Thursday, January 27, 2011

Internet Scamsters Inc.

Have you heard from the gentleman Mr. David Mark who has extreme faith in you and would like to transfer $12 million into your bank account, recently? All he needs is your bank details, and he would be happy to wire the money to your account. A generous gentleman he is, who wants to help you earn money for the only reason because he found your name and email address in a list of successful young people on the internet.

As if you have an option!
About an year ago, when my friend was looking for laptops on a good samaritan from UK offered to sell four of his brand new Lenovo T series laptops for only one-third of the actual price. A reasoning person, my friend is, asked for the reason behind the good samaritan selling laptops at such a low price. Pat came a genuine reply for his email, that he decided to leave UK and would like to see the stuff he recently bought. My friend excited about the cheap deal and after a sufficient research on eBay site found the seller in UK to be legitimate and wired him money for two laptops through Western Union. After a two weeks of silence from the seller, my friend found out that he wasn't a good samaritan but a scamster who built up his good profile by doing lots of genuine transactions through the website. Loss incurred was a little above 1000 USD. But experience gained, priceless!

And yesterday, my roommate received an email from a very concerned State Bank of India's security system (email: with an attachment to a html page SBI Security.html. Overwhelmed with joy knowing about the caring and thoughful security system, we read the message from the html page.

The html page also had an image on its top left corner which took forever to load. We would have bought it to be a genuine email had there been no typos, but alas! The message reads:
Dear Valued Customer, Your account has generated an Error code SB-907 in our new security system due to mis-match access.
Please login with SBI security link below to resolve this problem in order to enroll your SBI account in our new online System for mixmum protection against online phishing.

For security reason all information should be match correctly to avoid account suspension,
including hint question and answer that you had set for the Profile password.  


Thank you for using STATE BANK OF INDIA
c SBI . All rights reserved.
On clicking the link to resolve the problem, it took us to a fake SBI website hosted at It had almost same interface as the real SBI website hosted at with lots of typographic errors (the fraudulent site is down at the time of writing this blog post). All it would take for the scamsters to assume control of your money is you logging into the phishing site. These kind of cases may also lead to your identity theft.

Sharing my gyan based on a few observations, after all Experience is what you do with what happens to you:
Spelling mistakes are definitely to look out for finding out scam websites. Any genuine banking website would do their monetary transactions through a secure connection (https). Look out for SSL certificate to learn if a website is safe or not while doing transactions that require security. When in doubt, do not open the web pages. Also, it is always better off logging out of all your accounts (gmail, email, facebook etc. anything with your authentication) while clicking on a doubtful link. Or, open it in a fresh instance of the browser.
SSL Certificate of SBI in Firefox browser
Also it is important to report these phishing attacks. When you encounter these kind of sites, make it a point to report to the concerned authority (SBI in this case). Also, you can report it on Google through their page

Beware of phishing, and be a phishbuster by sharing this message. Happy browsing, and don't be afraid due to the befalling end of IPV4. It will reincarnate as IPV6 and restore the balance.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I know you better than you do yourself!

Very recently I came across a website which offers a service to build profile of a person you want based on the information it collects from websites and social networking sites across the internet over time. Just for a nominal service fee. I really wanted to try it out and see how much it knows about me, but the money part stopped me from doing that. Although it did not stop me from digging further and trying to understand how people give out their information, knowingly and unknowingly.

I was happy to find that typing my name in search box of Google or Yahoo returned me to my web page. But I was totally annoyed when I looked up my phone number. The search results returned a map with a marker pointing at where I live and driving directions to my home.

Technology has made it easy for our information to be available to general public. The face recognition feature in Picasa, the famous photo editing software from Google, only makes me wonder about the pace at which technology is advancing. I downloaded Google image search results for Shahrukh Khan, and using Picasa tagged one photo of Shahrukh's face as SRK. And, this is what it does. All the mugshots of Shahrukh Khan were automatically identified by the software as SRK on my laptop. Can you not think of how this technology can be used to access people's information over the Internet? A simple image search with my name returns lot of images I posted over time on various sites. Only a matter of time, these profile building websites would have access to all my pictures on internet through smart use of algorithms.

With the advent of 3G and smart phones, giving out information has become lot easier. Every application I use on my smart phone wants to know more about me. They reason saying that we can take better advantage of the application by providing our personal information, our interest and our tastes to it. And we buy their reason. Some applications would even access my location and geo tags all my activity. This way I make it easier for the profile building websites to chronologically arrange my activity, travel, pictures and what not. How does a graph indicating how our preferences changed over time sound?

The day is not far when we find our profiles from those websites to be better than our personal diaries. Doesn't that sound scary?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Mythology, Movies and Books

As a kid, I used to watch lots of old black and white mythological movies. They used to fascinate me a lot, may be because the characters are Gods and Goddesses we pray in our daily life. Or may be because it was projected in our Indian movies that those holy people used to express themselves in songs and pristine language. Or the knife fights and the way those movies were taken had a different charm altogether. As I grew up and started reasoning everything I have known about, things got quite interesting.

