Microsoft made a compelling case to the U.S. District Court of Eastern Virginia, which has granted a motion essentially handing over to Microsoft permanent ownership of 276 Web domains used as command and control centers by the Waledac spam botnet.
District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema issued the temporary restraining order to take all 276 domains offline, an unusual move since the owner of the domains weren't in court to plead their case. This procedure is known as "ex parte," and normally a judge wouldn't give away property without the rightful owners present. As far as the judge is concerned, however, the registrants had every chance to step foward after being provided notices online and in print publications.
"It's open season on botnets," Microsoft senior attorney Richard Boscovich Sr. said in a statement. "The hunting licenses have been handed out, and we're coming back for more."
Microsoft said that during one recent seven-day period, it counted 58,000 PCs attempting 14.6 million connections to the 276 Waledac domains. At its peak in 2009, Waledac was responsible for some 1.5 billion spam messages per day.
Look around your office and spot two other people. According to a new study by Symantec, one of you has fallen victim to some type of cybercrime, including viruses, identity theft, online hacking, online harassment, online scams, phishing, and sexual predation.
The study, titled "Norton's Cybercrime Report: The Human Impact Reveals Global Cybercrime Epidemic and Our Hidden Hypocrisy," pegs the victim rate of U.S. based surfers at 73 percent, one of the highest victimized nations in the world behind Brazil and India (tied at 76 percent) and China (83 percent).
"Are we just passively accepting our fate? No, of course, we feel extreme and varied emotions ranging from anger (58 percent) to fear (29 percent), helplessness (26 percent) and guilt (78 percent)," the study says. "Associate professor of psychology at Loyola Marymount University Josepth LaBrie, PhD, describes a 'learned helplessness' for online victims. 'It's like getting ripped off at a garage -- if you don't know enough about cars, you don't argue with the mechanic. People just accept a situation, even if it feels bad.'"
According to Symantec, most victims never report cybercrime, and the vast majority don't expect cybercriminals to be brought to justice. One of the reasons for this is that most online crooks reside in foreign countries, which presents a challenge for law enforcement.
Okpako Mike Diamreyan, a 31-year-old citizen of Nigeria, was sentenced to 151 months of imprisonment and three years of supervised release by United States District Judge Janet C. Hall for his role in an Internet "advanced fee" scam.
"The dependent and his accomplices preyed on vulnerable victims in Connecticut, the United States, and around the world, leaving many individuals and their families in financial ruin," stated U.S. Attorney Fein. "The lengthy prison term imposed today should send a strong message to others who intent to commit similar crimes -- we will pursue these cases wherever they lead us and bring you to justice. I want to single out the DCIS and their agents who worked this case tirelessly and thoroughly and helped achieve justice for victims."
According to U.S. officials, Diamreyen ran his operation from August 2004 through August 2009 by sending out emails claiming he had a consignment stored in Ghana. He told his victims the loot was worth anywhere from $11.5 million to $23.4 million and offered them a 20 percent cut if they'd help him transfer the money to the U.S.
The scheme worked at least 67 times, netting Diamreyan more than $1.3 million. Diamreyen was also ordered to pay a little over $1 million in restitution.
Browsers grow up so fast, don't they? Just a short while ago, Google Chrome was nothing more than an idea, and now it's a spunky two-year-old browser with a 7.52 percent share of the market, trailing only Internet Explorer (60.40 percent) and Firefox (22.93 percent). To celebrate the occasion, Google has gone and released a new version of its open source browser, Chrome 6.
Chrome's two menus are now combined into one, and Google slightly "adjusted the color scheme of the browser to be easier on the eyes." Not yet part of the package is hardware acceleration, though Google says it's in the pipeline.
You can get the update by clicking on the wrench icon and selecting 'About Google Chrome,' or grab the download from here.
Let's cut right to the chase -- according to security firm Panda Security, the infamous Nigerian scam ranks as the decade's most popular online ploy to swindle victims.
"This was the first type of scam to appear on the Internet and continues to be widely used by cybercriminals today," Panda Security says.
Coming in second are lottery-based scams, in which potential victims receive an email claiming that they won the lottery. The ones that fall for it end up sending out something like $1,000 to supposedly cover bank related fees and other expenses in order to transfer the winnings, only the victim never sees a dime.
"As with all the classic scams that predate the Internet, many of the numerous users that fall for these tricks and lose their money are reticent to report the crime," says Luis Corrons, technical director of Panda Labs. "If recovering the stolen money was difficult in the old days, it is even harder now because criminals' tracks are often lost across the Web. The best defense is to learn how to identify these scams an avoid taking the bait."
Twitter sent out an email on Wednesday announcing a couple of upcoming updates, one of which includes automatic t.co link wrapping. In the coming weeks, Twitter's link wrapping service will intercept all URLs posted on the microblogging service and convert them into shorter, easier to read URLs. So what exactly has privacy mavens up in arms? This little tidbit:
"When you click on a wrapped link, your request will pass through the Twitter service to check if the destination site is known to contain malware, and we will then forward you on to the destination URL ... When you click on these links from Twitter.com or a Twitter application, Twitter will log that click. We hope to use this data to provide better and more relevant content to you over time," the microblogging site said.
Even so, this will come as little consolation to privacy advocates who view this move as a "disgusting data landgrab."
The social networking superstar known as Facebook is taking its business offline and into brick and mortar stores by selling gift cards at Target locations, Reuters reports.
These will come in increments of $15, $25, and $50 and can be used to purchase virtual products for games hosted on the site, which pretty much ensures Zynga will be around for a long, long time.
This could also mean more scams in the making. Beware of upcoming gift card offers that aren't directly affiliated with Facebook or Target. Back in April, The Consumerist reported a fake IKEA gift card scam that was able to attract over 37,000 Facebook users.
One of the world's largest botnets responsible for as much as 10 percent of all spam suffered a temporary setback this week when several ISPs took action by unplugging infected servers, according to security firm M86 Security.
Known as the Pushdo or Cutwail network, this top 5 botnet specialized in sending out spam for fake AV software, designer goods, and pharmaceutical products, said Ed Rowley, product manager for M86 Security. But for the next couple of weeks, you can expect less of these emails in your inbox.
Security experts with the security company LastLine took it upon themselves to start contacting ISPs found to be hosting the command-and-control infrastructure of the botnet. All told, there were about 30 servers at 8 different ISPs keeping the botnet alive, 20 of which have since been taken offline.
According to Rowley, LastLine's efforts "will almost certainly have a positive effect for two to three weeks," but "the spammers will be able to find other hosting providers where they will be able to get their systems up and running."
Maybe sooner. Leaving at least 10 servers online is a major concern, as Pushdo is capable of generating random domain names, which can then be registered and activated.
Good news comes from Verizon for its DSL subscribers today. The ISP is introducing 10-15Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream service to more than 4 million homes and small businesses, more than doubling its previous top tier High Speed Internet service of 4-7Mpbs.
"Consumers and small businesses everywhere have a need for speed," said Shawn Strickland, Verizon's vice president of consumer strategy. "With our new 10-15Mbps speed tier, downloading files, photos, and other content will be faster, plus our High Speed Internet customers will have peace of mind because our service is backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee."
In terms of downstream speed, that's as fast as Verizon's entry-level FiOS service, which offers 15Mbps down and 5Mbps up. It's also priced the same at $50/month for residential customers, which also includes voice service (or $60 for those without voice service). Pricing for small businesses starts at $90/month with a two-year service contract, or $100/month sans contract.