*************No Credentials Were Harmed in the making of this film**************
A Season’s Greeting to those who will be losing their identity this shopping season. You may find yourself distracted by the blazing lights and sounds of the holiday discounts. These same distractions are the same ones keeping the general population from understanding the real goings on of the cyber underworld. Today, I sit in Las Vegas running down some African Scammers who decided to heist almost a quarter million dollars from a client of mine. Meanwhile I’m watching people line up in droves to get their piece of the holiday pie.
To add insult to privacy injury, it’s almost as if Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, and yes even LinkedIn got in bed together with a next generation scheme. They’re convincing people the best route to Shopping Frenzy Salvation is found through the clicking of one of their advertising links. Links blaring in lucid coloring schemes on the left, right and center of the screens of their social media portals. But these people are blinded. And this is why this article is for them. (I hope by the end of this reading you will understand the game and gimmicks deployed by these outlets to get you to buy their products.)
To the Sheep, soon to be Sheep Dogs, let’s begin with some basics of Internet Security. If knowledge is power, let’s become the Thors of Digital Privacy today. Let’s not be victim to the various hustles that Data Brokers, Social Media Platforms, and Cyber Criminals will be deploying in mass.
How do you get emails in your inbox or advertisements seeming to have a level of psychic abilities to understand what it is you or your loved ones want? You haven’t typed anything in your Facebook about the new Mavic Pro Drone. But for some reason, you find Facebook littered with Best Buy adverts about deals this Cyber Monday for this precise product. These platforms do more than “Connect You” with friends and family. They also read your messages, your friends’ messages. Advertisers cross analyze the communications you, your loved ones, and family write and sell what we call “marketing insights” to marketing companies. They in turn formulate Advertisement Campaigns surgically crafted to influence you to buy or attract you to specific ads in your Social Media window.
If you thought for one second your last large purchase was YOUR IDEA, I’d be willing to bet in my Maury Povich voice “Our tests confirm, that was a lie!” Let’s dive into some illusions and definitions to allow some insight into the Cyber Monday games you will more than likely be negotiating this week. I will present you with some tactics used by these companies to “lure” you in. Then I’ll illuminate the countermeasures leverageable to protect you from them. Shall We?
Well, one of these magic tricks are the use of “Tracking Cookies.” But before we talk about Tracking Cookies, we’ll need to define Cookies in general. Tell me if you’ve seen this before?
Cookie: Something that tastes so good (or horrible) when cooked with love (or by task). But in the context of cyber security, Symantec defines a cookie as such:
(I’ve removed as much technical mumbo jumbo as possible. Don’t be “Scurred.”)
A cookie is a text file that a Web site can install on your computer. Cookies enable a Web site to tailor pages presented to you by storing information about you in the cookie text file. The Web site can remember you for easy navigation and access during your return visits for products, services, and content. Advertisers may use this information to understand your Web surfing habits. Cookies are only text files and are NOT worms, viruses, or directly malicious, but they may have privacy implications.
So in sum, a cookie is a text file of your browsing DNA, so to speak. Dropped behind your privacy lines telling websites what you do and where. It has legitimate uses, but that’s not what we are talking about here. Stay Negative. Sometimes you just have to know the dirt to appreciate the “cookie.” (I tried.)
If the definition of a cookie is as such in the aforementioned, then a “Tracking Cookie”:
Tracking cookies are usually used for advertising purposes, retargeting (like targeted marketing campaigns) in particular. Retargeting is a tactic that often relies on tracking cookies to show ads to people who have previously visited a specific site or shown interest in a particular product. If you’ve ever bought or even looked at a product on Amazon and then started seeing ads for similar products on other websites, you’ve been retargeted.
Here’s a simplified step-by-step explanation of how retargeting works:
- You pick up a tracking cookie on your favorite blog or shopping site. That cookie contains a unique ID that doesn’t identify you personally, but does identify your web browser.
- The owner of the shopping site signs up and pays for an advertising platform like Google.
- Google’s ads aren’t static; when you visit other websites that use Google ads to make money, the website sees the cookie and sends it to Google through the ad. Google sees the unique ID stored in the cookie and recognizes that it came from your favorite shopping site.
- Google then shows an ad for the shopping site accordingly.
Now that we know what “Tracking Cookies” are, how do we mitigate them should be your next question. I mean… If you like being tracked, then so be it. Move along to the next article on BITCOIN Living or something.
First, you should protecting your phone or electronic device from software and malicious code. Start by downloading a FREE application called MalwareBytes. Make sure the ICON in your respective app store looks like this.
Once you have downloaded Malwarebytes, please conduct a scan of your device. I keep saying “Device” because of the following statistic.
“As of 10 a.m. ET on Black Friday, Adobe said 61.1 percent of shoppers’ visits to retailers’ websites stemmed from mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets. Those devices were driving 46.2 percent of total online revenue, as consumers had already spent more than $640 million by Friday morning. That’s an increase of 18.4 percent compared with a year ago.”
Most people will be using Cell Phones for shopping this year. Therefore, it’s safe to assume and presume attacks generated against people by cyber criminals target Cellular Devices. MalwareBytes is for both Cellphones and Computers (tablets included). Go ahead, download it, and scan the heck out of your devices. If you have any infections, quarantine them and rescan your device again.
Now this part is complete. Let’s make your browser obey your privacy by setting the “Do Not Track” option in your browser.
Now, most of your concerns should be out of the way. But, the grand finale has arrived. The video you see imbedded shows you how easy it is to get a phone to connect to a rouge Access Point. (Even if it looks legit.) Then begins the nefarious business of stealing your credentials, and all other goodies. This video was created on Black Friday in the middle of Las Vegas most reputable casinos (Yeah, I did. And I don’t care – bite me).
Unfortunately for you, the only real way to be immune from this attack is by “Forgetting Networks.” Be very selective about the networks to which you connect. And, whatever platform you run, disable “Automatic Wifi Scanning.” This is the worst thing you could have on during the holiday season. Trust me.