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Recent Society articles from Daily Dot

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    You gotta feel sorry for Reynold Joseph. The Orange County, New Jersey, man had a brilliant Craigslist business idea that he'd already proven could work. Then his dreams were cut short by a couple of unimaginative cops.

    Here's the Joseph 30-second sales pitch: He sells you a car on Craigslist but probably won't tell you he's got a master key. After you hand over the cash, he puts another ad up on Craigslist for the car, sneaks out to your place in the middle of the night, and steals it back. Repeat ad infinitum. The beauty of the idea, aside from its simplicity, is that it could also work with other vehicles: golf carts, lawnmowers, helicopters, etc.

    Joseph was out on a joyride after a successful transaction when police in Mahwah, New Jersey, noticed illegally tinted windows on his Pontiac G8 and pulled him over Wednesday morning. Joseph claimed he'd bought it on Craigslist, and even showed proof of ownership (he'd given the Craigslist buyer a phony title). He'd also swapped the license plates with temporary ones from the dealership where he worked. 

    This guy prepared for almost everything, but there was one key detail he couldn't change. When cops searched the car's vehicle identification number, etched into the windshield, they discovered a woman in Long Island had reported it stolen from her driveway the night before. 

    Joseph is in now sitting in jail. Police have charged him with possession of a stolen vehicle, possession of burglary tools, and possession of motor vehicle master keys, according to NJ.com.

    Photo by pontiacunderground/Flickr


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    The North Korean government has accused the U.S. and South Korea of allegedly hacking its databases.

    The accusation came from North Korea's state-run news agency, which claimed that its government websites have been offline over the past two days due to a cyberattack.

    "North Korean web sites routinely go offline for periods of a few hours or up to a day, but this was the first time that all of the country’s websites went offline at the same time," the North Korea Tech blog reported.

    The attacks come at a controversial time for North Korea, which has boasted on Twitter of having an invincible army while stealing footage from the video game Call of Duty to create a propaganda video of a fictitious U.S. city on fire. To try and balance out all the negativity, North Korea welcomed former NBA star Dennis Rodman recently on a mission of "basketball diplomacy."

    Cyberattacks are nothing new for the U.S. government. During the first five months of Barack Obama's presidency, he "ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities," The New York Timesreported.

    North Korea believes the recent cyberattacks were conducted so the U.S. can find out about its alleged nuclear weapon program.

    "What should not be overlooked is that such cyber attack is timed to coincide with the madcap Key Resolve joint military exercises being staged by the U.S. and other hostile forces," the North Korean news agency reported. "It is nobody’s secret that the U.S. and South Korean puppet regime are massively bolstering up cyber forces in a bid to intensify the subversive activities and sabotages against the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea]. The DPRK will never remain a passive onlooker to the enemies' cyber attacks that have reached a very grave phase as part of their moves to stifle it."

    Photo by rapidtravelchai/Flickr


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    Oversharing on Facebook has reached a new level: Women in Canada are using the social networking site to donate breast milk.

    The southwestern Ontario chapter for "Human Milk 4 Human Babies" has racked up more than 1,000 likes with eager moms using it share excess breast milk to those in need. The group, which relies on the members to do their own background checks, is concerning Canada's public health service.

    Health Canada is warning users of the Facebook group that unregulated sharing of unprocessed breast milk could be harmful if the milk is improperly treated or contains diseases.

    "Breastfeeding promotes optimal infant growth, health and development and is recognized internationally as the best method of feeding infants. However, unprocessed human milk should not be shared," a Health Canada spokeswoman said to CBC News.

    "There is a potential risk that the milk may be contaminated with viruses such as HIV or bacteria, which can cause food poisoning," the spokeswoman continued. The organization added that traces of drugs (both nonprescription and prescription) can be transmitted via the milk, which might have unforeseen consequences.

    Regardless, group administrator Laura Gauthier said profiles on Facebook allow those receiving the milk to investigate donors’ lives first.

    "If a mom is on there looking for a donor, and has found someone who's made an offer, they have the ability—even before they even message them—to kind of poke around in their life a little bit and decide whether this person looks like someone I would trust," said Gauthier.

    And users of Human Milk 4 Human Babies, which has chapters across the world according to a Facebook search, are satisfied. Lindsay Logsdon, a mother of four, uses the group to siphon her excess breast milk to those who can't breastfeed.

    "It has been really great to watch these babies grow and thrive and know that I've contributed in some way to their well-being," Logsdon said.

    Health Canada's warning doesn't faze mothers who regularly use the Facebook group, either. New mother Erin Samson, who suffers from an insufficient glandular tissue problem, said the group has been a lifesaver for her since she can't breastfeed.

    "It's a very emotional time right after you've given birth. I had always wanted to breastfeed. It was just something I assumed I would be able to do," she said. Samson receivers her milk from Gillian Slate, a friend and heavy user of Human Milk 4 Human Babies.

    Slate has donated to more than a half-dozen families from across Canada who often travel hours to pick-up her frozen breast milk.

    "I started donating with my first son," explained Slate. "I was exclusively pumping and I had quite the oversupply. My freezer was filling up with frozen breast milk."

    In 2013, that's a problem that’s now being solved by Facebook.

    Photo via sweethomeapplachia/Hashgram


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    In the modern job market, social networking may be the new networking.

    A recently released study finds that job seekers increasingly utilize Facebook in their employment search. But the real surprise isn't that they are using the site; after all, Facebook is a ubiquitous presence in most of our lives, used for everything from hooking up to breaking up. The real surprise is the kind of online connections through which people are finding work.

