Monthly Archives: January 2012

Washington state AG and Facebook target “clickjackers”

Readers, Got this news release today from the state Attorney General’s Office. — Rachel

SEATTLE – If you use Facebook, the world’s top social networking site, you may have “liked” an Internet scheme without even knowing it – and unwittingly helped spread the scam to your Facebook friends. But today, Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna and Facebook announced the latest step in an ongoing fight against spammers and scammers: a lawsuit against the co-owners of Adscend Media, LLC, an ad network that is alleged to develop and encourage others to spread spam through misleading and deceptive tactics, including the one known as “clickjacking.”

“We don’t ‘like’ schemes that illegally trick Facebook users into giving up personal information or paying for unwanted subscription services through spam,” McKenna said during a news conference at Facebook’s Seattle Office. “We applaud Facebook for devoting significant technical and legal resources to finding and stopping scams as soon as possible – and often before they even start. We’re proud to join forces in order to protect Washington consumers.”

Facebook, which filed its own lawsuit against Adscend and its owners today, welcomed the Attorney General’s action. “Security is an arms race, and that’s why Facebook is committed to constantly improving our consumer safeguards while pursuing and supporting civil and criminal consequences for bad actors,” Facebook General Counsel Ted Ullyot said.

Attorney General McKenna and Ullyot emphasized that bold partnerships like the one announced today send a strong message that spammers and scammers are not welcome on Facebook and there are serious consequences for attempting to harm and deceive the social media giant’s users.

Here’s how scams, such as the ones described in the lawsuits, work:

Scammers design Facebook Pages to look like they will offer visitors an opportunity to view salacious or provocative content. They condition viewing this content on completing a series of steps that are designed to lure Facebook users into eventually visiting websites that often deceive them into surrendering their personal information or signing up for expensive mobile subscription services.

First, Facebook users are encouraged to click the “Like” button on the scammers’ Facebook Pages, which then alerts their friends to the existence of the page. Then they are told that they cannot access the content unless they complete an online survey or advertising offer. In one example noted in the complaint, the scammers overlay the Facebook “Like” button with a link that promises to reveal the results of: “This man took a picture of his face every day for 8 years!!” Of course, the promised content often does not exist and the tricked user is then directed through a series of prompts taking them off of Facebook and through a host of unrelated advertising and subscription service offers, where the scammers receive money for each misdirected user.

In some cases, Facebook users don’t even need to click the “like” button to spread the spam on their Facebook pages. In the process called “clickjacking,” a hidden code in enticing-looking links activates Facebook’s “like” function and puts it on the users’ friends’ news feeds.

“The natural reaction is to wonder why anyone would click on these links,” said Assistant Attorney General Paula Selis, who heads the office’s Consumer Protection High-Tech Unit. “But, unfortunately they do, and at one point Adscend spam lined the defendants’ pockets with up to $1.2 million a month.”

Facebook’s chief litigator says the company is a leader in protecting its users from scammers and spammers and enforces its rights against the same regularly. “Facebook’s security professionals have made tremendous strides against this particular form of attack and we are intent on eradicating it completely,” said Craig Clark, Lead Litigation Counsel at Facebook. “We will continue to use all tools at our disposal to ensure that scammers do not profit from misusing Facebook’s services.”

The Attorney General’s lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle against Delaware-based Adscend and co-owners Jeremy Bash of Huntington, West Virginia and Fehzan Ali, of Austin, Texas. It alleges violations of:

· The CAN-SPAM Act, which makes it unlawful to procure or initiate the transmission of misleading commercial electronic communications;

· Washington state’s Commercial Electronic Mail Act, which prohibits misrepresenting or obscuring any information in identifying the point of origin or the transmission path of a commercial electronic message;

· Washington State’s Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits unfair and deceptive business practices.

The Attorney General’s Office asks the court to enjoin the defendants from future violations, award damages and impose civil penalties, costs and fees.

Facebook’s similar, separate lawsuit against Adscend and its owners was filed in federal court in the Northern District of California.

Facebook urges its users to always remain vigilant, trust their instincts and immediately report scams and spam. People can educate themselves and receive updates on how to protect their information on Facebook by visiting and liking Facebook’s Security Page at . For detailed information on clickjacking and how to avoid it, both the Attorney General’s Office and Facebook recommend “Keeping You Safe from Scams and Spam”:

Businesses that hire the hard-to-place can get tax credits

This from the Washington Department of Employment Security today. Contact them for more, Rachel Pritchett

OLYMPIA – Washington employers will collect a record $56 million in 2011 federal tax credits because they hired certain hard-to-place job seekers.

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit provides up to $2,400 in tax savings per worker to businesses that hire military veterans, the disabled, ex-inmates, food-stamp recipients and individuals who receive Supplemental Security Income. Additionally, businesses that hire long-term welfare recipients can save as much as $9,000 per person over two years.

In 2012, businesses can enjoy even greater tax savings for hiring veterans, including up to $5,600 for long-term unemployed veterans and as much as $9,600 for those who have a service-connected disability.

To receive the tax credit, each new employee must work a minimum of 400 hours during the first year of employment and earn at least $6,000.

Top 20 tech trends for 2012

Readers — National technology forecaster and business strategist Daniel Burrus predicts the top 20 technology-driven trends for 2012 below:

* Rapid Growth of Big Data. Big Data is a term used to describe the technologies and techniques used to capture and utilize the exponentially increasing streams of data with the goal of bringing enterprise-wide visibility and insights to make rapid critical decisions. High Speed Analytics using advanced cloud services will increasingly be used as a complement to existing information management systems and programs to tame the massive data explosion. This new level of data integration and analytics will require many new skills and cross-functional buy-in in order to break down the many data and organizational silos that still exist. The rapid increase in data makes this a fast growing hard trend that cannot be ignored.

