Ask Marian Blog

Ask Marian Blog

Hello loyal readers, 

 

I want to update you on the status of this blog and the content found here. We will be transitioning the focus to support our newly launched Symantec Cyber Career Connection initiative, as well as related cybersecurity educational programs around the world. I expect the shift to occur in September so stay tuned. 

CGI America #JobOne participants on stage with Hillary Clinton.jpg



Meanwhile, click through to learn more about why Secretary Hillary Clinton is on stage with a Symantec executive, Aled Miles!

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Update on Child Identity Theft Bills in The United States

by ‎10-08-2013 01:15 PM - edited ‎10-08-2013 01:16 PM

shutterstock_48106810.jpgSince I last wrote on the topic of child identity theft legislation in April, a few states have made progress on the topic, following the lead of Maryland where the concept was introduced. 

 

  • Delaware
  • Utah
  • Oregon
  • Florida
  • Wisconsin
  • California
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shutterstock_140097553.jpgAs part of my role, I travel the world briefing media and international colleagues on safer internet use, news and trends. Earlier this year I visited the UK and we discussed our observations that more often than not, parents are either sharing the teaching of internet safety to the kids or moms are taking the primary role. It used to be, in the old days, that anything to do with technology was the purview of the fathers, but apparently that is changing. I often advocate that both parents have “the Talk” about internet safety with children from the very beginning of their use of the internet or technology and keep on sharing that responsibility as their children grow up and interests change. Inspired by this thought, the UK team undertook a piece of research to see if that was indeed the case. 

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10th anniversary.jpgTake a moment to think where you were ten years ago and what your computer and internet experience was like. If you can, you’ll remember the work you had cleaning up your email from the deluge of spam messages and the frequency of big virus outbreaks like “ILoveYou”; “Anna Kournikova” and “Code Red”. And when things went wrong, it always felt like your responsibility alone to clean the computer, remove the threat and fix the damage. You weren’t the only one who thought things had to change. Every October, since 2003, we recognize as National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM). shutterstock_124167640.jpgNCSAM was first launched ten years ago, a joint effort by the US Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance (Symantec is a founding member). We work together to increase awareness of cyber security issues and help educate people on how to enjoy the internet and being constantly connected with safety. The threats keep changing but the need for online vigilance never goes away. Ok, we need a cute puppy photo break. 

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shutterstock_122004016.jpgThis is big. The 4th annual, global research effort known as The Norton Report (previously known as the Norton Cybercrime Report) has been released.  While we found that the global cost of cybercrime grew only a small amount (to $113 billion), the number of victims actually went down. Fewer victims may seem like a positive trend but unfortunately this is explained by a 50% increase in the per person cost of cybercrime. And this trend is fully consistent with the findings in the Symantec Internet Security Threat Report, that cybercriminals are using more carefully targeted and increasingly social forms of threats. Additionally, fewer mobile device users are choosing to engage in even the most basic safety measures in comparison with their behavior on desktops and laptops. As we go increasingly mobile, we must up our game in protecting our online selves.

 

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shutterstock_155197361.jpgAnytime the venerable EU Kids Online team comes out with new research, it’s an opportunity to print it out (on two sided paper, of course), get a cup of the good coffee and settle in for a read. You are guaranteed to read thoughtful, considerate paragraphs about some aspect of children’s use of technology that you’ve been thinking about and wished someone would investigate. The latest bit is no exception: what is happening with the very young children, aged birth to eight, using the Internet on touchscreen devices and should we be paying more attention? The report is titled “Zero to Eight: Young Children and Their Internet Use.”

 

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shutterstock_127674782.jpgSome are calling it the online “eraser button”. A new law signed yesterday by California governor Jerry Brown will allow under age youth to remove posts and photos they regret putting on their social media accounts. It requires the websites to allow anyone under 18 to remove their own material and to provide instructions on how to do so. Additionally the bill offers additional advertising constraints for sites directed at serving youth under the age of 18, restricting the display of inappropriate advertising for goods like alcohol, tobacco, weapons and gambling sites.

 

The primary intent is clearly to help kids do a better job of managing their digital footprint. Whether to undo social harm that might be considered cyberbullying or to improve their online reputation prior to applying for a job or college, the ability to remove embarrassing stuff sounds like a great thing. But is it?