    The study, conducted by researchers from Carnegie-Mellon University and reported on Facebook's blog, found that most people seeking work through Facebook happened upon job opportunities through friends with whom they shared stronger, rather than weaker, ties.

    According to the study's co-author, Moira Burke, this is somewhat counterintuitive when stacked up against prevailing sociological research.

    "Though your strong ties may be supportive, they tend to know the same things as you—you often have the same friends, read the same news, and spend time in similar places," Burke wrote, explaining the conventional wisdom on this subject. "Job openings they know about, you probably do too."

    Burke also notes that "weak ties," in addition to making up the majority of one's network, also tend to work for a wider and more diverse range of companies, thus connecting you to a broader world.

    But in a survey of 3,000 Facebook users that included 169 job seekers, Burke and her research partner, Robert Kraut, found that people who talked more with strong ties were twice as likely to find a new job within three months. Those who talked more with weak ties were less likely to find a job.


    via Facebook

    The power of strong social media ties is certainly something a lot of folks learn about when they suddenly find themselves tossed out into the job market. That was the case for Casey Hebron, a marketing associate from Philadelphia. After getting laid off last year, Hebron said that Facebook, along with sites like LinkedIn, were crucial tools in her job search. 

    "I honestly don't know how I'd go about looking for work before social networks," she told The Daily Dot. "It's easier to talk to all the people you know in one place. They can put in a word for you and make sure your resume gets seen."

    It would ultimately be a tip from one of Hebron's close relatives that would help her find new work. 

    This fits the findings of Burke and Kraut's research. They've come up with two theories to explain the results of their study. They say the embarrassing, sensitive nature of unemployment makes it more likely that job seekers will only share their burden with those they have stronger personal ties to, while keeping weaker ties in the dark about their employment situation. Likewise, they say stronger ties are likely to put in more effort in helping find work.

    "Strong ties may be more willing to put in the effort to be helpful, asking contacts about new openings, forwarding your resume and persuading others that you're the best candidate—or even hiring you themselves," Burke said. 

    But lots of communication with strong ties on Facebook does have a negative side. Their study also found that job seekers who spent more time talking with friends and family with whom they share strong ties were more likely to become stressed.


    via Facebook

    The researchers say people who saw their stress go up while searching for work hadn't changed their Facebook usage in any significant way. They only thing that changed, they said, was the way this interaction made them feel.

    "Strong ties may make the psychological distress of job loss worse by offering unhelpful advice and pushing for recovery too quickly," Burke wrote. "People may feel their independence threatened by strong ties, increasing resentment rather than relief."

    As of February the national unemployment rate was still 7.7 percent, showing little net improvement since September but down 1.3 percent from the same time a year ago. 

    H/T The Next Web | Photo by kentuckyunemployment / Flickr


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    It's been less than 24 hours since the Twitter-based service Bitcoin Tipper launched and President Barack Obama has already collected $18.96.

    That's the beauty of the new service from programmer Marcus Yearwood which allows Twitter users to seamlessly gift Bitcoins, a digital currency which has grown in popularity over the past six months, to other users.

    Reddit has been experimenting with a similar tipping bot that allows users to reward quality comment and posts. The Bitcointip bot was created by Reddit user NerdfighterSean last fall and has been used to tip more than $1,000 worth of Bitcoins across 1,542 transactions. The average tip has been $.65.

    NerdfighterSean's service has been used to tip the likes of  former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, Bill Gates, and Rick Falkvinge, founder of the Swedish Pirate Party. Yearwood's Twitter Bitcoin Tipper, on the other hand, has already netted Obama .4 Bitcoins (which, according to current conversion rates, is about $18.96).

    "How cool is this?" @zscott tweeted.

    "#Bitcoin continues to innovate the world of finance," @sophiedonkin tweeted.

    Illustration by Fernando Alfonso III


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    Randy Phillips didn't know what he was getting into.

    Before revealing his identity, the military airman discreetly uploaded videos shot from the neck down detailing what it's like to lead a closeted lifestyle in the United States Air Force. The short snippets garnered him a mix of praise and condemnation. 

    Regardless, Phillips, then 21, knew he had to come all the way out. Not just revealing his name, age, and face—but sexually. So, inspired by the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, he came out to the Internet. "There would be no turning back," he explained.

    The Alabama native's candid video garnered lots of attention very quickly. Phillips's inbox filled up with thousands of hate messages. But he still saw it as a positive moment in his life. 

    Amid all the insults and bigotry was a vocal group of fans supporting Phillips's momentous step. His stock quickly rose with the gay community; fervent fans tracked his every move on YouTube and Twitter. His online presence now is nothing short of a minor social media empire.

    It was a different story for Jardin Bell, a gay 15-year-old in Oregon. Bell hanged himself at his school's playground because he couldn't handle the bullying he encountered at school and online. He was rushed to the hospital, but shortly after was taken off life support and pronounced dead.

    "He was different, and they tend to pick on the different ones," a family friend said about Bell.

    It's not possible to create a utopian, 100 percent safe environment on the Internet. But what we can do is give young members of the LGBT community a safe space where they can educate themselves and others. 

    Kristin Russo and Dannielle Owens-Reid, the owners of the popular Tumblr Everyone Is Gay, make it a point to provide an open forum to those anxious and often distressed voices. 

    Since launching the blog three years ago, they've noticed how much of a problem cyberbullying is and why it continues to grow, especially among middle and high schoolers. And it's an epidemic that has no boundaries.

    ~

    In a 2010 survey of several hundred gay high schoolers, 54 percent admitted to being bullied online within the previous 30 days. As in Jardin Bell's case, the bullying can lead to suicide.

