BPI Phising Attack

Last Friday, March 10, 2017 just a few minutes before I clocked out of work, I saw an email from BPI (Bank of the Philippine Islands) with the subject “Bank Account Fraud Prevention!”.

I’m a BPI customer and have been using their Online banking app and services for quite some time. With some of my private information compromised when the COMELEC election database has been hacked last year, I take messages like this seriously. However, before acting on it, I did some quick checks to see if it’s really legit.

Opened the email and it looked pretty legit:

BPI phising attack
A legit looking email which turned out to be a phising attack against BPI customers.

Looked into the details of the sender and how it was sent, it still looked pretty legit:

Looked like it really came from BPI. Then again, phishing attacks are smart nowadays and they can easily spoof the sender’s email address.

Phishing attack emails contain a link that will take you to a website or contain malicious code that will steal your information, in this case the email had a link where I am supposed to verify my personal information. However, upon hovering on the link, which again looks legit, Chrome has revealed a completely different link:

At this point, the best thing to do for most is to just mark the email as spam or phising attack. Before that, I went further to confirm that this is a phishing attack. I opened the link and it did bring me to a site that looked exactly like BPI Online:

The link brings you to a legit looking-BPI site, but looking closely at the URI, and you know it’s a fake BPI site.

So there you have it. Always be cautious of emails like this. Double-check if it really came from your bank and if you can’t tell if it is legit or not, best thing to do is ignore the email, do not click any link it contains and call your bank first to confirm with them the information it contains. They would also give advise on how to secure your account.

Be smart. Be cautious. Stay safe everyone!

How bad is the COMELEC data breach?

Back in March 27, 2016 hackers under the banner, Anonymous Philippines hacked into the website of the Commission on Elections defaced it to demonstrate how weak the poll body’s online security measures are. A few days later, another group of hackers LulzSec Pilipinas made available online the entire database of COMELEC – 338GB in size containing information of more than 55 million voters.

COMELEC Chair Andres Bautista said that no confidential information was leaked. COMELEC has downplayed the scale of the data breach to allay fears that it could compromise the results of the 2016 elections. While a valid concern and the election results were untainted, it brushed aside the other equally great risk for the millions of registered voters whose personal identifiable information has been compromised.

The newly established National Privacy Commission has just finished its investigation of the data breach and had made public the types of personal data that has been made available to anyone online including criminals:

“The voter database in the Precinct Finder application contained each voter’s complete name, date of birth, gender, civil status, address, precinct number, birthplace, disability, voter identification number, voter registration record number, reason for deletion/deactivation, registration date, and update time.”

“The voter database in the Precinct Finder application contained information on each voter’s verified name, date of birth, gender, civil status, post of registration, passport information, with number and expiry date, taxpayer identification number, e-mail address, mailing address, spouse’ name, the complete names of the voter’s mother and father, the voter’s addresses in the Philippines and abroad, post or country of registration, old registration information, Philippine representative’s complete name, citizenship, registration assistor, profession, sector, height and weight, identifying marks, biometrics description, voting history, mode of voting, and other textual reference information for the voter registration system.” the decision further reads, depicting how much personal data are now most likely in the hands of criminal elements as a result of the COMELEC data breach.

Here’s a rundown of the personal identifiable information that has been leaked:

  • voter’s verified name
  • date of birth
  • gender
  • civil status
  • post of registration
  • precinct number
  • birthplace
  • disability
  • voter identification number
  • voter registration record number
  • reason for deletion/deactivation
  • registration date and update time
  • passport information with number and expiry date
  • taxpayer identification number
  • e-mail address
  • mailing address
  • spouse’ name
  • complete names of the voter’s mother and father
  • voter’s addresses in the Philippines and abroad
  • post or country of registration
  • old registration information
  • Philippine representative’s complete name
  • citizenship
  • registration assistor
  • profession
  • sector
  • height and weight
  • identifying marks
  • biometrics description
  • voting history
  • mode of voting
  • other textual reference information for the voter registration system

To criminals who is into identity theft, use of forged documents and IDs, impersonation, blackmail and harassment, the COMELEC data leak is a gold mine.
If you’re a registered voter, you are vulnerable to hacking of your social media and other online accounts, identity theft which would compromise your bank accounts, utilities, academic or professional records, etc it could even be used to manipulate the next elections.