Even today, I browse a lot of articles and stories from the epics - especially Mahabharat. It has got stories that spawn out at every level which join the main thread much later, and what we know about each of its characters is very less. I also read a lot from Dr. Devdutt Pattnaik who said "Myths are subjective truths expressed through stories, symbols and rituals."

Very recently, I have heard of a novel called "The Immortals of Meluha" by an Indian author Amish Tripathi. Ever since I got to know the topic this book discusses, I so wanted to read it. To give a little insight from what I know about the book, it presents a story about how Lord Shiva, the Hindu god could be a human being. Having had this interest in Indian mythology I wanted to start reading this book at the earliest.

Unfortunately, this book was neither available in the bookstores here nor in libraries. The only option was to get it shipped all the way from India, and it was costing five times the cost of the book for the shipping itself. After months wait, a friend went India recently to visit his family. I asked him to to get the book when he returned back. And, now I have my copy with me when he found it in Delhi airport while returning back to US from India after he could not find it anywhere.

Suddenly, I am looking forward to those one hour bus journey to my work and those uncertain and long waiting times for the bus. I will sure be a happy man this Monday! :)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Does music make you high?

Do you feel high when you listen to your favorite music tunes?

When my favorite song starts on my music player, at times I find myself stop focusing on the things around me and close my eyes to enjoy the song thoroughly. Magically, the work I do at that point feels mundane when those particular few tunes play. And scientists say that that awesome feeling is the result of Dopamine, a chemical our brain releases when we listen to the music that moves you. Apparently, it's the same chemical that is released by our brain when we relish our favorite food, or when people go high taking drugs or alcohol. This chemical which makes you feel happy through motivation and/or addiction. Some fun stuff going inside our body right? 

From Shakespeare's words, I can be trusted. Are you?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Memories of 2010

Picture of the year; This is the view from my window and I have shot pictures of this view for a period of one complete month. This particular shot depicts Minnesota in the true sense, the state known for its severe winters and sunshine. You would see sun shining with its full might even when the mercury reads sub zero Fahrenheit.

For me 2010 was the year of travel and movies, majorly. Some of the significant changes that took place in my life were my graduation, and my comeback in blogging. Needless to say about the wonderful acquaintances I made in this blogging world.

When the year started, I was in India for the new year, and spent quality time with family and met some good friends back home. And, I had been to lots of places and did lots of things. I posed in front of a US Senator's podium in a Senate building in Washington D.C. and been on a cruise touring some of the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin. I met some good friends in San Francisco and had been to super busy one day trips to New York, San Jose and Chicago. Also, went on a long road trip to Mt. Rushmore and Badlands in South Dakota, and had a gala time with lovely people in Wisconsin Dells and in West Lafayette. Not to mention all those innumerable wonderful places in and around Minnesota I had been to along with friends, and those trips to Duluth.

I have no clue about the number of movies I have watched in the last year. One hundred, or may be more. There was a certain time - about a month - when I would slog the entire day working and watch at least one movie with out fail before the day ended. Only to get some mental satisfaction and make myself happy that I was trying to take some time off for my self by watching the movie. And those were the days I would sleep early in the morning and wake up in the morning. Of all the movies, I must say I was awestruck watching "It's a wonderful life" by Frank Capra in 1946. I was equally impressed with the way the movie was taken at that time and the subject of the movie. And, realized I have a thing for feel good movies where no one is a bad thug. That doesn't mean I don't enjoy mindless action movies like "The A Team". And, I must confess I regretted watching "Machette". Sheer nonsense and F grade, the movie was!

Just like any other year, there were good and bad times as well. And that's part of life, isn't it?

What was 2010 for you?

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Learnings from my ice skating experience

I have, for the first time in my life, gone ice skating in St. Paul downtown during Christmas break. That's one of the advantages living in places with severe winters. We had to pay only $2 per person for renting the ice skates, and the entry was free of cost. Definitely a very cheap deal!

Being a beginner I was quite apprehensive initially, but it turned out to be a wonderful experience. We spent more than 2 hours trying to learn and we were only left with a feeling to go back again soon after the entire session. The best sight I have come across was little kids of 3 - 5 years skating effortlessly, a visual treat to watch them skate.

A few things I have learned are
Regardless of the temperatures outside and your skill level, it is a good idea to don your winter gear properly since you will be exposed to cold for quite sometime skating on the ice rink outdoors. When I say proper winter gear, wear all your layers - winter hat to woolen socks, scarf to gloves and jeans to winter jacket.  
You really don't need to feel awkward that you don't know how to skate when you do it for the first time. You would see a lot of people falling down on the rink in an attempt to skate, and you will fall down as well. That adds to the fun part of the experience.
Be it a group of friends you go along with, your significant other or your family, ice-skating also proved to be a social experience. You would get a feeling that you have spent quality time with your group.
And, hell yeah, it's a great source of exercise. You would sweat a lot even though you skate outdoors in the freezing temperatures for hours. 

Trying hitting the nearest ice-skating rink and there is a good chance you would like the experience.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011


The theme for this week's photo contest is "Lights". Here are some hanging lights from World Financial Center in New York City. Definitely a treat to the eyes.

Let us also add Minnesotan element to this theme.