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Original author: 
Jon Brodkin

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It's time to ask yourself an uncomfortable question: how many of your passwords are so absurdly weak that they might as well provide no security at all? Those of you using "123456," "abc123," or even just "password" might already know it's time to make some changes. And using pets' names, birth dates, your favorite sports teams, or adding a number or capital letter to a weak password isn't going to be enough.

Don’t worry, we're here to help. We’re going to focus on how to use a password manager, software that can help you go from passwords like "111111" to "6WKBTSkQq8Zn4PtAjmz7" without making you want to pull out all your hair. For good measure, we'll talk about how creating fictitious answers to password reset questions (e.g. mother's maiden name) can make you even more resistant to hacking.

Why you can’t just wing it anymore

A password manager helps you create long, complicated passwords for websites and integrates into your browser, automatically filling in your usernames and passwords. Instead of typing a different password into each site you visit, you only have to remember one master password.

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Crashed Terminal

A 15-year-old hacker going by the name of Cosmo was sentenced by a California juvenile court to a probationary period until his 21st birthday, during which time he'll need approval from his parole officer to access the internet. Cosmo — also known as Cosmo the God — was profiled on Wired following the widely-publicized breach of editor Mat Honan's online accounts, though Cosmo had no connection to that particular hack. According to Wired, which received information about the case from Cosmo, the teenage hacker pled guilty to more than a few felonies, with charges ranging from credit card fraud to online impersonation. The probation that Cosmo agreed to as part of his plea limits his use of the internet to solely educational purposes,...

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Screenshot_recaptcha

Have you started seeing images in online reCAPTCHAs that look suspiciously like house numbers pulled from Google Street View? Well, as it turns out, that’s exactly what they are. Google confirmed it’s currently running an experiment that involves using its reCAPTCHA spam-fighting system to improve data in Google Maps by having users identify things like street names and business addresses.

reCAPTCHA, for those unfamiliar, is the system originally developed at Carnegie Mellon University to improve upon the use of CAPTCHAs (aka, the “Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart”) – it’s the distorted text meant to stop bots from signing up for online accounts. The reCAPTCHA technology was acquired by Google in 2009, and if you use the web, you’ve definitely used it before. It’s what puts those security questions on websites that ask you to identify the words and numbers in the pictures displayed to verify you’re human.

The system is designed to cut down on spam and fraud, but it also helps digitize the text in printed materials, like books and newspapers. Google has been using reCAPTCHA to digitize content for Google Books, for example, as well as for the Google News archives.

Over the past few days, however, some users have been seeing another type of reCAPTCHA appear – photographs. The new reCAPTCHAs present an image where one side contains the warped text users are familiar with, while the other side shows a somewhat blurry (as if zoomed in) photo of numbers. The numbers are clearly street addresses, which has led to some speculation that Google was pulling these from Google Street View.

One place where this new reCAPTCHA has been known to pop up is on Google’s AdWords website, and specifically on the page hosting the keyword tool. You won’t always see this new reCAPTCHA, though – I refreshed this page a dozen or more times this morning, for example, and still couldn’t get it to appear. Your mileage may vary.

The above image is one example of what the new reCAPTCHAs look like.

A larger collection of these images also recently appeared on the Blackhatworld forums (below):

According to a Google spokesperson, the system isn’t limited to street addresses, but also involves street names and even traffic signs. We haven’t spotted any of those other types in the wild, though.

Says Google:

We’re currently running an experiment in which characters from Street View images are appearing in CAPTCHAs. We often extract data such as street names and traffic signs from Street View imagery to improve Google Maps with useful information like business addresses and locations. Based on the data and results of these reCaptcha tests, we’ll determine if using imagery might also be an effective way to further refine our tools for fighting machine and bot-related abuse online.

Although many users are just now noticing the new images appear, Google says the experiment actually began a couple of weeks ago.

Image credit: Ian for the top photo; Blackhatworld user “dirtbag” (heh.)

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"Mobile payments" is about as unsexy as technology buzzwords get. We're basically talking about phones and money. And it's hard enough to get people excited about money in the first place—unless you're receiving large sums of it, that is—let alone using a phone to make or spend it.

But it is exciting! Trust us. And there's a reason why you're going to be hearing a lot more about mobile commerce before this year is done.

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Coal occupies a central position in modern human endeavors. Last year over 7000 megatons were mined worldwide. Powerful, yet dirty and dangerous, use of coal is expanding every year, with 2010 witnessing a production increase of 6.8%. Around 70 countries have recoverable reserves, which some estimates claim will last for over a hundred years at current production levels. Mining for coal is one of the world's most dangerous jobs. While deadliest in China, where thousands of miners die annually, the profession is still hazardous in the West and other regions as well. Our mining and use of coal accounts for a variety of environmental hazards, including the production of more CO2 than any other source. Other concerns include acid rain, groundwater contamination, respiratory issues, and the waste products which contain heavy metals. But our lives as lived today rely heavily on the combustible sedimentary rock. Over 40% of the world's electricity is generated by burning coal, more than from any other source. Chances are that a significant percentage of the electricity you're using to read this blog was generated by burning coal. Gathered here are images of coal extraction, transportation, and the impact on environment and society. The first eight photographs are by Getty photographer Daniel Berehulak, who documented the lives of miners in Jaintia Hills, India. -- Lane Turner (48 photos total)
22-year-old Shyam Rai from Nepal makes his way through tunnels inside of a coal mine 300 ft beneath the surface on April 13, 2011 near the village of Latyrke, in the district of Jaintia Hills, India. In the Jaintia hills, located in India's far northeast state of Meghalaya, miners descend to great depths on slippery, rickety wooden ladders. Children and adults squeeze into rat hole like tunnels in thousands of privately owned and unregulated mines, extracting coal with their hands or primitive tools and no safety equipment. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

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