    "You have no escape from it," Russo said bluntly. "They get home and it's everywhere. If they get on their computer, they can see it. They get on their phone, they can see it. There's no safety from it no matter where they go."

    Russo says messages of support should originate from the students themselves in open conversations. But even that can be problematic: Lots of bullying comes from other gay youth protective of their territory and wary of how they're characterized.

    In Russo's inbox, it's not all, "'Oh, you're gay, and gay is stupid,'" she says, "but from [people] actually within in the community of people saying 'you're not gay enough,' 'you're not trans enough,' or 'you're not this enough or this thing enough.'" 

    They're newly comfortable with a group, says Owens-Reid, and they fear outsiders and even more ridicule. "If you 'other' someone, you won't be 'othered,'" she explained to me over the phone. "Their immediate reaction is, 'No, no, you're not like us! I spent my whole life trying to fit into this group and you have to be like us to fit in to this group.'"

    Russo and Owens-Reid often see bullies creating fake profiles on Facebook and adding their friends, spreading false and hurtful information through rumors. It's not limited to the Internet, either: At their SXSW panel on Sunday, March 10, the women mentioned a teen they interviewed who received anonymous texts and threats several times.

    "There's all these levels of how they are using it to tear people down or exert their power over each other," said Russo. 

    The Internet's anonymous cloak allows bullies free rein over hurtful words and methods. Russo said "people use it and abuse it," but the social networks can't be held accountable for this.

    "It could be better than it is, but that they all agree it's not the responsibility of the people who create social media environments … to deal with what's happening on those forums," said Russo, mentioning that fringing upon First Amendment rights could be a territory that the companies, like Tumblr and Twitter, don't want to wade into.

    How, then, do you deal with it?

    "The biggest way we can take action is by organizing youth to advocate for themselves and others around them," Russo said, explaining how she and Owens-Reid travel to schools and universities across the country to promote tolerance. 

    "Danielle and I have a great platform, we have people much younger who look up to us. … But going into a large school setting a message is going to be heard louder when its their peers saying 'these things happen when you take these actions.'

    "That's the biggest way it can be dealt with," she admitted.


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    Fandom March Madness, the annual LiveJournal competition that offers fans the simple chance to vote for their favorite character from all of fandom, is upon us once again.  But what's more interesting is that it offers us a glimpse at the mentality of LiveJournal-based fandom both before and after a significant discussion about fandom representation took place.

    Much like the college basketball variety, fandom's March Madness is a simple bracket-based tournament that runs eight rounds, eliminating 63 of 64 characters from various fandoms until one winner is left standing.

    In 2008's competition, the winner was How I Met Your Mother's Barney Stinson, played by fandom favorite Neil Patrick Harris. The following year he once again faced off against Supernatural's Dean Winchester, only to suffer defeat.

    In 2008, the fandom categories were solely for television, broken out into Sitcom, Drama, Obscure, and News divisions. Of the 16 competing characters, only one was female. In 2009, the categories changed to Comedy, Drama, Sci-Fi, and Teen, and the ratio of male:female characters was 43:21.

    The next year, however, while the fandom categories stayed the same, the gender ratio jumped to 30:34.  It's tough to say what caused the shift, but one factor was most likely the widespread impact of Racefail, a discussion that lasted for many months during 2009 about diversity and inclusivity in science fiction literature and LiveJournal-based fandom. Post-Racefail, this corner of fandom largely looks the same as it did before, but with a wider awareness that diversity is important, and with more fanwork fests and challenges designed to include more non-white characters and women.

    From 2010 on, the Fandom March Madness champion has been a minority character, with iconic superhero Buffy Summers taking the prize that year, followed by Community's Troy Barnes in 2011 and Parks and Recreation's Leslie Knope in 2012. This year's Elite 8 characters are all female, and at least 2 are minority.

    This is quite a switch from the pre-Racefail mentality of the challenge, where the top 8 were all male, except for an appearance from Veronica Mars in 2009. 2009's winner, Dean Winchester, is the epitome of the popular white male character that has developed a huge fan following, and we've since seen Supernatural fans flock to vote in other popularity polls wherever his name gets mentioned.

    Yet in this year's competition, voters urged one another to vote against Stiles Stilinski, the breakout popular character from the hugely popular Teen Wolf, by calling him "the Dean Winchester of Teen Wolf." This prompted backlash from Teen Wolf fans, but the strategy evidently paid off; Stiles went down in round one.

    "[It]'s not so much a popularity contest as it is an underdog contest," commented one Teen Wolf anon. "A lot of the people voting don't actually care about the show."

    While the voters of Fandom March Madness may have evolved a mentality of celebrating the underdog once yearly, that celebration hasn't yet found its way into the fandom hivemind at large. A quick search of the most popular works of fanfiction archived at the Archive of Our Own (AO3) reveals that you must browse past 40 fics, nearly all of which are Sherlock, Supernatural, Avengers, and Teen Wolf slash, before you get to a fic with a main female character. That fic is A Bed of Thorns by Nym, for Once Upon a Time, a fandom that, while popular, has never gotten far in Fandom Madness. From there it's a long way down until you hit another fic with a minority character or a woman as the main character.  What's more, Leslie Knope, last year's winner, only features in two hundred fanfics on the massive fanarchive.

    So is there any connection? Are the voters at Fandom March Madness more likely to inhabit the more heterocentric FanFiction.net, where the number of represented fandoms is arguably far more diverse than that at AO3?  Not if the voters who chose an all-female Elite 8 in 2013 are the same voters who chose the slash fandom poster boy, Dean Winchester, in 2009. Then again, some voters have tired of the heated intensity of the yearly competition.

