Identity Theft

Since the day I completed my last blog, I started thinking of what to write about for this one. I must admit I’m not a very creative writer; so when I am forced to write about something that I am not passionate about, it just makes things exponentially harder. As the semester progressed, I became more and more anxious because none of the topics we were covering really peaked my interest. I simply wasn’t finding anything that I knew I would love to write about. Actually – I lied – the unit on identity theft interested me, but I had no personal experience with it so I just ignored the idea of me writing about it. How could I write a blog on a topic I had no experience with?? That would be absurd!! Well, many say that God works in mysterious ways, and would you believe that just last week my University account was compromised? Now, was this a coincidence or a message from the heavens? I always try to find the good in bad situations, with that being said, I prefer the latter! Anyways, since I now have an interesting story to tell and a lot more knowledge to share on the topic, (mostly due to the fact that when I couldn’t access my account I panicked and researched like a mad scientist) I concluded that the best thing for me to write about is identity theft.

My Infuriating Experience 😡

It all started early last week when I received an email informing me that Gryphmail was being updated and in order for me to avoid having my account deleted, I had to re-validate it by filling out a form. The form asked for my name, user id, and password. Since I’m stupid sometimes, I filled out the form before I remembered that the University told us that they’d never ask for our password. As my suspicion grew, I didn’t send the form in and I closed the email. A couple of days later, Friday the 22nd to be exact, I checked my inbox again, only to find a bunch of notifications informing me that my “message failed to send”. I figured that these were just spam messages and completely ignored them, yes, I deserve a slap in the face for being so ignorant. Why I didn’t suspect anything, I will never know. Perhaps it was because the 22nd was my course selection date, so that’s where all of my attention was focused. I had prepared the courses and time slots I wanted a few weeks prior to my selection date, so I remember that I wanted to register for them as quickly as possible. The registration went good, except for one of the classes, which filled fairly quickly. Knowing that people constantly dropped courses however, I logged in frequently throughout the day to make sure that if a vacancy appeared, I’d be the first one to get the spot. I even logged on during my time at the Price is Right Live show in Hamilton, now that’s dedication! Unfortunately, a spot never appeared. In my last attempt to check for a spot late that night, I was confronted by the dreaded “Authentication Failed” message on webadvisor. At first I thought I had simply typed my password wrong or that the site was undergoing maintenance, but when the problem persisted the next day, I began to seriously worry. I tried recovering my password and was told that my account had been locked.

After many hours of searching for assistance, I realized that nearly all IT services were closed on Saturday… except for one! The IT desk in the University library. I searched for a phone number like a starving dog would search for food, but I found nothing, which still blows my mind. How can an IT desk not have a phone number?!? Oh the irony. My only option was to drive nearly an hour from my house to the University in search for help. When I finally got to the IT desk, the conversation was short. The man told me that my account was sending mass spam messages out and they were forced to lock it. He said that there was nothing he could do and that I’d have to speak to the security team on Monday the 25th. I have to be honest, at this point it took me a little while to put two and two together, my mind was so preoccupied on the fact that I had just driven nearly an hour for a 30 second conversation that put me back at square one. I wasn’t very happy, to say the least. It was on my drive home that I remembered that email with the form I filled out, but didn’t send. It all made sense. My identity had been stolen.

From there I played the waiting game, all while worrying about the countless online assignments that were due. This past Monday is when I finally got in contact with the CCS and regained access to my account. This experience, (although in the grand scheme of things seems very small since none of my personal information was stolen) definitely put me way behind in my studies and I am currently struggling to finish all of my assignments. The worst part is looking back and realizing that if I was just a little bit more aware, that all of this would’ve been prevented. With that being said, I’d like to help build more awareness on the 3 main methods used by criminals to access your accounts, so that you can protect yourself.

Method 1: Guessing

Yes, it may seem like an amateur issue but truthfully many people just have extremely basic passwords that generally link directly and easily to them!! If you can figure out enough about a person and their interests, chances are, you can guess their password. There is also what I refer to as “the lazy man’s” password, where it is simply the digits ‘12345’. I can’t even begin to describe the number of relatives whose wifi passwords I’ve gotten access to by simply guessing the password as ‘12345’. It’s a fact of today’s world, the worst passwords are the most common. This link shows a list of the top 25 most common passwords of 2012. Notice how simple they are?

Method 2: Phishing

This is the method that I fell victim to. From my story above, I’ve already indirectly explained what phishing is, but in case you still don’t quite understand it, here are a few videos that really boosted my understanding:

Clearly the best way to prevent being a victim of phishing is to ignore any suspicious emails and NEVER follow the links!! I should take this advice.

