Dark Net – Tor Attack may have Unmasked Users

Dark Net – Tor Attack may have Unmasked Users
Developers of software used to access Tor, an otherwise hard-to-reach part of the internet, have disclosed that an attack on the network may have unmasked users for five months. The Tor Project said that it believed the assault was designed to de-anonymise the net addresses of people operating or visiting hidden sites. However, it said it was not sure exactly how users had been “affected”.

The project added that it believed it had halted the attack on 4 July. Tor allows people to visit webpages without being tracked and to publish sites whose contents does not show up in search engines.

The Tor Project said it believed that the infiltration had been carried out by two university researchers, who claimed at the start of July to have exploited “fundamental flaws” in Tor’s design that allowed them to unmask the so-called dark net’s users. The two security experts, Alexander Volynkin and Michael McCord, had been due to give a talk at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas next week. However, the presentation was cancelled at the insistence of lawyers working for their employer, Carnegie Mellon University.

“We spent several months trying to extract information from the researchers who were going to give the Black Hat talk, and eventually we did get some hints from them, which is how we started looking for the attacks in the wild,” wrote Roger Dingledine, one of the network’s co-creators, on the Tor Project’s blog. “They haven’t answered our emails lately, so we don’t know for sure, but it seems likely that the answer to [whether they were responsible] is yes. “In fact, we hope they were the ones doing the attacks, since otherwise it means somebody else was.”

A spokesman from Carnegie Mellon University declined to comment.

Tor attempts to hide a person’s location and identity by sending data across the internet via a very circuitous route involving several “nodes” – which, in this context, means using volunteers’ PCs and computer servers as connection points.

Encryption applied at each stage along this route makes it very hard to connect a person to any particular activity. To the website that ultimately receives the request, it appears as if the data traffic comes from the last computer in the chain – known as an “exit relay”, rather than the person responsible.

Tor hides a user’s identity by routing their traffic through a series of other computers. Tor’s users include the military, law enforcement officers and journalists – who use it as a way of communicating with whistle-blowers – as well as members of the public who wish to keep their browser activity secret.
But it has also been associated with illegal activity, allowing people to visit sites offering illegal drugs for sale and access to child abuse images, which do not show up in normal search engine results and would not be available to those who did not know where to look.

The Tor Project suggests the perpetrator compromised the network via a “traffic confirmation attack”. This involves the attacker controlling both the first part of the circuit of nodes involved – known as the “entry relay” – as well as the exit relay. By matching the volumes and timings of the data sent at one end of the circuit to those received at the other end, it becomes possible to reveal the Tor user’s identity because the computer used as an entry relay will have logged their internet protocol (IP) address.

The project believes the attacker used this to reveal hidden-site visitors by adding a signal to the data sent back from such sites that included the encoded name of the hidden service. Because the sequence of nodes in a Tor network is random, the infiltrator would not be able to track every visit to a dark net site.

Tor also has a way of protecting itself against such a danger: rather than use a single entry relay, the software involved uses a few relays chosen at random – what are known as “entry guards”. So, even if someone has control of a single entry and exit relay, they should only see a fraction of the user’s traffic, making it hard to identify them.

However, the Tor Project believes the perpetrator countered this safeguard by using a second technique known as a “Sybil attack”. This involved adding about 115 subverted computer servers to Tor and ensuring they became used as entry guards. As a result, the servers accounted for more than 6% of the network’s guard capacity. This was still not enough to monitor every communication, but was potentially enough to link some users to specific hidden sites. “We don’t know how much data the attackers kept, and due to the way the attack was deployed, their… modifications might have aided other attackers in de-anonymising users too,” warned Mr Dingledine.

Several government agencies are interested in having a way to unmask Tor’s users.

Russia’s interior ministry is currently offering a 3.9m roubles ($110,000; £65,000) prize to anyone who cracks such identities. It says it wants to protect the country’s “defence and security”. A report by the German broadcaster ARD suggests US cyberspies working for the NSA have also made efforts to overcome Tor’s system, despite the fact the Tor Project is partly funded by other US government departments. And leaked documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden also indicate the UK’s GCHQ has attempted to track Tor users.

Promoting Guaranteed Car Credit

Promoting Guaranteed Car Credit
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Thousands Of Small Firms On The Brink Of Shutting

Zurich Study – Thousands Of Small Firms On The Brink Of Shutting
Around one in eight smaller firms have considered closing down in the last few months despite the economic recovery, according to a new study. Given that there are around 4.9 million small firms in the UK, this shocking finding suggests that hundreds of thousands of small firms could be on the brink of shutting shop.

Research among 500 small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) found that one in four have had to lower their prices over the past three months, and 15% have laid off staff.

