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Tis the season to be fraud-y: Cyber Monday’s a holiday for hackers too

Tis The Season To Be Fraud-y: Cyber Monday's A Holiday For Hackers Too

Cybercriminals take advantage of increased shoppers who lower their guard during the holidays.

Davor Pavelic/Ikon Images/Corbis

You downloaded the app because it advertised fantastic holiday deals. Who could resist? You open it up and it looks like a copy of Amazon, but it doesn’t work very well. Frustrated, you delete it. Problem solved, right? Not so fast. The malicious app has already gotten its claws into your phone, collecting your personal information. Discovered by security researchers at zScaler[1], this is real. It’s one of many attempts hackers and fraudsters will make to take advantage of your zeal for deals.

Cyber Monday, the annual online shopping spree after Thanksgiving weekend, might seem like a dream come true. Who wouldn’t love all those deals? But there’s someone else who might be even happier than you are about that discount e-reader or smartwatch. That would be criminals.

“For cybercriminals, Cyber Monday is like Christmas,” said Tim Erlin, an executive at cybersecurity company Tripwire who focuses on fraud in commerce. As sales jump up during the holidays, so does fraud. A whopping 40 percent of annual online fraud happens during the last three months of the year, according to Rurik Bradbury, a marketing executive at e-commerce security company Trustev. Why so much? The holiday shopping season creates the perfect combination of ingredients for fraud. Take a heaping helping of shoppers online, which means a lot more credit cards and personal information available to steal. Add in a generous number of those those shoppers throwing caution to the wind by clicking on links that promise fabulous deals. Now sprinkle a dash of passwords that people reuse for their Facebook, bank and work accounts.

Psych! This fake log-in page for eBay, found by security experts at Webroot, could have tricked you into handing over your credentials and potentially your credit card number. The Web page pictured is no longer active.

Screenshot courtesy of Webroot.

All hackers have to do is cook up an app or set up fake deal websites, and then attract you with an email promising great deals. Click the link and — bam! — you’ve downloaded malicious software. Your computer or phone is now compromised by hackers. You don’t even have to hand your credit card number over to the criminal. Though if you do, it’s even worse. While hackers are getting better at tricking us, we’re also using the Internet much more for shopping. Last year, Cyber Monday sales exceeded $2.5 billion in the United States, according to a report from financial analyst firm Forrester, which called the day of online deals, “the single largest online shopping day of the year.” Forrester analysts expect this year’s Cyber Monday to be just as strong. Total online holiday spending should go up, too, according to[2] the National Retail Federation. E-commerce holiday sales could tally as high as $105 billion. What’s more, criminals might be more driven this year to take their fraud online. That’s because it’s getting harder to steal credit card information from in-store computers with the introduction of new chip technology in the US that’s already popular overseas. Experts say that will squeeze more fraud into the e-commerce realm, rather than eliminating it altogether. It could increase as much as 106 percent, according Trustev research.[3]

But Santa, I’m trying to be good

The good news is that you can protect yourself by keeping in mind the same tips that keep you safe year round. Visit established retailers’ Web pages by typing in the Web address in your browser or by using a trusted search engine. Don’t go to the website from a link in an email or your second cousin Lisa’s Facebook post, for example.

Related Cyber Monday coverage

You should also monitor your credit card statements after you make your purchases. Oftentimes criminals who’ve reaped your information from a scam will test out your card with small purchases to make sure it’s valid. They usually do it pretty quickly. Credit card issuers also suggest signing up for transaction alerts that will send you a text message for all transactions over a certain amount. Some credit card companies also let you tie the location of your smartphone to your credit card. If someone makes a purchase in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and you’re with your phone in Bangor, Maine, the fraudster will have no joy[4]. Do all that, and you’ll be prepared. Just remember the hackers have been preparing for this for months. Just like you, they want goodies, Erlin said, and that’s why they go to so much trouble.

If you’re a fraudster without a Cyber Monday scam, “then you won’t get the presents.”


  1. ^ zScaler (
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  3. ^ research. (
  4. ^ no joy (

New Documentary Racing Extinction Explores How Humanity Is Killing the World

As a seafood restaurateur and founder of Sawyer Culinary Adventures, Louie Sawyer sought out exotic tastes for his intrepid Western clientele. During a scouting trip to Hong Kong in 2013, he and five associates dropped by a major shark fin processing facility, run by a short, fast-talking kingpin who goes by the name of Mr. Eddie. All 14 of the species most prevalent in the shark fin trade are classified as threatened or nearly threatened, partly due to Chinese consumption of shark fin soup, but Hong Kong s teeming markets are insensitive to this fact. Cluttered storefronts also openly sell endangered sea horses and hawksbill sea turtles, along with elaborate elephant tusk carvings. Mr. Eddie s operation the Walmart of the endangered-species trade, Sawyer called it is not in the habit of welcoming camera-toting foreigners, and Mr. Eddie was initially suspicious of the group. He scrutinized their business cards and peppered them with questions. As his gruff manner grew more intimidating, one of Sawyer s colleagues suggested they ought to leave. It wasn t until they made for the door that Mr. Eddie relented. No, it s OK. Come, come. I show you around here.