    "I had no idea FMM could be so vicious," commented one voter on Tumblr. Another asked moderators to step in when voter campaigning got a little too intense for a friend, who left the community. The mods declined.

    If current voting trends are any indication, the 2013 finals will be a match-up between Elementary’s Joan Watson and Harry Potter’s Hermione Granger, and given the groundswell of support for Elementary and the female, Asian-American incarnation of John Watson, it's easy to predict that Joan might sweep the ballots.

    But it seems dubious that a victory in March Madness will translate to fandom writing more fics about Joan Watson. Despite the love the show has gotten online, it remains a very tiny fandom in terms of fanfiction.

    On the whole, fandom may vote for its underrepresented characters once a year; but for the other eleven months, they're still the real underdogs.

    Illustrations via alicexz/deviantART and mosrael-the-waker/deviantART


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    There's dumb, and then there's taking an iPad that doesn't belong to you and accidentally uploading scores of silly self-portraits to the the original owner's phone.

    But "Ugly McCrazy Shirt"—as the iPad’s owner dubbed the apparent thief—is accused of just that.

    Allen Engstrom claims his iPad went missing on a flight in February, and had no idea of its whereabouts. But he uses Photo Stream, which means that a photo taken on any of his devices shows up on all of them. The woman he says is now in possession of his iPad doesn't know that, though. Soon, Engstrom was flooded with pictures of the woman in various poses—alternately cross eyed, duck faced, and smug.

    "It's been a continuing fountain of entertainment for me," he told THV 11, a local news station. "I'll wake up in the morning and look at my pictures and there'll be new pictures there. I'll be like, 'oh my God, she has no idea.'"

    Engstrom said his name and contact info are on the back of the iPad, so there's little chance this is a simple misunderstanding. He added that while he hasn't filed charges yet, he likely will once “Shirt” has been identified.

    H/T Get Off My Internets | Photo via Allen Engstrom/Facebook


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    Twitter is exactly the same as high school, the office, or pretty much any other social confine: people jump into cliques and stick to them.

    That's according to a recently published study by the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway and Princeton University. Researchers looked at conversational tweets (i.e. @replies) for around 250,000 users. In total, they examined more than 200 million tweets sent between Jan. 2007 and Nov. 2009.

    As the Guardian reports, the "largest group found in the analysis was made up of African Americans." That community sent 90 percent of @replies between themselves. The group also tended to shorten words by replacing the "ing" suffix with "in" or "er" with "a."

    This figure visualizes how the communities are divided by language use, and how they interact with each other.

    According to the researchers:

    The top word given for each community is the most significant one in that community. Users send a high proportion of their messages (0.91) to other users within the same community. Circles represent communities, with the area of the circle proportional to the number of users (>250 shown). The widths of the lines between circles represent the numbers of messages (>5000 shown) between or within community. The colours of the self-loops represent the proportion of messages that are within users from that group. A word has been starred to avoid offence.

    A spreadsheet does a better job of making sense of that data. After African Americans, the next largest groups are South by Southwest conference attendees, the "social movement" collective, Brits, comics and novels fans, American right-wing community, software developers, and foodies.

    Another social group revealed a different linguistic phenomenon. "The Justin Bieber fans have a habit of ending words in 'ee', as in 'pleasee',"  Prof. Vincent Jansen said. That falls in with an Atlantic report about many users lengtheniiiiing their woooooords.

    Researchers hope, according to the Guardian, that the project data can reveal a more in-depth look at how language is changing among Twitter communities, with a view to finding new ways to engage with them beyond hashtags.

    That certainly brings a marketing element into play: marketers might soon know how to tap into target demographics beyond an identical Promoted Tweet being blasted to all of Twitter's users.

    More importantly and significantly for the community, the study provides an intriguing look at changing language on Twitter.

    Photo by GS+/Flickr


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    History fandom: it’s a thing. And its main difference from regular fandom is that instead of mourning the fictional death of Sherlock Holmes on a TV show last year, history fans are usually centuries away from their current main squeeze. And right now, that’s Julius Caesar.

    Today is the Ides of March, and Tumblr users are commemorating the 2,057th anniversary of Caesar’s murder at the hands of the Roman Senate. You can celebrate with some Roman cosplay, or even a topical meal: Caesar salad, stabbed 23 times with a fork.

    Images via durnesque-esque

    Just don’t forget the true meaning of the day. As the Ides of March card from someecards puts it, “It's not about just stabbing. It's about coming together to stab in groups.”

    Caesar fandom even ties in with the Internet’s most quotable movie, Mean Girls. It’s hard to get far online without hitting a Mean Girls macro, but Julius Caesar brings the meme full circle thanks to the movie’s direct reference to his demise.

    GIF via thecomfortador

    For one day each year, the crossover Tumblr Mean Girls Of Rome makes perfect sense. Its motto? “Veni, inepte, ad forum imus.” (That loosely translates to “Get in, loser, we’re going shopping,” for those of you whose Latin is a little rusty.)

    Image via meangirlsofrome

    Oh, and if you’re not into Caesar salad, don’t worry. There’s always the option of blood-spattered Ides Of March cake.

    Image via BasilsAngelofMusic

    Images via durnesque-esque


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    At least one politician seems to be smarting after a retweet pledge stuck her with a sizable donation to charity.

    Fiona Mactaggart, Labour Member of Parliament for Slough in Berkshire, England, pledged to give £1 to charity for every retweet she received in 35 minutes. She was left with a bill of £14,268 ($21,551).

    For what it's worth, the RT figure is now higher, even if it means Mactaggart won't donate any more of her cash.

