Hundreds of Fake Pokémon Go Apps Delivering Malware

MONTREAL CANADA - JULY 14 : Pokemon Go on Samsung s7 screen. Pokemon Go a free-to-play augmented reality mobile game developed by Niantic for iOS and Android devices.

Patience is a virtue and right now it’s a really good quality to have if you have not been able to get your copy of the Pokémon Go app from your app store. It seems there is so much demand for the little virtual creatures that servers are overloaded and crashing, leaving players disappointed and scammers excited.

Because of the inability for some to get the game, scammers are putting up fake versions of it everywhere. Some of them merely crash the device causing the user to reboot or restore their devices; some hold it for ransom and others connect the device to porn sites and ads. More than 215 unofficial versions of the app have been discovered and some of them are in app stores.

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Make sure to read reviews for this and any other app you are considering putting onto your devices. Read both negative and positive ones. If there is anything wrong with the app, it’ll likely be there.

When you do get the Pokémon Go app, it should be from the official developer, which is Niantic, Inc. If anyone else is listed as the developer, it could be a fake. Some of these promise user guides and cheats for the game, but are really just aiming to push pornographic ads to you. Make sure to investigate thoroughly before downloading anything.

Despite some fake versions being in the app stores, it is still less risky to get apps from those than by downloading them from other sites (also called sideloading). They go through more testing and scrutiny before being allowed into the stores. However, nothing is perfect so make sure to get them from the reputable sources.

These are not the only issues with the popular game lately. Last week two men fell from off a cliff while playing the game in San Diego, a man in New York crashed his car into a tree while playing, and a girl in Wyoming stumbled upon a dead body while searching for Pokémon.  Remember not only to use caution when downloading digital content, but keep your head up when using it too.

© Copyright 2016 Stickley on Security

Game of Thrones Phishing Scam

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Viewers trying to watch the hit HBO series Game of Thrones illegally are the recent group being targeted by phishing scammers. In this case, the scammers are specifically trying to trick those who are pirating the series into thinking they are acting on behalf of HBO and it’s piracy firm, IP-Echelon. (Actual phishing email shown below)

Let’s be clear. HBO and IP-Echelon do indeed try to take down pirates, but in this case the demands are fake. The dialogue tries to catch unsuspecting downloaders of the Game of Thrones series and it is possible that the scammers are taking IP addresses from real torrent swarms. However, should this happen to you, contact the senders by calling the phone number on the alleged sender’s official website. Don’t use any information included in the notice. Also, hover over links in the messages and see where they lead. If they don’t go where you would expect, such as to an address on IP-Echelon’s or HBO’s domain, they likely are not real.

In this case, the scammers ask for a fee to make demands go away and send a notice stating, “You have 72 hours to access the settlement offer and settle online. If you fail to settle, the claim(s) will be referred to our attorneys for legal action. At that point the original settlement offer will no longer be and option and the amount will increase as a result of us having to involve our attorneys.”

Popular games and other entertainment are often used as bait for phishing scams. The World Cup and Olympics are always big lures and scammers also take advantage of tragedies such as the death of a celebrity or a natural disaster. Always pay attention to email messages and ads you see while using the Internet. Adware often is used for phishing for information, but can also contain malware. The recent madness surrounding the Pokémon Go game is likely to trigger phishing as well, so be on the lookout.

Besides avoiding clicking any links that you are not 100% certain are legitimate, be sure to verify any demand notice for anything is real before sending any money.  And of course the recommended action is to not pirate copyrighted material in the first place. In that case, if you receive a demand notice you will know right away that it’s fake.

© Copyright 2016 Stickley on Security

Making Financial Literacy Fun

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What important lessons will you teach your child this summer? Riding a bike? Sharing with others? How about teaching them important financial skills.

Financial literacy may not immediately come to mind when parents think of essential skills for students, but what children know about money at a young age can shape the way they manage money in adulthood. In fact, a 2015 study by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) found that credit scores among young adults improved in states with mandatory financial education.

However, not all states implement financial education. So how do we close the gap between what American students currently know about money and what they need to know?

Edutainment – one of the key personal finance instruction tactics that Visa uses to reach people of all ages – is an innovative learning method that strikes a balance between education and entertainment. Students can learn financial lessons without feeling like they’re studying, and edutainment can help them retain the information better. According to a 2013 study commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, students who played educational games in addition to the standard curriculum performed better on tests than students who didn’t.

Here are a few simple ways your child can learn about money this summer.

Learn together: Mymoney.gov offers activities and lessons for all ages, ranging from fun cartoons about American coins to guides on how to budget effectively. The website features World of Cents, a child-friendly game for ages 5 and up designed to help teach the value of money through the concepts of earning, saving and spending money, while incorporating basic math concepts.