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Facebook "Likes" Have Monetary Value

by ‎08-29-2013 01:00 PM - edited ‎08-29-2013 01:01 PM

It’s a typical day on your favorite social network. You see that one of your friends has commented on a photo you can see. You notice that this photo has over 30,000 likes, and more than 100,000 comments. Another 7,000 plus people have shared the amazing photo. There’s an instruction to type the number “1” into the comments space “to see what happens to the image.” In the example I show you here, the photo is of an enormous sinkhole in the middle of an urban landscape. Who wouldn’t be curious what might happen to the image? So it’s not that odd that so many people have apparently followed the instructions.

 Picture1.jpg

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shutterstock_58598560.jpgGetting infected with malware is always a painful experience but new variants of old threats are using new techniques both to spread and cause harm. One such malware is a botnet that infects computers, creating a hidden file storage area for its files and opening a port for ongoing peer to peer communication. This means the infected computer can get updates from the malware author, either to cause more harm or to for the malware to be redesigned to avoid detection. You may recognize the communication method as a form of peer to peer (P2P) network that is often used to share music and video files among fan groups. Here that network communication method is taken advantage of by the malware authors to avoid setting up servers to send out instructions to infected computers. This may help them control better and avoid detection longer.

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shutterstock_23735986.jpgImagine you are in Africa on a photo safari. You’re in your 4WD vehicle, upwind of the animals who are gathering at a pool of clear water. Zebras and water buffalo herds claim their section of the shoreline, while in the distant tall grass, a pride of lions waits. The vulnerability of the animals drinking at the watering hole is something well understood and the reason tourists are often brought nearby to await the inevitable “circle of life” drama.

 

Now, imagine you are the online version of a predator or more commonly known as a cybercriminal. If you can infect a popular website where like-minded people come for information, perhaps on a political topic, a social cause or for information about a conference, you can target a particular group via malware. In last year’s Internet Security Threat Report, Symantec researchers found that the “watering hole” technique was being used increasingly to attack small business, often as a stepping stone towards infecting large enterprise targets.

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Keep Your Social Media Footprint Private

by ‎07-05-2013 08:00 AM - edited ‎08-13-2013 10:39 AM

Ever posted something on Facebook only to regret it and run to delete it? Now that everyone and their grandma is on Facebook (seriously, your grandmother just created her profile!) it’s never been more important to conduct your social networking in a mindful way. You’ve heard the warnings about not posting photos of your wild night on the town or ranting about how dumb your boss is, yet people continue to commit these mistakes day in and day out. We use Facebook and other social networks so frequently, uploading photos, checking into locations, tagging friends, using geo-location services; we fail to realize the digital trail we’re creating. In fact, you might think of your collective social media use as your personal vault – which simply gives the facts, ma’am, making no judgment of your online risks and blunders, just recording the data.

 

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shutterstock_112023848.jpgWhether the issue is cyberbullying, plagiarism or simply a shared desire to teach our children the best way to use technology, most schools are incorporating some form of “digital literacy” in their curriculum. But what is the best way to do this? Which programs have a lasting impact on the children, helping them gain new skills and understanding that translates into safe, kinder, more effective online behaviors? Before we select a speaker for a one-time assembly, distribute fliers and literature to parents or recommend filters, it’s important we have good data on which programs work best.

 

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detail_info copy-page-0.jpgIt’s remarkable how quickly we’ve become dependent on our mobile devices to handle most if not all of our computing needs. Most of us now realize how critical it is to secure your device (physically) and the important data and apps as well. Set a screen lock password; put your other telephone number on the back; and install mobile security software that includes an anti-theft feature.

 

Remember our Honey Stick project where we “left” 50 specially monitored smartphones all over the US? My key takeaway was that although many people will do the right thing with a lost phone (50% tried to return it); humans are curious creatures who (if they think they can) will go through your private information (96% snooped on the found phone’s private apps and info). That means the most important thing you can do is prepare for the possibility your phone will be lost or stolen by taking action now! (35% of adults in the Norton Cybercrime Report have had their phone lost or stolen.) Two-thirds of us don’t have a security solution on our phones; something that really needs to change.

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Back when I was in high school, I used to wear a gold “Superman” logo on a necklace. I told people it was because my last name began with an “S”, but the real reason was that I thought Superman was cool. I loved (and still do) the idea that hidden among all of us “regular folks” is a superhero with the potential to keep us safe from our enemies; who rescues innocents from everyday harm and rocks his everyday job as a journalist. How vivid the symbolism was for the Cold War era but it still resonates today when you consider how easily any of us can be destroyed by the evil lurking online.

