State of the Startup
Posted on by Beau AdkinsCategories Light Point Security Update, Startups1 Comment on State of the Startup

A long staircaseI decided it would be a good idea to occasionally post a status update of our startup on our blog. I plan on listing which of the many steps involved in launching a startup we have completed, and some tips on the ones that warrant it.

My reasons are two-fold. The first reason is that I hope once our product launches and it is a huge success and I am super rich and spend my days racing yachts, someone who wants to launch their own startup can use these as a step-by-step roadmap on what to do. The second reason is that I think it will be good for me to take the time to think about all the things we’ve accomplished since the last update. This may be a moral booster if I see that we have done a lot, or help me realize we are slacking if we have not.

What Have We Done?

  • Idea. The first thing was an idea about how I can provide web security better than everyone else. This idea has not been released publicly, so there isn’t much more I can say about that right now.
  • Research. The next thing I did was research on how I could implement it, and to decide if it was feasible that I could turn it into a profitable business.
  • Development Setup. I needed a development environment before I could create anything. I bought a computer and installed a subversion server for version control and TRAC for issue management. If you are developing any serious software, you NEED version control and issue management software. It is well worth the time.
  • Prototype. The next thing I did was to start building a working prototype, or a proof of concept. This took quite a while, in which time I was also working other items in this list.
  • Business Planning. First I knew that I would not have time to build the product, and run the business. I enlisted Zuly, my then girlfriend – now fiancee, to fill this role. Neither of us had run a business before, but we knew we could figure it out. We came up with a name for the business, snatched up the URL, made a business plan, etc. As I worked on the product, Zuly learned how to do the business side stuff (accounting, legal, etc).
  • Evaluation. At this point I had a working prototype, but when I finally looked at the stats, I realized the product would not be able to scale. This prototype had taken most of a year to get where it was, and then I found out it wouldn’t work. I thought it was all over at this point. But I refused to give up. I did more research to find a more efficient technology, and found one. I decided to swap out the old inefficient technology for the new hotness.
  • Persist. This new technology was another open source library that did the same thing as the old version, but it did so, much more efficiently. However, the way this library was written was nowhere near how I needed it to work. I spent months tinkering and reading through hundreds of files of source code to try and fix it. Every time I fixed an issue, I discovered 2 more that had to be fixed. After an entire year of this, I had my proof of concept functioning as it did before the technology swap, but now it was an order of magnitude more efficient.
  • Improvement. I added more and more features, eventually turning it into more of a product than a proof-of-concept.
  • More Research. As I implemented features, I tried to keep thinking a few moves ahead. I had a plan on what I would do next, and what after that. So in my down time, I would do some reading to make sure my plans on how to do those next steps would actually work, or if there was a better way.
  • Business Setup. At this point, we decided it was a good bet that we can make this work. We each took some of our own money, officially registered the business, and set up a bank account.
  • Website. We transferred ownership of the business domain name to the business, and bought hosting to set up this web page. We got something decent setup, and gradually improved it over time. We are still doing this.
  • Networking. We started blogging, using Facebook, Twitter, and others to start making a name for ourselves online. This is a never ending step.

What’s Next?

  • Branding. We have a name for the product, but we need to grab its domain name before we make it public.
  • Deployment and Beta-testing. We are now to the point where we need to start buying server capacity so other people can play with the product and give us feedback. We will use this feedback to make improvements until we feel the product is refined enough to begin charging for it.

Have I forgotten anything? If you see something missing that I should have done by now, please let me know. Or if you have any questions/suggestions, don’t hesitate to comment.

State of the Startup
The Facebook Will Start Charging Scam
Posted on by Zuly GonzalezCategories Web SecurityLeave a comment on The Facebook Will Start Charging Scam

With over 400 million users, Facebook is a constant target of online criminals and scam artists. The “Facebook will start charging” scam has been around since last year, yet people are still falling for it. Even worse, there’s been an increase in these types of scams over the last couple of months.

