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Archive for December, 2010

Twitter increases it’s finances with another $200 million from shareholders

December 16, 2010 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Dr Search, internet, Search Clinic, Social Media, Twitter, Uncategorized

In contrast to Dr Search’s post of yesterday Yahoo cutting its workforce by 4%- 600 people the relative new kid on the block- Twitter is going from strength to strength with another round of fundraising.Twitter increases it's finances with another $200 million from shareholdersTwitter has raised $200m (£129m) in new shareholder finance, in a deal that values the social networking website at around £2.5 billion.

It said the investment had come from venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, and existing investors.

Twitter is also adding two new board members, including David Rosenblatt, boss of digital advertising group DoubleClick.

The moves come two months after the US firm said it was increasing efforts to make itself more profitable.

The announcement in October saw the company’s co-founder Evan Williams stand down as chief executive to focus on product strategy.

Mr Williams was replaced as chief executive by Dick Costolo.

Also now joining Twitter’s board is Mike McCue, chief executive of digital social magazine application FlipBoard.

Twitter claims that it currently has 175 million registered users and 300 employees.

Yahoo cutting its workforce by 4%- 600 people

December 15, 2010 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: search engines, Uncategorized

Yahoo has announced redundancies four times in three years, as it cuts costs to try to lift profits that trail bigger rival Google.
Yahoo cutting its workforce by 4%- 600 peopleThe redundancies also follow after Google recently announced a 10% pay increase for every member of staff.

In 2008 Yahoo rejected a £30 billion bid from Microsoft. Today its market capitalisation – the combined value of its shares – totals aprroximatly £15 billion.

Yahoo said in a statement: “Today’s personnel changes are part of our ongoing strategy to best position Yahoo for revenue growth and margin expansion, and to support our strategy to deliver differentiated products to the marketplace.”

The company’s revenues have risen by less than 2% so far this year, compared with growth of 23% at Google.

Yahoo had 14,100 employees at the end of September.

Why local retailers need an online presence new research confirms Dr Search views

December 14, 2010 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Customer Service, Dr Search, Online Marketing, Search Clinic, Uncategorized, Website Design

Dr Search has long stressed that even small “local” business need an online presence.Why local retailers need an online presence new research confirms Dr Search viewsNow new research backs up my recommendations- even if you run a local retail business like a newsagents, book store or even a hardware shop.

The study shows that nearly one third of the 1500 online shoppers surveyed said the main reason they shopped from websites was to buy goods not available locally.

While 19% said they shopped online because it was cheaper- a similar number said they shopped online for a greater choice of products.

Paypal commissioned the research to determine the biggest areas of growth and opportunity for retailers.

“Our research paints a positive picture for domestic retailers,” said PayPal managing director Frerk-Malte Feller. Now local businesses just need to get their online strategy right, so they can begin competing with international rivals.

One of the biggest threats to online retailers is shopper trust. Only one third of those surveyed believe it is safe to shop online.

While the statistics might look daunting, they actually pose a great opportunity for retailers to get their business online.

Do you want to increase your sales by a third?

The first place to start is with your website. If you don’t have one, build one ASAP. If you do have one- is it making you money? If not then it is not then best review it pronto.

If you need any help, please just ask Dr Search to help my local online presence NOW!

Amazon taken offline by hacktivist attack

December 13, 2010 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Customer Service, Cyber Security, Twitter, Uncategorized

Amazon was unavailable in several countries yesterday after a group of “hacktivists” who are sympathetic to the WikiLeaks website were thought to be responsible for the disruption.
Amazon taken offline by hacktivist attackThe European sites of  Amazon were temporarily offline yesterday, after ongoing threats against major sites by pro-Wikileak activists.

British, French, German, Austrian and Italian sites were down for about 30 minutes on Sunday during a peak pre-Christmas shopping period.

A group of cyber activists, Anonymous, is hitting firms that withdrew services from the whistle blowing site Wikileaks.