* Cloud Computing and Advanced Cloud Services will be increasingly embraced by business of all sizes, as this represents a major shift in how organizations obtain and maintain software, hardware, and computing capacity. As consumers, we first experienced public clouds (think about when you use Google or Apple’s MobileMe and now iCloud). Then we saw more private clouds and hybrid clouds from businesses such as Flextronics, Siemens, Accenture, and many others, all using the cloud to cut costs in human resources and sales management functions. This was only the beginning, as cloud services enable the rapid transformation all business processes.

* On Demand Services will increasingly be offered to companies needing to rapidly deploy new services. Hardware as a Service (HaaS) joins Software as a Service (SaaS), creating what some have called “IT as a service.” All will grow rapidly for small as well as large companies, with many new players in a multitude of business process categories. These services will help companies cut costs as they provide access to powerful software programs and the latest technology without having the expense of a large IT staff and time-consuming, expensive upgrades.

* Virtualization of Storage, Desktops, Applications, and Networking will see continued acceptance and growth by both large and small businesses as virtualization security improves. We will continue to see the virtualization of processing power, allowing mobile devices to access supercomputer capabilities and apply it to processes such as purchasing and logistics, to name a few.

* Consumerization of IT Increases as the source for innovation and technology continues to be driven by the consumer thanks to rapid advances in processing power, storage, and bandwidth. Smart companies have recognized that this is a hard tend that will continue and have stopped fighting consumerization. Instead, they are turning it into a competitive advantage by consumerizing their applications, such as recommending safe and secure third party hardware and apps. Encouraging employees to share productivity enhancing consumer technology will become a wise strategy.

* Gamification of Training and Education will fuel a fast moving hard trend using advanced simulations and skill-based learning systems that are self-diagnostic, interactive, game-like, and competitive, all focused on giving the user an immersive experience thanks to a photo-realistic 3D interface. Some will develop software using these gaming techniques to work on existing hardware systems such as the Xbox and PlayStation. A social component that includes sharing will drive success.

* Social Business takes on a new level of urgency as organizations shift from an Information Age “informing” model to a Communication Age “communicating and engaging” model. Social Software for business will reach a new level of adoption with applications to enhance relationships, collaboration, networking, social validation, and more. Social Search will increasingly be used by marketers and researchers, not to mention Wall Street, to tap into millions of daily tweets and Facebook conversations, providing real-time analysis of many key consumer metrics.

* Smart Phones & Tablets Become Our Primary Personal Computers, and the Mobile Web becomes a must-have capability. An Enterprise Mobility Strategy Becomes Mandatory for all size organizations as we see mobile data, mobile media, mobile sales, mobile marketing, mobile commerce, mobile finance, mobile payments, mobile health, and many more explode. The vast majority of mobile phones sold globally will have a browser, making the smart phone our primary computer that is with us 24/7 and signaling a profound shift in global computing. This new level of mobility will allow any size business to transform how they market, sell, communicate, collaborate, educate, train, and innovate using mobility.

* Tablet Computers with Enterprise Level Web Apps will be used to transform sales and service support and then move to purchasing, logistics, just-in-time training, and much more.

* Intelligent Electronic Agents using natural language voice commands takes off with Apple’s Siri, rapidly followed by Android, Microsoft, and others all offering what will become a mobile electronic concierge on your smart devices including your phone, tablet, and television. Soon retailers will have a Siri-like sales assistant, and maintenance workers will have a Siri-like assistant. The possibilities are endless.

* Digital Identity Management will become increasingly important to both organizations and individuals as new software allows users to better manage their multiple identities across business and personal networks. Next Generation Biometrics will play a key role in both identity management and security.

* Visual Communications takes video conferencing to a new level with programs like SKYPE, FaceTime, and others giving us video communication on phones, tablets, and home televisions. Visual Communications will become a main relationship-building tool for businesses of all sizes.

* Enhanced Location Awareness will accelerate the number of business-to-consumer apps for smart phones and tablets that will take geo-social marketing and sales to a new level of creative application, driving rapid growth.

* Geo-Spatial Visualization combines geographic information systems (GIS) with location-aware data, RFID (radio frequency identification), and other location-aware sensors (including the current location of users from the use of their mobile devices) to create new insights and competitive advantage. Early applications include logistics and supply chain to name a few.

* Smart TV Using Apps will get a major boost in the marketplace, fueling a major shift in home viewing. Ever wonder how you could have over 500 cable or satellite channels and nothing to watch? You didn’t have apps on your TV allowing you to personalize the experience. This is the beginning of a major shift that will take place in living rooms globally. Look for Apple to introduce the iTV (living room size iPad).

* Multiple App Stores for all smart phone, tablet, and television operating systems (Android, Blackberry, Windows, and others) will take off, creating an abundant distribution and sales ecosystem for all. This will cement the revolution versus evolution that apps software represents.

* 3D Displays for Smart Phones and Tablets will be the breakthrough that will drive wide-scale consumer acceptance of 3D computing. 3D Computing for the enterprise will grow rapidly for military, medicine, fashion, architecture, and entertainment applications.

* eBooks, eNewspapers, and eMagazines Pass the Tipping Point due to the abundance of smartphones with readable displays, tablets that provide a full color experience, and publishers providing apps that give a better than paper experience by including cut, copy, paste, print, and multimedia capabilities. In addition, eBook readers will have high quality with a low enough price to bring in the masses.

* Interactive Multimedia eTextbooks will finally take off thanks to Apple’s iBook Author and other competing tools, freeing new publishers to create compelling and engaging content, and freeing students from a static, expensive, and literally heavy experience.

* Wireless Machine-to-Machine applications such as two-way meter reading, surveillance, vending machine, and point-of-sale solutions take off thanks to faster wireless data networks.