Categories
Gadgets

Extending The Capabilities Of The MS Surface Pro : A Review Of Plugable UD-3900 Docking Station

surface pro 2I use a Surface Pro 2 tablet as my regular laptop. With its up to 8 hour battery life, the tab stores enough juice to last an average work day. However, at home, its limitations become very apparent.

For reasons best known to only Microsoft, this device comes with only a single port – a USB 3.0 port. While I could extend its screen, wirelessly, using a WDTV Live Player I picked up a while back as a conduit, to a bigger 42-inch screen using Miracast Technology, my expansion options were still very limited.

Unfortunately, the Surface Pro 3, the latest iteration of this tablet, also suffer the same dearth of ports. These tablets are not cheap and it is a little disheartening that so much was paid for so little.

Browsing through Amazon, I stumbled on a docking station that compensated for about all the ports that the Surface Pro lacked. It is a universal dock – it extends the capabilities of just about any tablet or laptop, unlike the dedicated proprietary one Microsoft is offering, which you would have to throw out with the Surface Pro whenever you are done with it.

PlugableThe Plugable UD-3900 docking station connects to the single USB 3.0 port on the Surface Pro, compensating it with the following additional ports;

  1. Dual Video Outputs (HDMI up to 2560×1440* and DVI / VGA to 2048×1152 / 1920×1200
  2. Gigabit Ethernet (One)
  3. USB 3.0 Ports (Two)
  4. USB 2.0 Ports (Four)
  5. 3.5mm Audio Jack (One)
  6. 3.5mm Microphone Jack (One)

Like another reviewer noted, the Plugable UD-3900 and Surface Pro 2 do really go great together. Indeed, it is a good buy.

Plugable-UD-3900-USB3.0-Docking-Station-Connect

Categories
Hack

Using Gmail’s 2- Factor Authentication In Nigeria

Wikipedia defines Two-step verification (also known as Two-factor authentication, abbreviated to TFA) as a process involving two stages to verify the identity of an entity trying to access services in a computer or in a network.

For Gmail, what this means is that even if your password is compromised, no one can have access to your mails unless they also 2f1have access to your mobile line. Unless you add your laptop as a trusted device, everytime you log into your email account over the web, you will be required to also input a one-time code before gaining access to your mails.

Nice, isn’t it.

For Nigerians, the bad part. Curiously, Gmail does not support Nigerian mobile lines at all.

Fortunately, there is a way around this. Simply put, all you need do is get a valid US number that you can receive SMS on.

And How do you get this?

Heywire is the maker of a free consumer text messaging app available on Android, iOS and Windows Phone, with millions of users. It is also available on your PC using your browser. They give you a real US mobile number for free with which you can text or receive SMS from any mobile messaging service. The person you are texting or receiving SMS from DOES NOT need to have a HeyWire account, you can text them directly to their normal phone.

  • The app allows you to send free texts messages to mobile phones in 45 countries over WiFi or 3G – Excluding Nigeria of course.
  • However, you can receive text messages from any mobile line or bulk messaging services.
  • Text FREE from the Web: Go to app.heywire.com, login with your HeyWire number
  • 1 HeyWire account across all your devices — iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad & Computer
  • Text using Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, or LTE.

With this app, you can configure the 2-Step Verification for your Gmail account using your Heywire US number to receive your code.

2f2

Categories
Networking Technology

How To Set Up A Budget Home Entertainment Network

For many, the word “server” brings to mind an intimidating stack of unidentifiable devices with endless flashes of light. But in reality, a server can be that very basic featured, very old laptop or desktop computer you have gathering dust in a corner of your home.

Wikipaedia defines a Home Server as a server located in a private residence providing services to other devices inside or outside the household through a home network or the Internet. Such services may include file and printer serving, media center serving, web serving (host your website from your home!), and backup services. Because of the relatively low number of computers on a typical home network, a home server commonly does not require significant computing power and can be implemented with a re-purposed, older computer, or a plug computer. An uninterrupted power supply (UPS) or Power Inverter is sometimes used in case of power outages that can possibly corrupt data.

Server in the home has witnessed increasing popularity in recent years. And for good reasons too.

So, what exactly would you be needing a server for in a home?

If you are like most people today, you have multiple home computers connected in a wireless network. You also have lots and lots of media files — digital photos, music, and videos — stored on each of these computers. Even though all your computers are connected, it is difficult to share or stream these media files from one PC to another.

