Webcam scams

The Australian government’s Stay Smart Online advisory service is warning people about the possibility of webcam hacks:

In another type of webcam-based scam, malware installed on your computer can be used to operate your built-in webcam, recording images of you without your knowledge. This malware is known as a Remote Access Trojan or RAT and can remotely activate your webcam, at the same time, disabling your camera indicator light.  These images can also be used to blackmail you.

What should I do?
  • As always, make sure your software and systems are up-to-date, and that you are using up-to-date security software.
  • Be aware that anything you do on the internet, including video and voice calls, can be recorded.
  • Never use your webcam to video call someone you do not know.
  • Be cautious about people you meet online. People you meet online may not be who they seem to be.
  • Revealing personal details online is extremely risky.
  • Be aware that this type of scam is blackmail and it is illegal. The scammers are breaking the law.

If you have been threatened, you should:

  • Block their emails and their accounts from all networks. Cease all contact with the scammer. Scammers often seek soft targets, so they may move on if you do not respond. Some victims have reported no further consequences once they blocked the scammer and ignored their demands.
  • Be suspicious of any new or unusual friend requests, for example, someone you thought you were already friends with on Facebook.
  • Save the scammer’s details, emails, comment threads or any other evidence you have of them and the extortion attempt.   This can be done with screenshots or taking a photo with your phone.
  • If you think images or footage may be posted online (you can set up a Google email alert to look for this content every day), you can contact the host site to ask them to remove the files.
  • Contact your local police and notify them of the activity.
  • Report it to SCAMwatch.
  • The only leverage the scammers have is your embarrassment. You may consider accepting the disclosure.
  • Paying scammers and extortionists is never encouraged. Once you have paid, there is nothing preventing them from targeting you or your compromised computer again

Read the whole article here.

Holiday help

This is the last post from iQ for sometime to come. Best wishes to all readers for a safe and happy Christmas and New Year and beyond.

Just a note that if you need support due to online issues, there are a number of avenues you can use:

You can also search the iQ archives for further assistance.

Loophole opens up Facebook friends list to anyone – even if it’s set to private

Digital Trends recently reported that there is a loophole in Facebook that opens up friends lists to anyone.

 If someone wants to see the friends of a Facebook user who hides their complete friend list from strangers, they can create a new dummy account and send a friend request to that Facebook user. Once the request is sent, even if it is rejected, Facebook will start sending friend suggestions to the dummy account — for users who are already Facebook friends or who have received a friend request from the person in question. In this way, even though there’s no complete friend list, someone looking for more information about a Facebook user will be able to compile at least a robust partial list of their Facebook friends. And while most people aren’t going to bother going out of their way to circumvent settings, the people who will  – malware peddlers, spammers, and stalkers — are exactly the kind of users that people want to avoid when they select tighter privacy settings.

Read the whole article here.

Facebook takes on cyberbullying

Facebook has reacted to the number of teenagers leaving the platform by addressing online bullying. NBC News (USA) explains:

After reports that Facebook is losing teen users, the social network has released a way for parents and children to deal with cyberbullying.

The new step is considered a beneficial but belated one, according to NPR. Facebook’s new Safety Center about bullying is considered a prevention hub with resources for teachers, teens and parents on how to deal with both online and offline bullying. There will also be ways for users to deal offensive posts which mainly consists of engaging the potential cyberbully.

Access Facebook’s new resources on cyberbullying here. Read the whole article here.

New sexting laws for Victoria

The Herald Sun is reporting that:

ELECTRONICALLY sharing sexually explicit images of another person without their consent – also known as sexting – will become illegal in Victoria.

The government tabled its response to an inquiry into sexting in parliament on Tuesday and the legislation will also ensure youths found sexting do not end up facing child pornography charges.

Legislation will be introduced into Victorian Parliament in 2014, with penalties to be decided then.

The Herald Sun have also promoted the Australian Federal Police video warning young adults of the dangers of sexting.

Teen trouble: parents open up about fears

Recently The Age and Sydney Morning Herald published an article detailing parents’ fears about their children.

