Friday, October 14, 2011

Cyber Criminals Outsourcing Money-Collecting to Mobile Operators

From Gail Reese, Security Intelligence Analyst at Cox Enterprises through ASIS International:

Cybercrime has come a long way since it was mostly a digital form of vandalism. It has developed into a criminal business operated for financial gain and is now worth billions.

In its Community Powered Threat Report for Q3 2011, AVG focuses on some of the most notable cybercrime developments in the last quarter.

Stealing Digital Currency
Digital Currency has become very popular in a short time. Facebook Credits, Xbox Points, Zynga coins and Bitcoin now play a vital role in a multibillion dollar global gaming economy. Far from being just of virtual value, many of these currencies are actively traded for real currency. This has not gone unnoticed by cyber criminals, now aiming to steal digital wallets from people’s computers. In June a digital wallet containing close to US $500,000 was stolen when someone broke into the victim’s computer and transferred most, but not all, of the money out of his wallet.

Outsourcing the Hard Part, Collecting the Money
In a bid to outsource the hassle and risks of collecting the money, cyber criminals are moving beyond credit cards details and are increasingly using mobile phone operators to do the collecting for them. A criminal might install a Trojan on to a victim’s Smartphone that sends premium SMS messages when the owner is asleep. They might use a Face book scam to get hold of people’s phone numbers and sign them up for an expensive monthly phone charge. A victim’s mobile operator will process the charges and transfer the money to the criminal organization, even if they reside on the other side of the world. If and when a victim notices the charge and the mobile operator is alerted to stop processing payments, considerable amounts may already have been stolen. If the amounts are small enough, many victims may not even notice for months.

Eavesdropping on Android
With Android taking almost 50 percent of the world’s Smartphone market share, it is no wonder that cyber criminals consider the platform an attractive target. Most Android malware focuses on making money from premium SMS. However, in July AVG investigated a Trojan that records a victim’s phone conversation and SMS messages and sends them to the attacker’s servers for analysis to identify potential confidential data. This clearly demonstrates the power of modern mobile operating systems but also the tremendous risks unprotected mobile users are open to.

Other key findings in the report:
· Rogue AV Scanner is currently the most active threat on the web
· Exploit Toolkits account for over 30% of all threat activity on malicious websites (‘Fragus’ is most popular, closely followed by ‘Blackhole’)
· Angry Birds Rio Unlocker is the most popular malicious Android application
· The USA is still the largest source of spam, followed by India and Brazil.

“In Q3 we started to see a clear trend in cybercriminals shifting their focus to simplifying money collection,” said Yuval Ben-Itzhak, Chief Technology Officer, AVG Technologies. “Well-organized criminal gangs are now letting mobile phone operators handle the money collecting part by focusing on mobile phones and setting victims up for charges that will appear on their phone bill some time later. Not only is it a lot easier, it also scales to tremendous volumes making money by stealing small amounts from very large groups of victims.”

A recent report authored by the research agency The Future Laboratory reveals that while cybercriminals and malicious programs are becoming increasingly sophisticated and difficult to detect, users are, alarmingly, becoming the weakest link as they are less vigilant about protecting their online devices. The combination of these two factors presents a potentially disastrous cybercrime scenario.

For more details about each of these threats, download the AVG report.
By James E. Lukaszewski

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Obama’s Own Words Diminish His Leadership

He may have the most negative leadership style since Jimmy Carter.

Here’s how he talks (From his speech to the 93rd Annual Convention, American Legion, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 30, 2011):

"Don’t give up!

We Americans have been through tough times before, much tougher times than these. And we didn't just get through them, we emerged stronger than before. Not by luck. Not by chance. But because in hard times, Americans don't quit. We don't give up. We summon the spirit that says, when we come together, we choose to move forward together, there's absolutely nothing we can't achieve."

68 words, 8 negatives.
Mobilizing language is the most powerful tool any leader has. Obama has shown a consistent pattern of disabling his most significant ideas and constructive concepts with needless, negative, demotivational language.

Here’s what he should have said :

Americans have been through tough times before, much tougher times than these, and every time we emerged stronger than before. We made our own luck. We took some chances. That’s because in hard times, Americans always stay the course or choose a new one. We have always joined in a common spirit that when we choose to move forward together, we can overcome any obstacle, any barrier, any distraction to achieve whatever we set our minds and collective energies to accomplishing. It’s time for every American to ask themselves what they can do for America today, and just do it.

Abraham Lincoln knew how to use negative words as powerful image energizers and memorability enhancers.

Here’s the Gettysburg Address:


“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.


But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”



277 words, 7 negative words or phrases, but what a difference.

To be fair, let’s look at what Lincoln could have said had I edited out his negatives:

But, in a larger sense, only the brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, can adequately consecrate this ground. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it must remember what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the work that remains to be done which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall have died so this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government: of the people, by the people, for the people, shall last forever.

You can decide on these:

In the case of Richard Nixon’s famous, "I am not a crook.” If we remove the negative we get, "I am a crook.” The truth.


With President Clinton’s remark, “I did not have sex with that woman.” My edit would have changed history, “I had sex with that woman.” The truth, again.


The lesson: Negative language is always erroneous, error prone, confusing, unclear, wrong, and leads away from the truth. Negative language starts or prolongs all arguments, contentious situations, divorces, and wars. Test it yourself.

Leaders who lead avoid negative language or, like Lincoln, truly know how to use these flammable words correctly.
By James E. Lukaszewski

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Customer Service is Dying in America, But It Can Be Revived.

