google logoAre you a heavy user of Google products? If you are, more than likely you are going to love Dashboard.

As Google is slowly taking over our lives with its numerous free offerings, it would be nice to see just how many of its services you are using, and also get quick access to all of them.  The new Dashboard feature was announced this morning, and it does exactly that.  With this new tool it lets you quickly see at a glance which services you are using, statistics on their uses and easy access to the controls of each so you can quickly change settings without having to hunt for the right page.

One nice thing about Google is they make extremely straight forward videos to explain their new tools, and so we leave you with the newest one which explains everything you need to know in a matter of minutes.

Categories: Google, Privacy   

spamWe aren’t sure who it is that still reads spam, let alone makes purchases from it, but please stop.

According to Ars Technica, a security researcher from Sophos names Dmitry Samosseiko did some sleuthing, and was able to find his way into the administrative backend of a spamming network.  What he discovered was that there is still big money being made from spam emails, and the conclusion is that so long as people continue to purchase Viagra and other drugs via these emails, we will all suffer.

In a lengthy report (PDF link), Mr. Samosseiko details how the one spam network he got into has about 30 sales a day, totaling up to $4,000.  $1,600 of that goes to the spam software generator, a group named GlavMed, while the rest goes to the person using the spam bots.  In other words, GlavMed makes around $584,000 a year from spam, and this is just one of possibly many spam networks set up by them.

The latest iteration of spam seems to be centered on Russians setting up the networks to sell the drugs that come out of Canadian pharmacies.  While there is no way to know for sure, it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that this is tied in with the Russian mob, but that is purely speculation on my own part.

It is amazing to me that there are still people even reading their spam emails after the endless warnings that have been made by security groups over the dangers of even opening these emails, let alone clicking on any links in them.  You are opening yourself up to viruses, Trojan horses, identity theft and any other slew of nastiness by even reading this junk mail.

The other problem is that you are subjecting everyone else on the Internet to continue receiving them because even a small percentage of them work.  It costs next to nothing to send out hundreds of thousands of spam emails, so why should the spammers care if only 30 a day result in a sale?  The only way for this to end is for everyone to just stop looking at them, but somehow I doubt that will ever happen.

Maybe we need a new slogan, something like, “Every time you read a spam email, God kills a kitten”.  Think that would finally get the point across?

Categories: Opinion, Privacy, Security, Shopping   

PasswordsIf you want a job with the city of Bozeman, MT it’s only going to cost you all of your privacy.

We’ve written before about how employers are checking out social networking profiles of potential employees, and how even college admissions offices are even doing it, but the city of Bozeman, MT has taken it even further, and it is quite frankly pretty scary.  Earlier this week, Steven Hodson at The Inquisitr brought this startling story to my attention that the City of Bozeman is requiring all job applicants to not only list what social networks they belong to, but they also must turn over their usernames and passwords.

The job application states:

Please list any and all, current personal or business websites, web pages or memberships on any Internet-based chat rooms, social clubs or forums, to include, but not limited to: Facebook, Google, Yahoo,, MySpace, etc.

In theory this is mainly done due to Facebook not allowing you to see the profile of anyone you have not friended, but that feature is optional on all other social networks.

As Mr. Hodson points out, this is tantamount to handing over the keys of your house to your employer, and telling them to have a look around.  Not only would you be giving them access to your profile, but also to your private messages, the ability to see your friends profiles that are otherwise private and other potentially sensitive information in your account.  Never mind the fact that one of the first rules of passwords is to never give them out to any one.

City attorney Greg Sullivan explained the reasoning of this request to this way:

So, we have positions ranging from fire and police, which require people of high integrity for those positions, all the way down to the lifeguards and the folks that work in city hall here. So we do those types of investigations to make sure the people that we hire have the highest moral character and are a good fit for the City.

While it is understandable that a city would want to hire only upstanding people, demanding access to their private information is a whole different matter.  Mr. Sullivan also continued:

You know, I can understand that concern. One thing that’s important for folks to understand about what we look for is none of the things that the federal constitution lists as protected things, we don’t use those. We’re not putting out this broad brush stroke of trying to find out all kinds of information about the person that we’re not able to use or shouldn’t use in the hiring process.

The problem I have with this is what if someone entrusted with the checking of your profiles is unethical?  What if they are a gossip?  You are giving some faceless person all of the information they need to find out pretty much anything they want to know about you, and that is worrisome.  And what happens to those pieces of paper you write down your information on?  Can the city guarantee that those documents will be under lock and key at all times with records kept at all times of whom accessed them?

It is easy to understand that in these difficult economic times that people will do whatever they can for a job, but for the city to even suggest that you should hand over this type of sensitive information is insanity.  And, lets be honest here, do they really suspect that if someone is doing something illegal that this will give them the magic solution to finding out?  Do they really think that if someone is a child molester it is going to be spelled out for them on their social networking profiles?

No matter how you slice it this is a bad idea, and something that the City of Bozeman has no right asking for.  What is private is private, and you sure would never catch me giving them access.

UPDATE: Shortly after we published this story it was announced that the City of Bozeman has stopped the practice as of midday on Friday.

The extent of our request for a candidate’s password, user name, or other internet information appears to have exceeded that which is acceptable to our community. We appreciate the concern many citizens have expressed regarding this practice and apologize for the negative impact this issue is having on the City of Bozeman.

Thanks to heatherkoyuk on Twitter for bringing this to our attention.


facebook logoWhen is too much information just that?

Over at Mashable, Adam Ostrow wrote up a new Facebook application today called TrueScoop.  On the surface it seems like a fun, and surprisingly free, way to look up information about your friends, but it is also directed at potential employers being able to look into your history to see what type of person you are.

TrueScoop allows anyone who installs the application to enter a person’s name and it will search through “millions” of public records to show you about them.  Ever been pulled over for a speeding ticket?  Well, it’s on here (as Mr. Ostrow bravely proved by posting a screen capture of one of his own)  This means it will also show any other possible run ins you’ve had with the law whether they be misdemeanors or felonies, your entire arrest record is now avaialble for anyone on Facebook to view.

While this may be a great thing for a family looking to hire a baysitter, or an employer wanting to know about a potential employee, there are two serious problems we see with this application.  The first is the potential for you to get confused with someone else, or for you not be found at all.  True, it does show you the person’s date of birth and a potential location for where they reside, but when I looked up a friend (with their permission) who had moved away from our town eighteen years ago, it still showed him as possibly living here.  An employer could see that and wonder if the information put on an application was truly accurate.  Another friend (again with their permission) that I looked up seemingly doesn’t exist at all.  After 15 minutes of searching, not one record could be returned on her, which might prompt someone who has put too much faith into this system to think that she has given them bogus information.

The second, and far more scary, potential problem is that of stalking.  Perhaps someone is a bit too obsessed with you and they decide to look you up via this system.  They could potentially learn what city you live in or even more.  Imagine this in the case of someone who has escaped an abusive relationship and it gets even scarier.

True, these are all public records the information is being pulled from, but in the past there has always been a fee involved in searching them which is enough to dissuade the casual abuser.  This is the first time I can ever remember there being a truly free public record search, and due to the ability of anyone to do it on a whim, it could potentially turn itno a frightening tool for stalkers, child molestors and things we might even be able to dream of yet.  Use this application with care.

Categories: Facebook, News, Privacy   
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