Monday, February 21, 2011

Facebook 'improves social skills'

A study has suggested that Facebook can encourage people to be more sociable. The Cambridge University findings go against other studies which suggest using online social networking sites makes people less social. Researchers discovered Facebook gave people more choice on how they conduct relationships and was "a way of storing biography and enhancing social memory". The study showed many people used it to track people they liked or to find out what ex-partners were up to.
Members log on to Facebook to look at profiles and pictures because more information can be gleaned from it than a phone call or letter, the study said. But people also used it to keep in touch with old school and university friends who they might otherwise lose contact with. As a result it could change the way people associated at a fundamental level, meaning former relationships and associations can be revived, according to the study. The findings are based on focus groups with students and interviews. More than 15 people took part in focus groups and seven people had in-depth interviews about Facebook lasting several hours.

Baptist Church targeted by Anonymous

What is Anonymous?

'Anonymous' describes itself as an 'internet gathering'. The term is used to describe a collective of people who come together online, commonly to stage a protest. The groups vary in size and make-up depending on the cause. Members often identify themselves in web videos by wearing the Guy Fawkes masks popularised by the book and film V for Vendetta.Its protests often take the form of disrupting websites and services. Its use of the term Anonymous comes from a series of websites frequented by members, such as the anarchic image board 4Chan.These allow users to post without having to register or provide a name. As a result, their comments are tagged "Anonymous". In the past, groups have staged high-profile protests against plans by the Australian government to filter the internet and the Church of Scientology. Many Anonymous protests tackle issues of free speech and preserving the openness of the net

Hacker group Anonymous appears to have singled out its next target - the controvesial anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church in the US.An open letter, purporting to be from Anonymous, accused the church of bigotry and fanaticism.It warned that Westboro's websites would be attacked if the congregation did not stop its public protests.
In a defiant response, the church said it would not be silenced, and urged Anonymous to "bring it".Westboro Baptist Church has been widely condemned for its aggressive anti-gay campaigning.A number of US states have passed legislation, banning Westboro's members from protesting close to military funerals.The church's leader, pastor Fred Phelps, was banned from entering the UK by the Home Office in 2009.
Activist hackers
Anonymous is known for its "hacktivism", targeting individuals, companies and governments whose behavior it objects to.The group recently crashed a number of Egyptian government websites, in support of the country's pro-democracy protests.
It also attacked several online companies that it believed had helped clamp down on Wikileaks' activity, including Paypal and Amazon.
Pastor Fred Phelps was banned from travelling to the UK in 2009.
Laying out its case against Westboro Baptist Church, the letter said: "We have always regarded you and your ilk as an assembly of graceless sociopaths and maniacal chauvinists & religious zealots, however benign, who act out for the sake of attention & in the name of religion".
Despite being posted on an Anonymous news site, there was some uncertainty surrounding the provenance of the letter.Further messages on the same website questioned its authenticity.The confusion is understandable, according to Graham Cluley from security firm Sophos. "Anonymous is a headless organisation," he said.
Mr Cluley warned that its followers could potentially be led into mounting a major hack under false pretenses."There are dangers in future that someone may pose as Anonymous and say that they want an attack".The Westboro Baptist Church issued a statement, branding Anonymous "a puddle of pimple-faced nerds".It called the threat a "bad miscalculation", and appeared to goad Anonymous to action, with the phrase "bring it!". The church's website, was unavailable.