How the Facebook Will Start Charging Scam Works

Online criminals create Facebook pages claiming that Facebook will begin charging some monthly fee. For example, the page “I won’t pay $3.99 to use Facebook starting in July” is a scam. And the page “I will not pay to use Facebook as of Sept 7th 2010” is also a scam.

In fact, Facebook spokesman Larry Yu stated, “We have absolutely no plans to charge for the basic service of using Facebook.”

Facebook Will Start Charging Scam Page

There are many variations on this theme, and they’re all scams. I searched on Facebook for “Facebook pay” and got 287 page results (see below). And every single one of these pages is a scam! The top result had 7661 fans.

Just out of curiosity, I searched for “Facebook pay” again the following day and noticed that the pages are growing. The top result went from 7661 fans to 7844 fans and the second result went from 6877 fans to 6899 fans. So it looks like things are going in the wrong direction.

Facebook Will Start Charging Scam Search Results Facebook Will Start Charging Scam Search Results

Online scammers create Facebook pages (and groups) in an attempt to trick people into divulging their personal information, downloading malicious content, or inviting their friends to join the page. In the case of the “Facebook will start charging” scam, it seems the most common method is to get people to invite their friends to the page in an attempt to amass a large number of fans they can then sell to unsuspecting businesses.

Just take a look at the information on the “I will not pay to use Facebook as of Sept 7th 2010” page:

I Will Not Pay for Facebook Scam Page Description

And if you look at the information on some of the other Facebook Pay pages, you will notice that they don’t ask you for any personal information, or ask you to download something, or ask you to go to another website. The main thing these pages are asking people to do is to invite all of their friends. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t malicious links showing up on these pages, so be careful, and don’t click on any links in these pages.

So now that you know the truth, don’t join any Facebook pages claiming that Facebook will start charging.

How to Protect Yourself on Facebook

For the most part, these Facebook Pay pages weren’t setup to steal your personal information – although I didn’t look at every single page. And even if they were setup for that purpose, you usually have to take some action for this to occur.

But joining not only encourages criminals to keep coming up with these scams, it also puts your friends at risk. How? Well, as soon as you join, it’s displayed on your friends’ news feeds. A friend could see it and then join the group.

So, other than the obvious don’t join advice, here are a few other tips to help keep you and your friends secure while on Facebook:

  • If you see your friends joining these Facebook Pay pages, warn them about the scam and tell them to remove themselves from the page.
  • Spread the word. Scammers take advantage of the fact that people aren’t aware of these scams to do their dirty work. If people are informed of the risks, then it becomes a lot harder to get away with it. So tell your Facebook friends, and send them a link to this post, or any other post on the topic.
  • Be suspicious of any Facebook page that makes it easy for you to invite your friends, asks you to download something, or asks for your personal information in return for something else.
  • Always check the page’s wall before joining. There are legitimate reasons why you may be asked to download and install something from Facebook pages. However, there are also plenty of malicious programs out there. The legitimate stuff will, for the most part, work as advertised. On the other hand, the malicious stuff usually won’t work at all. So if you go to the page’s wall and see a lot of people complaining about the fact that it doesn’t work, stay away! Odds are it’s malware. And I’m not talking about a couple of bad reviews, because even the legitimate programs will get bad reviews every now and then. But if you see mostly complaints, then it’s likely to be malware. And even if it’s not, why waste your time, it obviously doesn’t work!
  • Join the Facebook Security page to get the latest security updates from Facebook, or visit Facebook’s Safety Center.
  • Read and follow the 5 most important steps for internet security to protect your computer from online criminals.

Have you come across this scam? Have you come across any other Facebook scams lately? What other ways of staying safe on Facebook do you recommend?

 

As Strong As Your Weakest Link
Posted on by Beau AdkinsCategories Web SecurityLeave a comment on As Strong As Your Weakest Link

The weakest linkWhen trying to evaluate your own security, remember the old addage: “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” Here is story of some recent experiences I had which reinforced this for me.

