According to a new study by Nielsen-Online, social networks and blogs are now the 4th most popular online activity. Collectively referred to as "Member Communities," Nielsen says these are visited by over two-thirds of the online population, putting them "ahead of personal email." It's also the fastest-growing sector out of the top four, which also includes search, portals, and PC software and email.
"Social networking has become a fundamental part of the global online experience," says John Burbank, CEO of Nielsen Online (PDF). "While two-thirds of the global online population already accesses member community sites, their vigorous adoption and the migration of time show no signs of slowing. Social networking will continue to alter not just the global online landscape, but the consumer experience at large."
Facebook, which ranks as the most popular social network, draws three out of every 10 people online each month across the nine markets tracked. And it's not limited to any single age group. According to Nielsen, the biggest increase in visitors during 2008 came from the 35-49 demographic.
The report, titled "Global Faces and Networked Places," attributes some of the growth to the prominence of mobile phones, noting a "big increase over last year" in the number of users visiting Member Communities through their handsets.
Surprised by any of this? Hit the jump and sound off.
So you’re the type of person that’s in a different country each week of the month, eh? Tired of telling people where you are each time you email them? Well, it looks like Gmail has your back with their latest feature – a signature that automatically lists where you sent your email from.
The signature detects your location by using your public IP address, so it is noted that it won’t always be accurate. “For example, if you’re at Heathrow airport, IP detection may put you in Germany,” writes Marco Bonchi on the Gmail blog.
If there are certain people that you don’t want knowing your location, you can take the location signature out of specific emails at any time.
Spam senders suffered a few temporary setbacks in 2008, including an FTC bust on HerbalKing, one of the largest global spam networks allegedly responsible for sending billions of unsolicited emails, and the shuttering of web host McColo Corp, who the FTC said was responsible for roughly 75 percent of the world's spam. It may have taken a few months, but spam levels have now risen back up to 150 percent, according to Postini Message Security.
"As spammers fill the void left by McColo, it's reasonable to anticipate a decreasing rate of growth as spam reaches November 2008 levels," wrote Amanda Kleha of the Google message-security team on the company's blog. "However, since the November levels weren't even the peak for the year, and since spammers appear to be quickly recovering, the question remains: Where will spam volume top out in 2009? Will it be near the November 2008 level? The April 2008 level? Or higher?"
Symantec also notes a concerning rise in spam, noting that it has seen spam volumes return to within 5 percentage points of the pre-McColo shutdown numbers. In other words, the break is over and barring another bust, spam levels could rise even higher than what they were before a series of crackdowns took place.
Having an internet connection will no longer be mandatory to read, compose, or search through your Gmail. Instead, you'll soon be able to do all of these offline as Google rolls out an experimental feature in the next couple of days to everyone who uses Gmail in the US or UK.
To turn the feature on, you'll click on Settings in your Gmail account, select the Labs tab, and select Enable next to Offline Gmail (our account didn't yet have the feature). After you save the changes, your browser will reload and display a new 'Offline' link which, when clicked, will download the open-source Gears. Google then uses Gears to download a local cache of your mail.
"As long as you're connected to the network, that cache is synchronized with Gmail's servers," Google writes on its blog. "When you lose your connection, Gmail automatically switches to offline mode, and uses the data stored on your computer's hard drive instead of the information sent across the network. You can read messages, star and label them, and do all of the things you're used to doing while reading your webmail online"
Google says not to worry if you have a dodgy or slow connection - enabling the "flacky connection mode" will synchronize your mail with the server in the background, but browsing will take place in the local cache for immediate access. Sounds groovy.
Yahoo "Anti-Spam Czar" Mark Risher says the search company has begun taking several steps toward cutting back on the amount of spam Yahoo email account holders receive.
"Recently, Yahoo!’s anti-spam team has been using a 'supercomputer; consisting of thousands of individual PCs — part of our open source Hadoop project — to help detect spammer," Risher wrote on the Yahoo Mail blog. "We’re teamed up with several top universities on this research, looking for more ways to find and block the bad guys even faster, before they can do their damage."
Risher went on to say Yahoo has signed a deal with Abaca, a startup company who ambitiously promises "a minimum of 99 percent accuracy" when it comes to detecting spam. Yahoo has also begun using Return Path technology, which lets legitimate companies know when their emails have been marked as spam.
