Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Web Secret 545: Sextortion Scam

In the past couple of months, thousands of people (possibly millions) received the following disturbing email: (Note: email exactly as it is sent, weird grammar and English included.)
"I am aware of one of your passwords: Lets get directly to point. Not a single person has compensated me to investigate about you. You do not know me and you are probably wondering why you're getting this e mail?

actually, I actually installed a software on the adult vids (sex sites) site and you know what, you visited this web site to have fun (you know what I mean). When you were viewing videos, your internet browser initiated working as a Remote control Desktop that has a key logger which provided me access to your display screen and also web cam. Right after that, my software program collected your complete contacts from your Messenger, FB, and email . After that I created a double-screen video. 1st part shows the video you were viewing (you've got a good taste haha . . .), and 2nd part shows the view of your webcam, and its u.

You do have only 2 alternatives. We are going to understand these types of choices in aspects: 1st solution is to disregard this message. In this case, I am going to send your actual video clip to just about all of your contacts and thus you can easily imagine about the disgrace you feel. Not to mention should you be in a relationship, just how it will eventually affect?

Number two choice will be to pay me $3000. We will think of it as a donation. As a consequence, I most certainly will without delay eliminate your videotape. You will keep going on your daily life like this never happened and you will not hear back again from me.

You'll make the payment through Bitcoin (if you do not know this, search for "how to buy bitcoin" in Google)."
When I first heard about this scam, I read dozens of articles explaining it and offering suggestions on how to handle it. The best of these was "Sextortion Scam: What to Do If You Get the Latest Phishing Spam Demanding Bitcoin."

Here are the recommendations:

1. Do not pay the ransom.

2. Don’t panic. Contrary to the claims in your email, you haven't been hacked (or at least. This is merely a new variation on an old scam which is popularly being called "sextortion." This is a type of online phishing that is targeting people around the world and preying off digital-age fears.

3. What makes the email especially alarming is that, to prove their authenticity, they begin the emails showing you a password you once used or currently use.

Again, this still doesn't mean you've been hacked. The scammers in this case likely matched up a database of emails and stolen passwords and sent this scam out to potentially millions of people, hoping that enough of them would be worried enough and pay out that the scam would become profitable. Think Facebook hack or any of the dozens of major hacks you have heard about before.

4. If the password emailed to you is one that you still use, in any context whatsoever, STOP USING IT and change it NOW! And regardless of whether or not you still use that password it's always a good idea to use a password manager.

5. And of course, you should always change your password when you’re alerted that your information has been leaked in a breach. You can also use a service like Have I Been Pwned to check whether you have been part of one of the more well-known password dumps. (Note: every single one of my email accounts was compromised in one or more data breaches - often from sites I had never heard of.)

6. Do not ever respond to this type of scam. If possible, don't even open the email.

7. Moving forward, enable two-factor authentication whenever that is an option on your online accounts. Yes, I know this is a pain in the neck.

8. One other thing to do to protect yourself is apply a cover over your computer’s camera. A small strip of electrical tape will do.

You've been warned.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Web Secret 544: Sash Bag

Sometimes a company uses social media and email so brilliantly, I drop to my knees in awe. And I am compelled to share their story so you can learn from it.

I am talking about you, Sash Bag.

Sash Bag started off as a very small company on Kickstarter in 2016. In fact, they were looking for a mere $29,000.

Ultimately, they raised $81,737 from 738 backers. Still pretty much small potatoes.

So how in the world did they raise $1,019,486 from 4,914 backers on Kickstarter just two years later!?

No, they didn't go on Shark Tank.

And yes, they do have a great product. And provide outstanding customer service.

But their success is the result of so much more.

They made inspired use of Facebook and communication to their backers.

As they raised more and more money, they shared their success and offered more and more perks to their crowdfunders. As it appeared that they were going to hit $1,000,000 - they promised to throw a party for everyone who had invested - if they broke the million dollar mark.

They created a sense of community among the users of their product and they were completely transparent and inclusive about the process by which they source and create their bags. For example, they made videos of the factories in India where they source their Ikat fabric.

They shared the joy of their success and their gratitude to the Sash Sisterhood - women (and even a couple of men) - from every walk of life and all over the world.

Oh, and that Million Dollar Sash Bash is taking place February 23rd, 2019.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Web Secret 543: Gapminder

Gapminder is a non-profit venture that promotes sustainable global development and achievement by increased use and understanding of statistics and other information about social, economic and environmental development at local, national and global levels.

Boring, you say?

Think you know basic facts about the people who inhabit the world?

No and no.

First, take the Gapminder Test, 13 questions, 45 seconds per question. If you pass the test, you are qualified to become a Gapminder and you will be honored with the Gapminder Facts Certificate 2018.

The questions include:

In the last 20 years the proportion of people living in extreme poverty worldwide, has...? followed by 3 multiple choice options


How did the number of deaths per year from natural disasters change over the last hundred years? followed by 3 multiple choice options.

I scored a 35%.