The NPC is just right in recommending the filing of criminal charges against COMELEC Chair Andres Bautista as he is liable for this catastrophic violation of Republic Act No 10173 or the Data Privacy Act of 2012.

I don’t know how else to say it, but this has really got me scared.

Challenge accepted #https2015

This blog may not have the massive traffic it once had, I’m still perpetually working on it, the few visitors who happen to drop by and spend some time do so over an insecure HTTP channel.

With the rise of online attacks, where small websites are being used to attack bigger and more valuable online properties, there is a growing consensus that every website owner, publisher or operator join hands in making the internet a more secure place. We can do that by using secure HTTP connections or serving their websites over HTTPS.

Here’s a list of 9 good reasons why we should embrace HTTPS on the New York Times. And there’s a bonus of other good references listed at the end of the article.

The juiciest part of it, if I may say, is the challenge to have this blog fully on HTTPS by 2015. It’s going to be a challenge, but a good one at that. I get to tick off one of the items on my to-do-list cum New Year’s resolution since many years back and I can give my online visitors some peace of mind whenever they drop by for a visit. So let the fortification begin!

Slow internet speeds for most of April

The last time there was a major slow down of internet speed in the country was back in December of 2006 when an earthquake that struck off the coast of Taiwan damaged major undersea cables that provide connectivity to the country.

With incidents like these, even the biggest ISPs like PLDT and Globe were at the mercy of international groups that maintain the undersea cable connections’ ability to repair the damage.

The recent damage hit the undersea cables lying in areas between Taiwan and Japan, and China and Korea. Latest reports say that repairs are expected to be completed by around mid-April. Hopefully.

On the other hand, this recent incident is actually less worse compared to the 2006 incident. Back then, connections were literally lost. For weeks, DSL modems were not able to sync with ISPs and those that were able to, had practically useless connections. The current slowdown, is just that, a major slowdown instead of a general loss of connectivity.

With this, the regional consortium that maintain these undersea cables deserves some credit for they have learned the lessons of 2006 – they added new lines and systems to mitigate the ill-effects of cable damage.

These recent slowdown is surely a major inconvenience, but it’s much better than having a total loss of connectivity. So for now, we all just have to deal with it.

Farewell Editorially, Hello Quip.

It was something that both shocked and saddened me. A good bye note from the team behind Editorially was damp start to my morning on this Valentine’s Day. Here’s the announcement in full:

Today brings some sad news: Editorially is closing its doors. The application will remain available until May 30, at which point the site will go offline. We encourage all users to export their data.

We’re proud of the team and tool that we built together and incredibly thankful that so many of you were willing to give it a try. And we continue to believe that evolving the way we collaborate as writers and editors is important work. But Editorially has failed to attract enough users to be sustainable, and we cannot honestly say we have reason to expect that to change.

We wish that were not the case — we’ve spent much of the past two years working on the hypothesis that the reverse was true — but today we must be honest with ourselves, and with you: this isn’t going to work.

We know many of you have spent time and energy making Editorially a tool you use every day, even going so far as to evangelize it to your friends and colleagues. For that: thank you. We’re sincerely sorry to have let you down.

I loved Editorially for it became my online notebook for writing blog posts, notes, essays and parts of my future novel. It’s UI was clean, simple and it simply begged me to keep on writing. The best part about it was the ease of sharing my drafts to be revised and edited by folks I trust. Now that they’re on their final days, I thought I was back to using desktop tools like JDarkRoom or Notepad for writing.

Thankfully, The Next Web pointed to two alternatives: Penflip and Quip. Both of which are focused on collaborative writing. I chose Quip mainly because of its cross-platform availability. One of the let downs of Editorially was the lack of an Android app. Though Penflip closely resembles the UI of Editorially and has support for Markdown tags, I opted for the Quip because it has an Adroid app and I feel using Markdown tags will distract me from actual writing as I want to write down words as they ooze from my mind and style and dress up everything later during the editing and re-writing process.

Much thanks for the Editorially team and good luck to all of you!