    "It was spur of the moment. I had planned to give all day but doing it that way was spur of the moment," she told Agence France-Presse. "When I was a teacher, before I was an MP, I taught for the whole day dressed up as a chicken, and got sponsored for Red Nose Day."

    Red Nose Day is a biennial telethon in aid of Comic Relief, a charity that aids poor and vulnerable people around the world. This year's event has generated over £75 million thus far.

    Mactaggart's sizable donation certainly helped, and being the daughter of a late, multi-millionaire property developer means she isn't in debt.

    "I don't think many politicians can afford to do what I did," Mactaggart, who is not currently planning any other Twitter pledges, told AFP.

    While she expected to be handing over around £10,000, she probably didn't plan to receive criticism in the wake of the 2009 MP expenses scandal.

    She said the retweet campaign was worth the trouble because it led to other users donating. Perhaps a little more satisfying than dressing as a chicken, then.

    Photo via @fionamacmp/Twitter


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    Twenty years from now, Chinese will look at their health crisis—at their crippling rates of obesity and early-onset diabetes—and pinpoint March 18 as the day when things started to go really bad. That was the day McDonald's gave out free McMuffin breakfast sandwiches at restaurant locations the country. The day the intoxicating chemical mixture of rubbery egg product, phosphate-laden cheesestuffs, and mealy muffins met a million virgin tongues across the Middle Kingdom—and a million new McMuffin addicts were born. 

    Luckily, future sociologists have a treasure trove of historical records waiting for them. Users of China's biggest social network, Sina Weibo, were there to chronicle the slavering hordes as they crashed the Golden Arches. Images of McMuffin slavery dominated the network earlier today.

    See more images at Shanghaiist.

    Photos via Sina Weibo/Shanghaiist


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    Most examinations of security and privacy online are written by geeks, and largely only readable by nerds. The problem with that approach, of course, is that most of us are neither. We do not have the obsessive interest in and depth of familiarity with the guts of our computers and the niceties of the roads they run on.

    Well, lucky for you, some tech reporters are none too bright and enduringly lazy. Their computers are a mess of default settings and haphazard attempts at security. For such hen-wits, their online security regimes are the equivalent to a home security plan consisting solely of windows the previous tenant painted shut.

    So, let’s take a look together and see what basic, simple measures we can take to maintain maximum security for minimum effort. After all, as we mentioned in a previous article, Microsoft Research’s Cormac Herley made an extremely important and underappreciated point:

    Most security advice  “offers to shield (users) from the direct costs of attacks, but burdens them with far greater indirect costs in the form of effort.”

    We’ll try to keep those costs down.

    Secure your junk, physically

    Photo via David Woo/Flickr

    As often as we hear about spy-vs-spy type cybersecurity campaigns, like the recently uncovered Red October spying program, a great deal of cybersecurity breaches are physical. From UPS losing Citibank user data somewhere in its transportation chain to the creators of Stuxnet relying on seeded thumb drives physically sprinkled about the place and physically stuck into a USB port, people in places doing things is one of the easiest, and most  easily preventable, way to screw up someone’s online world.

    • Don’t leave your laptop and mobile devices unsecured in public or in the workplace
    • Do not use unvetted media, such as thumb drives and CDs, in your devices
    • Do not leave your devices powered up while you are not there to watch over them, unless you ...

    Secure your junk, digitally

    Every device to speak of offers you the option of securing it digitally. My laptop, for instance, requires a password. My phone offers the ability to lock when not being used, only unlockable using a shape-based password gesture.

    Most of these options are available under some variant of a “settings” field. For my laptop, for instance, it is available under the Control Panel, reachable by right-clicking on the Windows button in the lower right-hand corner of the screen (or the Apple menu in the top left, if that’s your thing) or via the Windows Explorer navigation frame.

    On my mobile phone, an Android OS device, you can set the screen lock and password in much the same way, under the Location and Security settings.

    If you set up your devices so that they default to password-protected when not being used, or can be locked when you step away from them, there is much less of a chance that someone will slip in and use your accounts to commit some perfidious act, or hit your device with a malware-infected medium of some sort.

    Use built-in security tools

    All devices come with security measures. They are not always the most effective ,but they have the benefit of actually being there. For instance, on my laptop, I can elect to encrypt the contents of my hard drive using BitLocker Drive Encryption. Anyone attempting to access the contents of my drive remotely should encounter an ass-ton of gibberish. They can hack it if they’re good enough, but it should at least prevent opportunistic smash-and-grab data theft.

    Built-in security firewalls and virus/malware detection programs are standard with most devices. Use them. They are far from perfect but they are, by and large, useful. After all, if your goal is to make your devices and accounts impregnable, you won’t. Your goal should be to make it more trouble than it’s worth, sending probing hands on to easier targets.

    So to do that, make sure your firewall is turned on and adjusted to whatever height you are willing to put up with. Too high and it will ping you for permission to do practically anything; too low and it might as well be turned off.

    Most devices come with a subscription to an antivirus/antimalware service, but that subscription usually runs out after a year or two. Either maintain the subscription, or download a free service. Regardless of what type of software and service you use, make sure you automatically update your virus definitions on a regular basis and that you schedule regular, frequent scans of your device.

    Your email is evil

    As we have explained at length elsewhere, any time you get online, whether to browse, to email or anything else, you are at the mercy of a third party.

    Third party email providers—which is to say, all email providers—may well keep copies of your emails, even after you delete them from your account. Those companies, almost all of whom are large U.S.-based media companies, are obliged to turn over information on their users, including their emails, whenever asked to do so legally. One of the problems with this is that there are many more “legal” ways for a law enforcement or intelligence agent to ask for your information. In many instances, warrants are not even required.