Personally, I opted for a home server for the following reasons;

  • Centralized storage of my files. This gives you easy access to these files from multiple devices.
  • My boys love watching movies on their tablets. Problem is, there is only so much movies these tablets can contain. My home server gives them access to about 1TB of animated movies, streamed flawlessly to their devices.
  • Nothing beats watching CBT Nugget video files, downloaded video files or even stream Youtube videos directly to your big screen.
  • If you are the paranoid type, you can do away with Dropbox and the likes and host your sensitive files in your home. Access them over the Internet too!

The funny thing is, you get to achieve all these for next to nothing, using mostly existing hardware.

Find below a basic network diagram of my home entertainment network. Nice, aint it?

Drawing1

Over the next few posts, we are going to discuss about each component of this network and how to get them all set up.

 

Categories
Gadgets

Setting Up Raspberry Pi As A Media Centre Device

In my last post, we looked into setting up the Raspberry Pi in general, and what that entails.

This article is gonna focus on setting it up as a Media Centre device.

I have lots of media (Music, Movies, TV Series, etc.) on my laptop and I’ve always wanted a stress free way to have that content available to me on all my devices, be it on my TV, iPad or Phone.

The perfect solution for this came in the form of Plex Media Server.

Plex Media Server

tumblr_inline_myfilkZc0u1srketq

Plex Media Server is a free (but closed source) Media server application that indexes and organizes all kinds of media from Music to TV shows, Movies, Anime, etc. It also downloads Album art, Show banners and other metadata, even down to TV Show theme music. Plex media server is very easy to setup and is available to install on all major OSes.

I run Ubuntu on my laptop, so naturally, that’s where I installed my Plex Media server instance. After installation, Plex Media server runs as a background service which autostarts on booting the system. It has a web UI (pictured above) for managing your media collection. Its all really straightforward and easy to follow. I did have a little issue where some of my media wasn’t being recognized, but after changing file permissions, I was able to fix that.

The initial indexing of my vast media collection took a while and at the end, about 1gb of data, but it was definitely worth it. Once I had plex setup as a media server on my laptop, I could then move on to setting it up on the Raspberry Pi.

RasPlex

RasPlexPlex doesn’t have an official Home Theatre app for the Raspberry pi (or Linux), even though they have one for iOS, Android, Windows and OSX.

Some fine folks over at RasPlex have fixed this though, by creating RasPlex which is based on OpenELEC, which is in turn based on XBMC, which the original Plex Home Theatre app is based on. So, they are all more or less the same. :D.

Installing RasPlex on the Raspberry Pi has been made quite easy by the RasPlex team. There are installers available for Windows, OSX and Linux. Once the Installers are downloaded, they can be used to download the latest version of RasPlex, and also flash it to a compatible 8gb SD card. Pop that SD card into the Raspberry Pi’s slot and voila!, you have a working install of RasPlex.

As long as your Raspberry Pi is connected to the same network as your Plex media server, RasPlex should detect your media collection and allow you to play media directly on your TV.

Issues

I ran into a major issue after setting up RasPlex on the Raspberry Pi. Although it worked just fine on the big TV in the sitting room while connected via HDMI, it refused to display a thing when connected via composite video to the smaller TV in the room. After a bit of googling, I discovered that RasPlex is configured to use HDMI only by default. I guess the developers assumed nobody would be using TVs without HDMI input in 2013. Thankfully, there’s a workaround and it only involves editing a text file. I did have to do the edit on a windows machine though (something to do with those pesky file ownership and permissions issue), but apart from that hickup, it was a quick fix.

Once that was done, the RasPlex displayed properly on the TV and once I got a “3.5mm audio jack to composite audio converter cable”, I could also get audio into the TV.

OpenELEC

Openelec

OpenELEC is another Media Centre platform available on the Pi. RasPlex is built on OpenELEC, as evidenced by the OpenELEC splash screen that comes up when booting RasPlex.

However, if you want something as close to running generic XBMC on your Raspberry Pi, OpenELEC is the way to go.

Installing OpenELEC, like most installations on the Raspberry Pi is as easy as flashing the image unto a memory card. There are instructions on how to do this for each platform on the OpenELEC wiki. I did this on my trusty Ubuntu laptop and it worked perfectly.

Booting up OpenELEC on the Pi takes you to a generic XBMC UI. Its clean and uncluttered.