Begin with the basics: Knowing the value of money is essential to financial literacy. The sooner children learn how much everyday items are worth, the better. Visa’s Practical Money Skills initiative has developed a game, Peter Pig’s Money Counter, which helps children improve basic financial skills such as sorting and counting coins to learn their monetary value. The free game is available online, as an Android app and from Visa’s Practical Money Skills website.

Animate it: Educational favorite Schoolhouse Rock! makes finance fun with songs about interest, savings accounts, paying bills, and more. Dynamic animation and catchy songs help children learn basic financial facts while having fun. Search for clips on YouTube or pop in a DVD to teach your children these important and practical lessons in a fun and memorable way.

Play the market: The Stock Market Game is an online simulation of the global capital markets that engages students grades 4-12 in the world of economics, investing and personal finance, and has prepared 15 million students for financially independent futures. The game is part of a program provided by the SIFMA Foundation.

Make it comical: Visa recently teamed up with Marvel Custom Solutions to create a Guardians of the Galaxy comic that promotes saving and smart spending and introduces young children to the difference between wants and needs. The comic, “Rocket’s Powerful Plan,” features an exciting storyline where saving money in an emergency fund is crucial to helping the Super Heroes. If your children are fans of Rocket, Groot and Ant-Man, they’re bound to love this comic featuring the same iconic characters.

Bring it to life: Jump$tart Clearinghouse offers a variety of games and resources that demonstrate how money skills transfer to real life. Children are challenged to plan their budgets, stretch their money, and be financially responsible. The website also provides a range of educational materials for both parents and teachers.

Additional edutainment resources include:

Bottom line: It’s important to teach your children about finance, and edutainment is both an effective and engaging way to do so. Use these summer months to teach your children important basic personal finance skills that they can use for the rest of their lives.

 

By Nathaniel Sillin

 

Two Simple Ways to Save Some Cash on Your Summer Vacation

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We don’t care how old you are, there’s one word that gets EVERYONE excited, and that’s vacation. We all work hard all year and quite frankly, we earn the right to spoil ourselves every now and again with a nice night out on the town or a trip to somewhere new.

While you should certainly enjoy the finer things in life and plan as many vacation as you can, there is definitely a right and a wrong way to go about seeing the world. It’s very excited to get carried away and wind up growing broke before you even make it through the trip of your dreams. It’s important not to waste money on middlemen and to book intelligently, so pay attention to these two helpful hints that will have you lying in the sand (with a full wallet!) in no time.

  1. Book Your Own Vacation at the Right Time – Long gone are the days where your only means of learning about exotic places like Fiji and Greece were from travel agents leveraging a slew of paper catalogs and limited reviews. Honestly, the easiest way to save money on your vacation is the simplest one- just book it yourself. There are plenty of online services that can scan for the best deals on everything from direct first class fights to LA to hostels or Air BNB’s at Oktoberfest. Shop around and see what works best for your plans- either piece it together yourself through a variety of vendors, or use someone like Travelocity who can get you the flight, hotel, car, airline transportation, etc. all bundled together. Just keep in mind that airlines have the highest rates for weekend departures and arrivals as obviously those are the most desired travel times. Whenever possible, try to plan your vacation to travel on weekdays for instant savings; Tuesdays and Wednesdays normally yield the lowest airline prices. Don’t forget to check out off-peak times too for excellent deals; for example early June or the last week of August into September can help with in-season pricing and heavy demand. Additionally, you also need to be cognoscente of the time at which you actually book your vacation too. Did you know the best time for low airfare is actually Monday night/Tuesday morning through Wednesday afternoon? Experts also suggest that you need to purchase your ticket six weeks prior to a domestic trip and 21 weeks before a European vacation if you want to avoid inflated “last minute” prices.
  1. Get a Credit Card with Mileage Bonuses– It’s very important to have a credit card with an excellent reward program regardless of your travel plans; that being said, just about every major creditor offers either flight mileage, free hotel stays, and plenty more that can make your vacation that much more affordable. Let’s face it, life is expensive; between gas, groceries, and bills, we spend significant amounts of money every month. So why not allocate those purchases towards at least getting something meaningful back? Aside from travel, most cards will also allow you to trade in rewards points for gift certificates for major chains like Target. Therefore even if your trip doesn’t require a flight, you can still alleviate some of the cost of clothes, food, etc. through your every day credit card purchases. Even better, certain cards like the Chase United Explorer also come with special United based incentives like double points on purchasing flights, premium seating, boarding privileges, and baggage fee cancellation. There’s literally no reason not to have one of these cards, especially if you have consistent moderate to heavy bills you are going to be paying anyway.

 

Five Ways to Encourage Good Saving and Spending Habits in Your Children

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How often do you discuss money with your children? If your answer is “not often,” you’re not alone.