the latest exposure of Adarsh scam

The milestone of corruption that Maharashtra government has established has tarnished the name of Maharashtra throughout the country. In the last few days Maharashtra government has broken all records of corruption.
With the latest exposure of Adarsh scam, it was found that in the Chief Minister's office, his PA, PS, and close associates were been given flats. Relatives too have been given flats. Mother-in-law of ousted Chief Minister Ashokrao Chavan, Bhagwati Manoharlal Sharma, has been enjoying 850 sq ft of carpet area in 6, Kingston at Powai since year 2001. Ironically, Mrs. Sharma had given an undertaking to the collector of Mumbai at the time of procuring apartment in Adarsh that she or her family has no place in Mumbai. Even though Mrs. Sharma surrendered the Adarsh membership after the exposure but she has retained the Kingston apartment. Although, it clearly speaks about the forgery, no investigation has been made in this regard. For the first time, the racket of de-reservation was opposed in public by present Chief Minister Prthviraj Chavan. He stated very boldly that the land de-reservation racket has created a parallel economy and has pumped in funds for political funding and organised crime syndicates. He went to the extent of stating that his predecessors ignored this racketeering.
The motto of the Urban Land Ceiling Act in the State was preventing the concentration of urban land in the hands of a few persons and speculation and profiteering therein and with a view to bringing about an equitable distribution of land in urban agglomerations to sub serve the common good.
However the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission made it mandatory for the State Government to repeal the Act for bringing to reality the mega-infrastructural projects such as Mumbai Metro, Trans-Harbour and likes. The large portions of land acquired by the Maharashtra Government under this act are still lying vacant with documentary objective being the "good of common man".
Here comes the list of beneficiaries from the Chief Minister's quota since 1989 in the process of allotment under sections 20 and 21 of the ULC Act. Section 20 allows extra ordinary powers to the State Government to exempt surplus land from being acquired, in the interest of the location of the land, and in consideration of the purpose for which the surplus land is proposed to be used whereby acquisition would cause undue hardship to the landowner.
AV possesses detailed information about the government officials who have been allotted flats under the ULC Act from the year 1989. Some of the names in the list includes two children of BJP leader Prakash Jawdekar; one son of Opposition leader Eknath Khadse, wives of Siddharam Mhatre and Dharmarao Baba Atram, son of Minister of State for Urban Development, brother of Narayan and his niece.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

your laptop or smartphone at Wi-Fi hot spots for Hackers

You may think the only people capable of snooping on your Internet activity are government intelligence agents or possibly a talented teenage hacker holed up in his parents’ basement. But some simple software lets just about anyone sitting next to you at your local coffee shop watch you browse the Web and even assume your identity online. “Like it or not, we are now living in a cyberpunk novel,” said Darren Kitchen, a systems administrator for an aerospace company in Richmond, Calif., and the host of Hak5, a video podcast about computer hacking and security. “When people find out how trivial and easy it is to see and even modify what you do online, they are shocked.”
Until recently, only determined and knowledgeable hackers with fancy tools and lots of time on their hands could spy while you used your laptop or smartphone at Wi-Fi hot spots. But a free program called Firesheep, released in October, has made it simple to see what other users of an unsecured Wi-Fi network are doing and then log on as them at the sites they visited.
Without issuing any warnings of the possible threat, website administrators have since been scrambling to provide added protections. “I released Firesheep to show that a core and widespread issue in website security is being ignored,” said Eric Butler, a freelance software developer in Seattle who created the program. “It points out the lack of end-to-end encryption.” What he means is that while the password you initially enter on websites like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Amazon, eBay and The New York Times is encrypted, the Web browser’s cookie, a bit of code that that identifies your computer, your settings on the site or other private information, is often not encrypted. Firesheep grabs that cookie, allowing nosy or malicious users to, in essence, be you on the site and have full access to your account. More than a million people have downloaded the program in the last three months. And it is easy to use. The only sites that are safe from snoopers are those that employ the cryptographic protocol transport layer security or its predecessor, secure sockets layer, throughout your session. PayPal and many banks do this, but a startling number of sites that people trust to safeguard their privacy do not. You know you are shielded from prying eyes if a little lock appears in the corner of your browser or the Web address starts with “https” rather than “http.”
“The usual reason websites give for not encrypting all communication is that it will slow down the site and would be a huge engineering expense,” said Chris Palmer, technology director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an electronic rights advocacy group based in San Francisco. “Yes, there are operational hurdles, but they are solvable.”
Indeed, Gmail made end-to-end encryption its default mode in January 2010. Facebook began to offer the same protection as an opt-in security feature last month, though it is so far available only to a small percentage of users and has limitations. “It’s worth noting that Facebook took this step, but it’s too early to congratulate them,” said Butler, who is frustrated that “https” is not the site’s default setting. “Most people aren’t going to know about it or won’t think it’s important or won’t want to use it when they find out that it disables major applications.” Joe Sullivan, chief security officer at Facebook, said the company was engaged in a “deliberative rollout process,” to access and address any unforeseen difficulties. “We hope to have it available for all users in the next several weeks,” he said, adding that the company was also working to address problems with third-party applications and to make “https” the default setting. Many websites offer some support for encryption via “https,” but they make it difficult to use. To address these problems, the Electronic Frontier Foundation in collaboration with the Tor Project, another group concerned with Internet privacy, released in June an add-on to the browser Firefox, called Https Everywhere. The extension, which can be downloaded at, makes “https” the stubbornly unchangeable default on all sites that support it. Since not all websites have “https” capability, Bill Pennington, chief strategy officer with the web site risk management firm WhiteHat Security in Santa Clara, Calif., said: “I tell people that if you’re doing things with sensitive data, don’t do it at a Wi-Fi hot spot. Do it at home.” But home wireless networks may not be all that safe either, because of free and widely available Wi-Fi cracking programs like Gerix WiFi Cracker, Aircrack-ng and Wifite. The programs work by faking legitimate user activity to collect a series of so-called weak keys or clues to the password. The process is wholly automated, said Kitchen at Hak5, allowing even techno-ignoramuses to recover a wireless router’s password in a matter of seconds. “I’ve yet to find a WEP-protected network not susceptible to this kind of attack,” Kitchen said. A WEP-encrypted password (for wired equivalent privacy) is not as strong as a WPA (or Wi-Fi protected access) password, so it’s best to use a WPA password instead. Even so, hackers can use the same free software programs to get on WPA password-protected networks as well. It just takes much longer (think weeks) and more computer expertise.