My preferred solution, of the two, is RasPlex.

Controlling your Media Centre

Although the Raspberry Pi supports both USB Mouse and Keyboard, these are not ideal when dealing with a Media Centre platform. One would not like to get up to the TV in order to change the media playing.

Thankfully, this is remedied by a host of Remote applications available for both iOS and Android.

For RasPlex, my favourite remote app is simply called “Plex Remote”. Its a free app in the play store, and so long as your android device is connected to the same network as the Raspberry Pi, it detects your RasPlex instance immediately and allows you to control its UI and launch your media.

For OpenELEC, any plain old XBMC remote would work. There are several of them on the Play store, but I haven’t tried out any since I did not decide on using OpenELEC in the long run, so I can’t recommend one.

Miscellaneous

The solution above allowed me to elegantly stream my media collection from my laptop acting as the server the Raspberry Pi connected to my TV. However, at other times, I might want to stream the same content to my phone or tablet instead.

Plex has awesome applications for both iOS and Android that do just that. Both applications cost $4.99 on their individual stores. They automatically connect to the Plex server and allow you to stream your content directly to your device.

The centralized nature of the media ensures that you can do cool things like marking videos as “watched”, filtering videos by genre, and even resuming from your last position across all devices.

So, I can start watching a movie on my phone, and later on, go over to the TV and continue from exactly where I stopped the last time.

Plex Media server uses Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) to stream media across devices. Therefore, if for some reason, you don’t have $4.99 to give the Plex developers, you use one of the free UPnP applications available on android. I can confirm that BubbleUPnP does recognize the Plex server and allows you to play your media, but you do lose some of the cooler features such as the resume feature highlighted above.

Its nice to be able to setup your home media centre using the Raspberry Pi, and stream your content from a central server to multiple devices. However, sometimes, your media might be on your phone or tablet. One might not be inclined to first copy it to your server, index it, and then stream it.

Luckily, there are ways to stream content directly from your phone or tablet to your Raspberry Pi powered TV, and we will explore that in the next post!.

Categories
Technology Tips

Shutdown, Hibernate or Put To Sleep – Which Option Is Best For Your Laptop?

You probably may have been faced with this decision more than once; Hibernate, put to sleep or simply shutdown your PC. What option did you take? What option should you take?

Simply put, the choice is yours on the options to take. Your work schedule or purpose for use of these laptops should largely determine what option you should take.

Hibernating or putting your PC to sleep usually preserves your PC state, keeping your workfiles and applications intact for you to continue with whenever you choose to do so. Perhaps the major difference between these two options is that with Sleep, is a power-saving state that allows a computer to quickly resume full-power operation (typically within several seconds) when you want to start working again. Putting your computer into the sleep state is like pausing a DVD player—the computer immediately stops what it’s doing and is ready to start again when you want to resume working. (I quoted Microsoft there). Hibernate, on the other hand, puts your open documents and programs on your hard disk, and then turns off your computer. Of all the power-saving states in Windows, hibernation uses the least amount of power. .

Sleep is good for short periods while hibernate is advisable if your laptop will be away from a power source for a long time. Note that if you will be transporting your laptop in a backpack, hibernate is advisable because of the heat that would be generated from your laptop if put to sleep.

PC Hibernate Or PC Sleep ModePutting your computer to sleep is popular with pre-Windows 8 systems largely because of the long boot up time of the Operating Systems. Putting your PC to sleep shaves a lot of precious seconds, even minutes, off the boot up time. Things have, however, changed a bit with Windows 8 which has a fairly fast bootup time.

A class of people however prefer to leave their laptops on 24/7. While this has an advantage of giving you quick access to your PC whenever you need it, it can however be a security risk if it is left online – well, except it is being used as a server. Also, because of the heat generated by the laptop, its internal components and USB accessories also stand a risk of being fried.

Geek Recommendation

– Put your laptop to sleep only for very short periods; lunch breaks maybe.
– Hibernate for longer periods, especially if you have unfinished tasks or open windows you are working on.
– Nothing beats the good old shutting down of your laptop. Windows OS sure needs to reboot itself very often to keep it functional.

Categories
Networking

The Mach 5 – Cobranet’s New Flagship WiFi Modem

On 1st of June, 2012, Cobranet ISP replaced its flagship internet modem, the CN438, with the more modern UGO Mach5. Targeted at homes and small offices, the new modem boasts of an array of features, which includes a higher data transfer rate and, more importantly, an in-built WIFI router.