The Gapminder folks imagined the world as a street. All the houses are lined up by income, the poor living to the left and the rich to the right. Everybody else somewhere in between. Where would you live? Would your life look different than your neighbors’ from other parts of the world, who share the same income level?

It is all visual - they visited 264 families in 50 countries and collected 30,000 photos.

Start here.

Be amazed.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Web Secret 542: AskWonder

Many years ago, my brother founded and was the CEO of a company called FIND.

This was pre-Internet.

Companies paid FIND a yearly retainer in exchange for the ability to ask questions - any question under the sun.

Of course most of the questions were business oriented:
  • What is the market for bubble gum in Argentina?
  • How does the Palomar Observatory clean its telescope?
  • What is the best restaurant in Singapore to entertain a business client?
In 2018, the majority of these questions could be answered in seconds, if not minutes, by simply typing a query into Google. Or even asking Alexa.

But for most of FIND's existence, these questions were answered by looking up information in books, staring at a microfiche on a scanner, or calling people on the phone.

I first worked for FIND as a 16 year old intern. My days were spent traveling to libraries around Manhattan with a heavy bag of nickels, finding reference materials, and then making photocopies of articles in books, for hours at a time. It was extremely tedious.

Later, as a 21 year old, I researched the answers to questions, poring through encyclopedias, calling subject experts around the world, and sending interns on missions to dig up information.

This hands on education requiring me to profoundly understand the primary sources behind information has made me the ace researcher that I am today. I can literally fly through the web to locate the answers to questions. I worry about the young people who don't viscerally understand where information comes from and are thus more likely to be fooled by fake news and other forms of Internet disinformation.

FIND later merged with Guideline, Inc, was acquired in 2007 by Infogroup, and then merged with Opinion Research Corporation, eventually becoming defunct.

Today a new company has taken up up the mantle left by FIND. promises to answer any question in 24 hours or less. They use the Internet, algorithms and thousands of researchers scattered around the globe to provide their services.

Good ideas get reinvented.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Web Secret 541: Bypassing EAPs

The biggest threat to EAPs are mental health apps and platforms that are selling directly to employers. They are less expensive than EAPs, and over promise spectacular results. They also use slick marketing techniques and state of the art tech - which most EAPs lack. And they are usually headed - and started - by technologists - not clinicians.

Here are four of them:

Quarlet Health
Tech-enabled approach that connects physical and mental treatments uses Joyable’s CBT app.

Empower Interactive
Web and mobile tools teach core concepts of cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) to address the root of behavioral health problems.

ieso digital health
Online delivery of evidence-based psychological therapies - CBT only.
Back by AI technology, offers mobile, accessible emotional support services AKA coaching.

Using technology and data, connects companies and their employees to mental health providers, therapy, and coaching programs that work.

My comments:

What do these companies do better do better than EAPs?
They sound cool, use great marketing and exhibit social media savvy. They trumpet evidence based interventions up front and central. Promise hi tech anywhere anytime service delivery. They are user friendly and offer “fun” visual tracking of progress - typically through apps.

What do EAPs do better than these companies?
CBT is the new Kool-Aid and pretty much the only approach used. What is completely missing is the powerful and valuable EAP assessment that delivers customized counseling and/or referrals to the treatment approach and level of care needed by the employee AND an evaluation of the workplace factors and impact relevant to each case.

Pay attention, people.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Web Secret 540: iOS 12

By the time you read this, Apple will have released its new iPhones and unveiled iOS 12, its new operating system with way too many unnecessary features.

Refinery 29 published an article in August comprehensively reviewing all these new bells and whistles.

But here is all you really need to know:

Do Not Disturb
You can now schedule a specific time frame when you don't want to be bothered by calls, text messages, or other notifications. You can specify turning it off for an hour, until you leave your current location, or until this evening. When you open your notification screen, tap and hold the moon icon to see your options and choose the one that works for you.

Control your use of apps, social media or email
There is a new “Screen Time” tab in Settings. Select that, and you’ll see options to set “downtime” and limits on certain apps. Doing so prompts you to take a break from Instagram or email after a certain amount of time each day. The tab also shows a full breakdown of how much time you spend on social media each day and over the course of the week.

Battery Performance
The Battery tab within Settings offers a clearer picture of how your battery performs from day to day. You not only see exactly when you last charged your iPhone and how well it maintained that charge from hour to hour, you can also see the usage over the course of 10 days.

That's all you need to know.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Web Secret 539 : 10 years

My first iWebU blog post was published on August 14, 2008, over a decade ago. Since that date, my blog has posted weekly for ten consecutive years without ever missing a single week.

I celebrated with caviar and champagne, in my penthouse suite at the Mandarin Oriental in Paris.

Or, in another version, it completely slipped my mind until this moment.

In that first post, I pledged to:
  • empower non-technically inclined professionals
  • help you translate your vision into a growing presence on the web
  • teach you how to use technology to make new contacts, influence people and increase your earning potential
  • keep you on top of the latest and most disruptive trends in social media, hardware, software and technology.
I think I did that.