New Documentary Racing Extinction Explores How Humanity Is Killing The WorldPsihoyos documents shark fins drying on a rooftop in Hong Kong. SHAWN HEINRICHS / BLUE SPHERE MEDIA

Sawyer s crew had reason to feel uneasy, considering that their identities were, in fact, a ruse. Louie Sawyer was actually Louis Psihoyos, an activist filmmaker whose first documentary, The Cove, exposed the clandestine slaughter of dolphins in a Japanese seaside town, earning an Academy Award in 2010. His second film, Racing Extinction, airing on the Discovery Channel on December 2, takes up the man-made causes behind what biologists call the sixth mass extinction the spate of plant and animal losses that threatens to eradicate up to half of all living species on Earth within this century. During the same week they were in town to collect their Oscar for The Cove, Psihoyos team conducted an undercover sting of a Santa Monica, California, restaurant that served whale meat, ultimately shaming the restaurant into closing. Among other stunts portrayed in Racing Extinction: They posed as importers of fish oil supplements to infiltrate a mainland Chinese shark dealer; captured unprecedented footage of humans swimming alongside migratory blue whales in Mexico; and, using a Tesla retrofitted with a powerful projector, blasted the sides of US corporate facilities with images of the animals that their business activities are said to endanger.

New Documentary Racing Extinction Explores How Humanity Is Killing The WorldThese bags contain thousands of endangered sea horses and pipefish. SHAWN HEINRICHS/BLUE SPHERE MEDIA

In Hong Kong, Mr. Eddie led Psihoyos and his undercover team across an alley to a building with a shark sculpture hanging off the facade. He typed a code into a keypad and slid open the front door to reveal a storage room filled with bags of dried sea creatures. On the walls hung posters that identified various shark species and the characteristics of their fins, which fetch up to $2,000 a pound on the Asian market. Psihoyos and three accomplices wore tiny pinhole cameras disguised as shirt buttons, which had been provided by a specialist who designs covert video surveillance gear for human rights groups and law enforcement agencies. In China, merely wearing such devices is grounds for imprisonment. Two others with Psihoyos, including Shawn Heinrichs, a cinematographer and marine conservationist who d been kicked out of Mr. Eddie s facility before for attempting to film, wore digital SLR cameras dangling around their necks, discreetly capturing video.

It is hard to catch a shark, you know? Mr. Eddie told the group. If you get the shark, every part of the shark can be sold for money. So we are not going to throw away any meat from the shark. But a lot of the greenie people, they are misunderstanding our industry. They think we take the fin and let the live shark go down into the sea and die struggling like this. You know, very bad. But that is not the truth. That video is made by the greenies themselves. Mr. Eddie was referring to videos like the widely circulated PSA about shark fin soup, created by the environmental organization WildAid and starring Chinese basketball star Yao Ming. It showed a tawny nurse shark in Indonesia lying on the seafloor with its fins dismembered, desperately trying to swim. Heinrichs, who was standing next to Mr. Eddie, had actually shot that footage. Psihoyos and the others made a show of agreeing with Mr. Eddie s opinion of environmentalists, and the ice was broken. They were in.

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Next, Mr. Eddie brought them up to a roof. Against a scenic maritime backdrop stood rack upon rack of severed shark fins thousands of them laid out to dry under the sun but out of public view. Somebody can tell you that there are 70 million sharks being killed for the fin trade every year, but when you actually see the evidence and witness this gorgeous animal being reduced to piles of appendages, there s a horror that becomes rage, Psihoyos says later. Especially when you know it s a nutritionless and tasteless fabrication from a bygone era. Downstairs, in a small showroom off the street, wood-paneled cases displayed dried sea animals. Mr. Eddie held up a worm. 44,800 US dollars per kilo, he boasted. 44,800. It is a wholesale price! They believe that s why I say, they believe it can cure cancer. He grinned. Chinese have a lot of beliefs.

This eco-vigilante approach has become Psihoyos signature brand of filmmaking. The Cove was the result of watching too many James Bond movies and Jacques Cousteau specials as a kid, he says. The film wrapped an environmental documentary around a caper flick PBS meets Ocean s 11. A reviewer for The New York Times called it one of the most audacious and perilous operations in the history of the conservation movement.