Good riddance for the Globe iToolbar

Yesterday was a complete PR disaster for Globe when they surprised their mobile internet subscribers with their annoying, obtrusive and uncalled for Globe iToolbar.

Check out the screencaps courtesy of Yuga:

I noticed it yesterday morning but was able to blog about it just now. Over the years, these annoying pop-ups and toolbars have taught me to search for the “x” or close button to get rid of it. Easily enough, I was able to find that button the iToolbar but lo and behold, it didn’t completely disappear. It just collapsed to one side yet it was still taking a significant amount of screen space. It purple color was a major distraction to your browsing experience.

What the hell is Globe iToolbar? According to Globe:

“[it is]to make your Mobile Internet experience much more convenient. You can now enjoy quick and easy access to your favorite Globe and Internet services.”

Really?! The only service I need from Globe is that they make sure that they keep their end of the Service Agreement by providing reliable and consistent Internet service, not an annoying, obtrusive and practically useless pop-up.

Who ever thought that this was a great idea should have his/her head examined. Globe subscribers who experienced this, some are even on corporate accounts, have been annoyed big time.

The good news is that Globe has discontinued the iToolbar, as I wrote this post on a Globe Tattoo stick, the annoying toolbar was no where to be seen.

Belated happy 20th birthday to the Internet

What better way to return to blogging than to give my birthday greetings to the Internet which had just turned 20 last August 6 according to Sir Tim Berners-Lee because on the same date in 1991, the very first web page was born.

Happy Birthday

It’s amazing to look back on how much the Internet has changed the world, especially mine. If I recall it right, the very first time I encountered the Internet was when a friend of mine told me that I could look for pictures of Ferrari F1 cars using Google. It was after my introduction to the sport back in 1999. It was the British GrandPrix where F1 champion Michael Schumacher had that infamous crash resulting in a broken leg that forced him to sit out most of the season’s remainder. Since then, I had become an F1 enthusiast and a fan of the Ferrari F1 team.

After abusing Google for pictures of Ferrari cars, my next obsession was fanfiction stories based on the Gundam Wing series. It was around during that time that the anime was shown on GMA 7. Every day, I rushed home from school just to catch an episode.

Come 2002, in my last months of high school, my buddies succeeded in recruiting me to join Friendster, which was king of social networking sites back then, at least in the Philippines, and started to regularly haunt Internet shops to roam the world wide web.

Shortly, I stumbled upon HTML, free web hosts and Blogger.com. Two years later, I started The Four-eyed Journal, on a subdomain of a website intended for the fledgling advocacy group Lasallian Students for Justice and Peace in DLSU-D using WordPress.

Then I got on board Gmail via an invite from my college mentor, soon after I was blessed with a free .com.ph domain that has been the home of this blog since 2002.

Along the way, I received many checks and PayPal payments from Google, Text Link Ads, Chitika, LinkWorth and PayPerPost. The foreign exchange rates back then allowed me to stay in college and get my own laptop PC. The more fun part of it was the chance to meet a lot of cool folks, fellow bloggers and advocates locally and from around the globe.

It has been an incredible journey so far and I can’t imagine life without the Internet. We may be still stuck with pen and phone pals but I’ve had no regrets so far. Cheers to another 20 years and more of the Internet!

Image by Will Clayton

Globe Ignores NTC Memo? Continues to overbill and steal load from subscribers

It’s been more than a month since I joined the public hearing/consultation conducted by the House Committee on Information and Communications Technology that looked into quality of broadband Internet services offered by local telecoms. It was held last February 19 at the Meridien International School in Taguig City.

House ICT Committee Hearing on Betterinternet
House Committee on ICT met with bloggers and consumers about their mobile Internet concerns
One of the issues brought up by my fellow consumers were the unfair policies and practices by telcos with regards to their mobile Internet services. I believe the highlight case of the hearing was Rep. Ana York P. Bondoc, MD’s tussle with Globe Telecom when she was overbilled for an insane amount for using mobile Internet services she wasn’t aware that she was using.

This issue was dealt with in the NTC Memorandum Order No. 01-02-2011 where mobile phone providers are required to inform subscribers and users of this mobile Internet-enabled phones of such features, the charges or rates for mobile Internet access, how to turn off such features and inform customers if their usage is nearly half of their allowed credit limit.