 

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Summer Time Can Be Internet Danger Free If You Pay Attention

by ‎06-14-2013 08:00 AM - edited ‎06-26-2013 12:49 AM

shutterstock_98049197.jpgJune is a funny month for most moms and dads of school-aged kids. You are so happy to be getting near the end of a school-year’s homework assignments, classroom activities, field trip permission slips, and carpool arrangements. OK, maybe that’s just me. There’s also the slight sense of panic most of us feel as we try to line up a healthy assortment of summer activities – enough to keep the kids busy but still enjoying the break from formal education. Maybe that means summer camp, swimming lessons, art classes, sports programs or a long family vacation, but for most kids, the summer months also means a significant increase in time spent online. Even with the best of intentions, there will be hours, days, weeks where your child may not have an organized activity to keep their interest from wavering. So they will naturally gravitate to the online world where so many new adventures await.

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Norton_Modern Fan_Mobile Crowd 2.jpgIt’s been a few years since I attended a destination music festival, but going to the second US festival in 1983 was one of the highlights of my college years. I remember it was very hot, we saw an incredible array of stellar performances, toured some exhibits with cutting edge personal computers and other technology and had a simply wonderful time. Hard to believe, but back then, we bought our tickets at a ticket broker’s office, we carried wallets and cameras and it was only days later we could show people our photos once we’d had the film developed.

 

Now, of course, the Modern Fan enjoys (if they want to) a connected experience they can share with their friends in their social networks. You can purchase your tickets online. (Take care, lots of people get scammed in dodgy online ticket schemes. Stick to trusted ticket vendors and online shops).  You can download apps created just for the event to help you schedule what acts you’ll see, where you’ll buy food, even to arrange meet-ups with friends or fellow fans. I tried out a specialty app like that at the most recent Presidential Inauguration. It was a great way to find good routes for taking the Washington DC Metro, planning our viewing spot for the Inauguration itself and later, making our way to our viewing spot for the parade. Apps can be tricky though; the one for the Inauguration kept texting alerts about closed streets and missing children, running my phone’s battery down until I reconfigured the settings. Make sure you configure the alert and update settings to avoid that problem.

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“Teens Getting Tired of Facebook Drama”shutterstock_87269020.jpg

“Teenagers Hate Facebook but They’re Not Logging Off”

“Teens Cooling on Facebook but Warming to Twitter”

“Facebook Losing Ground with Younger Audiences”

 

Many of the headlines for the latest Pew Center research study of teens and privacy and social media have mistakenly described teens as leaving Facebook for Twitter. That’s not the story. Facebook’s market penetration continues to grow, though very slowly, while Twitter has gained significant momentum. The very reasonable explanation from teens themselves is that there are too many parents and other adults and Facebook tends to harbor peer-driven “drama”. This has made it 
sometimes a difficult environment, and teens are mixing it up with new apps and sites . They are joining social media services like Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and enjoying the more immediate or more fun activities each of those are known for.

 

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shutterstock_117254947.jpgNote: this blog entry was written and posted before Monday's devastating tornado in Oklahoma. My family has been in Oklahoma since before Statehood and I care deeply for its people. Please join me in sending thoughts and prayers to those hurt by the storm's fury. And if you are moved to donate financially, please be sure to select charities with care and avoid falling for Internet scam efforts. 

 

Small businesses are the economic backbone of this country. Yet, in the aftermath of manmade or natural disasters, an astounding 40% of small businesses never reopen. It doesn’t have to be this way; with preparation, organization and practice, owners and employees of small businesses can secure their future, despite what may come their way. In this 50th year of National Small Business Week, it’s the right time to put your plan together and into practice. The tips and advice here and at the websites I link to are also terrific resources and ideas for your home life, to make sure your family is safe and your important personal information secured.

 

56% of small businesses lack an emergency plan (source 2012 Ad Council survey)

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Happy Earth Day!

by on ‎04-22-2013 09:30 AM

Earth Day is celebrated around the world each year on April 22nd. It’s a great opportunity to consider what we each do in our daily lives that may negatively impact the environment, either through pollution, excess use of precious natural resources, or other unthinking actions. None of us would purposely damage our home but it’s easy to get busy living life and working hard and missing the small ways we can each make a difference.shutterstock_126393005.jpg

 

Given the amount of time I spend in airplanes, I know that my street “cred” in the environmental world is likely null. I do enjoy my work and vacation travels so I do what I can to offset all that jet fuel being burned. I’ve always been interested in the technology of electric cars and went on my first test drive of one back in 1997. I finally got one last year, selecting the zippy little Nissan Leaf. I’m the first to admit that having an electric car, with its limited range, might not be for everyone. Yet, I love it! And in 12 months, I haven’t had to visit a gas station except for refueling a rental car on a trip. We estimate it costs us about $5/week to charge it, assuming I charge it twice. We also supplement our family’s power needs with solar panels on our roof, so I like to think I drive California sunshine to work. And the solar panels supply nearly 50% of our total energy need.