I picked up one of these modems from dealdey during one of Cobranet’s many promotional offers. It cost N10,000 for the modem, with 9GB of data allowance (worth N8,500) included for me to play with. It was a very good offer, a steal if you ask me.

mach 5The router has a very sleek build and comes with a single ethernet port at the back, on the off chance that you would rather connect it directly to your laptop or to an existing router setup using a RJ45 cable. It also has a telephone port which i believe is not operational yet.

It is a very basic single band router with most of the bells and whistles that some may be familiar with missing. The router uses the 2.4 GHz band, which is limited in range and speed compared to dual-band routers that use both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz band. Dual-band routers are more efficient, have longer range, are less prone to interference from household devices, such as microwaves and older cordless phones, and are usually faster.

This is not in the least a deal breaker because single-band routers are compatible with most wireless cards and receivers, as they broadcast on the 2.4 GHz band, which is more common in Nigeria. The WIFI coverage is also more than sufficient to cover a mid sized home or office. And for the price, you probably can not get a better offer elsewhere.

By comparison and very surprisingly, the Mach 5 router boasts of a better coverage area than my old trusty Belkin N+ router which had a bit of a difficulty penetrating through the thick walls of my home.

However, network features like IP address reserving (which allows the router to give a fixed IP address to a computer in the network), port forwarding, access control, and firewall are not available in the Mach 5.

Overall, the Mach 5 WiFi router is a very good buy. The features are commensurable with the price it is being offered for.

Categories
Uncategorized

Be Your Own Boss: How To Startup Your e-Commerce Business

The traditional cost of developing an e-Commerce site is so large that most small businesses are unable to afford one. And then follows the cost of successfully marketing the existence of such site, which is also quite expensive. So what’s your best option?

Own a shop online!

There are a couple of e-Commerce sites that now serve as online marketplaces where buying and selling is done between individual buyers and sellers or corporate buyers and sellers. These online marketplaces are designed to showcase your goods like you would normally do in a physical store. They have huge marketing budgets that allows them reach as many people both online and offline.

A typical example and the pioneer of such online marketplaces is eBay –the world’s largest online marketplace. The success story of several eBay merchants/sellers who turned millionaires as a result of trading on the eBay platform is enough proof that owning a shop online works. eBay has its branches in so many countries worldwide, but not yet in Nigeria.

Fortunately, there is an eBay clone now in Nigeria and it’s currently the largest online marketplace for buying and selling the smart way –it’s called Kaymu. The parent company; Rocket Internet is known worldwide as the leading e-Commerce incubators and have successfully started over 50 internet-based ventures worldwide. As a matter of fact, the eBay clone they started in Germany did so well that eBay couldn’t help but buy it over!

 ecommerceTo show you how big Kaymu is, even Jumia currently the largest online retail site has a shop on Kaymu. Recognizing this business opportunity, I decided to give it a shot last month and opened up the online version of my boutique business on Kaymu. Guess what? I sold 3 shoes within the first week I listed them on Kaymu auctions and have sold another 3 more using the fixed price selling options. That’s a total of 6 shoes in one month, not bad for a start!

Here’s How Kaymu Works For Sellers/Merchants

  • A seller lists an item [new or old] on Kaymu for FREE, almost anything from smart phones to laptop accessories, books to rare coins, etc.
  • The seller chooses to accept only bids for the item [an auction-type listing] or to offer the “Fixed price” option, which allows buyers to purchase the item right away at a fixed price.
  • In an online auction, the bidding opens at a price the seller specifies and remains on Kaymu for a certain number of days. Buyers then place bids on the item. When the listing ends, the buyer with the highest bid wins and gets the item.
  • In a “Fixed price” listing, the first buyer willing to pay the seller’s price gets the item.
  • Arrange with the buyer a suitable delivery option such as; shipping, physical pickup or payment on delivery = sales!

Here’s How To Own A Shop Online FREE Using Kaymu

There are 2 options you can start from depending on your preference.

First, if you are a retailer who already buys and sells offline through a physical shop, Kaymu is simply your online shop to showcase what you are selling already offline. If you fall into this category, Click here to sign up for a FREE online shop That’s what I did with my boutique business since I already own a physical store where I sell unisex clothing for male, female and kids. Visit the MADphilips shop online and do patronize us.  We have the lowest prices for smartphones!

