Category Archives: Security

Consumer Watch: Verizon

As a Security and Risk Analysis major, I like to keep an eye out for shady things that corporations and governments do.  While not exactly Penn State specific, I wanted to shed some light on an interesting situation with Verizon Wireless.  I’m going to try to keep this post short, as the details are slightly boring.  Here is what you need to know:

  1. If you are a Verizon Wireless customer, Verizon will (or possibly already has) sent you a small brochure with lots of small, fine print that you’ll probably never want to read.
  2. What the small, fine print says is that if you don’t take any action within 45 days of receiving the letter, you are giving Verizon permission to share your personal data with any companies that Verizon is affiliated with.
  3. This personal data includes information about services you have purchased, info about calls you make and receive, billing information and location information.

If alarms aren’t going off in your head signaling that this is a little slimy and a breach of privacy, we should probably talk.

So if you are concerned about this (which you should be) do the following things:

  1. Sign into your “My Verizon” account
  2. Click on “My Profile”
  3. Click on “View/Edit Privacy (CPNI) Settings” under the Phone Controls section
  4. Select the button for “Don’t Share My CPNI” for all cell phone numbers
  5. Click “Submit”
  6. Congratulations, you are done

So tell your Friends, tell your Dad, tell your Mom.  Free Credit Seriously though, tell your family.  They probably don’t read the fine print either.

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Posted by on March 27, 2009 in Security, Tech News


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Inauguration Tech Coverage

Yesterday, our country celebrated the inauguration of our 44th President.  During the entire day, a few stories popped up on some of my favorite blogs regarding the technology and security that was showcased during this historic event.  Here are a few of my favorite pieces of technology:

Bomb Containment Truck

It probably goes without saying that many of the agencies and forces assigned to protect Washington D.C. and attendees of the inauguration brought out some serious equipment.  What you see below {Source} is a sphere that can safely transport an explosive device.  What is even cooler is the fact that an explosive can even go off inside the sphere without harming bystanders.

Bomb Containment Truck

Hi-Res Satellite Photo of D.C. During Inauguration

The following image comes from GeoEye, a satellite that takes ultra-high resolution imagery from space.  It currently orbits at 423 miles above the surface of the Earth, taking pictures at astounding resolutions of 41 cm.  The U.S. Government prevents publicly released imagery from being at that high of a resolution, so it is limited to 50 cm or worse.  Click on the image below to get an ultra high resolution version that you can pan around and see the National Mall in extreme detail.  Another interesting factoid is that Google owns the rights to the imagery taken by the high-flying satellite and plans to utilize the photos in their Google Earth and Google Maps applications.

The clumps of people are groups viewing jumbotrons displaying the inaugural events.  You can even see Marine 1 (Presidential Helicopter) immediately to the right of the Capitol Building.

The clumps of people are groups viewing jumbotrons displaying the inaugural events. You can even see Marine 1 (Presidential Helicopter) immediately to the right of the Capitol Building.

Bulletproof (President) Obama

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Posted by on January 22, 2009 in Security, Tech News


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Best Spam E-mail I Ever Had

I checked out my Spam Inbox this afternoon and found quite a gem.  It seems that Robert S. Mueller- the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation had personally contacted me.  Why, you may ask?  To let me know that an investigation has since been completed on my banking activities.  Click on the picture to get a better look.  It’s an interesting read.  This has all the telltale marks of a phising scheme: poor English, money in banks I’ve never heard of and directions for me to wire money via Western Union among other things.  The faux FBI Director even gives his e-mail address:  I’m no expert in web technology, but my “how the internet works” class tells me that you don’t put a www in front of an e-mail address.

They even take the time to assure me that the email is legitimate, “Since the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been involved in this transaction, you are not to be rest assured that this transaction is legitimateand completely risk-free as it is our duty to Protect and Serve Citizens of the United States of America.”  (That quote is verbatim from the spam email)  The telephone number listed at the top of this email has been flagged by several websites as fake, judging by the fact that other people have received similar emails.