Amazon sites ending .it, .de, .uk, .fr and .at – which are all hosted in Dublin – were unavailable for about half an hour at about 2115 GMT on Sunday, according to a Twitter posting by web monitoring firm Netcraft.

The outage follows a series of web attacks by Anonymous targeted at corporate websites that had withdrawn services from Wikileaks.

Amazon stopped hosting Wikileaks material on its servers on 1 December saying the site was breaking its terms and conditions.

As part of its campaign, Anonymous had planned to mount a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on Amazon on Friday, but publicly abandoned the plans, saying they did not have the “forces”.

“While it is indeed possible that Anonymous may not have been able to take Amazon.com down in a DDoS attack, this is not the only reason the attack never occurred,” read a statement that appeared to be published by the group.

“After the attack was so advertised in the media, we felt that it would affect people such as consumers in a negative way and make them feel threatened by Anonymous.

“Simply put, attacking a major online retailer when people are buying presents for their loved ones would be in bad taste.”

DDoS attacks, which are illegal in the UK, involve overloading a website with high numbers of requests so it stops working.

Several Twitter accounts attributed to Anonymous and its campaign have been suspended over the attacks.

The group’s Operation Payback Campaign has also targeted the websites of Paypal, Mastercard and Visa, as well as the Swedish Prosecutor’s website after a case was brought there against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

WikiLeaks has refused to link itself with Anonymous, saying “we neither condemn nor applaud these attacks”.

Cyber wars- now it’s the season to flame each other

December 10, 2010 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Cyber Security, data security, Facebook, internet, Social Media, Twitter, Uncategorized

The online cyber war being waged against companies that have refused to help WikiLeaks intensified dramatically yesterday.Cyber wars- now it's the season to flame each otherAt the same time supporters in the US of the army and Sarah Palin started to lob Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks back to WikiLeaks trying to block the site.

The renewed cyber assaults by members of the informal hacker group “Anonymous” came after the disruption on Wednesday and Thursday of the payment systems for Visa and Mastercard, both of which recently declined to process donations to WikiLeaks.

Anonymous, recruited an army of volunteers to attack websites that have recently disassociated themselves from WikiLeaks in an action called “Operation Payback”.

By last night some 31,000 people had downloaded LOIC (Low Orbit Ion Cannon) software which is normally a network stress testing application allowing them to target their perceived opponents with DDoS attacks, a relatively simple way of slowing down or temporarily closing a website by flooding it with requests for information.

The software allows computers to join a botnet – a large collection of machines that use their combined power to target one website at a time with millions of “hits”.

Usually DDoS attacks are launched by computers hijacked by a virus or malicious code. But the Anonymous botnet, is a voluntary network.

Websites with good security and bandwidth like Amazon should be able to withstand all but the largest botnet attacks. But others, such as Sarah Palin’s sarahpac.com website, Paypal, PostFinance and the Swedish government’s homepage, were disrupted.

Knowingly taking part in a DDoS attack is illegal in the UK and could land users with a two year jail sentence, but it is believed that numerous Anonymous volunteers come from Britain.

However in a sign that this is a global struggle, a 16 year old was arrested last night in Holland on suspicion of helping to coordinate some of the DDoS attacks.

The renewed attacks came as WikiLeaks yesterday released its first public comments on Anonymous.

“We neither condemn nor applaud these attacks,” said WikiLeaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson. “We believe they are a reflection of public opinion on the actions of the targets.”

Hours before, the UN’s top human rights official criticised websites that have refused to host WikiLeaks, suggesting it breached the platform’s right to freedom of expression.

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told reporters in Geneva yesterday that the moves “could be interpreted as an attempt to censor the publication of information”.

Over the past 48 hours Anonymous has been able to call the shots on who to target.

But there have been some reprisal attacks on websites popular with hacktivist networks.

Those most likely to be behind such counter attacks are thought to be the kind of “freelance patriot” American hackers that first launched attacks on Wikileaks two weeks ago, sparking an online information war that has grown each day.