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Cyberbullying - the scourge of today's Internet connected teen but what can you do about it? 

 

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Boston Marathon-Related Cybercrime - Be Careful!

by ‎04-17-2013 02:01 PM - edited ‎04-17-2013 02:26 PM

boston marathon spam.jpgIn this hyper-connected world, even if you were thousands of miles from Boston, you were impacted by the blast of vicious bombs at this week’s Boston Marathon attack. Many of us were riveted by television coverage or online reporting of the terrible tragedy. Undoubtedly, some of you may have already received malicious spam emails that started flooding global inboxes, and malicious links appearing in your social networks. Be cautious and be careful about what you open, link, promote or click on! (In the case of the malware-laden emails we’ve seen, you can be sure your Norton and Symantec products will protect you!)

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Let's Stop Child Identity Theft Now!

by ‎04-17-2013 08:00 AM - edited ‎04-16-2013 02:23 PM

shutterstock_58302421.jpgImagine you are graduating high school and you’ve just celebrated your 18th birthday. In anticipation of starting college in the fall, you begin applying for student loans. The first loan application is returned as “denied” because apparently you have too much debt already. You think it must be a mistake and with your parent’s guidance, you order your very first credit report to see what is going on. What you find chills you to the bone; someone has been using your credit information to take out loans, purchase cars, and use credit cards. Several accounts are in collection and the score is very, very low. Your credit is ruined!

 

Child identity theft is a growing problem yet one with a solution. Let’s consider how the stage is set for such bad actors to perform against us. Since 1986, with the passing of the Tax Reform Act, a child over the age of 5 claimed as a dependent on your income tax required a Social Security number. In 1990, the age was lowered to 1 year, and now most parents apply for the Social Security number via the birth certificate paperwork. As the child grows up, various organizations and institutions require the parents to provide the Social Security number to prove the identity of the child. Elementary schools, doctors’ offices, summer camps and banks all may ask for this information on their documents. This increases the number of hands through which this very private information flows, allowing people with criminal intent to gain all the private information necessary to access your minor child’s information and untapped credit file.

 

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Debunking Cyber Security Myths

by ‎04-15-2013 09:01 PM - edited ‎04-12-2013 02:40 PM

shutterstock_46954432.jpgHow did you decide where to live? You probably wanted a good neighborhood close to your work or local shops, maybe in a top school district. I’ll bet you gave it a lot of thought and did your research. But, even if you are lucky enough to live in a safe area with low crime rates, you probably still lock your house when you go out and check the door before you open it to a stranger. We take certain precautions to ensure our safety.

 

It’s the same for our lives online. There are Internet “street smarts” you have to learn in order to stay safe and protected from the growing threat of cybercrime. What many of us believe about cybercrime is often hearsay, and can be out-of-date or simply untrue, and believing those cyber security myths can lead to big security problems. The latest version of Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report is out today, bringing new insights on the latest online threats and debunking some persistent myths about cyber security.

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When I was a young working mother and email was still relatively new, there was a popular e-newsletter with easy household cleaning ideas for harried moms (and dads). Each day, you’d get a tip or an idea of something in the house to clean or organize. The idea was if you addressed one or two items per day, you’d never get overwhelmed and your house would have minimal clutter and mess. At least that was the idea, since I’d usually ignore the emails for days at a time and then go overboard in a frenzy of once-a-month cleaning.1-shutterstock_69658996.jpg

 

These days, we’re a much more organized family, and with the kids helping us (and the regular weekly visit from our cleaning person), we’ve got the dust bunnies and cobwebs at bay, the laundry folded and put away and the hint of lemon scented furniture polish in the air. Where I still need to stay on top of household chores is with our computers and our so-called “digital life.” Whether it’s emptying my trash folder, running a full security scan or making sure our family photos are backed up, I try not to let digital devices slip off my list of things to clean and maintain.