Internet shenanigans are keeping abreast with the latest developments around the world and using it to their advantage. An email doing the rounds around the internet hoodwinks the recipient into believing that it is from CNN. The clandestine email ostensibly contains a link to a “graphic” video of the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict. However, it leads to a fake website that contains a Trojan that betrays the user’s sensitive data, according to the RSA.
The author of the phishing attack has tried to make the website as plausible as possible. Upon visiting the link, the user is greeted with a message asking him to update his Adobe Flash Player. If the user lends his countenance to the download, a Trojan is downloaded instead of the latest version of Flash
Could it be possible that legitimate email messages only account for 10 percent of all email? According to the Cisco 2008 Annual Security Report, the answer is 'yes.' The report claims that nearly 200 billion pieces of spam are sent and received every day, accounting for 90 percent of the world's email. Making the influx of spam messages possible are armies of hijacked computers, Cisco says.
"Every year we see threats evolve as criminals discover new ways to exploit people, networks, and the internet," said Cisco chief security researcher Patrick Peterson. "The botnet is, in many cases, ground-zero for online criminal threats."
Cisco points to the United States as by far the biggest source of spam, accounting for 17.2 percent of the messages. Turkey came in second at 9.2 percent, and Russia ranked third accounting for 8 percent.
What's most striking is that spam volumes have nearly doubled in 2008 compared to 2007. This despite a handful of recent busts by the FTC on various spam rings, which appear to have done nothing when looking at the overall picture. And because spammers "rarely use computers in their physical possession, instead renting or building botnets," the FTC will continue to fight an uphill battle until security improves across the board. Don't hold your breath.
With proper filters in place, you may not even have noticed that spam levels have dropped off recently. It isn't that the scumbags sending out the unsolicited emails have gotten into the holiday spirit and decided to take a break from their operations, and instead the drop off was a result of the FTC shutting down McColo Corp., the web hosting service believed to be responsible for 75 percent of the world's spam.
The two-week hiatus appears to be over. According to Symantec's MessageLabs, spam emails are increasing at twice the volume after McColo went offline. Following the FTC bust, MessageLabs says that spam levels dropped precipitously by 80 percent. But now the remaining 20 percent has increased to 37 percent, indicating that the botnet owners have found new ISPs for their operations.
"The Asporx and Rustock botnets are back with a vengeance after having found new command and control," MessageLabs' Matt Sergeant said.
It looks like fruitcakes won't be the only unwanted gifts this holiday season.
The internet has become a breeding ground for scams of all shapes and sizes, but perhaps none more popular (and thus more easily recognizable) than the email rouse of a long lost relative, government official, or bank employee holed up in Nigeria and needing your help in securing a large sum of money. There's really no need to go on because you've undoubtedly received variations of this scam in your inbox countless times and, well, it never works. Or does it?
Not only does the old Nigerian bit still lure victims, the scam claimedits biggest known payday to date thanks to Janella Spears who forked over a mind boggling $400,000. Despite the big payout, Spears still contends she isn't easily duped. After all, she works as a registered nurse, teaches CPR, is a reverend who has married many couples, and also learned sign language to communicate with her hearing impaired husband. So what possible spin could this common scam have come with that got a seemingly intelligent woman to take the bait?
Hit the jump to find out what it was that convinced Spears the scam might be legit.
We'd be remiss to claim that the tide is turning in the war against spam, but that doesn't stop us from getting excited at seeing the scumbags responsible suffer setbacks. Such was the case last month when the FTC said it had shut down one of the largest global spam networks allegedly responsible for sending billions of unsolicited emails. Now, less than one month later, a web hosting firm believed to be responsible for hosting roughly 75 percent of the world's spam has gone offline.
With servers housed in a 30-story office tower in downtown San Jose, California, hosting service McColo Corp. was shut down when two internet providers, Global Crossing and Hurricane Electric, cut off service after receiving reports about McColo's activities. Following the termination of service, security companies noticed an immediate drop in spam volumes, with email security firm IronPort claiming spam levels fell by about 66 percent for the 24 hour period ending Tuesday. Unfortunately, the drop isn't expected to last.
"We're seeing a slow recovery," said Nilesh Bhandari, product manager with IronPort. "We fully expect this to recover completely, and to go into the highest ever spam period during the upcoming holiday season."