Insurance firm Zurich said its survey showed that, despite the improving economy, a sizeable number of firms were “teetering on the brink of shutting up shop”.

Richard Coleman of Zurich said: “Our research demonstrates that while concern about risk amongst SMEs is falling, the risks themselves are still very much there. That the number of companies considering closing down because of the economic climate has remained consistent over the past 12 months, suggests that serious financial difficulties are still on the agenda for many.

“While it’s great to see that SMEs are feeling better about the risks their businesses face, the findings suggest that the recovery isn’t affecting all firms equally. It appears there remain at least two tiers of SMEs, with a reasonable number still struggling as the recovery gains pace.”

SEO: The Solution to the Public Sector’s Recruitment Woes

SEO: The Solution to the Public Sector’s Recruitment Woes
Cyberspace is increasingly abuzz over search engine optimisation, or SEO. Businesses throughout the private sector are discovering how much more they traffic they can attract to their websites through SEO than with pay-per-click or more traditional forms of advertising, and in the current economic recovery, their sales and profits are increasing beyond their expectations.

But what does this have to do with the public sector, you may ask, when your agency’s goal is not to make money but to provide services to citizens?

The answer may surprise you. A May 13 article in HR Magazine highlights the problems faced by the UK’s public sector in filling vacancies for skilled workers, emphasizing that whereas the public sector often promises huge salaries, public sector employees enjoy greater job security and more favourable working conditions. In the Comments section, a reader makes the point that public agencies need to shift their recruitment model away from “an admin-intensive process” in favour of a more marketing-centred one in order to reach more relevant candidates.

This is where SEO can be your agency’s saving grace. Public agencies within the UK can overcome their recent difficulties in recruiting and retaining talent by drawing those skilled workers to their agency websites – and, more importantly, the recruitment pages – through keyword-driven information both on and off the website.

Public agencies have not historically allocated funds within their budgets for innovative marketing campaigns, but under the present circumstances, it’s worth making that commitment and even seeking funds from a grantor in order to accomplish the goal of filling key vacancies. SEO is a considerably less expensive proposition than more run-of-the-mill advertising campaigns, and given the difficulty with which new, tech-savvy graduates are finding employment, public agencies can and should do more to inform new graduates and other relevant candidates about career prospects within your agency, and there is no better way to do so than through keyword-driven information related to jobs as well as your agency’s mission, vision and values.

Your agency can advertise job openings far and wide, in hard copy and online, but casting too wide a net with your marketing strategy – or lack thereof, in the admin-intensive process alluded to above – will do considerably less good than specifically going after the candidates your agency wants to recruit. Your agency will benefit significantly in the long run by providing content, both on and off the website, that will attract the specific audience you need in order increase staffing levels and accomplish your agency’s goals. It’s time for the public sector to explore new avenues in order to compete with the private sector for skilled workers as the economy continues to recover, both for the direct benefit of the public sector and the long-term positive outcomes for the citizens of the UK.

Direct Submit Internet Marketing Company has been providing SEO and other Internet marketing services to agencies of all sizes across the UK for years. Our ethical approach to Internet marketing will help you increase sales and improve your bottom line by positioning your organisation as a leader in the field and a trustworthy source of information. Learn more about what we can do for your agency today by calling 0845 272 2350 or by visiting www.directsubmit.co.uk.

Websites Frozen in Pension Campaign

Websites Frozen in Pension Campaign
Eighteen websites have been suspended and arrests made during a campaign, being revamped on Thursday, against pensions cash “predators”. Pension liberation schemes encourage people to access their pension savings before the age of 55.

But the campaign, run by the Pensions Regulator, highlights the high tax charges and fees that can erode the pension pot of anyone who signs up. It said money tied up in these schemes amounted to at least £495m. This figure has grown as operators use text messages, cold calls, or website promotions to encourage people to access their “frozen” pension.

The campaign was first launched in February 2013, and the Pensions Regulator has applied to the courts to freeze assets in 20 schemes.

Action by the National Crime Agency has resulted in 18 pension liberation websites being suspended, and raids by the City of London Police in May led to seven arrests.

Pensions minister Steve Webb said: “Although quick-fix pension release schemes may seem tempting, particularly when times are tough, people should make sure they understand all the implications before they sign on the dotted line. “A joint industry and government operation is working to stamp out these unethical, exploitative, poor value offers – but I would urge anyone who is approached to think carefully, consider seeking advice and, if in doubt, steer clear.”

People can only access their pension before the age of 55 without a tax charge if they are in serious ill-health.

Pension liberation schemes – working in a grey area of the law – operate by suggesting to people that they take a loan from the scheme provider, secured on their pension funds.  Alternatively, the money might be transferred from the pension scheme into risky, unregulated investments often based overseas, the Pensions Regulator said.

