Microsoft Will Notify Users About Government Sponsored Hacking

microsoftsecurityMicrosoft has recently started a new policy for users of their Outlook email and OneDrive cloud storage – they will let users know if their accounts have been compromised, and they will also let the users know if the attack appears to have been government sponsored.  The reasoning behind this is that any government sponsored attacks can be more prolonged and extensive than attacks from garden variety hackers.  In their blog post they stated:

We’re taking an additional step today. We will now notify you if we believe your account has been targeted or compromised by an individual or group working on behalf of a nation state…   We’re taking this additional step of specifically letting you know if we have evidence that the attacker may be “state-sponsored” because it is likely that the attack could be more sophisticated or more sustained than attacks from cybercriminals and others.

This is a very interesting action by Microsoft.  In essence they will notify you that your account may have been targeted, and that if they believe it is by a state sponsored group they will let you know so that you can take extra measures to protect your data.

It is definitely a new age for computer security and government espionage and terrorism.  So what can you do in order to keep yourself and your accounts / data safe?

First of all, as Microsoft suggests, we recommend turning on two step verification.  This means that if someone is trying to log onto your accounts on an unknown device, an additional security token will be sent to something such as your phone.  This is a second step in preventing people from hacking simply by knowing your password.

Another thing is to install an antispyware software program such as Spyhunter.  These programs are different than antivirus software and they will protect against different threats.  An antivirus software program will not stop malware, and vice versa.  This blog post goes into detail about one of our favorite antimalware programs.

Use a password manager to ensure that your passwords are complex and strong, and change them often.  One of the hardest things to do when it comes to passwords and making them good is the fact that you just can’t remember them all.  Using LastPass will enable you to create separate and unique passwords for all of your accounts, and enable you to access them across many different devices.

Lastly we highly recommend that you do a bit of self-education in order to be able to spot suspicious activity, websites, emails, and more.  The more you know about how you could potentially fall victim to cyber crime the safer you will be able to keep yourself.  It’s really a matter of having common sense and being careful – not browsing internet bad neighborhoods, not downloading from sketchy software sites, etc.  It’s not that hard to avoid shady activities.

Although cybercrime has been on the rise, it seems that online security systems are poised to keep up and continue to foil would be attackers.

Gift Cards On Reseller Sites Could Be “Stolen” Money

giftcardsA recent article on has pointed out from a tip from a reader that the gift cards sold on sites like are often obtained by stealing merchandise from one store and returning it to another, and collecting the “refund” in the form of a gift card.

Most of us know that if we lose our receipt or return a gift we sometimes can’t get paid back in cash.  However many big chains will strike a compromise and offer to give a refund in the form of a gift card.

However, thieves are taking advantage of this by stealing merchandise and returning it sans receipt, getting the gift card refund, and then selling that gift card on a gift card resale website.  It’s quite a clever little scheme but it’s really hurting the stores.  Those who want to be ethical should be on the lookout for cards in “odd” amounts.  Most of the time when people return merchandise they receive a card with a strange dollar amount, such as 78.57.  However when one buys a gift card for someone they usually do so in increments such as $25, $50, $75.  Any even number such as $40 is also probably kosher as well.

I myself probably won’t not use card resale sites.  After all, you can’t read minds and know which cards are fraud and which aren’t.  The companies themselves are taking the risk and the inherent loss by offering gift cards in the first place.  Should the company decide it doesn’t want to deal with fraud such as this they can stop offering gift cards.

Either way I still suggest that you look for those cards in even type amounts.  It’s still a good way to save money overall, especially if you know you use a certain merchant all the time.