About a month ago, I started seeing all kinds of articles online related to a massive amount of websites being hacked. Most of these hacks were WordPress sites hosted with a large hosting company such as GoDaddy. This site is WordPress hosted by GoDaddy, so when I saw this, I was very interested.

I read the articles to find out how to know if your site had fallen victim to this. The main goal of this attack was to place a bit of php code into every WordPress file on your server. When WordPress would serve up a page, this code would be executed. The result would be a redirect placed in each page that a user of your site would see. This would redirect the user to a malicious website which would attempt to exploit your site’s visitors.

I immediately checked the content of my site and was relieved to find that my site appeared unhacked. But I was not out of the woods yet. No one yet had figured out how the hack was able to infiltrate all these systems. Many people were blaming it on a flaw in WordPress. Others were blaming it on a flaw with GoDaddy’s hosting. Until I figured out where the flaw was, I was still at risk.

This hack was showing up on web platforms other than WordPress. This makes it seem like it couldn’t be a problem with WordPress that was allowing this to happen. But, it was also happening on hosting providers other than GoDaddy. On top of that, if it were a flaw in WordPress or GoDaddy, this hack would be capable of showing up on many more high-traffic pages. You would think that a hacker armed with an unknown exploit with such power would hit the biggest targets available, instead of just a few tiny blogs.

GoDaddy was blaming it on people using out of date WordPress installations. However, I read many articles reporting about people who got hacked, rebuilt their sites with the newest version of everything, and then immediately being hacked again.

The root cause of this hack still hasn’t been figured out as far as I know. I have read that a large number of the affected sites had some weak passwords. At this point, I believe this to be it, but there is no way for me to know for sure. I use very strong passwords. Maybe this is what saved me. Or maybe the hackers just hadn’t found this site.

The moral of the story is to remember you are only as secure as your weakest link. You can build a house out of solid steel with a vault door and barred windows, but if you leave a spare key under your doormat, how much more secure are you? WordPress and GoDaddy can be completely secure, but a guessable password makes it irrelevant.

Latest Twitter Email Phishing Scam
Posted on by Zuly GonzalezCategories Web SecurityLeave a comment on Latest Twitter Email Phishing Scam

The latest phishing scam targeting Twitter users is in the form of an email message claiming to be from Twitter Support. The subject line of the fake email message starts off with the word Twit and is followed by a set of numbers. These numbers will vary from email to email. The email message claims that you have some number of “unreaded” or delayed messages from Twitter, and provides a link to supposedly check your “unreaded” messages. How nice of them! But instead the link takes you to a malicious phishing website.

There are actually two links in the fake email message, both linking back to malicious phishing websites. Don’t click on either of them! Here’s what the email looks like:

Twitter unreaded email phishing scam

According to Twitter Safety, Twitter Support doesn’t send emails about unread messages.

Twitter safety email phishing scam alert

What Can You Do?

Here are 7 things you can do to protect yourself, and avoid becoming a victim of email phishing scams.

  • If you receive an email message claiming to be from Twitter or Twitter Support with the subject line Twit [set of two numbers here], do not open it and delete it right away.
  • If you receive an email with bad English or misspellings, most likely it’s a scam. For example using the word unreaded instead of unread. Don’t click on any links in the email or download any attachments.
  • Don’t click on links in email messages. Always go to the site directly and log in to your account to check it out.
  • If you must click on a link in an email, for example it’s not a check your account status type of email, hover over the link and look at what the status bar tells you. If the URL shown in the status bar isn’t for the website you’re expecting to go to, don’t click on the link. In the case of this recent Twitter scam, the URL in the status bar doesn’t link to twitter.com. Instead it links to dev.somedomainname.com.

