Monday, July 09, 2007

Anatomy of an Internet scam

July 9th, 2007 Posted by ZDNet Government @ July 9, 2007 @ 4:13 PM

Through persistence and tech savvy, a tenacious San Jose detective has uncovered a Internet crime ring that sheds light on how these criminals carry out their digital thievery, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

In just five months, Detective Mike Niehoff uncovered a massive Internet fraud ring that used Craigslist, eBay and PayPal to steal tens of thousands of dollars from San Francisco Bay Area consumers.

Alvin Ma, 23, and Calvin Ma, 21, and two other members of an Interent crime ring were convicted of stealing credit card numbers through a phishing scheme. They used the stolen numbers to buy and sell goods over the Internet. The Ma brothers used a free software program called Dark Mailer to create emails with fake headers that appeared to be from AOL or PayPal.

"It's quite easy to make up an email that looks just like it's coming from a legitimate company," said Robert Chestnut, eBay's global head of trust and safety. "Everybody gets these phishing emails with the eBay logo and PayPal logo, the Bank of America logo, the Amazon logo. . . . They send them to me at eBay."

Santa Clara police received a complaint by Darin Petersen, 33, after he sold his Apple Powerbook a San Jose woman calling herself "Henrietta Johnson." She transferred $1,35 to Petersen's PayPal account and sent her "husband" to pick it up. Two weeks later, the PayPal payment was cancelled.

Not one to give up, Petersen then drove to the San Jose address and discovered that someone else was using Johnson's account. That's when Detective Niehoff took over.
Peterson had the knowledge to provide the IP address of thief who had posed as Henrietta Johnson. Neihoff was then able to get a warrant so as to match it up with a real person.

Neihoff traced the IP address to 49-year-old Greson Ma in Daly City, CA. His sons, Alvin and Calvin had been arrested before for using stolen credit cards to buy stuff on the Internet.

Clean-cut honors students living in a nice Daly City neighborhood, the Ma brothers lived a double life. On the laptop Niehoff took from the Ma home, he found a template for the phishing Web site " Billing Central," along with more than 20,000 AOL email addresses.

Along with computers, the Ma brothers plus two others bought more than $50,000 worth of Xboxes and Rolexes over the Internet with stolen credit cards. All four of the men struck plea bargains and are serving time in San Quentin.


Is Your Website Slow to Load ? Catch the Culprit with Pingdom

"4 seconds" - remember that magical number ? If a web page doesn't load within 4 seconds, lot of visitors are likely to leave the website.

Tricks to Make Your Webpages Load Faster

Now several elements of a web page (like CSS, Iframes, Flash, Javascript, graphics) can increase the page loading time but how do you pinpoint the exact culprit that slowing the site ? A normal HTML web page may have ad scripts being served from Google Adsense servers, Flash video player from YouTube, images from Blogger Photos and so on.

web page loading time

PingDom Full Page Test is a useful tool that mimics a web browser and generates a nice interactive graph detailing the load time of different objects (like CSS Files, Javascript, etc) which are included in the web page.

You can view the list of objects either in load order or as a hierarchy. The hierarchy view allows you to see which objects are linked to in for example a CSS file. Objects that fail to load are highlighted in red.

PingDom's tool is based on SiteTimer [read review] but with a sleek and more user-friendly interface. If you have Firebug extension on Firefox, goto the "Net" tab and it will also show similar data. | example | How fast your site loads ?]


Researchers devise thermally-activated flexible display

The race to create bigger smaller and better flexible displays now has yet another participant, but Weijia Wen and colleagues at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology are putting a toasty twist on their iteration. The team has reportedly developed a "flexible, thermally-activated electronic display made from a mixture of metal nanoparticles and plastic," which costs far less than most similar alternatives to create and measures just 150-microns in thickness. Moreover, these units are able to change hues based on the surrounding temperatures, and while only fixed patterns are available for viewing at the moment, the crew hopes to implement an array of "thermal pixels" in the future for more dynamic opportunities. A display that warns you of an overheating machine / battery / toy -- who woulda thunk it? [Thanks, Alan]


Zonbu's subscription-based PC reviewed

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PC World has gotten its hands on the semi-infamous Zonbu desktop -- a Linux based, environmentally friendly, ultra-small, ultra-cheap PC which is being launched this month -- and they've issued the first field report. The system, which we mentioned back in May, is based around a Via chipset and has no internal storage save for 512MB of RAM and a 4GB flash drive used for the OS. The $99 computer is meant to be used in conjunction with a $12.95-a-month service, much like a mobile phone (with a two year commitment and all), and provides 25GB of storage space on Amazon's S3 servers. The reviewer seems impressed with the speed and stability of the computer, OS, and included apps, but underwhelmed with the online storage process (slow, small), and lack of an included optical drive. The critique also covers a "community" version of the Zonbu ($250), which axes the subscription and adds root access to the computer -- which PC World seems to feel is a more sellable option for the new company -- although overall they recommend the system to anyone with basic computing requirements. Of course, you could just get an Apple TV for around that price and hack it, but that might not be up your alley, so check the read link for the whole, exciting breakdown. [Thanks, Corine]


WildCharger pricing details emerge

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WildCharge has updated its website with more information about its pad-based wireless WildCharger solution. The company has revealed that adapters for the Motorola RAZR (which replaces the back cover) and the iPod nano (via a dock adapter) will set you back $34.99. The dock itself will be $59.99, meaning that it could cost you as much as $130 to wirelessly charge -- assuming you own both an iPod and a RAZR -- your phone and MP3 player. Still interested? If so, you should be able to pick up all three sometime this month. [Thanks, David; via Slippery Brick]