Using such programs along with high-powered Wi-Fi antennas, hackers can pull in signals from home networks two to three miles away. There are also some computerised cracking devices with built-in antennas on the market, like WifiRobin ($156). But experts said they were not as fast or effective as the latest free cracking programs, because the devices worked only on WEP-protected networks. To protect yourself, changing the Service Set Identifier or SSID of your wireless network from the default name of your router to something less predictable helps, as does choosing a lengthy and complicated alphanumeric password. Setting up a virtual private network, or VPN, which encrypts all communications you transmit wirelessly whether on your home network or at a hot spot, is even more secure. The data looks like gibberish to a snooper as it travels from your computer to a secure server before it is blasted onto the Internet. Popular VPN providers include VyperVPN, HotSpotVPN and LogMeIn Hamachi. Some are free; others are as much as $18 a month. However, Palmer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation blames poorly designed websites, not vulnerable Wi-Fi connections, for security lapses. “Many popular sites were not designed for security from the beginning, and now we are suffering the consequences,” he said.

Facebook sent a clear message in support of gay and lesbian

The upgrade, which human-rights groups have hailed as a step forward for the LGBT community, will be available to users in U.S., Canada, France, U.K. and Australia.Facebook has added two relationship statuses - ‘civil union’ and ‘in a domestic partnership’ - to help homosexual couples in defining their romantic arrangements on the social networking site.These new options will be available to users in U.S., Canada, France, U.K. and Australia.The Facebook, which has 600 million users worldwide, made the change after consulting with various rights groups, according to the NY Daily News. These two options augment the site’s existing relationship statuses, which include single, in a relationship, in an open relationship, engaged, married, divorced, widowed, and separated.Meanwhile, Human-rights groups have hailed this as significant step forward for the greater equality of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community and of same sex unions.
“I think it’s important to be able to recognise and describe the legal status of same sex couples,” Marriage Equality media director Mollie McKay was as quoted by Daily News.“It’s good visibility and good to show everyone on Facebook that same-sex couples exist, and are denied the status of marriage,” she said.
Same-sex marriage licenses are granted only a few of the fifty states in the U.S. including New Hampshire, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont and Washington DC.These marriages are called “civil unions” or “domestic partnerships” depending on the state. The meaning of both terms also varies in different states.Following the change made by Facebook, Jarrett Barrios, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said “Today, Facebook sent a clear message in support of gay and lesbian couples to users across the globe.”“By acknowledging the relationships of countless loving and committed same-sex couples in the U.S. and abroad, Facebook has set a new standard of inclusion for social media,” he added.In U.S. there are different views on the homosexual relations with some states like New York recogonise it but do not conduct gay marriages.Recently, Barbara Bush publicly disagreed with her father former President George W Bush on gay marriages, when the 29-year-old openly endorsed same-sex marriages in a video for an advocacy group Human Rights Campaign.President Bush has opposed gay marriages. A bill to legalise gay marriage in New York was defeated in 2009.