Twitter email phishing scam domain name on status bar

  • Note that the only domain name used by Twitter is twitter.com. Any URL that doesn’t start with http://twitter.com/ is not an official Twitter page. That’s not to say it’s a malicious site, it’s just not an official Twitter page, so use caution when going to these sites.
  • If you have a Twitter account, follow Twitter Safety or Twitter Spam to get the latest news about known Twitter scams.
  • Read and follow the 5 most important steps for internet security to protect your computer from these cyber crimes.

Image credits: Fake Twitter email, Twitter Safety tweets

Why You Are Not “Good Enough” to Avoid Malware
Posted on by Beau AdkinsCategories Web SecurityLeave a comment on Why You Are Not “Good Enough” to Avoid Malware

Compiling CodeIn my line of work, most of my colleagues are very technically savvy. Sometimes I will ask them about their views on different computer security products. More often than I would expect, I receive this response: “Oh, I think that is really important, but I don’t need it because I know what I’m doing.” When I press more on what it is they are doing that makes them immune, here are some of the possible responses, and my thoughts on each.

I’m careful where I click

Hmm, thats good. How are they careful. Maybe they don’t go to any site they haven’t heard of? So googling something, and clicking that perfect result is out of bounds for this person? Never clicking any link that has been run through a URL shortener like is so common on twitter? Staying away from sites that show ads? Never going to a site which doesn’t have perfect server security? If they did all these things then they really aren’t browsing at all. ANY site can be bad.  There are just too many ways that even the most trustworthy site can be turned malicious –  I will save that for another post.

I don’t use Windows

First off, I love Windows. It is my OS of choice, but it saddens me to say that this tactic does help. But why? Because Windows sucks? Not really, it is just a matter of targeting. When a hacker writes an exploit, he wants it to work on as many people as possible. Since most of the world uses Windows, he writes his exploit for Windows. It doesn’t mean he couldn’t have written it for any other OS, and there are times when hackers do write the exploits for the other OS’s. So while using a different OS will get you by most of the malware on the web, you are still counting on luck.

I’ve never gotten a virus before…

This one is classic on so many levels. So you’ve never been infected with malware before, therefore you must be immune… Hmmm, ok, lets assume that to be true, even though a child could tell you that it’s NOT. If you never use anti-malware products, and you have never been infected by anything, that tells me that you have never been infected by a poorly-written, or relatively harmless piece of malware. Those are the ones that you would be aware of if you were infected. A relatively harmless piece of malware would have a juvenile purpose: changing your desktop wallpaper, or showing you popups for porn sites. Not so bad. If the malware were more sinister, they want to make sure you don’t know they are there. They want to steal things from you without your knowledge. But if they are poorly written, they can crash your computer or other applications. But if it’s a well-written sinister piece of malware, that’s bad. You will not know it is there just by using your computer normally. Software specifically designed to find this stuff is the only way to know if it is there. You know, like anti-virus products.

Don’t fall into the trap in thinking you are just too smart to get infected online. It is a dangerous place out there, and it’s actually getting worse. In the old days, hackers wrote malware just to mess with people. Now they make money off of it. They are smart, and persistent. Do everything that you can to protect yourself. Here is a good starting point.

Spammers Create Fake Facebook Profiles
Posted on by Zuly GonzalezCategories Web SecurityLeave a comment on Spammers Create Fake Facebook Profiles

Have you received a friend request on Facebook from a hot girl you don’t recognize? You say what the heck, I don’t know her, but she’s hot, so yeah I’ll be your friend. Bad move! Take a look at the profile below, see anything strange?

Fake Facebook User Profile Maybe you received a friend request from someone you don’t recognize with a lot of mutual friends. So you accept the request thinking, well I probably met this person at some point. Wrong again.

Facebook spammers are now creating fake user profiles to amass a large number of “friends” they can then sell to unsuspecting businesses. These businesses may have seen an ad similar to this one:

Spammer Advertising

Soon after you accept requests from these fake users, you start getting invitations to join Facebook fan pages. This is how spammers create artificial word of mouth marketing.