Second, if you don’t own a shop offline and would like to take advantage of this opportunity by selling other people’s goods online through the Kaymu platform, follow the steps below.

  • Click here to sign up for a FREE online shop
  • Decide any product [new or fairly used] of your choice that you would like to sell on your online shop
  • Look for a company [manufacturer], store or seller around you who would like to increase their sales [trust me, everyone does]
  • Introduce yourself as an internet marketer who can help them sell more via the internet through your online shop
  • Negotiate a discount on the product[s] so that you can make a profit selling them on your online shop
  • Take clear pictures of the product[s] with a phone or camera to display on your online shop
  • Head over to your online shop and list the product[s], the pictures and their prices so potential buyers can contact you directly via email or phone
  • Arrange with the buyer a suitable delivery option such as; shipping, physical pickup or payment on delivery = sales!

Your Turn

Head over to Kaymu and click on the register link to claim your shop online, FREE!

Categories
Gadgets Hack Mobile

Hack Windows Password in 2 Minutes

hackerAt least, that is how long it would take me to hack into any Microsoft Windows account – 2 minutes! Very worrisome, isn’t it? Goes to show that anyone that thinks his data is safe just because it is tucked away in his passworded Windows account would really need to have a rethink.

I will not go through the process of how to go about hacking a Windows account here,sorry, but a quick search on the Internet would give you a number of options you can use.

So does it mean all hope of having a secured Windows Operating System is lost? Far from it!

One quick option that is within the reach of about anyone is the use of BIOS PASSWORD.

A BIOS password can be very effective at controlling access to your personal computer. All you need do is access the setup menu of your laptop and enable the Bios Password. Subsequently, once you switch on your PC – at the hardware level – you are prompted to insert a password before booting up any Operating System. If the computer won’t boot up until a password is entered, it is effectively useless to most would be opportunist hackers or other intruders.

However, the Bios Password is not hackproof. A determined hacker can still use online resources to hack the password or may just extract the hard-drive from the laptop, insert into another and hack away.

Another option is creating vaults within your hard-drive using tools like Steganos Safe software. The software allows you to protect your data in several ways. It enables you to create a secure area on your hard-drive or on removable media such as a USB key. It works just like a real vault, protecting all of your data from unauthorized third-party access. Without the right password, nobody can retrieve the contents. You can read more about this software here.

Lastly, we have Microsoft’s own Bitlocker. Probably the most secure of the lot, BitLocker Drive Encryption is a full disk encryption feature included with the Ultimate and Enterprise editions of Microsoft’s Windows Vista, Windows 7, and with Pro and Enterprise editions of Windows 8 desktop operating systems. The latest version of BitLocker, included in Windows 7 and Windows 8 adds the ability to also encrypt removable drives, as described here.

Bitlocker is an effective and essential tool for protecting sensitive data, it effectively addresses the threats of data theft or exposure from lost, stolen, or inappropriately decommissioned computers.

BitLocker lets you encrypt the hard drives allowing you to protect your hard drive from offline attack.  This is the type of attack where a malicious user will take the hard drive from your mobile machine and connect it to another machine so they can harvest your data.  BitLocker also protects your data if a malicious user boots from an alternate Operating System.  With either attack method, BitLocker encrypts the hard drive so that when someone has physical access to the drive, the drive is unreadable.

Now if there is a need to harvest data from a hard drive when a machine fails, there are tools that you can use which will prompt the admin for the recovery key that was given when Bitlocker was being enabled on the drive.

Note that BitLocker does not protect the computer contents while Windows is running.  BitLocker was specifically built for offline attacks.

For those without these versions of Windows, you may consider drive encryption softwares like DiskCryptor or Truecrypt.

There are still many more data security options out there not mentioned but the ones listed are very much tested and so far, trusted. No one knows tomorrow though. 🙁

Categories
Hack

Another Problem With Porn : RANSOMWARE

So a friend of a friend was watching porn online and contracted a nasty virus. No, not that kind of virus—we’re talking about ransomware. The malware often announces itself in a pop-up and (wrongly) informs a computer user that their machine has been commandeered by law enforcement for illegal activity. It will not be unlocked, the message says, until a fine is paid. Carriers are often porn sites, so victims are easily conned into believing the message is real. Whether or not the victim recognizes this for the scam it is, their computer is unquestionably unusable until the virus is removed.