Facebook and Twitter tried yesterday to close down support pages for the Anonymous network, after reports emerged that anonymous accounts were being used to coordinate attacks.

Activists simply created new support sites under different names, forcing Facebook and Twitter to engage in what one blog described as an online “whack-a-mole” contest.

The Anonymous network then called on its activists to target Amazon, which last week kicked WikiLeaks on one of its website services.

The argument appeared to halt a concerted assault on Amazon but Anonymous scored a moral victory by spreading the word that the retailer was selling a downloadable version of the WikiLeaks State Department cables for its Kindle e-reader.

Mastercard hit by denial of service Wikileaks revenge attacks

December 09, 2010 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Customer Service, Cyber Security, data security, Social Media, Uncategorized

Internet hacktivists have brought down the Mastercard website as revenge for the firm withdrawing services to Wikileaks.Mastercard hit by denial of service Wikileaks revenge attacksThe Distributed Denial Of Service (DDOS) attacks started yesterday and continue today during the busiest shopping period of year.

The Anonymous group of hackers have also brought down the website of the Swedish prosecutors office which is pursuing founder Julian Assange.

It has pledged to launch hits on websites it sees as anti-Wikileaks.

Mastercard had said there was “no impact” on people’s ability to use their cards for transactions. But SecureTrading a UK internet payment service providing services to large UK retailers said credit card processing had been unavailable for six hours.

PayPal, which has stopped processing donations to Wikileaks, has also been targeted.

Anonymous is a loose-knit group of hacktivists, with links to the notorious message board 4chan.

“We are glad to tell you that Mastercard is down and it’s confirmed,” the group tweeted.

Earlier Anonymous confirmed other targets: “In response to the arrest of Julian Assange, Anonymous has taken down PostFinance.ch, who terminated Wikileaks bank account, using a distributed denial-of-service attack. Subsequently, Anonymous attacked http://www.aklagare.se, the Swedish Prosecutors office, also using a DDoS attack, and took the site down in under 10 seconds of beginning the attack,” the group said in a statement.

“The idea is not to wipe them off but to give the companies a wake-up call,” an Anonymous spokesperson said. “Companies will notice the increase in traffic and an increase in traffic means increase in costs associated with running a website.”

DDoS attacks are illegal in many countries, including the UK.

Coldblood admitted that such attacks “may hurt people trying to get to these sites” but said it was “the only effective way to tell these companies that us, the people, are displeased”.

Anonymous is also helping to create hundreds of mirror sites for Wikileaks, after its US domain name provider withdrew its services.

WikiLeaks site’s Swiss registry dismisses pressure to take it offline

December 08, 2010 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Customer Service, Social Media, Uncategorized

Swiss registry Switch says there is ‘no reason’ why WikiLeaks should be forced off internet, despite French and US demands.
WikiLeaks site's Swiss registry dismisses pressure to take it offlineWikiLeaks received a boost when Switzerland rejected growing international calls to force the site off the internet.

The whistleblowers site, which has been publishing leaked US embassy cables, was forced to switch domain names to WikiLeaks.ch after the US host of its main website, WikiLeaks.org, pulled the plug following mounting political pressure.

The site’s new Swiss registry, Switch, said there was “no reason” why it should be forced offline, despite demands from France and the US.

Switch is a non-profit registry set up by the Swiss government for all 1.5 million Swiss .ch domain names.

The reassurances come just hours after eBay-owned PayPal, the primary donation channel to WikiLeaks, terminated its links with the site, citing “illegal activity”. France added to US calls for all companies and organisations to terminate their relationship with WikiLeaks following the release of 250,000 secret US diplomatic cables.

The Swiss Pirate Party, which registered the WikiLeaks.ch domain name earlier this year on behalf of the site, said Switch had reassured the party that it would not block the site.

An email sent by Denis Simonet, president of the Swiss Pirate Party, to international members of the liberal political group said: “Some minutes ago I got good news: Switch, the registry for .ch domains, told us that there is no reason to block wikileaks.ch.”