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Psihoyos wears such descriptions as a badge of honor. Most documentaries feel like you re going to a medical lecture, where you re just getting a lot of facts but there s no story. The goal is to be a fly on the wall, he tells me at a Santa Monica hotel, after a late night spent at the Port of Los Angeles projecting blue whale images from the Tesla. (Between 1988 and 2012, there were 100 reported cases of large whales struck by ships along the California coast.) But if you can wrap that around a tale of adventure, of thrill and redemption, and tell a really goddamned good story, people will listen to almost anything. When people see our films, I want them to feel like they landed in a different world, like, this is not my beautiful life. We re trying to wake people up to what is actually going on. Psihoyos is 58, with silver hair and an unassuming Midwestern accent. He describes Racing Extinction as a real-life Avengers. In the film, he visits the scientists and activists working on the front lines of a global catastrophe: Earth, they tell us, is losing species 1,000 times faster than the natural rate of extinction. The baiji river dolphin, Western black rhino, and golden toad are among the disappeared in recent years; the population of Maui s dolphins in New Zealand has plummeted by half since 2004 there may be as few as 43 of them left. Blue whales in the southern oceans are down to just a fraction of historical levels, and plankton production is just 40 percent of what it was a half century ago. Forty-one percent of all amphibians are considered threatened. We re losing species faster than we can describe them, Psihoyos laments. When you re talking about losing all of nature, it s no longer a spectator sport. Everybody has to become active somehow. Psihoyos came to his own activism by way of journalism. In the mid-1970s he was among a breed of so-called concerned photographers a highfalutin name for people who try to affect social issues with photography, as he puts it. His early subjects included Pete Seeger, who was then campaigning to clean up chemical pollutants in the Hudson River. Psihoyos recalls sitting around a campfire with the folksinger and other musicians after a concert. These people were trying to dream of a better world, he says. And they actually made it happen.

In 1980, Psihoyos was hired by National Geographic. His first assignments for the magazine were to document the rise of recycling and the environmental fallout of Wyoming s energy boom. He shot four stories around the world about the Mesozoic era the age of dinosaurs assignments where extinction was always in the back of your mind. He soon earned a reputation for elaborately constructed portraits and expensive conceptual projects. For a 1995 feature on the information revolution, Psihoyos had (

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  • David ‘Bucky’ Buckingham

    AUBURN | David “Bucky” John Buckingham, 67, of Norman Drive, Auburn, passed away unexpectedly Friday morning on Nov. 20, 2015, at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse, surrounded by his loving family. He was a life resident of Auburn, the son of the late John and Elizabeth Buckingham. “Bucky” as he was affectionately known by his family, friends and colleagues, graduated from Auburn East High School, Class of 1966. He received his Associates Degree in Criminal Justice from Auburn Community College. David was employed for over 39 years at the Auburn Police Department, retiring in May of 2008 as as sergeant. David was instrumental in the development of the first DARE and SRO programs for the Auburn Enlarged City School District. He was currently employed by the Cayuga County Sheriff’s Department as a security officer for the Cayuga County Court and Auburn City Court.

    Dave always had to be busy and was a perfectionist about everything he did and took great pride in his yard (never a leaf on it), and his car (always spotless, sometimes cleaned twice daily) and in his appearance – always clean-shaven with daily creased slacks and shiny shoes. All neighbors, family and friends will miss seeing him doing his chores. Some of his most favorite times were those spent with his family. He thoroughly enjoyed attending all his grandchildren’s sporting events and hardly ever missed a game. His other favorite things were to go to Kosta’s to meet the “good ole boys” for breakfast any morning he didn’t work and then go to his best friend’s, Tom Burger (Detective) house to meet up with their buddy, Ron Bent for coffee and discuss politics, women and how to right all the wrongs in today’s world. They were affectionately known as the “Three Amigos!”

    Dave is survived by his loving wife of 14 years, Marty (Martha Bacon), of Auburn; four sons, Mark Buckingham, of North Carolina, Patrick Bryant, of Auburn, Timothy (Kristin) Buckingham, of Buffalo, Christopher (Jada) Bryant, of Auburn; a stepdaughter, Amy (Mike S.) Stilphen, and stepson, Todd (Jen D.) Stilphen; a sister, Patricia “Patti” (Gary) Lewis, of Auburn; and 12 grandchildren, Elizabeth and Will Buckingham, Jacqui, Jacob and Joshua Bryant, Gabrielle Charles, Michael Charles III, Dominik Greco, Jayden Stilphen, Michael and Jack Dornetshuber and Gabbie Scharick; two nieces, Tracey Lewis Ferree (Thomas) and Christine Lewis Bonilla (Robb); and many special friends, especially Tom Burger and Ron Bent. The family will greet family and friends in a celebration of Dave’s life next Saturday, Dec. 5, from 1 to 3:30 p.m. inside the Auburn United Methodist Church, located at 99 South St., Auburn. A memorial service will follow the calling hours at 4 p.m. in the Auburn United Methodist Church.

    In lieu of flowers, David’s family would like any contributions to be made to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Association, which is a cause that is near and dear to the Buckingham Family. Please make any donations to JDRF-Western NY Chapter, 331 Alberta Drive No. 106, Buffalo, NY 14226; or check [email protected]

    Arrangements are by Pettigrass Funeral Home of Auburn.

    The one thing Dave was so grateful to have was a wonderful “blended, extended, happy family.”