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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

When a Simple Prayer Wasn't Answered--Or Was it?


Trusting God--Even in the Little Things!

This week I had a super busy day. First, a doctor appointment which ran late and put me behind schedule. I'd hoped I wouldn't be pushed making the next leg of my journey--lunch on the go as I drove to Portland, OR. I had an appt. at the Apple Store as my phone had quit working. By the time I hit the freeway I only had an hour and ten minutes to make my appt., and it was a full hour drive to where I'd park and catch the Max rail system going into downtown.

Once I finished at the Apple Store, I still had to make my way back to my car and rush to the airport to pick up my mother from an incoming flight. Have you ever prayed for a parking space in an area you KNOW can be difficult to find one? Well, I did. For the five minutes or so before arriving at the large parking lot near the Max stop I prayed. The trams run about every 6-8 minutes and catching one right after I arrived would make the difference in my making my appt or being late--and Apple doesn't hold your appointment more than 5 minutes. You're late, you miss your slot. Too bad.

I pulled into the lot, continuing to pray God would open a spot close to the crosswalk and not far from where I needed to board. I didn't understand WHY I found one at the farthest edge of the lot. I ran, literally, as I saw the train pulled up and loading. I got there about 30 seconds too late.

That meant at least a 6 minute wait. I'd be late. I waited, wondering if I should catch the red train coming next, instead of waiting for the green one 6 minutes later. Both were heading west, surely the red would be fine? A young man--college age--was waiting a few feet away, so I asked him if he knew if I should take the red line, explaining where I needed to go. Nope. I'd end up zipping right past my stop, as that car went non-stop to a destination farther west.

I got on the correct car and we headed out, but I still wasn't certain about my stop. The store told me 5th and Morrison. Several stops later I saw the sign flash saying 5th was coming up. I checked with the young man again who sat nearby--did he think I should take that stop, even though it didn't say Morrison. Nope. I'd be walking at least a mile if I did. 5th ran east and west, and we were following it west. We chatted all the way to my stop--his name is Omar, I learned--and a student at a nearby college getting his teaching degree. He showed me where to get off, right across the street from the Apple Store.

Yep, I missed my appt., but it didn't matter. They had an open slot 6 minutes after I arrived. If the Lord had answered my prayer and given me that parking place, I'd have either gotten on the wrong train and ended up miles past my destination, or gotten on the right train, and exited a mile or so early, and been walking. God knows what I need even when I don't think he's listening. I'm so glad He's God and I can trust Him with every detail of my life!!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Facebook Threats You Need to Know About

Biggest Facebook Security Threats

by Kathy Kristof
Friday, March 18, 2011

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Forget those phishing emails that attempt to get your credit card or bank sign-in information. When crooks want to know how to get into your bank account, they post a message on Facebook. These messages appear so innocuous and so appropriate in the Facebook setting that you are likely to not only get conned, but pass on the scam.

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Facebook is the new frontier for fraud, says Tom Clare, head of product marketing at Blue Coat, an Internet security company that does annual reports on web threats. In just this past year social networks have soared to 4th from 17th most treacherous web terrain -- behind porn and software-sharing sites, which you probably know to avoid.

What makes Facebook so treacherous? Us.

It starts with the fact that we are inundated with requests to set up passwords to get into our work computers, our online bank accounts, Facebook and every other web-based subscription. So what do we do? We use the same password.

"Crooks understand that most users use the same password for everything," says Clare. "If they can get your user credentials for your Facebook account, there's a good chance that they have the password for your bank account."

If you are smart enough to have separate passwords for Facebook and your financial accounts, crooks get at you through a variety phishing attempts that you might think are Facebook games and widgets. But look closely and you'll realize that they deliver answers to all of your bank's security questions -- and possibly clues to your passwords -- right into the hands of the crooks.

Think it couldn't happen to you? Let's see if you recognize any of these recent Facebook messages that jeopardize your security. All of these came from my Facebook friends in just the past few weeks:

1. Who knows you best?

The message reads:

Can you do this? My middle name __________, my age ___, my favorite soda _______, my birthday ___/___/___, whose the love of my life ______, my best friend _____, my favorite color ______, my eye color _______, my hair color ______ my favorite food ________ and my mom's name __________. Put this as your status and see who knows you best.

How many of these are the same facts your bank asks to verify your identity? Put this as your status and everybody -- including all the people who want to hijack your bank account and credit cards -- will know you well enough to make a viable attempt.

2. Your friend [Name here] just answered a question about you!

Was it possible that an old friend answered a question about me that I needed to "unlock?" Absolutely. But when you click on the link, the next screen should give you pause: 21 Questions is requesting permission to ... (a) access your name, profile picture, gender, networks, user ID, friends and any other information shared with everyone ... (b) send you email ... (c) post to your wall ... and ... (d) access your data any time ... regardless of whether or not you're using their application.

Can you take that access back -- ever? It sure doesn't look like it. There's no reference to how you can stop them from future access to your data in their "terms and conditions." Worse, it appears that to "unlock" the answer in your friend's post, you need to answer a bunch of questions about your other friends and violate their privacy too. I didn't give 21 Questions access to my information, but the roughly 850 people who joined "People Who Hate 21 Questions on Facebook" apparently have and can give you insight into just how pernicious this program can be.

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3. LOL. Look at the video I found of you!

This is the most dangerous of all the spam messages and it comes in a variety of forms, says Clare. It's actually a bid to surreptitiously install malware on your computer. This malware can track your computer keystrokes and record your sign-in and password information with all of your online accounts.

How does it work? When you click on the link, it says that you need to upgrade your video player to see the clip. If you hit the "upgrade" button, it opens your computer to the crooks, who ship in their software. You may be completely unaware of it until you start seeing strange charges hit your credit cards or bank account. Up-to-date security software should stop the download. If you don't have that, watch out.

Better yet, if you really think some friend is sending you a video clip, double-check with the friend to be sure before you click on the link. When I messaged my high-school classmate to ask if she'd really sent this, she was horrified. Her Facebook account had been hijacked and anyone who clicked through was likely to have their account hijacked too. That's how this virus spreads virally.

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4. We're stuck!

It started out as an email scam, but now the "We're stuck in [Europe/Asia/Canada] and need money" scam has moved to instant messages on Facebook, where it can be more effective. Most people have learned not to react to the email, but instant messages help crooks by forcing you to react emotionally -- They're right there. They need help, now. A friend got one of these messages last week from the parents of a close friend. Her reaction was the perfect way to deal with it: She immediately called her friend and said "Have you talked to your parents lately?" The response: "Yeah. They're right here."

Facebook has launched a security system to combat account hijacking that allows crooks to send messages and posts through your account. You can get updates on what they're doing at Facebook's security page, where they've also got a nice little security quiz that's definitely worth taking.

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