A Stolen Laptop Can Cost You More Than the Price of the Hardware

The best thing about your laptop: You can easily pick it up and carry it away. The worst thing: So can someone else.

"Laptop theft is regarded as the most common crime on the University of Manitoba campus," reads an article in The Manitoban. And it's not just a problem for students. Laptops are designed to be light and portable, and they cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. That's a pretty big temptation even for someone who has never stolen anything before.

When someone snatches your laptop, you lose more than just some hardware. You lose files, some of which may be vitally important to your work or your family. Try explaining to your boss, or to your spouse, why you no longer have that report or those photos.

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New Way to Infect a Web Site: Just Buy Advertising

Cybercriminals don't have to hijack a website in order to infect the computers of people visiting it. All they have to do is buy advertising.

According to an article by Lucian Constantin in The Inquirer, people with little regard for your wellbeing have purchased display ads on Bing and Yahoo. The ads are designed to turn up in popular searches, such as "Firefox download." That way, more people will click on them and thus get infected. (They wouldn't get many victims with ads designed to pop up for searches like "Edsel transmission replacement.")

If you click on one of these ads, it will bring you to a page designed to resemble a legitimate location from which you can download the program you're looking for. But what you would actually download is something called a click fraud Trojan. Once it has infected your computer, you can never trust your searches again. Whatever you search for, it's going to point you to the pages it wants you to visit.

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Security Group Urges Better Protection at App Stores

How safe is your smartphone from malicious attack? Not safe enough. And that's not entirely your fault.

Via gateways such as the iPhone's App Store and the Android Market, the companies that control our smartphone operating systems get to say what software goes onto your phones and tablets. That's good business for the companies, since they get a cut of every program sold. In theory, these restricted gateways should also protect us from malicious programs.

But the European security organization Enisa doesn't think they're doing enough. A recent paper on Appstore security noted that in 2010, diallerware (malware that calls or texts without your knowledge, running up your phone bill for the criminals' profit) was found in the Windows Mobile Marketplace. In 2011, malware disguised as a popular app turned up in the Android Market and infected thousands of smartphones.

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Sexual Predators, Your Children, and the Internet

Pedophiles existed before the Internet, and the vast majority of people who contact your children over the Internet are not pedophiles. But the danger is real. Sexual predators use the Internet to find their young prey, then lure them to a meeting in the far more dangerous real world.

Sometimes they even cross state lines to do their damage. An IndyChannel news report told of a man from Maryland who extorted an Indiana teen into having sex with him. He was caught, but after he was released on bond, he "coerced girls in Florida, Kansas and Maryland into various acts…"

As a parent, your best defense against such a nightmare is to discuss these issues openly with your child and teenager. Let them know that these people are out there, and to be wary of people they meet on the Internet. Remind them how little privacy there is on the Internet, and that anything they send to a trusted friend might one day end up in the hands of gossips, bullies, and worse. And let them know that you remember what it was like to be a teenager, and understand the sort of mistakes that young people make. In other words, let them know that they can trust you with these sorts of problems.

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Sexting Could Mar the Rest of Your Teenager's Life

We need to protect teenagers from adult sexual predators, and we need to protect them from bullies. But we must also protect them from themselves.

This opinion piece by Nina Funnell, from the Sydney Morning Herald, tells of two Australian teenagers who sent nude photos of themselves to each other. They were charged and prosecuted for trafficking in child pornography, and are now listed as sex offenders, "branding them criminals and ruining their career prospects."

No sane person would argue against the need for laws that protect minors from adult sexual exploitation. But depending on how they are written and enforced, these laws can get the teenagers themselves into serious trouble. To make matters worse, the laws can be conflicting and confusing, both for adolescents and their parents.

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Russian Hackers Steal Millions from US Citizens

There's a good reason for all that malware and illegal activity on the Internet: It's extremely profitable.

Over the first six months of 2011, a Russia-based gang of technically adept gangsters successfully stole over $3 million from American organizations and individuals. The group is led by a shady character known only by the title Soldier.

According to a TechWorld article, a Trend Micro blog post, and a much more thorough Trend Micro report, Soldier is a young man in his early 20s, residing in Russia. He appears to have an accomplice in Hollywood. During those six months, the gang stole an average of approximately $17,000 a day.

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Make Sure Sexual Predators Aren't Phoning Your Kids

You don't need a computer to access the Internet anymore, and neither do sexual predators who may be eyeing your underage son or daughter. A telephone is all they need.

And they use them. This St. Petersburg Times article tells how a convicted predator, released earlier this year from prison, has been arrested again for contacting a juvenile. The intended victim, an underage girl, told authorities that the accused had been contacting her by phone for three months--a violation of the terms of his release.

I strongly suspect that those calls were not made on the family landline, but on the girl's own, private cellphone. For teenagers and pre-teens, a cellphone can offer much too much privacy.

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