    This is all quite aside from the ability of hackers to capture information, singly or en masse, that will allow them to comb through your email for personal and economic information, like ecommerce passwords, which they can use for personal gain.

    So there are three ways of eliminating or at least limiting, your exposure. You can stop using email. You can limit your use of email, for instance never communicating financial information or excising any mention of personal identifying details. Or you can encrypt.

    Encrypting is no fun. You have to encrypt your connection, the messages themselves and your stored messages. The first is not too tough. Most email systems allow for secure socket layer/transport layer security. SSL/TLS can often be triggered by adding an S to the http in your address bar. If that does not automatically encrypt your connection, go to your settings for your email program and look for encryption, often under advanced settings.

    To encrypt your email messages, you can use the encryption offered with the email service, if it is offered. When offered, as with Microsoft Outlook, it is usually secure/multipurpose Internet mail extensions (S/MIME) encryption. Otherwise, you’ll have to download a tool yourself, such as a pretty good privacy (PGP) program or add-on, like OpenPGP.

    To exchange encrypted messages with a recipient, you will both have to install security certificates on your computers (available from companies like Comodo), generating “public keys,” or strings of characters like long passwords, which you will need to share with each other ahead of time.

    One easy way to encrypt your stored email is by encrypting your hard drive. (See above.)

    For more information on email encryption, PC World and Lifehacker both have good, detailed reference articles.

    Browse securely

    The easiest way to securely browse the Internet is to do so in a way that does not divulge to anyone what you are looking at, who you are, and where you are browsing from.

    You can get around this sort of identification by using a proxy server. Proxies are Web browsing intermediaries. As a user, you go to the proxy site and the proxy site fetches Web sites for you, making it more difficult for anyone to pinpoint your actual location or identify you by your computer’s IP address.

    There are many lists of proxies available with a quick search. The problem is that employees of blocking software and representatives of government agencies make sure they are up with the latest proxies as well. Peacefire’s Circumventor is a good source for a constantly updated list of  usable URLs.

    Another option is Tor. Tor is a “network of virtual tunnels” that make tracking the location and identity of an Internet user much more difficult. This frustrates what is called “traffic analysis,” that can infer from Internet traffic paths and use patterns where a user is and who they might be. It also circumvents content blocks while blinding hackers to destinations they might benefit from knowing, such as banking and ecommerce websites.

    Tor requires a user to either download connection software or employ the “Tor browser bundle” run off a USB drive, if they wish to avoid downloading the software to their hard drive.

    There are two issues to note with using Tor. First, it can slow down your browsing. Secondly, if you are trying to avoid being seen visiting certain sites, it will work, but in some contexts being seen to visit Tor itself will raise suspicions.

    Facebook, Twitter and who knows what else

    Sites like Facebook, Twitter and other social networks are to your digital edifice what dog doors are to your physical house: additional entry points for invaders and exit points for heat, kids and, of course pets. OK, the metaphor is not perfect.

    Image via Facebook

    What makes sites like Facebook and Twitter dangerous in terms of our security is our tendency to gibber on as though we were among friends, instead of among “friends.” We often give out contextualizing information that can lead to our being identified, even when we’re being careful. When we’re not being careful, it’s even worse. Spouses’ names, cities of residence, even the street we live on might be mentioned, allowing ne’er-do-wells to perpetrate social hacks based on information tailored to specific targets, a type of scam known as “spearphishing.”

    The problem with trying to manage security on a social network is both the fact of it being a third party tool and the fact that you, as the saying goes, are the product, not the product’s owner. Still, there are several options.

    Don’t use social networks. They’re a mess and the social milieu is one of laxity and oversharing. The companies that run them seem to change privacy policies constantly, making it difficult to keep on top of. Facebook in particular is notorious for this.

    Clamp down. Find the maximal security settings for any social network you’re using and employ them. With Twitter, make your account private, so only those you allow can follow you. In Facebook, choose sharing with your “friends” as your default, across-the-board selection.

    Don’t share anything of a personal nature. Don’t tell people that you and your wife Lydia drove from your house on Eastern Drive downtown to dine at Flan, as you do every Tuesday night. Don’t post your email address, your phone number, the name of your child’s school. Don’t tell thieves, hackers and creeps the information they will need to screw you to the wall. And understand, they don’t need much.

    Technologist Griffin Boyce told the Daily Dot that hell is other people, even if they’re people you know and mean to communicate with.

    “When chatting/emailing you can't always trust the other person to not pass along your conversation,” Boyce said. “The human element is always the biggest. In a lot of ways, your security is reliant on the other person's security as well. This is pretty obvious when talking to people in other countries (where they might be surveilled), but it's also important to consider when talking to someone locally.”

    The Internet is just awful

    The only way to guarantee 100% digital security is to stay analog. A security specialist said, years ago when email and blogging were the main avenues we traveled to speak to one another online, that given time enough and money, anyone could be hacked. An organization with enough of both—especially, though not solely, a governmental one—could, if they were willing to spend and work until it was done, get their hands on your junk.

    Photo by Liwi S./Flickr

    That hasn’t changed. If anything, there are more avenues than ever to your private information. The default level of security online is none.

    But most of us are unwilling to become digital apostates. So what we must do is decide how much time and trouble we are willing to go to in order to reach what we believe to be an adequate level of security for our personal needs, that of our families and of our companies.

    And probably, we can reach that level. But it’s something that comes from conscious decisions and actions.  At the very least, promise us you won’t leave your doodads lying around and that you’ll slap a password on anywhere one will go. Will you do that? We’re worried about you.