 

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shutterstock_97358942.jpgI can feel it, can’t you? Spring is coming! We’ve reset our clocks, had the official first day of spring and I’ve even seen a few tulips blooming in the front yard. For some of you lucky folks, that might also mean you have some family travel coming up for Spring Break. Whether you’re headed for beach fun, snow slopes or a city break – and whether you’re going with friends, family or on your own – a little research and some preparation can make traveling with your technology a breeze.  

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1-shutterstock_78290122.jpgA few weeks ago, I traveled to meet with cyber bullying experts and media in three Asian cities: Tokyo, Hong Kong and Beijing. I also had several conversations with parents in each market that furthered my knowledge of just how similar the online safety issues are around the world. For example, in each city, at least one parent had cause to state a version of “my child knows more about technology than I do.” Even in the high-tech capital of the world, Tokyo, I met parents who were unsure of how to manage the devices and mobile access their children have to the Internet. At the very least, maybe we can all stop beating ourselves up at failing to be full time experts with technology and reassure ourselves that through application of time-tested parenting techniques, we can get a handle on this 21st century issue.

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shutterstock_94628512.jpgI know I’m blessed and lucky to have been born in the United States. Our country, though far from perfect, offers so many wonderful opportunities for women. I’ve certainly benefitted from these freedoms:  I attended public schools through high school; had thousands of colleges and universities to consider for my higher education and was able to move into a new career as my interests evolved. And I’m indebted to the women who preceded me who fought for the vote and for equal rights in the workplace. As a woman with a family and a full time career in the high tech industry, I have a front row seat to the changes the Internet has brought in our lives.  I can order groceries from a website and have them delivered to my home. I can search for a new job online. The economic impact of having the Internet at home, on my mobile devices and at work is significant. I can be more productive using my computer to work; I have a wider network of colleagues using social, alumni and professional networks; I’m able to be a smarter consumer by researching purchases and investment opportunities; and potentially I can learn to be a better parent, simply by accessing the wealth of information available online.

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1-shutterstock_84774754-001.jpgIf you were to think of software like you would a houseplant, maybe it would be more natural to keep it patched and up-to-date. To take care of your plant, you’re supposed to water it, turn it in the sun for it to grow evenly and occasionally mist the plant’s leaves or add fertilizer.  And when I say “software,” I don’t just mean security software, which most users understand  will only keep you safe  when it has the latest protection files. No, all software is, by its very nature, imperfect. Software is almost like a living thing. Program code is written by one person, the Developer, and then tested by another person in Quality Assurance. And later, after the software is in the hands of the user, it may need updates to add support for newly introduced operating systems. An updated version of the software may have new features or fixes to bugs missed in earlier versions. One way to deliver fixes and updates is to issue a software patch.  If software were a houseplant, patches would be the ongoing care and feeding you provide; the water, sunlight and other treatments.

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shutterstock_70239964.jpgFor every parent who has ever felt frustrated at understanding technology, there's a teen who looks on in amusement. Or does that version of the digital divide feel foreign to you? In any event, a study from Young And Well in Australia titled "Enhancing Parents' Knowledge and Practice of Online Safety" has just come out and includes a list I just had to share with all of you. Be sure to read the full report, filled with ideas about how parents can do a better job understanding online risk for their kids and improving trust through communication. (Sounds like "The Talk" is still in vogue!)

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Add the name “Bamital” to the list of oddball terms like Waledec, Rustock, Kelihos, Zeus and Nitol. All are bot networks taken down over the past 2 and a half years by Microsoft in partnership with law enforcement and security companies like Norton by Symantec.  You can read about the event here or on our Symantec Response blog.shutterstock_111067085.jpg

 

If you are a loyal Norton customer with fully protected computers, count yourself among the majority of computer users who missed out on the Bamital fun. The million or so folks around the globe who got infected with this malware likely never knew its name before today. Their unprotected computer was probably infected by an unlucky visit to an infected website, a type of infection known as drive-by download. Or they were members of a peer-to-peer network and downloaded the malicious file (probably thinking it was something desirable). Once installed on your computer, Bamital prevents web traffic from operating normally. Instead, if you conduct a web search and try to click on the resulting links, you are taken to fake websites set up by the crooks. The main objective was to generate web traffic and gain revenue from advertising networks. It gets a little confusing so please watch our video to better understand how this might work.

 

What about the takedown announced today? Did a bunch of GI men burst into a backroom of a bar where the cyber crooks had their lair? That only happens in the movies, my friend. But there is drama of a different sort.

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