However, up to 70% of any funds released from a pension early can go to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

These liberation scheme operators can also charge high fees, often between 10% and 20% of the amount “released”, leaving people with a small sum and no financial backstop for their retirement.

Starting up a Business

Starting up a business
The gov.uk website offers a diverse range of information about starting up and running a business in the UK, including help if you’re self-employed or a sole trader. Here is a summary of the information offered on this website.

A Business Idea
If you’re thinking of starting up a business, you’ll first need to come up with a realistic idea that you can turn into a product or service.

Research your Market
Research your market to identify potential customers. Talk to them and find out if your idea is meeting a real need. Test your business idea with potential customers to check if there’s real demand for what you’re planning to sell. This lets you find out about any problems and fix them before you’ve wasted too much time, effort and money.

Develop and plan
Develop and plan, test your product or service with real customers, make changes, and test it again. Keep doing this until you’re sure there’s a demand for it. Develop and change your idea based on what you’ve found out about your customers’ needs before investing. Deal with any problems you’ve found with your product or service, including the way you’re planning to make and sell it. Go back to your customers and test again. Keep doing this until you’re confident that they’ll be willing to pay what you’re asking, and that you’re meeting their needs.

Identify Potential Partners & Suppliers
Find partners and suppliers and think about who you’re going to work with to develop and sell your idea. Many businesses start with just one person, known as a ‘sole trader’. If you set up as a sole trader you’ll be self-employed, which means you’ll be your own boss. You’ll also be responsible for managing your own time, looking after all of your company’s admin and accounts, taking risks with your own money, particularly if you’re leaving full-time employment.  Whether you set up as a sole trader, partnership or limited company, your business is likely to involve working with more people to develop and sell your idea, including partners, suppliers and distributors.

Setting up your Business
Work out which legal structure is right for you and your business, and whether you want to sell shares. You’ll need to decide which legal structure is right for your business before you register and start trading. It’s important to understand the different risks and benefits before you choose whether you set up as a sole trader, limited company or partnership affects.

Business Funding
Explore different sources of business finance, from bank loans to government-backed schemes. When you start a business, there’ll usually be period when you’re investing lots of time, effort and money before you start making a profit. It’s important to research your market to make sure your customers will really pay for your product or service before you do this. Once you’re confident that they will, you should explore different sources of funding to help with the costs of starting up your business.

European Central Bank Website Hacked

European Central Bank Website Hacked
The website of the European Central Bank (ECB) has been hacked, with personal information stolen. The hacker demanded money for stolen data, which included contact information for people who had registered for events at the ECB, the central bank said.

The ECB said that no market sensitive data or internal banking systems were compromised.

An investigation has been launched by German police.

The hacking came to light late on Monday night when an anonymous hacker contacted the bank, an ECB spokeswoman said. The anonymous hacker stole around 20,000 email addresses, and a smaller number of telephone numbers and addresses, relating to people who had registered for ECB conferences and visits.

People whose details were compromised have been informed, and passwords have been changed, the spokeswoman added. The information was stolen from a database serving the bank’s website that was physically separate from the bank’s internal systems, the ECB added.

Grow your Business using Effective Internet Marketing

Grow your Business using Effective Internet Marketing
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Apple Earnings Boosted by Strong iPhone Sales

Apple Earnings Boosted by Strong iPhone Sales
Apple has reported quarterly profits of $7.75bn (£4.5bn) – up 12% on the same period last year. The company sold 35.2 million iPhones from March to June, an increase of 13% from the same time in 2013.

The company is seeing strong growth in BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, South Africa, and especially China where iPhone sales rose by 48%.

However, sales of its iPad tablet computer fell for the second quarter in a row, down 9% to 13.3 million. In a statement, Apple chief executive Tim Cook said he was “incredibly excited” about new operating systems for iPhones and computers as well as “new products and services that we can’t wait to introduce”.

There is much interest in the tech world about Apple’s next iPhone model.  For the last two years the company has launched a new phone in September and this year analysts are expecting phones with bigger screens. The iPhone is crucial to Apple’s success as it generates more than half of the company’s revenue.

There was some surprise among analysts that sales remained strong in the most recent quarter, as often buyers hold back if they suspect a new model will be released in the near future.

Employment minister Esther McVey. Promoting Self Employment

Employment minister Esther McVey. Promoting Self Employment
Employment minister Esther McVey has been telling middle-class kids they should believe setting up their own business “is every bit as good as going to university and working for a big company,” according to the Daily Telegraph.

Ms McVey told The Telegraph self-employment should be given the same social status and respect as the more conventional university route into employment. Someone should ask Richard Branson whether he thinks starting his own business was just as “good as going to university”.