Method 3: Malware

This final method is probably the most dangerous as it allows the cyber-criminals to track all of your logons and passwords. They do this via a keystroke logger which is a type of malware that infects your personal computer and records everyone of your keystrokes. Here is a short, informative video on  keyloggers:

When I first told my cousin about getting hacked, he immediately suspected a keylogger. He had me download Teamviewer 8 and he took over my computer so that he could run a variety of scans. Thankfully, everything turned out negative and I had no malware on my system. An effective way to remove a keylogger is obviously through a malware scanner such as malwarebytes or even as described in this video:

Protecting your computer from keyloggers and removing them if they infect your computer can save you many headaches and stolen passwords! Being aware that they exist is the first step!

For more information on these three methods, please follow this link to a company that is dedicated to protecting against identity theft and are partners with the FBI (in case you questioned their credibility).

Overall, my dreadful experience has opened my eyes to the crazy tactics used by cyber-criminals on the internet to access account information. It has forced me to educate myself on the different techniques used, especially phishing, and taught me how to protect my accounts with passwords people will have difficulty guessing. Even though my adventure was not fun, I have learned a valuable lesson about identity theft: it CAN happen to anyone. I was ignorant to this fact prior to my incident and clearly payed the price for it. On the plus side, my experience helped create this blog and I can only hope that whoever reads this has learned something and benefits from it in the future!

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Distracted Driving


Scary huh? And to think that this could’ve easily been avoided. Even in dangerous road conditions, drivers continue to drive distracted. The consequences of distracted driving is not a hidden problem in today’s society by any means, so why is it that so many motorists continue to engage in such dangerous activities? Perhaps it’s because people are simply unaware of the magnitude of danger that distracted driving poses on the world’s roads. If that is, in fact, the sole reason why people continue to drive distracted, then I think the best thing to do is inform them by stating a bunch of scary facts about driving. So in an attempt to combat this growing epidemic, here are the facts:

  • According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), two out of three motorists will be involved in an accident, causing injury, in their lifetime!
  • When teenagers text and drive, their reaction time slows down to the level of some senior citizens!
  • Behind the wheel, 1 simple text = 4 beers!
  • 1 text = 0.8 blood alcohol level = drunk driving
  • texting takes your eyes off the road for an average of 5 seconds. At highway speeds, that’s equivalent to travelling the length of an entire football field… BLIND!
  • About 330,000 people are injured because of distracted driving every year.
  • The younger demographic (under 20) have the highest rate of fatal crashes in relation with distracted driving.
  • 80% of crashes are due to driver inattention within three seconds prior to the crash.

Now, these are just a few of the many scary facts, all of which I found right HERE, with the exception of the first fact which can be found HERE. Keep in mind that the first fact is a general fact about driving, so those odds will most definitely increase if you drive distracted! Another thing I would like to point out is in regards to that last point. I, personally was involved in a car accident almost two years ago. I was driving down the road and saw that I had a green light ahead. Confident that it wouldn’t change, I looked down to change the track on the CD I was listening to. By the time I looked up, after about a mere second or two, the light had changed and I found myself unable to stop in time. I slammed the brakes, went through the red light, and I was forced to swerve into a construction zone on the other side of the road to avoid t-boning a car. To this day, I thank God for that construction area because without it, I would’ve been forced into oncoming traffic. I am also so thankful that I was able to avoid any major collision and I have become much more attentive when driving because of that experience. Based on that accident, the legitimacy of that last point does not surprise me in the least, and in my opinion, that’s the scariest fact on the list. I remember, for a split second while braking and swerving, I thought about the possibility of death and how I could possibly die or kill that person in the other car. It was in that moment that I realized how dangerous distracted driving can be. Not only do you put yourself at risk, but you put others at risk too. The fear of death stems from our desire to live, so I can only hope that after reading those facts and my personal experience, that you come to the realization that by engaging in distracting activities while driving, you jeopardize what you cherish the most, life.

Many people associate distracted driving with texting or talking on the phone and, although they aren’t wrong, I don’t think they know that phone use is not the only source of distraction on the road. Distracted driving is not the result of one specific task, it encompasses a wide variety of tasks. In fact, anything you do, if you’re not focusing on the road, is considered a distraction. From applying make-up, to eating, to adjusting your GPS or radio, ALL of it takes your attention away from the road and is therefore a distraction. There are three kinds of distracted driving: visual, manual, and mental. I think that the common association with texting as the main form of distraction is because it involves all three, as illustrated in this image:

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It’s really scary to think about how something that we have become so accustomed to doing, such as texting, which is basically second nature to us, is so dangerous when done at the wrong time. I, myself, have definitely been tempted to text while driving, but I am proud to say that I have never done so, mostly because I always understood the danger of it. With that being said, I have fallen victim to other distractions, such as eating or adjusting my radio, which I clearly paid the price for. I have also been in cars where the driver became distracted  and have had some close calls because of it. I think it’s important to note that distracted driving does not affect one particular demographic, it affects everyone! The issue of distracted driving is well summarized in this news broadcast and I strongly encourage you watch it:

I promised myself that I would keep this post as short as possible because my primary goal here is to keep my reader’s attention throughout. I hope that in some way I have inspired you to become a safer driver. Words cannot express the fear I felt when I got into that accident, but that experience definitely opened my eyes to how dangerous driving distracted can be. Prior to the accident, I was like everybody else and naively thought that something like that couldn’t happen to me. Perhaps clarity on this issue can only develop once such an event is experienced. I pray that I’m wrong about that!

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Sports and Technology – An ever growing relationship

Have you ever thought about how much technology and social media has impacted modern-day sports and athletes? As our society evolves technologically, so do our sports. When you look at technologies being used in sports today, they are nothing short of incredible! The ability for us to see which car wins a race with slow motion cameras, to see if a receiver gets two feet down in football, and even animating the path of a tennis ball with Hawk-Eye technology are just some of the things that have completely revolutionized the way we watch and play the games. When considering all these amazing and fascinating technologies, it is only natural, as humans, to try and make them better! So, is there room for improvement? I’ll talk about any possible future technologies a little later in the post, so keep reading!! Another thing to consider when talking about technology’s effect on sports is social media. The impact an athlete can make with the click of a button, or shall I say, touch of a screen, is mind blowing!!

Since this is my very first blog post ever, I want to kick it off (no pun intended) on a good note and try to make things as neat and organized as I can. I aim to cover the three topics introduced above and not only provide videos to support my arguments, but I will also share one personal experience that left me outraged and still haunts my memory every now and again!! I will cover the topics in the following order:

  1. Current Technologies
  2. Future Technologies
  3. Social Media’s Impact
  4. Final Thoughts

Current Technologies

Many, Many Sports

Video replay is being used in a lot of sports and is arguably one of the best and most effective things that has ever been implemented in my opinion! Camera’s and video replay allows not only real-time replay, but also slow motion replay, freeze frame, zooming into frames, photo finishes, etc. the list goes on and on. Without video replay, I can’t even imagine how many wrong decisions would be made. Take a look at this race finish and tell me how the right decision could be made, with 100% certainty (meaning no assumptions or guesses), without the help of video replay and photo finish… (skip to around 2:40)

Did you hear that? “24 ten thousandths of a second”!! With the speed that these cars are travelling at, I do not care who you are, there is no possible way that anyone could’ve said with certainty who won that race without the help of video replay and photo finish. PERIOD!

Cricket, Tennis, and other sports

Another very interesting technology that is being used in cricket, tennis, and some other sports is called Hawk-Eye. Hawk-Eye is a computer animated ball tracking technology. Hawk-Eye tracts the trajectory of a ball and then animates the ball’s most statistically likely path. This is similar to video replay and is great, taking tennis as an example, when trying to decide whether a ball landed in or out-of-bounds. However, the way they animate it is just so much cooler than simple video replay! Why try explaining its awesomeness when I can show you? Here, watch this:

Okay, so although the video itself seems to be filmed by a potato, Hawk-Eye technology is clearly depicted. There, once again, was no way the right call could’ve been made with certainty without the aid of this technology. The human eye cannot focus on something so close that is travelling so fast. It is simply impossible. Computers and technology make up for human inadequacy!!

Future Technologies

To answer my question posted above, the one regarding whether our current technologies can be improved, the simple answer is ABSOFREAKINLUTELY!!! There is ALWAYS room for improvement, especially when it comes to sports and all of the controversies that come along with it. Let’s look at two sports: 1. Soccer, which embarrassingly has no technology implemented into its game other than a fancy digital board with two colours that indicates player changes; and 2. Football, which has some pretty solid technology right now, but more promising future advancements.

Soccer

How can the most popular sport in the entire world according to many sites, including http://mostpopularsports.net/ , which seems to have dedicated their entire website to sport popularity (which I find kind of hilarious), lack the world’s best technology? Wait, let me correct myself. How can it lack ANY technology?!?!