Click to read

The Best Spam I've Ever Had

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Posted by on November 6, 2008 in Security


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Penn State Wireless 2.0 Upgrade

A friend told me recently that Penn State has expanded it’s efforts to upgrade their wireless infrastructure. Currently, students and faculty have to suffer through the arduous process of using a Cisco VPN Client to connect securely to Wi-Fi around the campus. This new system, dubbed Wireless 2.0 merely requires your Penn State User ID and password. The next generation of Penn State Wireless infrastructure now offers access points in the following locations (taken directly from the ITS information page):

  1. Willard Building (Entire Building and outside area between Schwab and Carnegie Bldgs.)
  2. Life Sciences Building (Ground Floor-available in six General Purpose Classrooms, #9 through #14 only)
  3. Telecommunications Building (Entire Building)
  4. Thomas Building (1st and 2nd Floors, and outside plaza area between Thomas and Ritenour Bldgs.)
  5. Business Building (Entire Building and adjacent outdoor areas)
  6. Ag. Science and Industries (General Purpose Classrooms and Portions of the Ground Floor, 1st, 2nd and 4th Floors)
  7. Food Science Building (Entire Building and Creamery Outdoor Seating area)
  8. Forest Resources Building (Entire Building and adjacent outdoor areas)

Before being expanded to these new locations, the Wireless 2.0 system was being tested over on Services Road by the Blue Band Building and IM Fields. By shedding the VPN client in the new wireless infrastructure, users can expect to see far less connection issues. The time that it takes to connect to the networks has decreased dramatically- from about a minute (with the VPN) to nearly instantaneous. Even better, coverage of Wi-Fi between buildings has been improved.

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A Look at Penn State Safety and Security- Interesting Facts

A few days ago I (and all Penn State Students) received an email from the University:

Dear Penn Stater:

This information is being provided to you in compliance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, the College and University Security Information Act and the Drug Free Schools and Campuses Act.  In addition to providing you with some useful information concerning safety, security and health issues, it also describes some of the programs that Penn State has developed to provide a safe and supportive learning environment.

The attached documents contain the annual security report for your campus.  This report includes statistics for the previous three years concerning reported crimes that occurred on campus, and in certain off-campus buildings owned or controlled by Penn State, as well as on public property within, or immediately adjacent to and accessible from the campus.  The report also includes institutional policies concerning campus security, such as policies about alcohol and drug use, crime prevention, the reporting of crimes, sexual assault, and other matters.

You may also review this report or the report for any of Penn State’s twenty-three campuses on the Internet at Click on “Clery Crime Stats” on the left side.

I’m fairly confident this email went straight to the trash cans of many students after they read the body of the message.  What this post aims to do is to relay some information from the official safety and security report that I found interesting.  All information is taken directly from the document, which can be found here.

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Posted by on October 6, 2008 in General, Security


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Student Identity Theft

Hardly a day goes by where you can’t find a newspaper article, blog post, TV report or other media that deals with identity theft. Unfortunately, the majority of people believe that their chances of being impacted by identity theft are minimal given the sheer number of people in the United States and the world. Unfortunately, recent statistics have proven that identity theft impacts many more people that common knowledge might tell us. A staggering 9 million Americans are victims of identity theft per year, three percent of the United States’ total population. The rate of punishment for identity theft crimes is so low, the only viable alternative is to work hard to prevent the crime from happening in the first place.

A look at recent identity theft trends suggest that college students are said to be at the highest risk of identity theft. The following points are my recommendation for keeping yourself safe from identity theft. My research through government websites and other associations dealing with ID theft have allowed me to share only the most relevant information.

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Posted by on September 16, 2008 in Security


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A Note About Copyright and Information Security At Penn State

In an email from the Executive Vice President and Provost Rodney Erickson:

Dear Penn State Student:

Welcome to the start of Fall Semester 2008.

As a student at Penn State you have many resources to help protect your privacy,
your personal computer, and your good standing as a student at the University.

You will want to be sure that you have installed anti-virus and anti-spyware
software to protect your computer. Both are available at no charge at

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Posted by on September 8, 2008 in Security


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