Ransomware was first seen in Russia and Russian-speaking countries in 2009.

Ransomware was first seen in Russia and Russian-speaking countries in 2009, according to the Symantec whitepaper “Ransomware: A Growing Menace.” The first known instance of the tactic was in a Cyrillic pop-up that claimed to be a message from Microsoft. It alerted the user that the computer had to be activated by the company before use by obtaining a code via an SMS message. That message was then sent to a premium-rate number that charged the victim.

The perpetrators subsequently improved on their tactics—and profits—by going the shame route. A pornographic image replaced the Microsoft-branded one and its promised removal cost ballooned to around $460.

The next practical step was to move from shame to fear. In its current form, the malware generates a popup that purports to be from law enforcement and demands that the user pay a fine for illegal activity (most often an alleged viewing or distributing of illegal pornography) conducted on the computer. Lately, it’s taken the even more scaremongering tactic of speaking its message in the language of the victim’s country.

In its most recent incarnation, first reported by Trend Micro, the pop-up notification tries to validate itself by claiming that it’s under the aegis of a December 4, 2012, treaty between antivirus vendors and law enforcement to identify cyber criminals. Beneath the message are the logos of companies, such as Symantec, McAfee, Trend Micro, Microsoft, and ZoneAlarm. It’s even been masquerading as the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a partnership of the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center that filters complaints about scams such as ransomware to the appropriate authorities.

HIT AND RUN

Even when the victim pays the requested price, however, the scammers will not restore the computer. Symantec notes that much ransomware is incapable of doing so, as it does not even contain the code to uninstall itself. Forums are filled with stories of people who have paid the amount of money that has been asked of them, but are still left infected with the virus.

On a Yoo Security forum, a commenter named Kevin writes, “I’m concerned. My laptop has been blocked with this FBI message since Tuesday evening. It won’t let me in unless I pay $400.00 via moneypak. I paid the $400.00 yesterday morning and the computer is still locked. Question? did my $400 actually goes somewhere, and how do I unlock this laptop.”

One YouTube video detailing how to remove the virus has a comment from Patriot2572, a victim twice over: “I paid the $300 and now it is requesting $600 after it was ‘rejected’ but i called moneypak and they said it the money was picked up by someone in Romania..

Even when the victim pays the requested price, the scammers will not restore the computer.
“I sent the $600 now it is pending….”

The virus has even caused some affected users to abandon their favorite sites. In October, online community SodaHead user my2cents announced to forum friends: “I’m just letting you all know that I am leaving SodaHead. About two weeks ago, my computer got locked by the FBI scam while on SodaHead…I can’t take the chance of that happening again, so I’m saying adios to SodaHead. I’ll miss you all, but keep up the good fight. And don’t let the bastards get you down!”

PERP WALK

Although it is colloquially known as ransomware, the virus is called Reveton. It’s designated as a driveby—catchable by just visiting a compromised site. Those sites are often porn sites, a fact that helps give credence to the displayed message that the user was engaged in illegal activity. Specifically, child pornography is often cited.

The scam is made even more believable because the virus is specialized, detecting the computer’s location and issuing a message that looks like it’s from a local authority. So U.S. victims often see the FBI logo, Canadians see that of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Austrians see the mark of the Austria Police, and so on.

Ransomware attacks computer users all over the world.

Ransomware attacks computer users all over the world. Malware researcher Kafeine and others maintain an ever-growing gallery of screenshots of its variants on botnets.fr. Symantec, in mapping two ransomware variants, has shown that relatively few countries are untouched. As Kafeine points out in a post, the virus quickly adapts to its surroundings, sometimes starting out with the look and language of, say, the U.K. variant and then quickly switching to the local language and the insignia of a local authority. Ransomware has recently found its way to Iran, which monitors and restricts the Internet for its citizens, undoubtedly making the message particularly frightening for victims and, thus, lucrative for the thieves.

Reveton locks the user’s computer. Even those not lured into parting with their money might find themselves unwittingly doing so. Reveton works with the Citadel malware platform, which can install other malware so that even after Reveton is removed, keystroke loggers can capture usernames, passwords, and credit card information.

Security blogger Brian Krebs reported that Kafeine, who runs the blog Malware don’t need Coffee, believes the Blackhole exploit kit is ultimately responsible. The app works by taking advantage of security holes in browsers, Flash, and Java.

