Event Myopia & Online Dystopia

I was on Meetup today and noticed an alarming trend.  I have come to respect Meetup quite a bit.  It has been a democratizing event software solution.  The trend I am noticing is users have learned to game the system. The fact that Meetup does not control how many events you run or whether you are seriously running an event at all is great.  You can create any event in volume about any subject.  Problem is, imagine a world where people enter events in volume in order to just create events in volume as a way to attract more business.  Their goal is to create more members.   I use Eventbrite, but Meetup specifically has that stickiness with members being attached to your events indefinitely.

Event Spam

Notice this user of meetup. Click Here. They have decided to create literally hundreds of events at many locations, actually some at the same time.  They actually have 25x more pending events than event attendees at one event.  I was trying to find out why there are over 6,000 events posted in Boca Raton, FL on Meetup.  This is why.  Now image that times 2,000 cities across the US.  You would end up with so much crap that Meetup would be pretty much flooded with event spam.

Online Dystopia

If you look up the word dystopia, you will find that it means “an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad”.  I put the words Online Dystopia to describe when these technologies get overloaded with spammers or anybody who is trying to game the system in a weird way.  It goes back to that original Nigerian letter before the Internet that would arrive in the mail asking for you to send $20k immediately in order to get the million dollar fortune you have inherited.

Step Lightly

When I was at Verio/NTT a tech manager told me he had received an email which he thought was real and had filled out the Bank of America form that it required with his bank account info.  Problem was it was a fake and he was scammed.  As we look towards protecting ourselves we have to be more conscious of what is real and what is fake and what is just being created to get our attention.

Skype Is Under Attack!

Over the past couple of days I have noticed a dramatic increase in Skype related attacks.  By attack, I am seeing a combination of attempts at adding me as a contact, sending me files via email, and the worst of it all is unsolicited calls to me on Skype.  When this occurs at 3:30 am and you are awoken by PukePeppy32 calling you.  Who knows who that is?  And all of this happens, because you left your computer or phone on.  You have to say to yourself, enough is enough.   It happened to me.   It sucks.  Getting unsolicited emails from Skype somehow with fraudster links was enough for me.  I am writing about it, because it is worth not getting stuck with a bad link that destroys your computer.  The Skype email, especially if sent to you from a member of your email list, seems real!  You may be the one to click one of these links and find out the hard way it is a scam.

I have researched these Skype attacks and this seems to be endemic of Skype. If you are a regular user of Skype and this has not happened to you, trust me, it will. I think they find your name on either a public listing of Skype users or they write programs that scan through all the Skype users and attempt to call them.  I probably left my Skype name on a public site somewhere and that is where it is coming from.  Trust me.  I won’t be doing that again.

What Is This All About

I see two kinds of fraudsters doing this.  There are the scam artists and the porno people.  The scam artists are going to be from Nigeria, Ghana, Russia or somewhere else in the world where they focus on this.  They have unlimited time and energy to try to get you to give up your cash, your visa card, even your identity. They are out for that person that falls for a scam.  It’s all about the numbers.  If they keep on contacting people, eventually they will find that one in a million person who gives up their data. Then there are the porno people.  I think these are girls who are trying to initiate a call with you in order to get you hooked on porn flash shows. I guess they are located sometimes in the US, and similar to the scam artists, they are working the streets of the Internet.

It’s All In The Numbers

I guess if you are a teen age boy and a good looking image of a girl starts to call you, you may accept.  So, hitting up unsolicited Skype people makes sense in terms of how they market.  There is no police officer walking the streets of the Internet and there is no immediate penalty for trying this as far as I can see.  They can sit back and virtually dial out over and over.  But theoretically there is a tech person involved.  Just the fact they are soliciting specific lists of names that are listed as Skype contact names, means that somebody put together a spreadsheet or email or listing somewhere.  I may be under-estimating the technical operation. There may be a full IT department and a bunch of servers and experts working with them.

How To Combat The Skype Attacks

To combat this you can take immediate measures.  If you don’t use Skype regularly and the requests and calls just started, then the best answer is to turn Skype off till you need it.  You can set Skype to Do Not Disturb.  That, along with Away and Offline do not stop people from requesting your contact info, nor does it stop them from just calling you out of the blue.  For those settings you need to go further.  You need to click on TOOLS.  Then click on OPTIONS.  Then click on PRIVACY.  Set ALLOW CALLS to PEOPLE IN MY CONTACT LIST ONLY.  Set AUTOMATICALLY RECEIVE VIDEO AND SHARE SCREENS with PEOPLE IN MY CONTACT LIST ONLY. Set ALLOW IMs from PEOPLE IN MY CONTACT LIST ONLY.  A few other items are worth doing if you are having this issue like UNCHECKING the setting for ALLOW MY STATUS TO BE SHOWN ON THE WEB.

The 911

It’s too bad this is happening because Skype is quite a good program.  We use it to work with clients globally, as a collaboration tool. and it is so widely accepted it is the bomb in terms of what we need.  There are issues because it is free with bandwidth occasionally.   When this happens using either join.me or GoToMeeting make sense. But let’s face it.  If you look around at discussions online about Skype and privacy, it turns out that these problems have been going on for a while.  The answer from Skype (Microsoft) is deal with it.  The one thing they are not changing is the ability to ask people if they want to be a contact.  That is critical to how Skype functions.  If that is not good enough for you, then turn it off!  That is their mantra.

Is all of this the result of Skype’s popularity?  Yes.  All good things run their course.  Is this a result of the acquisition by Microsoft?  Maybe that has become an issue.  The way some tech companies deal with this is introducing a paid service to fix the security issues… Maybe that is where Skype is going.  If they don’t fix these Skype attack and scam issues, the door has been open to an alternative service down the road doing a better job at the privacy issue.