While the NTC memo deals primarily with the concerns of postpaid subscribers, I believe a similar scheme would be implemented for prepaid subscribers, wherein providers would inform users of what mobile Internet service or promo they have subscribed to, the amount of credit they have left and a notice via text message when the subscription is about to expire.

Well, that’s how it was supposed to work. Unfortunately, the NTC Memo seems have reached no one in the telcos.

I remember subscribing to Globe’s SuperSurf promo a week ago and though the system was quick to register me in the service, it did not send any message alerting me that my subscription is about to end. It also did not send me a message saying that my subscription has indeed ended.

So my prepaid credit or load continued to be consumed because I wasn’t sure if my subscription has ended or not. I called up their customer support hotline and more than two weeks after my complaint, no update nor action from Globe has been done.

The very exact problem sought to be remedied by the NTC memo remain persistent, giving us subscribers terrible mobile Internet and customer support services. If an NTC Memo is not enough, perhaps it’s now time we need a law to protect our consumer rights and finally make these telcos take notice and clean up their acts.

Scheduled down time Friday, May 13, 2011 at 10pm EDT (GMT -4)

A little heads up to everyone! This coming Friday, May 13, 2011 at 10pm EDT (GMT -4) this blog will undergo a scheduled down time because my VPS hosting provider ServInt will begin migrations to a newly provisioned host server.

They estimate that the down time will last for around 15 minutes. That time converts to 10:00:00 Friday May 13, 2011 in GMT+8 Philippine time.

These things are a normal part of the process in the web hosting scene and is a positive sign that the web host, in this case ServInt is taking active measures to further improve their services.

Server Build by Christian Haugen
Image by Christian Haugen

Services which have been fantastic and world-class. Ever since I have moved to ServInt, this blog along with my other websites have up and running smoothly. If ever there were downtimes, those were very rare and usually the culprit has been badly coded scripts and WordPress plugins. However I had little worries because ServInt has been consistent in providing excellent customer support each time something goes wrong in my VPS. Apart from fixing my VPS problems, they have also been unfailing in providing me support whenever I wanted to do some tweaks and customizations to my VPS.

This is not purely a marketing or promotional post, this is more of a testimonial to the great hosting and support services you would get when you host with ServInt. Here’s a link to ServInt, give it a try and you’d never look for another web host.

Image by Christian Haugen

Send Email Using @facebook.com from Gmail

Do you already have your own Facebook email address? This new feature came with the new Facebook Messages wherein your Facebook account becomes the central hub for your communications: email, Facebook messages, chats and text.

It’s a cool new feature and definitely a welcome update to Facebook that once more proves why it is the king of all social networking sites today.

No matter how cool it is to send email with ‘@facebook.com’ address, I still prefer Gmail in handling my e-mail. So I thought of ‘merging’ the two: being able to compose and send email using Gmail but with my ‘@facebook.com’ address listed as the sender.

I did this by using Gmail’s Sending mail from a different address feature. It’s quite easy to setup and if you’ve done this before the whole exercise could be done in less than five minutes.

The steps are easy, once logged in to your Gmail account, click on the gear icon in the upper-right and select Gmail settings and select the Accounts and Import tab.

1. Under Send mail as, click Add another email address

2. In the ‘Email address’ field, enter your name and your @facebook.com address

Facebook mail

3. Choose the option to use Facebook’s SMTP servers.

4. Click Next Step then ‘Send Verfication.’ Gmail will send a verficiation message to your Facebook inbox.

Gmail verification email

5. Open that message and copy the verification code in the Accounts section of your Gmail settings.

Use your @facebook.com address from within Gmail

And you’re done! You can now send an email from your Gmail account and have your Facebook email address appear as the sender. Of course replies to that email would still go to your Facebook Messages Inbox but now you can send messages outside Facebook and use Gmail’s neat features like formatting, attaching large files etc.

I haven’t gone around to using a desktop mail client like Thunderbird to manage my @facebook.com email yet. Perhaps somebody else has done it already, but that’s for another time. Hopefully, this simple tutorial will help those who like to use their Facebook email address but retain the neat features of Gmail.