Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Security Tip: Phishing

From Wikipedia "phishing is a criminal activity using social engineering techniques. Phishers attempt to fraudulently acquire sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication." I've received emails from Washington Mutual asking that I sign into a particular page to re-enter my account number and password. I don't even have an account with Washington Mutual, but the person sending it out is just hoping to land the message in a naive person's email to get their bank account information and do something of a criminal nature.

Banks should never ask you to email your password and account information, no company should. Always be more skeptical than believing. eBay and PayPal are some of the most targeted companies. Don't ever send sensitive information (Social Security Numbers, passwords, account numbers, financial information, etc.) via email. It is possible for an unintended party to intercept your email and see everything in it unless you encrypt it.

Phishing isn't only a problem you find in email, there is also phone phishing. I've had people call my cell phone saying that I won a cruise and that they needed to get my bank account number and permission to deposit several hundred dollars in it. I almost fell for it, but I realized there was no way that could be possible, I never entered any such contest. If something sounds too good to be true, it almost always is.

Microsoft has some good tips on how to recognize phishing scams as well.

Here are a few more good tips I found:
  1. Don't click on links in emails you are wary of, they may end up downloading a virus onto your computer, or taking you to a fraudulent website.

  2. If you do enter your credit card online to make purchases (or any other type of sensitive data), make sure the beginning of the web address starts with "https://" not just "http://"

  3. Regularly log into your banking and credit card accounts to monitor your transactions.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Movie Ratings and Reviews

Since we don't always know what a movie contains before we see it (the MPAA ratings are quite useless today), I figured I'd provide a little guidance for those who have read and agree with my post earlier today. I use the following websites to check for the content of the movies I plan on seeing:

Their recommendations may not always be the best, but they are usually pretty accurate at talking about the content (Sex/Nudity, Profanity, Violence, Drugs, etc.) of any given movie. IMDB and CommonSense even let you put your own information in and rate the movies.

It's "Only" Violence

I took a poll not to long ago trying to gauge what people thought was most offensive in movies. 100% of the people agreed that sexuality was most offensive (myself being one of them). I made the assumption that nudity would follow a close second. In my next poll I asked what would be next on the list. 33% said that profanity was next and 66% felt that violence was next. So this next area was a little fuzzier and I don't know that there is a definitive answer or a "more righteous" answer, but we do need to make sure that the reason we don't feel so strongly about one or the other is because we have become desensitized to the violence or the profanity.

Sherrie and I have had some bad encounters with some very violent movies (none of them even R-rated) in the last couple weeks--The Bourne Identity, The Manchurian Candidate, The Bourne Supremacy, and Disturbia. Every time we finished watching them we felt awful and had to do something that would lighten our moods so that we would be able to sleep peacefully. I had already seen the Bourne movies before and don't remember being appalled by them, but more fascinated by the fight scenes. That may be due to the audience with whom I was watching it, but if anything my more sensitive reaction is probably the most right (personally).

I have been reminded of an article in the Ensign several years ago entitled, "It's 'Only' Violence," by Brad J. Bushman. He reminds us that Alma taught that sex outside of marriage is a serious sin, and among the most grievous of sins. But he ranked the two most serious sins as denying the Holy Ghost and "shedding…innocent blood," or committing murder. He says, "I was puzzled that many Church members did not feel concerned about watching people being murdered on the screen. And many seemed to consider profanity to be more objectionable than violence in movies and TV programs." I won't quote much more, I'd like you to read the entire article; but I would like to mention the myths that he includes in the articles:
  • Myth #1: The mass media simply mirror the level of violence in the real world.

  • Myth #2: Viewing violence actually decreases aggression.

  • Myth #3: Viewing violence has a trivial effect on aggression.

  • Myth #4: Decreasing rates of violent crime prove that media violence does not increase societal violence.

  • Myth #5: One cannot know whether media violence causes aggression

  • Myth #6: "Media violence doesn't affect me!"

He also includes a list of things parents can do to better protect their children from the violent media by which we are surrounded.

Moroni does a good job of counseling us what type of media we should allow into our circle of influence, inside the sacred walls of our homes:

But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.
Let us use this as a standard against which we measure the activities in which we include our families.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Mini Tennis

This game works on your at-the-net skills. The only part of the court that is utilized is from the service line to the net. If you're playig doubles use the alleys. The "server" stnads at the net and holds the ball on top of the net right where the tape is (in the center) and lets the ball drop to the other side. Play then resumes as normal in tennis using the new boundaries. Each point won is 1 point, and you play up to a pre-determined number (e.g., 7). Players cannot touch the net with their racquet.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Faith as a Mustard Seed

Matthew 17:20

...for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

In The Brothers Karamazov, several characters are discussing faith and whether or not a man can claim to be Christian if he has not faith even as a mustard seed with which one should be able to move mountains. If forced with the decision to be tortured or killed unless you renounce Christ and you cannot cause a mountain to fall on and crush your enemies, you are not a Christian, and therefore are renouncing nothing if you renounce Christ. I'm not sure how clear that is, but let me put it in terms that enlightened me.

In this case, if you have the amount of faith equal to the size of a mustard seed (very small) you should be able to move mountains. I doubt many people are able to do this currently, but at the same time I know many people of such great faith. How can this be? If you read the scripture carefully the Lord says, "if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed." This could very well mean, "if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed has faith." The mustard seed is the smallest seed that yields the biggest tree for its relative size. That mustard seed, though small, can reach a potential far greater than any other seed. If we have that type of faith we, too, can reach a potential far greater than any other, eternal life.

That faith gives men power, and in the case of the scripture should have been the power by which the Lord's disciples attempted to heal the lunatick. But because they did not have that power, that faith (accessible through prayer and fasting) they could not heal the man. Faith is not only belief, it encompasses obedience as well. We can only be tools to do the Lord's work if we are worthy of such and capable to know His will concerning the things over which He has given us dominion.