There is an opportunity to help your children form strong spending and saving habits at an early age, and doing so can have a concrete impact on their futures. For example, recent research suggests that children with savings – even as little as $1 to $499 – are four times more likely to go to college than children with no savings at all. There are many reasons why it’s beneficial for children to learn how to manage money from a young age, and getting started sooner rather than later can drastically shape your children’s financial futures for the better.

Here are five ways you can encourage your children to develop good saving and spending habits.

Find a balanced allowance. One reliable rule of thumb for weekly allowance is to give your children $1 for each year of their age. For example, if your child is eight years old, you would give her or him an allowance of $8 a week. Of course, one size does not fit all, and you can adjust this allowance to fit your family rules and values.

Reward them for saving. Back-to-school shopping presents a great opportunity to teach your children how to differentiate wants from needs. Set a firm school shopping budget, and make a list with your children of what they need for school. Go over their list to see which items are really necessary versus which items are wants. Once you’ve determined what they need, help them calculate how much is left in the budget to spend on wants. Consider rewarding your children by giving them the surplus money to spend as they choose – but only if they’ve covered all of their necessary supplies first. If you have a teenager who’s hoping to drive a new car soon, consider matching his or her savings.

Take them to the bank. Middle school is a good time to replace that savings jar with a savings account, and if your children have been saving cash for years, it can be very rewarding to take that money to the bank or credit union and open their first account with it. This is a great way to introduce them to the concept of interest, and how savings accumulate over time when left unspent. Visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website for more information on savings accounts for children.

Talk to your children about essential expenses. As your children enter high school, you may want to consider delving into more complex financial concepts with them. If your teen has a paid job, review their paycheck with them and explain where the money goes and why – for example, if money is withheld for tax purposes. Or talk to them about the larger expenses on the horizon, whether it’s a car or college tuition, and discuss all the financial pros and cons of these investments.

Help them earn their own money. Earning income through hard work is one of the best ways to learn the true value of money. Encourage your children to earn money, whether it’s through setting up their own lemonade stand, doing chores around the house or neighborhood, or, if they’re teens, getting a part-time or summer job. This helps your children supplement their allowance and teaches them the real-life value of working.

Bottom line: Learning how to save and spend wisely is crucial to good money management, and teaches other important values. The best way to help your children build solid financial skills is through practical, age-appropriate lessons, which are relevant as they grow into young adults.

By Nathaniel Sillin

Hummer Malware Makes Cybercriminal Rich by Infecting 1.4 Million Devices a Day

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For those who are on the fence about how lucrative cybercrime can be, Cheetah Mobile Security Research Lab has some information that should push you over to one side of said fence. In a new report, the security firm found that the developer of the Hummer malware family of apps made over $500,000 per day at the peak of the malware’s activity.

Hummer infects Android devices by masquerading as mobile apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook, and Uber and the number of infections is on the rise. In the first half of the year, this Trojan infected around 1.4 million devices each day, making it the #1 mobile trojan in the world while netting the developer $.50 per infection. It obtains administrator privileges and subsequently displays those dreaded popup ads. But it gets its big money by installing online banking malware and then draining the account right into their pockets.

As always, it’s advised to only download and install apps from your device’s official App stores. In the case of Android, this is the Google Play Store.  But don’t think that Androids are the only mobile devices at risk. While this particular one infects those, there are plenty of others that target iOS devices. Two that made Nokia’s top 20 list of mobile malware were XcodeGhost (a malicious version of an app development tool) and FlexiSpy (an app that allows recording of activity on a device).

Anti-malware is not just for PCs anymore. Make sure you have downloaded an anti-malware app from a reputable source and keep it updated on your mobile devices too. The same goes the notification that one is available. Don’t forget about your internet-connected devices at home like smart TVs, your climate control, and music system, to name a few. Anything that exploits a vulnerability on any of these devices can roam your home network and infect others and potentially do a lot of damage.

This malware and others don’t just try to steal information such as banking credentials. They also consume a lot of data. This can cost you money in data overage fees. One Cheetah test found that Hummer accessed the network 10,000 times and ultimately consumed over 2GB of network traffic. It also uses up your battery life in the process.

This malware cannot be removed by performing a factory reset on the device. In addition, not all anti-virus tools will get rid of it. However, there are some that will. If you suspect it’s on your device, do some thorough research to find out which ones do and get one of them. Make sure it’s from a reputable developer and read the reviews. If it’s no good or harms your device in any way, it should be noted in the reviews. Don’t be afraid to pay for a good one. If that does not work or you are not comfortable doing this, take your device to an authorized technical support provider for help.

The majority of infections noted in this report were not within the United States, but that does not mean it was not found in the U.S. It may be an indicator that training, awareness, and information sharing helps users avoid infections. The command and control center for Hummer was traced back to a Chinese email address.

© Copyright 2016 Stickley on Security