Worse yet, now these spammers have access to personal information you’ve marked as viewable by friends only. This includes two very important pieces of information, your birthdate and location. This can possibly lead to identity theft!

What Can You Do?

  • Avoid friending anyone you don’t recognize. Hot girls aren’t the only threat, it could be a hot guy, or a normal looking person.
  • Ask a real friend. If you get a friend request from someone with mutual friends, send your real friends a message and ask them about this person you don’t recognize. If several of your real friends tell you they don’t actually know this person, stay away!
  • Look through your current friend list. Remove anyone you don’t recognize, especially if they’re constantly inviting you to join Facebook pages.
  • Spread the word. Spammers get away with this because most people aren’t aware of these threats. So tell your friends.

Have you seen any other suspicious Facebook activity? Let us know.

Beware, Facebook Password Email Scam
Posted on by Zuly GonzalezCategories Web SecurityLeave a comment on Beware, Facebook Password Email Scam

There is yet another Facebook email scam going around. This time victims receive an email with the subject line “Facebook Password Reset Confirmation! Customer Support”. The email instructs the victim to click on an attachment in order to retrieve the password. The attachment is really a password stealer, and once installed it can potentially access any username and password combination utilized on that computer – not just for the user’s Facebook account. Here is an example of what the Facebook password reset scam email looks like.

Facebook Password Reset Email Scam Example

Facebook never sends emails alerting a user that they changed his or her password. If you receive this email, delete it right away and do not click on the attachment. To protect your computer from this type of cybercrime, follow The 5 Most Important Steps for Internet Security. Also, visit the Facebook Security page for tips on protecting yourself from scams on Facebook.

To get more details on this Facebook email scam, read the McAfee Labs Blog.

The 5 Most Important Steps for Internet Security
Posted on by Beau AdkinsCategories Web Security4 Comments on The 5 Most Important Steps for Internet Security

A closed lockThere are a lot of simple things you can do to keep yourself safe online. Here are the 5 most important things you can do today to maximize your web security. Most of these tips are simple enough for even the most novice user. Also, some of these tips assume you are using windows.

  1. Set a unique password for your administrator account – Some Windows flavors come with a built-in administator account with no password. This is the easiest way to allow a hacker to hijack your computer. You need to set it to something, and it needs to be something hard to guess (more about picking passwords later). To set it, go to Start -> Control Panel. Then click on the Administrative Tools icon. Once in there, there is a Computer Management icon. On the tree view on the left, you should see an entry for “Users”. Clicking on this should give you a view on the right of all the accounts. You can use these to enable or disable accounts, and change the passwords. If you are using Vista or Windows 7, this default admin account is turned off by default, so you shouldn’t have to worry about it.
  2. Use strong passwords – Setting your password is a waste of time if it can be guessed. What should you not use as a password? Anything that your closest friend could ever, EVER, guess. So don’t use your name, birthday, relative’s name, etc. Don’t use “password”, “123”, etc. Don’t make your password something you would find in a dictionary. What should you use? Use at least 8 characters total. Use something unguessable. Use upper and lowercase. Use numbers. Use symbols. Here is an example of a very strong password. “R8b#5kB2*”. This would take decades at best for a hacker to guess. At least it would have if I hadn’t written it here. Assume this one as guessable now. So this is a strong password. But it is very difficult to remember. To make a password that is almost as strong, but easier to remember, try making up words, mix up the case, and add a number or 2. Like this one “Flard9Glorb2”. This is just about as unguessable as the previous one. Except this one is pronouncable, which means you can remember it. Use a strong password important accounts you have (especially for logging on to your computer).
  3. Install an antivirus product – Everyone should have some sort of antivirus installed. More importantly, it should be up-to-date. This usually costs around $40 for a year or 2, but it is worth it. There are some free antivirus tools out there, but I have never used them, so I can’t offer any opinion on them. Some internet service providers offer free subscriptions to antivirus for its users. Even if you can’t get antivirus for free, you still need to get it. $40 is not a lot of money to help keep your personal info safe.
  4. Install (and configure) a software firewall – A lot of the antivirus suites come with a firewall. If your’s didn’t, find another one. There are a ton online, and I haven’t used enough of them to offer a recommendation of one over the others. But once you get one, make sure it is set up to monitor both incoming and outgoing traffic. Most of them only offer incoming protection by default, but if you are behind a router, this is basically useless. Once you turn on outgoing monitoring, you will start seeing notifications popping up asking your permission to allow a program to access the internet. Once you have allowed or disallowed all the programs on your computer which are trying to use the internet, you shouldn’t see any more popups, except when new (possibly bad) software is installed. Why should you care about a firewall? Assume a bad piece of software gets installed on your machine, and your antivirus doesn’t catch it. If it tries to send your personal info out to the internet, or contact its creator to get tasking, hopefully the firewall will stop it, and render it impotent.
  5. Turn on auto-updates – Both your operating system and your browser should have auto-updating capabilities. This means when a new version is released, you get it automatically, instead of having to go look for it. The most common reason for a new version of software is a patched vulnerability. If you continue using a piece of software with an unpatched vulnerability, you are at a very high risk of having your computer exploited.