Symantec reports that there are around 16 ransomware gangs. The Metropolitan Police recently arrested three individuals in England: One man was charged with suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and another man and a woman were charged with suspicion of conspiracy to defraud, money laundering, and possession of items to defraud.

CRIME DOES PAY

The Symantec report states that “a conservative estimate is that over $5 million dollars a year is being extorted from victims.” Kafeine shared with the blog Krebs on Security screenshots of scam stats pages maintained by criminals. One scam netted about $34,500 in one day and $54,000 the next.

The ransomware price is often demanded in prepaid electronic payment form, meaning that there’s no chance for the victims to recover the funds once they realize they’ve been scammed.

Ransomware victims in the United States are primarily asked to pay by using MoneyPak, an electronic payment system run by financial services provider Green Dot. MoneyPak is a natural choice for criminals because it’s widely available (MoneyPak prepaid cards are available at over 50,000 locations, such as CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart, across 49 states), virtually untraceable, and nonrefundable. MoneyPak lists the ransomware scam as the first one on its list of “Most Common Scams to Avoid.”

“Green Dot is committed to educating consumers about how to avoid being victims of financial fraud scams and works closely with law enforcement to help enhance these efforts,” a company spokesperson told PC Magazine. “In response to the FBI ransomware scam, Green Dot has partnered with the FBI and the Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Division to support their ongoing investigation.”

The MoneyPak site informs users that “[i]f you give your MoneyPak number or information about the purchase transaction to a criminal, Green Dot is not responsible for paying you back. Your MoneyPak is not a bank account. The funds are not insured against loss.” Nevertheless, the spokesperson said, “Consumers are encouraged to immediately report fraudulent activity to Green Dot by calling 1-800-GREENDOT so we can attempt to recover any funds that have not already been removed by a scammer and can continue working with law enforcement to identify the origin of these activities and these abuses.”

Ukash, an offering from London-based Smart Voucher, has similar benefits and is often used in ransomware scams abroad. Instead of a prepaid card, Ukash is a 19-digit code that electronically substitutes for cash. It’s available at over 420,000 locations in more than 55 countries. It’s an excellent tool for thieves because money can’t be refunded once it’s spent. Ukash’s terms and conditions state, “[o]nce Ukash has advised a Participating Merchant that a submitted voucher code and amount are validated, Ukash has no means of subsequently withdrawing such validation and the voucher code and amount will be considered redeemed and cannot be used again.” And the responsibility for verifying the credibility of a recipient of Ukash is on the user: “You cease to be the holder of the Ukash if you provide the details of the Ukash voucher code to some other person… whether such a person is acting unlawfully or is guilty of misrepresentation.”

“We are saddened to hear of people falling victim to scams involving fictitious products or services which ask for payment by Ukash,” said David Hunter, CEO of Ukash, in a statement to PC Magazine. “We take this very seriously as Ukash is designed specifically to help people shop safely online, removing the need to reveal personal financial details.”

Hunter said Ukash works with the police and also to educate the public, noting warnings about scams on vouchers and on Ukash’s website.

Often alongside the Ukash logo is that of paysafecard, a similar type of online payment service. Ludger Voetz, a paysafecard spokesman, told PC Magazine, “paysafecard group is aware of the problem and is doing everything they can to prevent these attempts at fraud. Paysafecard group works in close cooperation with the police, and support the police with their investigations, in order to stop the fraudsters.”

Voetz pointed out that paysafecard issued a press release last year as a warning to its customers. It reads in part: “The paysafecard group distances itself from these attempts and points out that public authorities, institutions, law firms, and courts do not accept paysafecard as a means of payment. Paysafecard should only be used for payments at authorized online shops of official partners. Instructions to pay a fee or a fine by using a paysafecard should never be followed. Those affected should contact the police.”

SAVE YOURSELF

Prevention is the best cure, so keep all software—especially antivirus applications—up to date. Neil Rubenking, PC Magazine’s lead analyst for security, says, “The chance that ransomware or some other type of malware will slip past is slim, if you choose one of our recommended products.” (See the sidebar earlier in this story for our top choices.)

You should back up your data so that you can restore it if your computer does become infected.

You should back up your data so that you can restore it if your computer does become infected. Should the worst occur and ransomware shows up on the screen, Rubenking says your best bet is to attempt cleanup using a bootable rescue CD, something that many security vendors supply for free. “Of course, you’ll have to download and burn the CD on a clean system,” Rubenking points out. “Norton Power Eraser is a good example.”