Laurence Kaye, leader of the UK-based Pirate Party: “International Pirate Parties now have an integral role in allowing access to WikiLeaks. I wish some of our other politicians had the same guts.

“We support the WikiLeaks project as access to information is the prerequisite for an informed and engaged democracy.”

WikiLeaks has been fighting to stay online since releasing a cache of sensitive diplomatic cables to the Guardian and four other international media organisations. Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, dropped the site from its servers on Thursday after being contacted by staff of Joe Lieberman, chairman of the US Senate’s homeland security committee.

Everydns.net, the site’s US hosting provider, forced the site offline for the third time in under a week. A series of “distributed denial of attacks” by unknown online activists still bring the site intermittently to its knees.

WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, described the decision as “privatisation of state censorship” in the US. Everydns.net said the attacks – which have been going on all week – threatened “the stability of the EveryDNS.net infrastructure, which enables access to almost 500,000 other websites”.

Full coverage of the WikiLeaks on the Guardian website is at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/the-us-embassy-cables

Twitter’s shortened URLs a threat to security

December 07, 2010 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Cyber Security, data security, Twitter, Uncategorized

The same features that make Twitter a great site for web users- shortened or quick links, are also the most dangerous, say security experts at Symantec.Twitter's shortened URLs a threat to securityThe IT services firm has released a new security alert for the site, warning users to be on the look out for shortened URLs that link to malicious sites.

In this latest attack, hackers look to the Trending Topics on the site’s home page to find and select tweets that contain a popular topic and a shortened URL. The original URL is then replaced with a different shortened URL, this one taking users to a malicious Web site.

Symantec issued the warning in a blog post Twitter Trend Poisoning Cookbook on the company’s website.

They call it a cookbook as the hackers’ methods follow a certain form or recipe- which goes like:

  1. See what’s in fashion
  2. Find a suitable host
  3. Mask the URLs
  4. Start spreading the news
  5. Repeat until cooked

The news marks the second time in just one week that Twitter users have been warned about attackers using the site’s Trending Topics feature to issue attacks.

In the case of shortened URLs, Twitter users should install browser extensions that reveal the final destination of shortened URLs, and make sure they have the most up-to-date security software in order to protect themselves, the company advised.

Twitter administrators have told Symantec they are aware of the problem and recommend using the social network’s t.co (http://t.co/) URL shortener to maintain links within the ecosystem.

Twitter is also said to be working on the development of an “expand” button that would allow users to expand the shortened links when looking at search results in order to verify where the link leads.  One necessity Twitter has said will be included in that function is to make sure the button works even when a link has been processed through several URL shortening services.

Research from Symantec found that spam containing shortened URLs hit a one day peak of 23.4 billion or 18% of all spam emails in 2010, an increase from just 9% in 2009.

Twitter has been forced to deal with its share of privacy breaches this year, including the Twitter worm that was a result of flawed scripting on the site that allowed hackers to hijack hundreds of Twitter feeds in a matter of hours.

China leadership orchestrated Google hacking claims WikiLeaks

December 06, 2010 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Cyber Security, data security, Google, Uncategorized

Senior Chinese figures were behind the hacking of Google earlier this year which forced the search engine to quit the country, leaked US cables suggest.
China leadership orchestrated Google hacking claims WikiLeaksOne cable, released by whistle-blowing site Wikileaks, cites a “well-placed” contact as saying the action against Google was “100% political”.

A politburo member is said to have been angered after Googling his name and finding critical comments online.

The cable says it is unclear whether China’s top leaders were involved.

Other cables show Beijing has been “extremely concerned” about the use of high-resolution satellite imagery on Google’s mapping software, Google Earth.

In January, Google said it had been subjected to a “sophisticated cyber attack originating from China” – it said the e-mail accounts of human rights activists were among those hacked.

In the ensuing row over internet censorship, Google abandoned mainland China and moved its Chinese-language operations to Hong Kong.

