We hear it all the time: “Beware. The internet is a dangerous place.” We often blow it off as an afterthought until hearing through the grapevine how someone caught a virus and had to wipe their hard drive clean to get rid of it. Or in this case, how a cyber crime ring took control of millions of computers and thieved millions of dollars in profits. The FBI recently published a press release detailing what looks to be one of the most intricate hacking attacks in history. Seven people, six from Estonia and one from Russia, were indicted in a Manhattan court for allegedly pulling off a massive scheme that involved hijacking more than 4 million computers worldwide and using them to swindle millions of dollars in advertising revenue. The scam victimized machines in more than 100 countries, with at least 500,000 of them in the United States. Hijacked computers in the U.S. belonged to individuals, non-profit organizations, educational institutions and even government agencies like NASA. A Detailed Look at the Alleged Crimes The press release said the seven defendants are accused of utilizing malware to compromise vulnerable systems and literally force them to participate in the scam. The team of hackers are alleged to have committed the following crimes: Internet-Based Fraud Scam According to the indictment papers, the hackers carried out an elaborate scheme that ran from some time in 2007 until October 2011. This was done by purporting to be companies recognized as legitimate publisher networks in the online advertising industry. As publishers networks, they were able to enter agreements with the ad brokers who would pay them each time internet users clicked advertisements on certain websites. With help from third parties who were said to be in on the scam, the hackers used a combination of malware, specifically a Trojan horse program and rogue Domain Name System (DNS) servers to change the DNS settings on compromised machines. This was done to generate the traffic that would drive more than $14 million in fraudulent clicks. Click Hijacking The Trojan program was so vital in the scheme because it left victims vulnerable to the scam by not only altering their settings but also preventing their system and security tools from removing the infection. Once an infected user clicked on a link in the search results, they were redirected to a rogue site set up by the criminals instead of their intended destination. From there, each click the user made added to the big payoff the scam artists received. What is so interesting about all this is that the alleged criminals were getting revenue for unpaid links and other miscellaneous clicks that are essentially worthless as far as an advertising campaign goes. Ad Replacement Fraud To make the rogue sites appear legit to the infected user, the group of ambitious hackers replaced real advertisements with fake ads inserted with the sole purpose of padding their pockets. The example the indictment used was someone on an infected computer visiting the Wall Street Journal’s website and seeing a fraudulent advertisement for “Fashion Girl L.A.” in place of a legitimate ad for “American Express.” With this level of intricacy involved, it is safe to say that most users had no idea their machines were infected, nor that they were playing an active role in the scam. Don’t Sleep on Security The fact that the alleged hackers hijacked the computers of entities ranging from everyday Joes to corporations and government parties is another reminder that any system can be compromised. This particular group of criminals is likely going down, but we will surely see crimes similar to the ones they are said to have committed again. When the cyber attacks are launched, will your security system be strong enough to keep you protected?
With over 663 million registered users, Skype has become the go-to choice for video conferencing, long-distance voice calls and chat in both the business and personal environment. Despite all its benefits, however, Skype can wreak havoc on the correspondence of the web-based email user. Have you ever noticed this: begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (418) 555-1234 end_of_the_skype_highlighting Around a phone number in a web page or email? Chances are, you have the Skype plugin for browsers installed, which adds HTML formatting to phone numbers and Skype names to allow Skype users to make one-click phone calls from their browser. If \"begin_of_the_skype_highlighting\" tags are getting you down, put an end to the skype highlighting with these simple steps. Internet Explorer In Internet Explorer, open the \"Tools\" menu in the upper right and click on \"Manage Add-ons.\" Then, click on the Skype plugin from the list of extensions and click the \"Disable\" button on the lower right. Mozilla Firefox In Mozilla Firefox, open the \"Tools\" menu in the menu bar and click on \"Add-ons.\" Then, find the Skype plugin in the list of extensions and click the \"Disable\" button. Google Chrome In Google Chrome, open the Wrench Menu in the top right and select \"Tools\" and then \"Extensions.\" Then, find the Skype plugin in the list of extensions and click the \"Disable\" link. These steps will also allow you to completely remove the Skype plugin if you wish. For other browsers (Safari, Opera, etc.), find the \"add-ons\" or \"extensions\" menu and follow the same steps.