Rubenking also recommends bootable USB solutions, which are designed for the same issue of not being able to get past a screen. “FixMeStick 2013 boots into its own Linux installation and handles scanning for malware automatically; you don’t have to interact until you give it permission to clean up what it found,” Rubenking says. He adds that HitmanPro 3.7 is specifically designed to fight ransomware threats.

If you’re not comfortable handling the job on your own, contact a professional to do it. “If you somehow get hit with ransomware, absolutely do not pay up,” Rubenking says. “Do not contact the crooks, even if they claim they’re the FBI.” But you should report ransomware to IC3.

ransomware-demand

Chandra Steele

Categories
Articles

Computer Village: Traders Worry Over Relocation

nigerian-geekComputer Village, located in Ikeja, Lagos is arguably the biggest computer and allied products market in the West African sub region. Daily, huge sums of money  exchange hands between buyers and sellers of phones, laptop computers and many other devices in the market. The market has also proven to be one of the biggest employers of labour as thousands of youth struggle to eke out a living by repairing phone and  laptops. However, like most markets in Lagos, Computer Village is always overcrowded and this has been a source of worry for all stake holders in the market.

The Otigba area of Ikeja where the market is located was once a  residential area with no plan to accommodate such a big market but today every house in the area has been converted into shops and offices at very high rates. Due to the thriving phone and computer sales and repair business in the market, even the kitchens of many houses in the area are rented out as shops. On the streets of the market, different sizes of makeshift kiosks litter everywhere. Walking through the market to make a purchase could be a terrible experience.

Mindful of this problem, the Lagos state government announced over three years ago that it wanted to relocate the market to Oke Ado area of the state. The state government planned to relocate the market to Katangowa market in the area and move traders in Katangowa market to another area.

Since the announcement of the relocation plan nothing appears to be happening and there are insinuations that the state government may not be serious about the plan.

P.M.NEWS BusinessWeek findings revealed that the only effort the state government has made concerning the relocation plan is to organise a pre-qualification bid for interested companies for the construction of the Katangowa market. Our checks also revealed that no effort has been made to relocate traders at the Katangowa Market.

Although a source within the government said the plan is on course, most traders who spoke to our correspondent say they are worried over the delay in the relocation plan.

A trader in the market, Johnson Ekwe wondered why three years after the pre-qualification exercise was carried out, no actual bidding exercise has been conducted.

He said: “We were happy when government announced the relocation plan. Our thinking was that within a short period, everything about the relocation will be concluded and work will commence at the site. Really as things stand now, we don’t know if the state government is still serious with the plan. Let government conduct the bidding exercise if they are serious and let the best company be contracted to do the job.”

Another trader, Ifeanyi Okoro believes that there maybe forces behind the scene trying to frustrate the relocation plan.

He said: “I can tell you that not many stakeholders were happy  with this plan to move us to Katangowa market and this is understandable because that part of Lagos is really not conducive for our kind of business. Aside from the fact that the road to the place is terrible, the location is just not good for business. Many people come here from different parts of the state and country to buy things from us because this market is located in a central area. I can assure you not many customers will take the pain to come to Katangowa market since it is on the outskirts of Lagos.  I would not be surprised if some stakeholders who are not happy with that location may be trying to frustrate the plan”.

Another trader who does not want his name mentioned said that owners of buildings in the area who charge exorbitant rent are also not happy with the relocation plan.

The trader who said he pays N750,000 for his shop noted that some owners of buildings in the market are still going around to ask their tenants for advance rent and telling them that the relocation plan will not work.

He said: “My landlord is still asking me to pay advance rent for my shop. When I asked him about the relocation plan, he just simply told me that it may take ages before that plan materialize.”

A landlord, Akeem Lasisi who spoke to our correspondent however said he preferred that the market is relocated as the area has become too congested.

Whether the state government is serious about the relocation of the market or not, it is pertinent to note that previous efforts by government to relocate markets in the state, have not been successful.

Some time in 2010, the state government tried to relocate building material sellers from Coker in Orile Area to Satellite town area. Only a few of the traders relocated to the site while majority remained in the former site. Similarly, the state government  effort to also relocate trader at the Idumota market to another location failed.

It is hope that computer village relocation plan will not suffer the same fate.

PMNEWS