's one of those things that most of us would be flattered and excited to find out about, right?  Well, that's exactly what these bad guys are hoping for and to be honest, for about a nano-second, the thought actually crossed my mind.

It's not just the blogosphere that's under attack. Just about everyone that I know, has been seeing an increase in unsolicited phone calls, on both land lines and cell phones, from scammers who are masquerading as everything from survey takers to charitable organizations and even computer software companies! And it doesn't seem to matter whether you're on the National Do Not Call list, or not. We've been on it for years and it's worked well from the start, but we've been getting so many calls in recent months, that I went to the DNC website to make sure we were still listed.

We are. But we're still getting calls from these jerks on a daily basis. And 95% of  these calls aren't coming from fund raisers. Why would that make a difference? Well, groups or businesses that make calls for the sole purpose of raising money for charitable organizations, are exempt from the do not call list.

We never answer anything from 800 or blocked numbers, or strange area codes (like 000? what the heck is that?) but they've started using "real" area codes from cities around the U.S. and we've had some that are even using names of legit companies and organizations that they obviously have no legal affiliation with. One person called here recently and the only reason I answered it was because it was from the area code where our daughter lives. This guy actually had the cojones to say he was from Microsoft!

The phone call went something like this...

ringing phone photo: Ringing Phone Telephone-1.gif

Me:  Hello

Mr. "microsoft":  (in a very urgent voice) Hello, my name is (unintelligible name) from Microsoft. I am calling on behalf of your computer and it is very, very sick. Please go to your computer right aw....

Me:  (interrupting) I'm sorry? What? You're calling on behalf of who?

Mr. "microsoft":  Yes, ma'am. I'm calling on behalf of your computer. It is very sick and you must to go to it immediately and log on so...

Me:  Huh? Ha! (laughing out loud now, as I'm realizing how ridiculous this is) Uh... Noooo. My computer is just fine, thank you. G'bye!  Click.

I might have chuckled at the audacity of this guy, but what isn't funny, is what these scammers are trying to accomplish; their "game" is to scare people into believing that some horrible virus has infiltrated and damaged their computer and it must be fixed immediately.

Once they've got the person convinced that they have a dangerous virus and the caller is the only one who can get rid of the problem, they direct them to log on to their computer and then walk them through a few simple steps that will give the scammer remote access to the person's hard drive. Then, under the guise of removing the alleged virus, they instead, install a malware program called a keylogger or keystroke recorder.

These programs give the scammer access to passwords, account and social security numbers and any other personal information that the victim enters into their computer by recording each keystroke as it happens in real time. This allows the scammer and anyone else that they might sell the information to, to rob that person of every penny they have. It all happens so fast that the victim has no idea it's happening... until they've lost everything.

What truly worries me, is that I know some older folks who would have no idea that these aren't legitimate calls, or that they had just become the victim of a blatant thief. A thief who now had access to pretty much everything that they owned.

Technology is a wonderful thing, but it's becoming a double edged sword. I don't have any desire to stop doing what I do every day. I love blogging, so I want to keep that in my life and because I live with a chronic illness that makes it difficult to get out as often as I'd like or need to, I've really come to appreciate the convenience of things like online shopping. I also enjoy interacting with old and new friends through various social media networks.

But I feel like I'm doing these things each day with a little more trepidation every day, because it's getting more difficult to protect our privacy.

It's easy for us to be lulled into a false sense of security too, because we have programs installed on our computers that are designed to detect and thwart a cyber attack, but there's also new technology created every day, designed to bypass this software or to attack us with some newer, nastier cyber bug.

We try to be careful. But as careful as we are, there's always some way that we become vulnerable. Even if you've never paid a bill online, or you've made it a point not to ever put any of your personal information online, our banks, our doctors, our children's schools and basically every retailer we deal with does. Every day. So, how are we supposed protect ourselves from that?

Oh... and warn your elderly family members, friends and neighbors about these jerks. If we can keep one less person from getting their identity stolen (or worse) it's just one more thing that will help us all be better protected.

Be well...
and be careful out there!


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