The hot topic a few years ago was \"convergence\" of interactive mediums like the internet and passive audience mediums like television. Well, it seems that convergence has come and gone, and now online marketers have to face yet another convergence: this time one between conventional email marketing and social networking promotion. Email = Formal, Social Networking = Casual Social networking\'s growth may be considered inverse to that of email, as the 140 character twit gradually replaces many users\' formal inbox. However, the two paradigms will generally continue to co-exist and settle into more sustainable forms. Social networking will gravitate towards the more casual, sound-bite type of applications while email remains the formal long-form, comprehensive vector. Social Networking Adds Value To Email Marketing The primary reasons why a marketer should aspire to have their email converge with social networking is to take advantage of the value that the networks can bring to the success of your program. Personal endorsement: When your customers display your message in their own spaces, it constitutes a personal endorsement to their social circle. This is the 21st century equivalent of word of mouth, the perennially successful marketing process. Reader involvement: By encouraging interest in your brand within a social context, your message will be seen to be relevant and thus will be anticipated when it shows up in the inbox, making it far more likely to be acted upon. List Building: Attracting new participants to your email marketing program increases your email list by gradual accretion. Beating the SWYN Automaton Odds Much has been written about how SWYN (Share With Your Network) is replacing the far less successful FTAF (Forward To A Friend), yet it is not sufficient to simply toss in a few social network links at the bottom of an email. Your customers are not automatons who can be relied on pushing a SWYN button the statistical average of 1.75% of times received. The reader has to find the information compelling and relevant enough to be motivated to share it. What does the message contain that is shareable, not overall but to that specific individual and their social circle? Is a sportscar group going to be more interested in a special discount on a GPS system or on a dishwasher? Your message has to have exceptional merit to be deemed worthy of sharing. A daily barrage of $5 off this hard drive today replacing yesterday\'s sale of $5 off its stablemate will only desensitize the reader. In order to get excited enough to share an offer, your customer has to be wowed by it. Successful SWYN emails contain truly exclusive \"insider-only\" content and are measured in a frequency of months, not hours. Logic & Relevance Are The SWYN Keys The networks listed in a SWYN feature need also be made relevant. If your message regards a special discount on maternity wear, does it need to have a link to Digg, a site that deals in primarily technology and political news? The placement of the SWYN is important as well. Why line them all up like neglected little soldiers at the bottom of the email when they can be integrated in a logical and relevant fashion within the message itself? More than ever before, marketers have to walk a mile in their customers\' moccasins and embrace their individual motivations. Successful marketing historically began as a conversation, then became a \"one-to-everybody\" spot on Ed Sullivan or the SuperBowl, and now is back to being a conversation.
At the moment, it\'s safe to say that email and Web-based surveys are the cheapest and most effective ways to get that data you crave. Sure, people still use phone telemarketers and snail mail surveys, but with the incredible number of people using the Internet across the globe, it would be foolish to overlook the ability to track people down and ask them questions via that medium. More than anything, however, Internet and email-based surveys give your customers a chance to give thorough, well thought-out answers, and you the chance to view those answers showing up in real time. Here are our top 10 reasons to use email and Web surveys: 1. Gather Feedback Perhaps you\'ve wondered why the product you bought in bulk is just not selling. Maybe you\'re confused on why customers visit a certain page on your Website and then drop off, abandoning their shopping carts. With Web surveys, you can gather the feedback you need to find out for sure. 2. Figure out what products to carry next Need a handle on what products will sell and what ones won\'t? Send a survey asking customers what they\'d like to see on your virtual shelves. 3. Streamline your order and checkout process Which steps in the order and checkout process are unnecessary? Which steps make sense, but maybe should take place outside the order fulfillment process? Use a Web survey at checkout to re-shape and shrink the checkout process. 4. Measure customer morale Are your customers over the moon about your next line of products or just blah? Do you need to try something new to get your customers excited about your company? Measure morale and create a future plan based on that data. 5. Gather testimonials Are customer singing your praises? Use a survey to find out why. Once you\'ve gotten the data you need, contact the most enthusiastic customers and invite them to create video or text-based testimonials. 6. Find out what peer companies are up to Let\'s face it: you can\'t ask your competitor companies which products and customer service techniques are working for them. But you can ask your customers the same questions and get the answers you need to adjust your own methods. 7. Adjust your customer service contact channels Do you need more people on the phones on the weekends? Should you invest in a live chat team? These questions matter. By crafting a customer service-based survey you can not only hire the people and rent/buy the technology you need, but stay competitive in your business sphere. 8. Price your goods Don\'t over or under-charge for your stuff - ask your customers what prices work for them and adjust your prices accordingly. Stay competitive with this information. 9. Dump unpopular products and find out why some items are slow-sellers If you have crates of items just sitting around the warehouse not selling, there may be a specific reason why. Use a survey to poll customers on certain slow-selling products. 10. Set realistic company goals Customer opinion is a great way to shape your company, down to what types of positions get filled to how many people you\'ll need to keep customers happy and the shelves stocked with goods. Gather this data and use it to move up the ranks among your competitors.