Wednesday, April 30, 2008

How to Protect Yourself from Phishing?

For those who don't know what phishing means, Wikipedia defines phishing as:

"an attempt to acquire sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication."

The most common form of phishing is when someone receives an "urgent" email asking them to take immediate action to prevent some impending disaster. Here are some examples:
"Our bank has a new security system. Update your information now or you won't be able to access your account."

"We couldn't verify your information; click here to update your account."

Once a person clicks on the provided link, they are taken to a webpage that looks exactly like the legitimate web site that they know (e.g. the website of their bank). Because the page looks familiar, people enter their username, password, or other private information on the site, not knowing that they have just given their information to someone unknown, who can now use this information to hijack their account, steal their money, or open up new lines of credit in their name. They just fell for a phishing attack.

Google just issued a warning on their official blog, to warn people from these phishing emails. According to this post, you can reduce the chances of being a phishing victim by following these steps:

  • Be careful about responding to emails that ask you for sensitive information

  • Go to the site yourself, rather than clicking on links in suspicious emails

  • If you're on a site that's asking you to enter sensitive information, check for signs of anything suspicious

  • Be wary of the "fabulous offers" and "fantastic prizes" that you'll sometimes come across on the web

  • Use a browser that has a phishing filter

You can read the details of these steps here. In addition, there are several quizzes online to test whether you can differentiate between a legitimate webpage (or email) and a phishing one. Just type "phishing IQ quiz" in your favorite search engine, and enjoy!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Nile University: Wireless Intelligent Networks

For the last three days, I've been attending the conference on wireless intelligent networks organized by the Nile University in the Smart Village. The conference was held under the auspices of Dr. Tarek Kamel, the minister of communications and information technology. Ohio State and RICE universities also contributed to the conference. The conference was followed by a WARP workshop, but only a limited number of the attendees was invited.

It was a great initiative from the Nile University to introduce this interesting field to the academic community in Egypt. University students were also invited to get exposed to the ongoing research in wireless networks and get in touch with the world leaders in this technology. You can find all the information you need about the event on the conference website. The conference presentations should be available soon.

The conference was more oriented to EE topics. As a CS undergraduate, I had some difficulty following up with some talks, but it was a good experience after all. I talked to some of the speakers about the role of CS students in this field and here is what I got:

"The middle east is going to become very powerful both using and developing technology. There is going to be a tremendous need for better ideas," said Prof. A. Paulraj. He also mentioned some topics of interest regarding mobile technology including: powerful processes that consumed little power, new architectures that saves power using techniques like clock gating, more user friendly interfaces suitable for dealing with more data, security and clean slate internet.

"You should take your studies very seriously," said Prof. A. El Gamal.

"Go outside traditional education. Think outside the box. Whatever you learn isn't just courses, you should find points of interlinking between the things you learn. Think about the applications of what you study. Think about services and how it can be provided in a systematic and organized manner," said Prof. M. Eltoweissy.

"If you want to make something outstanding in networks, you have to combine the knowledge from both EE and CE. Without understanding the physical layer, your work will be rather theoretical," said Prof. A. Abozeid.

Finally, I would like to mention Prof. Hesham El Gamal and the Nile University students for their efforts in organizing this conference.