OpenNet Initiative investigates, surveillance practices

Governments in many parts of the world have been aggressively adopting a new generation of controls aimed at filtering and controlling information flow on the Internet, citing concerns such as cyber security, crime and terrorism, according to the OpenNet Initiative.The OpenNet Initiative, which says it “investigates and analyses Internet filtering and surveillance practices in a credible and non-partisan fashion,” in its updated study released last year titled, “Access Controlled: The Shaping of Power, Rights, and Rule in Cyberspace,” said that it was fast becoming the global norm to control information flow on the Internet. The OpenNet is a collaborative partnership between the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto, the Berkman Centre for Internet and Society at Harvard University, and the Ottawa-based SecDev Group.Asked whether the trend was likely to become more pronounced, given the recent developments in the Middle East, one of the contributors to the study, Ethan Zuckerman, a senior researcher at the Berkman Centre, said, “In general, we see governments becoming more aggressive and more overt about their Internet filtering.”The OpenNet has described the recent Internet blackout in Egypt as ‘just-in-time-blocking' - when information flow is brought to a halt during critical times such as political crises, elections, or social unrest. Discussions have resurfaced about the deployment of 'Internet kill switches,' a way in which nations could snuff out the Internet when such a crisis occurs.“For all the talk of Internet kill switches, turning off the Internet is a relatively easy and unsophisticated thing to do. What is hardest to do is filtering on finer, more granular levels,” Mr. Zuckerman.
The first-generation controls were deployed primarily at Internet “choke points,” places in the network where Internet addresses that had been blacklisted by the authorities could be filtered and blocked. These were mainly the gateways run by the Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The number-based IP addresses connected to particular websites or domain names could be used for the blocking. Keywords could also be used in weeding out proscribed sites or pages. Reports of watchdogs such as the OpenNet and Freedom House indicate that though not pronounced, selective filtering has been a part of the Indian Internet scene. Google's Transparency Report for the first half of 2010 also shows that India is among the nations from where a number of government inquiries for information about users and requests to remove or censor content emanate.“As far as censorship of Internet goes in India it is still first generation in terms of blocking and filtering at the Internet choke points. However, the Indian government has made and is making several moves that continue to undermine privacy and anonymity on the Internet. This has a chilling effect on freedom of expression and information accessing behaviour on the Internet,” says Sunil Abraham, executive director of the Bangalore-based Centre for Internet and Society.Second and third generation techniques of Internet filtering, as described in Access Controlled, are “more subtle, flexible, and even offensive in character,” often using legal regulations to supplement or legitimise technical filtering measures, extralegal or covert practices. These include the use of viruses to infiltrate computer systems, the launching of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks and surveillance at strategic points in the Internet and telecommunications infrastructure. The DDoS attacks involve directing traffic of such large volume at targeted sites during a particular period, in order to crash them, or keep them largely inaccessible. Counter-information campaigns could also be mounted, supplemented by policy measures and other strategies, including legal ones.Governments have also been assiduously building up capabilities for monitoring and intercepting the large volume of information that flows on the Internet, including email, which mostly flows through the infrastructure of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Internet exchange points. In the Indian context, the I.T. Act “along with the ISP licences allows for blanket surveillance and also data retention,” says Mr. Abraham.It is difficult to say if this sort of monitoring and interception is really effective in countering terrorism and other national security threats, says Mr. Zuckerman. “I don't believe trading privacy for security is a fair trade.”