Thursday, October 21, 2010

This Internet is Your Internet: Digital Citizenship from California to Washtenaw County

In the physical world, basic safety measures are second-nature to almost everyone (look both ways, stop drop and roll!). In the digital world, however, many of us expect security to be handled on our behalf by experts, or come in a single-box solution. Together, we must reset those expectations.

The Internet is the biggest neighborhood in the world. Security-related initiatives in the technology sector and government play an important role in making the Internet safer, but efforts from Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C. alone are not enough. Much of the important work that needs to be done must happen closer to home—wherever that may be.

As part of National Cyber Security Awareness Month I recently traveled from California to Washtenaw County, MI to speak to group of local community leaders, educators, business owners, law enforcement officials and residents who recently formed the Washtenaw Cyber Citizenship Coalition. They are working to create a digitally aware, knowledgeable and more secure community by providing residents with the tools and resources to be good digital citizens. No one in the room self-identified as a “cyber security expert,” but the information sharing that’s happening in Washtenaw County is the kind of holistic effort that can enable everyone to use the Internet more safely and benefit from the great opportunities that it provides.

The Washtenaw Cyber Citizenship Coalition is channeling the community’s efforts through volunteer workgroups in areas such as public/private partnerships, awareness, education and law enforcement. Their strategy is to “share the wheel" whenever possible, instead of recreating it. They’ve collected tips and resources for kids, parents, businesses, educators and crime victims so that citizens can find and access these materials with ease.

If you are interested in raising awareness in your own community,, and are examples of sites that offer such materials for public use.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Protecting your data in the cloud

Like many people, you probably store a lot of important information in your Google Account. I personally check my Gmail account every day (sometimes several times a day) and rely on having access to my mail and contacts wherever I go. Aside from Gmail, my Google Account is tied to lots of other services that help me manage my life and interests: photos, documents, blogs, calendars, and more. That is to say, my Google Account is very valuable to me.

Unfortunately, a Google Account is also valuable in the eyes of spammers and other people looking to do harm. It’s not so much about your specific account, but rather the fact that your friends and family see your Google Account as trustworthy. A perfect example is the “Mugged in London” phishing scam that aims to trick your contacts into wiring money — ostensibly to help you out. If your account is compromised and used to send these messages, your well-meaning friends may find themselves out a chunk of change. If you have sensitive information in your account, it may also be at risk of improper access.

As part of National Cyber Security Awareness month, we want to let you know what you can do to better protect your Google Account.

Stay one step ahead of the bad guys

Account hijackers prey on the bad habits of the average Internet user. Understanding common hijacking techniques and using better security practices will help you stay one step ahead of them.

The most common ways hijackers can get access to your Google password are:
  • Password re-use: You sign up for an account on a third-party site with your Google username and password. If that site is hacked and your sign-in information is discovered, the hijacker has easy access to your Google Account.
  • Malware: You use a computer with infected software that is designed to steal your passwords as you type (“keylogging”) or grab them from your browser’s cache data.
  • Phishing: You respond to a website, email, or phone call that claims to come from a legitimate organization and asks for your username and password.
  • Brute force: You use a password that’s easy to guess, like your first or last name plus your birth date (“Laura1968”), or you provide an answer to a secret question that’s common and therefore easy to guess, like “pizza” for “What is your favorite food?”
As you can see, hijackers have many tactics for stealing your password, and it’s important to be aware of all of them.

Take control of your account security across the web

Online accounts that share passwords are like a line of dominoes: When one falls, it doesn’t take much for the others to fall, too. This is why you should choose unique passwords for important accounts like Gmail (your Google Account), your bank, commerce sites, and social networking sites. We’re also working on technology that adds another layer of protection beyond your password to make your Google Account significantly more secure.

Choosing a unique password is not enough to secure your Google Account against every possible threat. That’s why we’ve created an easy-to-use checklist to help you secure your computer, browser, Gmail, and Google Account. We encourage you to go through the entire checklist, but want to highlight these tips:
  • Never re-use passwords for your important accounts like online banking, email, social networking, and commerce.
  • Change your password periodically, and be sure to do so for important accounts whenever you suspect one of them may have been at risk. Don’t just change your password by a few letters or numbers (“Aquarius5” to “Aquarius6”); change the combination of letters and numbers to something unique each time.
  • Never respond to messages, non-Google websites, or phone calls asking for your Google username or password; a legitimate organization will not ask you for this type of information. Report these messages to us so we can take action. If you responded and can no longer access your account, visit our account recovery page.
We hope you’ll take action to ensure your security across the web, not just on Google. Run regular virus scans, don’t re-use your passwords, and keep your software and account recovery information up to date. These simple yet powerful steps can make a difference when it really counts.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Phishing URLs and XML Notifications

Recently, we announced Safe Browsing Alerts for Network Administrators. Today we’re adding phishing URLs to the notification messages. This means that in addition to being alerted to compromised URLs found on networks, you’ll be alerted to phishing URLs as well.

We’d also like to point out the XML notification feature. By default, we send notification messages in a simple email message. However, we realize that some of you may want to process these notifications by a script, so we’ve added the ability to receive messages in XML format. Click on an AS in your list to modify preferences, such as enabling the XML notification feature. If you decide to use XML email messages, you should familiarize yourself with the XML Schema.

If you’re a network administrator and haven’t yet registered your AS, you can do so here.