The company did not say who it thought was responsible but the cables, released by Wikileaks and published on the Guardian website, show the company had repeatedly raised concerns about the issue.

One cable from the US embassy in Beijing cites a “well-placed contact” as claiming “that the Chinese government coordinated the recent intrusions of Google systems”.

“According to our contact, the closely held operations were directed at the Politburo Standing Committee level,” it says.

The source, whose name is deleted from the text, told the US that the operations against Google were “100%” political in nature, not an attempt to reduce Google’s influence in China in favour of domestic search engines, such as Baidu.

But the writer of the cable notes that it is “unclear whether President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao were aware of these actions” before Google publicly announced its concerns.

The cable also reports on alleged concern in the Chinese government that, by challenging official censorship of the internet, Google had made itself seem more appealing to Chinese net users and given the impression that the US and Google were working together “to undermine Chinese government controls of the internet”.

“All of a sudden, XXXXXXXXXXXX continued, Baidu looked like a boring state-owned enterprise while Google “seems very attractive, like the forbidden fruit,” it says.

In cable dated 18 May 2009, US diplomats quote a Chinese source as saying that “the root of the problem” was an unnamed member of the politburo standing committee who wanted Google to stop linking to its international site from its sanitised version, google.cn.

The politician is said to have “recently discovered that Google’s worldwide site is uncensored, and is capable of Chinese language searches and search results”. He reportedly carried out a search for his own name and found sites personally critical of him.

Google consistently refused to remove the link, citing its own anti-censorship principles, and eventually left the Chinese mainland.

Web bug reveals browsing history- porn and financial services are culprits

December 03, 2010 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: data security, Uncategorized, YouTube

Some porn and financial services websites are among the top users of a browser bug that reveals all the places people go online.
Web bug reveals browsing history- porn and financial services are culpritsCarried out by computer science researchers at UC San Diego the study found 485 sites exploiting the bug.

The flaw gives sites access to all the other sites that user has visited. Many use it to target ads or see if users are patronising rivals.

The researchers documented JavaScript code secretly collecting browsing histories of Web users through “history sniffing” and sending that information across the network.

While history sniffing and its potential implications for privacy violation have been discussed and demonstrated, the new work provides the first empirical analysis of history sniffing on the real Web.

“Nobody knew if anyone on the Internet was using history sniffing to get at users’ private browsing history. What we were able to show is that the answer is yes,” said UC San Diego computer science professor Hovav Shacham.

The researchers said their work showed a need for better defences against history tracking.

The bug exploits the way that many browsers handle links people have visited. Many change the colour of the text to reflect that earlier visit.

This can be abused with a specially written chunk of code sitting on a website that interrogates a visitors browser to see what it does to a given list of websites. Any displayed in a different colour are judged to be those a user has already seen.

A survey of 50,000 of the web’s most visited websites by the team from UC San Diego found 485 sites using this method to get at browser histories, 63 were copying the data it reveals and 46 were found to be “hijacking” a user’s history.

The most popular site that uses the technique is adult site YouPorn. Many other porn sites use it too as well as sports, news, movies and finance websites.

The researchers also looked at other popular techniques that sites use to map and monitor what visitors do.

Some, such as YouTube, run scripts that track the trail a user’s mouse pointer takes on and across pages.

“Our study shows that popular Web 2.0 applications like mashups, aggregators, and sophisticated ad targeting are rife with different kinds of privacy-violating flows,” wrote the researchers.

The researchers pointed out that some modern browsers, such as Chrome and Safari, are not vulnerable to history hijacking and that the most recent version of Mozilla has closed the loophole.

Users of Internet Explorer can defeat the bug by turning on “private browsing”.

Users can also check how much information they are leaking by visiting a webpage set up by security researchers that tries to grab their history.

Despite these safeguards, the researchers said there was a “pressing need to devise flexible, precise and efficient defenses” against the history hijacking technique.

The research team is now planning more in-depth work that it hopes will result in tools that will more comprehensively defend against attempts to exploit the bug.