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This Phishing Scam Is Targeting Gmail Accounts by Posing as Your Contacts

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You might think you're tech-savvy enough to spot a fake email from a scammer pretending to be PayPal or eBay, but what about one coming from a familiar contact? And what if the message attached read just like something sent from a real person? That's exactly what a new email phishing scam is doing to unassuming Gmail users, according to Boing Boing.

The attack, which was initially reported by Wordfence, comes in the form of an email from a user who has already been compromised by this scheme. The email will come from a familiar address in your contacts, complete with an attachment (an image or link) to click on. Some of these emails are even designed to look like replies to previous emails to your contacts, making it even harder to spot the scam right away.

Once you click on this attachment, you'll be sent right back to your Gmail sign-in screen. This could all sound suspicious already, except for the fact that in the URL for the sign-in screen, you'll see "accounts.google.com." It won't be the real Google sign-in screen (there is other extraneous URL text that confirms that) but if you're in a rush, or just unfamiliar with what it should read, it's easy to assume you just have to re-input your login info. And that's where they get you.

After that login information is entered, the hackers will now have your information, and they are ready to do the whole thing over again to one of your contacts. Wordfence has an account of how this all works:



“The attackers log in to your account immediately once they get the credentials, and they use one of your actual attachments, along with one of your actual subject lines, and send it to people in your contact list.

For example, they went into one student’s account, pulled an attachment with an athletic team practice schedule, generated the screenshot, and then paired that with a subject line that was tangentially related, and emailed it to the other members of the athletic team.”

Twitter user Tom Scott posted a screenshot of what to look out for if you're ever mysteriously propositioned to log back into your Google account for no apparent reason after clicking on an attachment:

In the URL, you can see "data:text/html….." at the front, which shouldn't be there. And if you scroll (a lot) past the text in the address bar, eventually you'll come across even more funky code. At that point, get out of dodge and change your login info for good measure.

[h/t Boing Boing]

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History
The Queen of Code: Remembering Grace Hopper
By Lynn Gilbert, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Grace Hopper was a computing pioneer. She coined the term "computer bug" after finding a moth stuck inside Harvard's Mark II computer in 1947 (which in turn led to the term "debug," meaning solving problems in computer code). She did the foundational work that led to the COBOL programming language, used in mission-critical computing systems for decades (including today). She worked in World War II using very early computers to help end the war. When she retired from the U.S. Navy at age 79, she was the oldest active-duty commissioned officer in the service. Hopper, who was born on this day in 1906, is a hero of computing and a brilliant role model, but not many people know her story.

In this short documentary from FiveThirtyEight, directed by Gillian Jacobs, we learned about Grace Hopper from several biographers, archival photographs, and footage of her speaking in her later years. If you've never heard of Grace Hopper, or you're even vaguely interested in the history of computing or women in computing, this is a must-watch:

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holidays
The Plugin That Keeps the Internet From Spoiling Santa Claus
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During simpler times, the biggest threat to a child's belief in Santa was usually older siblings or big-mouthed classmates. Today, kids have access to an entire world wide web, full of potentially Santa-spoiling content. Luckily, there's a plugin that helps parents maintain their kids’ innocence through the holidays.

Created by the virtual private network provider Hide My Ass (HMA), the free software analyzes web activity for any information that might threaten to “bring a child’s belief in Santa crashing down.” In place of the problematic content, the plugin brings up an image of the jolly man himself. Typing the phrase “Santa is not real” into Google, for example, will instead take you to a web page showing nothing but a soft-focused St. Nick pointing into the camera and staring at you with judgmental eyes. The plugin is also designed to work for social media communications, internet ads, and articles like this one.


Hide My Ass

According to a survey of 2036 parents by HMA, one in eight children in the U.S. have their belief in Santa ruined online. Whether it's because of the internet or other related factors, the age that children stop believing in Santa is lower than ever.

The average age that current parents lost their faith in Santa Claus was 8.7 years old, and for today’s kids it’s 7.25 years. Concerned parents can download the plugin for Chrome here, though it may not be enough to hide every type of Santa spoiler: Of the parents who blamed the internet, 26 percent of them reported kids snooping over their shoulder as they shopped for gifts online.

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