    Illustration via Bigstock


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    Hey basketball fans, here's another piece of evidence you can add to your trash talk repertoire during March Madness. Facebook's data masters have crunched the numbers and mapped NCAA team allegiance across the United States. How does your team stack up?

    Claiming that a map of all 68 teams "would be harmful to the colorblind," Facebook's Michael Bailey looked at the geographic origin of likes by conference. In most cases, the results are predictable. Allegiances are delineated by geographic and political ines.

    In the Midwest, Michigan State dominates... Michigan (with a few minor strongholds in traitorous Ohio counties). In the East, Syracuse  dominates fandom from New York to Vermont to Connecticut. North Carolina State is very popular in South Carolina.

    Here are the maps:

    Midwest

    East

    South

    West

    Things get more interesting when you look at teams with a national fan base. Louisville might be the number one seed in the country, but its fans have few strongholds outside of Kentucky. But number two Duke makes the Midwest conference map look like a Center for Disease Control model showing the advanced stages of a national viral outbreak. The whole country is infected with Duke blue. The same goes for the University of North Carolina in the South.

    It would have been fun to look at the raw numbers behind the analysis, but for some reason Facebook didn't release those. So if you want to see how your team stacks up to your rivals, you'll have to check manually. It is, for instance, with mild smugness that I report the University of Louisville Cardinals basketball team has a paltry 45,000 fans, while the Syracuse Orange boasts 240,000.

    To see more data maps, including fandom by conference and major rivalries, check out the full post at the Sports on Facebook page.

    Photo by JMR_Photography/Flickr


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    It seems like every month there's another study about the effects of music piracy, often contradicting the one that came out the month before. But we can trust the EU, right?

    A new study by the EU's Joint Research Center has found that any means of acquiring music online—both through piracy and legal streaming—leads to more legal purchases.

    To be fair, users who stream music with services like Spotify are more likely to soon pay for music than people downloading without paying using BitTorrent. But each groups is more likely to buy than someone who does neither.

    Using data from Nielsen Netview that tracked every click users made for the entirety of 2011, it found people who are 10% more likely to click on sites related to illegal downloading are 0.2% more likely to soon pay for music. Those who are 10% more likely to stream will pay for a download 0.7% more frequently.

    The study echoes a longstanding criticism of the music industry's anti-piracy efforts: That record labels should less on punishing pirates, and more on providing better options to buy music online.

    "[T]he majority of the music that is consumed illegally by the individuals in our sample would not have been purchased if illegal downloading websites were not available to them," the study's authors wrote. "Taken at face value, our findings indicate that digital music piracy does not displace legal music purchases in digital format."

    It noted that while there have been numerous earlier studies that correlated piracy with lower sales, most of those were defining music sales as CDs, rather than mp3s.

    It's probably just a coincidence, then, that worldwide music sales are finally up for the first time since 1999.

    Photo via Wikimedia Commons


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    What happens when a redditor discovers a locked safe in a former drug house?

    It gains instant notoriety, earns more than 5,000 comments, and develops its own 60,000-member subreddit.

    On March 16, New Zealand redditor dont_stop_me_smee alerted r/pics to a safe that a friend of his had discovered shortly after moving into a new house with a sketchy history.

    "A friend of mine moved into a former drug house and found this HUGE safe. How do we get it open?" dont_stop_me_snee posted, linking to five different photographs of the safe.

    Within hours, the post was flooded with comments and suggestions, earning over 3,000 karma points. The thread's top-voted comment came from redditor Tof1911, who advised against forcing open the safe using any sort of blowtorch.

    "What will most likely have to happen is it might be able to be dialed opened using a special stethoscope. If that doesn't work, then if you have access to a bore-a-scope then you can look up the drill placement for the dial ring and you can drill through and see where the gates line up so the fence can drop in and the door can be opened. You have to be very very careful not to drill through the back plate of the lock because you will punch the back cover off and trigger the re-locker and then it becomes a huge problem," Tof1911 wrote.

    Most redditors, naturally, were eager to discover what was inside the safe. 

    "Holy shit. You fucking BETTER post results after you get that open. I will never forgive you if you don't do this," redditor SweatpantsJackson demanded.

    "Reddit, I hereby solemnly promise that if you get me into this thing, I will deliver the fuck out of it," dont_stop_me_smee replied.

    In response to growing interest in the post, dont_stop_me_smee took things a step further and created the subreddit r/whatsinthisthing. Designed to keep curious redditors updated on the progress of cracking the safe, it gained over 60,000 subscribers in less than two days. As of March 18, a safe expert had been contacted in hopes of finally solving the mystery.

    "It's now monday afternoon here in NZ and I've been ringing around different places, should have an email quote tomorrow from them, but I'll be ringing around a few different places in the meantime and trying different people," dont_stop_me_smee reported. "I'll update you as soon as I know any more. Cheers guys!"

    As the anticipation around the mystery of the safe skyrocketed, the story found its way to the rest of Reddit. Several threads were posted to r/askreddit, petitioning redditors for data on everything from what was going on in the first place to what they think is inside. Elsewhere, r/AdviceAnimals have of course seen its share of safe-related memes focusing on the progress—or validity—of the story. Even smaller subreddits have taken notice: on r/WritingPrompts, one of the top-voted prompts asks what redditors would do if they found themselves in a similar situation.

    As of now, no one on Reddit knows what is in the safe. Let's just hope that the entire scenario is not a repeat of Geraldo Rivera's live opening of Al Capone's vault.

    Photos via dont_stop_me_snee/imgur


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    A cochlear implant recipient, deaf since birth, had her first experience hearing her family captured on video. Now it's going viral.