When you hear companies mindlessly bloviate about their customer service, you really sense the fix is in and you’re interests, needs, concerns and problems are out . . . way out. The relentless and continuing degradation of “customer service” began accelerating about 10 years ago. Yet, there seems to be more talk about customers i.e. delighting them, surprising them, enchanting them, 110 percenting them., yet actual corporate, agency and organization behavior is delivering the opposite. Here are some of the goofiest example.

  1. Comcast: If you subscribed to any of its services, you have learned that the primary way to communicate with this company is through an android voice on a toll free number that tries to probe you for information and determine how it can pass you on to the next android voice or phone tree. It is extremely hard to get a person on the phone at Comcast. It is hard to imagine how this company can continue to promote itself with self-glorifying and self-satisfied comments about customer service when its every move is away from customers and providing direct help. Don’t get me started about its “service guarantee,” hogwash.
  2. JD Power Awards: I bet the last time you took your car to the repair service, as you paid the bill, there was a large sign there warning you about how to fill out the customer satisfaction form when it arrives by email, or by mail. There was undoubtedly also a note that if there was any category in which you couldn’t mark excellent, to talk to someone at the repair shop to get that fixed, so you could mark it excellent. These customer service excellence awards are institutional baloney, and total put-up jobs. If you purchase JD Power Services, you are guaranteed of getting a good result, because you bought it, you performed according to their specifications, and you will therefore own the result. It’s not about customer service; it’s about getting the customers to submit to a disingenuous process. Has JD Power ever published a list of those companies who failed? Any companies admitted it?
  3. Smart Stuff: Whenever you see the adjective “smart” tied to something else, you can count on two things, whatever it is that supposed to be smart probably really isn’t all that smart, and the company providing it is still figuring out what they really mean. This concept is especially prevalent in the utility industry which is talking about all kinds of smart activities from meters that can control your appliances to helping (forcing?) you to manage your energy consumption. There will be bigger bills, sometimes much bigger. Seems the age old monitoring methods and the meters are inaccurate and generally favor the customer. Smart meters work perfectly, remember everything, and will catch every photon of energy you use . . . Many of these ‘smart” services have yet to be invented, even though they are being talked about as if they exist today.
  4. Your local pharmacy: Whether you go to Target, Walgreens, CVS, or any of your major pharmacy, you find that you almost invariably make a second trip. Their inventories are so low, and so thin, probably forced on them by shareholder pressure that they too just assume that you will make a second trip, because, what else are you going to do? And yet, every one of them talks about being your family friendly pharmacy, being a member of your family, being your friend in need, protecting you against dosage error and conflicting medications. Is that how your pharmacy makes you feel? I thought family members bent over backwards to help.
  5. The Email Avalanche: If you have given your email address to any outlet retail, service, or otherwise, you will see an immediate bolus of emails which seems to be unstoppable. Since when does customer service mean filling our e-mailboxes. We need a “do not send” law, with teeth.
  6. My favorite this month is Wells Fargo Bank’s elimination of the deposit envelope. “Go Green” they say, but now, instead of just putting your deposit in a free envelope, then into the friendly 24/7 deposit slot, now you have to use your credit card, stand there and mess around with your deposit put it in the slot yourself in a certain way thus doing the bank’s job for it.. That’s the goal. Eliminate more people (the envelop tellers) and make the customer do the work. What gets greener are the bonuses of the bankers who find ways to fire more employees.
  7. Call centers are fading away. Taking customer calls cost money. Turns out that off shoring call centers has caused other unintended problems. It’s pretty easy to recognize that you are talking to someone from say India or another country. Language problems have become a prime customer irritant. Seniors, who are generally hard of hearing, have difficulty hearing people with accents. The solution has become eliminating people altogether, make the customer go to a web site and figure everything out for themselves. You can “talk live” but it’s really a typing exercise that often ends with the machine telling you to call the 800 number. And the androids take over.

It’s about time someone developed a universal code of customer service so that if a company actually used it, and lived up to it, customers would know, and maybe recommend them.

Here is my attempt at a simple sensible Customer Service Manifesto.

  1. Rather than interpose digital services and servants, genuinely move towards customers and personal contact. The other night my wife and I went to a local spaghetti place, which we do about every six weeks. The waitress came over, smiled and then simply repeated our usual order, then asked if we wanted to make any changes. She apologized for not remembering our drink order but that she probably would by the time we came in again. Holy cow, who cares? What a performance. She was having fun and so were we.
  2. Employ truly independent monitors and service measurement techniques to give the customers an appropriate and accurate assessment of customer service by reliable outside sources. Stop brow beating customers with telephone, web, and other survey techniques.
  3. Set a maximum of one email per week, the criteria being something that is genuinely a bargain, new information, or that customers truly must have to be safer, improve their living circumstances, or their quality of life.
  4. Keep merchandise in Stock. Measure and report publically the number of times customers have to return because stocks were too low. Self penalize when customers don’t get what they ask for. Report this information visibly in store and on website dashboards. Monitor and report customer accountability.
  5. Actually like customers, want them around, appreciate the relationship. Post examples of specific customer friendly, customer service-oriented actions, policies, outcomes and expectations. Show your customer what to expect of you.
  6. Make “live” chats truly live. If they are cyber-chats, then call them cyber-chats. Publish comparison data contrasting true satisfaction and dissatisfaction levels as registered by participants, without prompting.
  7. Be disclosive and candid. Provide lightly moderated forums where customers can freely and publically chat about their experiences.

What would be in your manifesto for customer service? What are your stories of customer abuse? Or obvious goofiness?

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