Plugged In: Phishers Cast a Mobile Net

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SMS Phishing

Illustration by Gordon Studer.
Illustration: Gordon Studer
The Buzz: Chalk up another victory in malware writers' quest to transform every electronic device into a way to harvest your personal data. The latest distribution vector: cell phones and SMS messages. For instance, you might get an SMS message saying you've signed up for a new service and will have to pay $2 a day unless you hit a URL and unsubscribe. What happens next is predictable--Trojan horses, data harvesting, you name it. SMS-based phishing attacks (regrettably dubbed SMiShing) are on the rise, according to McAfee Avert Labs; early attacks targeted users in Iceland, Australia, and Spain. Clearly it's only a matter of time before SMiShing comes over here.

Bottom Line: It's not paranoia if they really are out to get you. Avoid this new scam by treating SMS messages with the same healthy skepticism you bring to unsolicited e-mail.

Google Office?

The Buzz: Ever wish you could trade in your office e-mail system for Gmail? Well, small offices and Web site administrators should soon have that option, thanks to a new beta offering called Google Apps for Your Domain. Set your domain up with this service, and you'll have access to Google's mail, Calendar, Talk, and Page Creator apps, all through your own domain (and if you get in on the beta, it's free, with future caveats). The service is a boon for small or one-person IT staffs, but it could get even better: The real buzz is about what will happen if Google decides to add its Writely and Spreadsheets applications to the mix.

Bottom Line: If this keeps up, Google will be everywhere soon--like tomorrow, maybe.

Pretexting Protest

The Buzz: A tried-and-true spying technique is back in the news, as a result of some truly boneheaded behavior by HP's top brass. And though you may have heard about pretexting (the illegal practice of obtaining phone records, credit card data, or other information under false pretenses) before, its use by a major corporation--on reporters and its own board of directors, no less--is a new wrinkle. It's a big mess. And it could become messier if the rush to stamp out pretexting with new legislation gains traction.

Bottom Line: Let's not fly off the handle here. Pretexting is already illegal. It's fraud. I'd rather see smart people get together to beef up identity authentication methods. Better security would make it harder for pretexters to steal data by pretending to be you.

Faster Than Flash RAM: Enter PRAM

PRAM: Phase-change Random Access Memory.
Hybrid hard drives, thumb drives, cameras, massive SSDs--flash memory seems to be everywhere these days. But smart tech companies are already working on its replacement. Enter Phase-change Random Access Memory, a new type of nonvolatile storage that Samsung hopes will address several drawbacks associated with flash. One key benefit: It's fast. Unlike flash memory, PRAM doesn't have to be erased before new data is written to it, which Samsung claims helps make it up to 30 times faster than conventional flash memory. It should also last ten times longer. Samsung expects to begin producing the first 512-megabit PRAM modules in 2008, thus giving rival nanotech-enabled NRAM a few months' head start (see "The Future of Nanotech.")


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