Experts say parents grapple with internet-related issues and mental health problems that did not feature in previous generations. Parents have always worried about their children’s friendships but family therapists say those concerns now centre around social media and cyberbullying.

Family psychologist Collett Smart says a lot of parents assume their teenagers are more socially and emotionally aware on the internet than they are. She says teenagers are also reluctant to tell their parents they are having issues online because they are afraid they will take away access to the internet.

Ms Smart advises parents to keep technology out of the bedroom so it is easier to monitor use, to talk to teenagers about what’s happening on social media and to know their children’s passwords.

Read the whole article here.

It’s complicated by danah boyd

iQ was fortunate enough to hear internationally recognised social media researcher danah boyd speak back in 2012 (click here to access all of iQ’s resources on danah boyd). Now boyd has a book coming out entitled It’s complicated. The blurb from the book (via Amazon) explains what it’s about:

What is new about how teenagers communicate through services such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? Do social media affect the quality of teens’ lives? In this eye-opening book, youth culture and technology expert danah boyd uncovers some of the major myths regarding teens’ use of social media. She explores tropes about identity, privacy, safety, danger, and bullying. Ultimately, boyd argues that society fails young people when paternalism and protectionism hinder teenagers’ ability to become informed, thoughtful, and engaged citizens through their online interactions. Yet despite an environment of rampant fear-mongering, boyd finds that teens often find ways to engage and to develop a sense of identity.

Boyd’s conclusions are essential reading not only for parents, teachers, and others who work with teens but also for anyone interested in the impact of emerging technologies on society, culture, and commerce in years to come. Offering insights gleaned from more than a decade of original fieldwork interviewing teenagers across the United States, boyd concludes reassuringly that the kids are all right. At the same time, she acknowledges that coming to terms with life in a networked era is not easy or obvious. In a technologically mediated world, life is bound to be complicated.

This is not an advertisement for the book, just a pointer to a resource that many people may find useful. Public libraries may stock this book.

Social media app winning over kids, but police warn of its nasty Kik

On Sunday, The Age published a report about the social media app Kik.

NSW Police have described it as ”the number one social media problem involving teenagers” – but most parents would barely have heard of messaging app Kik before this week.

Kik’s popularity among young people was highlighted by the disappearance of Sydney teenager Krystal Muhieddine, who left her house early on Tuesday morning in a car with a stranger before being found in country Victoria on Friday.

The app can be installed on iPod touch and iPad devices as well as smart phones. Instead of using phone numbers or real names to contact each other, each Kik member has a user name. Conversations and images can’t be viewed publicly, which makes it much harder for parents to monitor Kik than Facebook or Twitter.

Cyber safety expert Ross Bark said Kik and Instagram were a ”dangerous combination” for teenagers, who post photographs publicly on Instagram and then invite viewers to ”Kik me” privately to chat.

”They’re literally promoting themselves, saying ‘come and talk to me’,” Mr Bark said. ”They can randomly chat with somebody and send images, and they don’t understand the consequences of who is using that information.”

Read the whole story here.

You posted that on Facebook?

Ellen Degeneres has a segment on her show called You posted that on Facebook??

Knowing the names of her audience members, their public Facebook accounts are searched by researchers and the funnier and more questionable photos are then displayed on Ellen’s show. What never fails to amaze me is how embarrassed people are when their photos are displayed publicly. It seems that they’ve forgotten that they were the ones who uploaded the photos to a Facebook account that can be accessed by the general public.

NZ cyber bullies may face jail

The Age is reporting that the New Zealand parliament is working on a law where cyber bullies could face imprisonment of up to three years.

… the Harmful Digital Communications Bill, backed by New Zealand Justice Minister Judith Collins, [is set] to crack down on bullying via social networking, email, mobile phones and websites.

It creates a new criminal offence for sending messages or posting material online with intent to cause harm – including threatening and offensive messages, harassment, damaging rumours and invasive photographs – with penalties of up to three months’ imprisonment or a $NZ2000 ($1766) fine.

It also creates a new offence of incitement to commit suicide – even in situations when a person does not attempt to take their life – punishable by up to three years’ jail.

Read the whole article here.