My long-awaited story begins now: I remember playing in the championship game on my rep soccer team a few years back. We were up against one of the only teams in our league that had beaten us earlier in the season and the pressure was definitely on. Late in the game, my team was up 2-1 and the opposing team got a corner kick. They crossed the ball in and it bounced through everyone towards the far post that our defender was covering. The ball was still a good foot and a half from the net when our defenseman kicked it out of our zone, but the referee called it a goal. We ended up scoring a goal in the 90th minute that sealed us the win, but I have to be honest and say that in that moment, when the ref signalled a goal on us when the ball was clearly nowhere close to being in, I’ve never been so angry in my life. The fact that our chances at the championship, something we worked toward all year, was diminished because of one stupid call… I can’t even put into words how I felt. I knew it wasn’t the referee’s fault though. He simply couldn’t see the ball and assumed it went in. Later on, with my mind still on the incident, I began to ponder why big soccer leagues, where things like this have happened, haven’t integrated any new technologies that would eliminate any possibilities of events like this ever occurring. In this video, Tottenham were robbed of a goal against Manchester United that would’ve won them the game.

Goal line technology or even something as simple as video replay would prevent things like this from happening. So why hasn’t it been done? Well, video replay would slow down the game too much and FIFA claims that mistakes are part of the “human element” of the game, so that seems to be out of the question. However, according to FIFA, goal line technology is on its way and will be implemented as soon as it is perfected!! This is definitely a step in the right direction for “the world’s most popular sport”!! If you would like to read more on FIFA’s approval of this technology, feel free to follow this link: http://www.espn.co.uk/football/sport/story/159034.html

Football

Football, unlike soccer, already has some very amazing technologies in place. Probably the most impressive of their technologies is the down markers. If you’ve ever watched a football game, you know exactly what I’m talking about! You know, it’s the line everyone uses to try to explain the game to someone who doesn’t understand it! “You see that yellow line? They have three attempts to pass it. If they don’t pass it in three tries, then on their fourth attempt they have to kick it to the other team.” I can’t even explain how many times I’ve said that line. Anyway, that technology is great, but only if you’re watching the game at home on TV. I attended my first football game over Christmas break. I went to the New England Patriots last game of the season; where they hosted the Miami Dolphins. The experience was incredible! I got to watch my favourite team “squish the fish” in a 28-0 stomping. Now, although it was great knowing the outcome of plays like 10 seconds ahead of the rest of the world, what I found a little bothersome was the lack of “yellow line” that I’ve become so accustomed to seeing. I often didn’t know whether we got the first down and found myself checking the jumbotron a lot! Luckily, the NFL is looking into implementing a new Laser System that projects a laser across the field that can be seen by players, fans at the game, and on TV at home! It’s a win, win, win! Technology rules! Problem solved! You can read more about it if you wish at the following link:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/23/nfl-first-down-line-yellow-tv-stadiums_n_2538731.html

Social Media’s Impact

All Sports

Social media’s impact is not restricted to just a few select sports, which is probably why its impact is so huge. With the touch of a button, or a screen, anyone can interact with their favourite athletes. From the athlete’s perspective, imagine the power! Think about it, if a famous athlete, with millions of followers, encourages his followers to donate to a certain charity through a tweet, guess what’s going to happen. A hell of a lot of donations. Athletes can use social media to raise awareness, encourage fundraising, or even promote their off field products. It will work! Social media can aid an athlete in advancing their career beyond the playing field. They can increase their popularity, the possibilities are endless! Of course, the stupid ones can doom themselves if they don’t use it properly, but who cares about them anyway? The perfect example of how social media has impacted sports can be shown in one simple interview. Last season, on SUPERBOWL MEDIA DAY, Deion Sanders interviewed Chad Ochocinco and guess what they took the time to talk about? You guessed it, Twitter!! Keep in mind that this interview IS on Superbowl media day, so the entire interview is not just about twitter. If you want to watch the full interview, feel free to do so, it’s actually one of the best interviews I’ve ever seen. The way Deion gets to the serious side of Chad is amazing. If you’d rather not watch the full interview, they talk about twitter from 0:00-0:35 and from 3:20-3:50. I highly recommend watching the full interview!

What the analysts say at the beginning of the video and what Chad says during the interview speaks for itself. They know how powerful social media and Twitter can be! I just want to point out that the only reason why I knew about this interview is because I am the biggest Patriots fan in the world and when they were in the Superbowl last year, I did not stop watching NFL Network! Now, of course the Patriots ended up losing the big game… again… to the same team… in the same fashion, you know what never mind, the interview was great, that’s all that matters!!!

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, no matter how much sports evolve with technology, there is no technology great enough to cure pure stupidity as seen by this unbelievable call by the replacement officials this past NFL season, which resulted in a Packers loss. What is even more amazing is the fact that THE CALL STOOD EVEN AFTER VIDEO REPLAY!!!!! This just may be the biggest *facepalm* EVER!!

I end my very first blog with a Captain Picard Facepalm… in response to that terrible, terrible call!

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