    Cochlear implants have given more than 219,000 people worldwide who are deaf or severely hard-of-hearing the ability to hear as of December 2010.

    Sarah Churman shared her first hearing experience with the Internet after she posted a video following her cochlear implants in 2011, and now thousands are watching 26-year-old Amy's reaction after hearing the voices of her family for the first time.

    The video was posted by her aunt Catherine Arnold in September but has recently gained traction online.

    "Our niece has been deaf since she was born," Arnold wrote in the description. "She has never heard the sound of her parents voice or her 6-year-old son, Blake."

    Amy is emotional as the technician tests the implant and observes that she can feel sound as well as hear it.

    "It's weird," Amy said and signed after she was asked if she heard the technician's voice.She found herself at a loss for words as she was asked to describe what she was experiencing.

    Blake chimed in and repeated "Hi, Mommy!" so that she could hear it.

    Arnold, overwhelmed by the support for her niece, noted that Amy, who has a high school diploma and college degree, is working hard to improve herself every day.

    "[T]hank you to everyone that appreciates and feels what a beautiful time this was and continues to be for Amy and our families," Arnold wrote. "She is continuing her hard work of speech and sound therapy to distinguish what sound is. Her pronunciation has improved vastly and she can hear words and especially music!"

    H/T Gawker | Photo via Catherine Arnold/YouTube


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    JDate is looking to bring a holiday thousands of years old into the 21st Century.

    In honor of Passover, the Jewish dating site has released an updated and modernized version of the Haggadah, the Hebrew text used during Seder.

    JDate's Haggadah keeps all of the traditional prayers and recitations and complements them with examples of modernity and references to pop culture. From the section entitled "Story of Passover”:

    "So, just as Timberlake returned to music, Moses returned to Egypt and went to see Pharaoh with his brother Aaron (like Timberlake with Jay-Z)," reads the section entitled "Story of Passover," a clear reference to JT's killer jam "Suit & Tie."

    The modern Haggadah also includes clever JDate profiles for various historical figures.

    Moses— or GunsNMoses— describes himself as a "wandering, free-thinking type." He admits to coming from money but points out that he gave that up to "meet someone who is down to fight for freedom." In other words, he's the biblical version of a trustafarian who thinks he can change the world.

    As per what type of girl the savior of the Jewish people is into, Moses says that he's "looking for a girl who plays the timbrel" because his sister Miriam says that "percussionists always hit the right note when it comes to relationships.”

    Other notable characters getting profiles are the Pharaoh, his queen, and the brutal slave master.

    You can download JDate's Haggadah via their site. It is currently available for Kindle, iDevices, and in PDF format.

    Photo via abbyladybug/Flickr


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    The first rule of fooling around is that nobody ever wants to hear about your sex life. But when it's a new partner you've entangled within your sheets, common decency demands that you tell, tell, tell!

    Fortunately, there's an app for that.

    Introducing BootyLog, the first social network designed to ensure you’ll kiss and tell. The app, which comes via birth control support network Bedsider, spotlights the various synopses that come with bedtime fun, ranging in genre from "Naughty" to "Intense" to "Adventurous" to, unfortunately, "Awkward," and giving users a few lines of space to editorialize.

    That's sort of the whole gist of this thing. You can follow people and have them follow back, but it's almost entirely anonymous individuals operating these accounts, and it's quite possible they're not even real. (A quick scan of active users pulls up SecretSexy, Pull_My_Hair, and ForbiddenVixxen.)

    That's all to say that it's not that likely you'll become privy to the intimate details of your roommate's latest romp. More likely, you're tuning into the sex scenes of a spammer.

    Not to mention that sometimes they're not too fun to read at all.

    Photo via Simple Seduction/Facebook


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    Not much is known about Cory and Brooks, the two kids who spent much of 2012 throwing a giant middle finger to the Surgeon General, but what we do know is that they're both entirely too young to consume the amount of tobacco products they review on YouTube.

    The two boys, who look and talk like brothers, wear hats that would suggest that they're from Alabama. They spent the better part of the last year compiling 24 videos that find them smoking cigarettes and reviewing various brands of chewing tobacco. 

    One video, the 8-month-old "review on newport menthol 100s," recently picked up more than 32,000 views this afternoon after judgmental redditors came across the video on the subreddit r/cringe.

    Update: Bwooks Alday's YouTube account was down Tuesday morning.

    "I don't agree with smoking, but I'm addicted," offers Brooks, who admitted to spending part of last summer on probation. "That's pretty damn sad, but just don't get caught up in shit like that. The best thing to do is to stay away from cops and keep it on the fucking low. I don't support smoking. I do smoke."

    Other worthwhile clips find Cory and a buddy offering their opinions on the combination of "coke a cola" and dip, and this 2011 video that finds Brooks recounting his first dips

    "Then I got me some peach Skoal," he says. "I just finished that today. It's my favorite Skoal so far."

    The videos are at the precipice of YouTube's underage dip scene, which is more robust than Big Tobacco would probably like to admit and has surely been the source of a number of fights between parents and children. There are tons and tons of these videos on YouTube—just search "kids dipping" and start rolling through—and none of them make the endeavor look too appetizing. 

    For those wondering, YouTube's Community Guidelines prohibit people from posting videos that show "bad stuff like … under-age drinking or smoking," and it's taken issue with the actions before. In 2011, the site removed a video of a young kid reviewing a tin of Copenhagen Extra Long Cut in front of a Confederate flag because it violated YouTube's Terms of Service. The same could be said for Cory and Brooks's videos. 

    We reached out to the two kids for comment, but they never got back. 

    Photo via Bwooks Alday/YouTube


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