Completing these 5 simple tasks shouldn’t take more than an afternoon, and will put you miles ahead of most everyone else on the internet. Hackers usually pick the low hanging fruit. It is quicker, easier, and sadly most of the “fruit” out there is hangs pretty low.

Now, don’t leave this article thinking you are invincible online. There are still some very sophisticated hackers out there. Consider these steps as a good starting point, because if you haven’t done all of these, doing the more advanced things is a waste of time.

Watch Out for Tax Season Phishing Scams
Posted on by Zuly GonzalezCategories Web Security1 Comment on Watch Out for Tax Season Phishing Scams

Online Phishing ScamsI found an interesting post on the McAfee Labs Blog on tax time phishing scams worth sharing.

Every year during tax season, online criminals create fake irs.gov domains in an attempt to trick taxpayers into revealing their personal and financial information. Victims might visit these phishing and malicious websites via any number of effective redirection methods, such as phishing attacks, forum postings, and black-hat search-engine optimizations.

If you get an email from the “IRS”, it’s probably a scam. The IRS Consumer Alert page says, “The IRS does not send taxpayers unsolicited emails about their tax accounts, tax situations, or personal tax issues.” Here is an example of a fraudulent IRS email. To prevent your personal information from being compromised, avoid replying or clicking on any links in the email, and delete these messages.

For the full article visit the McAfee Labs Blog.

Well I hope you found my tax season series to be helpful. Let me know if you have topic suggestions for next year’s tax time series.

Light Point Security Blog Intro
Posted on by Beau AdkinsCategories Light Point Security UpdateLeave a comment on Light Point Security Blog Intro

Welcome to the Official Light Point Security BlogBlogging on Laptop

Here we go, Post #1. First off, let me say that I have never posted to a blog before, so this is a pretty big deal for me. This whole site is still in its infancy, so expect things to change around.

Who Am I?

My name is Beau Adkins. I am 1 of 2 co-founders of Light Point Security. I am also the CEO and CTO. As of this point, it means I am in charge of all things technical. I am a software guy trying to become a business guy (who still does software).

What Is This Blog About?

Good question. I haven’t yet nailed down where I want the focus of this blog to be. But off of the top of my head, I can say that these are the most likely subjects to be discussed here.

  • Web security
  • Startups in general
  • Programming topics

Since I have zero experience with contributing to blogs, I don’t plan on hammering the subject matter out before I start. I am sure that as I try out different topics, the blog itself will naturally evolve into the best mix of subject matter that I can write on.

If you have any questions or comments for me or about the business, feel free to ask/contribute.

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