Ransomware

The internet purports to offer the cover of anonymity for embarrassing vices, but that is not always the case, as the number of people whose reputation has been ruined by the Ashley Madison hacks have learned.  Now there is a new class of online/cellphone virus called ransomware.

This often preys on the user’s fear of being exposed.  For example, in a recent case, a porn app takes your picture, take over your device, and blocks your phone, supposedly on the grounds of your using child pornography.  It demands $500 to unfreeze your phone and make it all go away.  Thus blackmail and extortion enter the information age. [Read more…]

Scam, fraud, and blackmail at Wikipedia

Wikipedia has banned 381 of its editors for scamming and in some cases extorting small businesses and celebrities, taking money to get favorable articles approved and “protected.” [Read more…]

Hackers enforcing morality?

So the Ashley Madison site, designed to hook up people who want to commit adultery, was hacked, leading to the release of data about some of the website’s 30 million customers (including already disgraced “family values” activist Josh Duggar).

This has created some indignation about the hackers’ “public shaming” of would-be adulterers.  But the fear of public shaming has kept people in line across all cultures for millennia, enforcing the external morality that is necessary for social order (a.k.a. “the first use of the Law”).  The internet has promised to get around that with total secrecy and anonymity, but the web isn’t as secret and anonymous as people assume.

So do you consider the Ashley Madison hacks to be egregious violations of privacy, or a fitting outing of cheating husbands and wives? [Read more…]

Why you hate talking on the phone

Do you dislike having to call up people, in real time, on the phone?  Would you rather text or e-mail?   The Millennial generation tends to feel that way, I learned, and I admit that I do too.

Media scholar Ian Bogost tries to explain why this is.  In doing so, he goes into the difference between talking on cell phones and talking on the old handset devices.  Whereas cell phones are designed to be carried, rather than talked into, and are used in public places, the old landlines were designed to enhance personal conversation in private spaces.  The handset phone, as well as the technology that went into it, created what he calls “a technology of intimacy.”

Well, I didn’t particularly like using the old-style phones either, but Bogost makes a fascinating case for the genius of old technology and design. [Read more…]

Could Google steal the election?

Research shows that whether favorable or unfavorable articles show up on search engines–and the order of those articles–influences the way people vote.  So, conceivably, Google–or, rather, the search algorithm that Google uses–could determine the election.  So warns Wired Magazine. [Read more…]

Hacking your car

As we move into the “internet of things”–objects and devices connected to the internet–we are learning that those things can be hacked.  This is especially true of late-model automobiles, which are packed with computers and online connections.  Hackers can access your car via OnStar, navigation systems, diagnostic programs, bluetooth connections, etc., etc., whereupon they can unlock your doors, start your engine, turn your steering wheel, and shut off your brakes, among other kinds of havoc.

Craig Timberg has written a fascinating article on how all of this is done and the little that automakers are doing to stop it. [Read more…]


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