How safe is your digital cash? Find out

Internet security experts warn caution as the world takes the cashless route. The globe’s shift towards becoming a digital economy, like any major world event, is a big opportunity for cyber criminals to find vulnerabilities.

Shadma Shaikh 55803712.png& Payal Ganguly spoke with security experts to find what risks are involved in the transition to a cashless India. The following are some ways the security of your transactions could be compromised:


Point-of-Sale (POS) Machines
– Unauthorized POS devices can copy the details of credit and debit cards while swiping them in the machines
– Compromised devices can replicate cards
– The internet network that PoS devices use can be hacked to get details

– Hackers can use malware-infected debit and credit cards to take control of an ATM network, causing the ATM to spit out cash
– Installation of fake micro ATMs can be used to capture card details for use later
– Crooks can take advantage of first-time ATM users under the pretext of helping them transact at ATMs


Marketplace transactions
– Saving card details on marketplaces can expose customer info in case of a breach
– Cyber-attacks on marketplaces can give hackers access to customers’ personal info as well as details such as on merchant and vendor payments

Digital wallets
– Online wallets are easy targets for attackers. Since wallet transactions are of smaller amounts, many wallets do not use very advanced security measures, making them vulnerable to attacks
– Many wallet apps keep their users signed in on their wallet accounts, leaving just a single layer of authorization for a hacker to get through

Online transactions
– Avoid saving card data online
– Pay online using OTPs
– Before entering details on any website, ensure it is a secure link. Web address should begin with ‘https’
– Avoid using personal info such as birth date/names for passwords
– Avoid using card-on-delivery option with new online retailers. It is safer to use digital wallets for payment at delivery

Mobile security
– Use password manager apps that generate random passwords
– Do not use the same password for digital wallets and netbanking
– Log out of digital wallets once a transaction is completed
– Avoid installing third-party apps on your phone that pop up during ads
– Activate mobile tracking to wipe out data remotely in case of device theft

Source: The Economic Times


How Whatsapp makes money?

whatsapp_0.jpgWhatsApp was founded in 2009 by Brian Acton and Jan Koum as an alternative to pricey SMS services. The app allows users to upload their contact book and message anyone who has the app installed at no cost. It is available for iPhones, Androids, Blackberries, Windows Phones, Nokia (NOK) phones and, most recently, desktops.

Facebook (FB) purchased WhatsApp in February 2014 for approximately $19 billion, and according to the 2014 Facebook Form 10-Q, in the nine months preceding September 30, 2014, WhatsApp generated revenue of $1,289,000. How is WhatsApp making its money?

$1 at a time

The short answer is $1 at a time. In some countries, the app costs about $1 to download; in others, the first year is free but, each subsequent year costs $1. With over 700 million active users and about 1 million new users per day, yearly revenue can be estimated at $700 million per year.

Facebook’s Form 10-Q admits that the company “[monetizes] WhatsApp in only a very limited fashion, and [they] may not be successful in [their] efforts to generate meaningful revenue from WhatsApp over the long term.” So while the company doesn’t currently have ads or other forms of income, their position could change over time.

Other SMS apps

Outside of America, where sending text messages is more expensive, SMS apps are popular and have successfully monetized. WeChat – the popular Chinese SMS app has ads as well as online games. The company boasted $924 million in revenue in the third quarter of 2014, down from $949 million in Q2, with only 438.2 million users.

KakaoTalk, a South Korean SMS app, has 48 million users and $190 million in 2013 revenue. The app makes money from online games, advertising, and from selling emoticons and stickers.

At $2.11 (WeChat) and $3.95 (KakaoTalk) in revenue per user, per year, WhatsApp can earn between $1.47-2.77 billion per year by adopting the competition’s monetization policies. Analysts have calculated that, long-term, WhatsApp could generate $2.50 in yearly revenue per user with about 2 billion users (about $5 billion per year).

Focusing on growth

WhatsApp is adding around a million users per day, mostly in Latin America, India and Europe. With SMS apps, growth is exponential – when one person in a social group downloads and advocates using the app, many new users download the app in order to communicate with the original person. These new users then encourage other members of their other social groups to use the app.

By increasing market penetration, the app becomes indispensable and the user base grows. As the user base grows, not only does the subscription service of $1/year bring in substantial revenue but advertising and alternative forms of monetization create hearty revenue.

Is it really about the money though?

Industry insiders have speculated that part of the rationale behind acquiring WhatsApp was for Facebook to access user’s behavioral data and personal information.

With location sharing data, 30 billion messages sent per day, and access to users’ entire contact lists, Facebook has access to a ton of personal information – all uploaded and saved on its servers. While Mark Zuckerberg promises that this data won’t be used to improve consumer targeting in Facebook ads, it still raises questions about how private our data really is.

The Bottom Line

Whether you believe that Facebook overpaid for WhatsApp or not, the fact is that the app has a small and growing revenue stream with lots of room to grow. Will the SNS giant aggressively monetize like other SMS apps have done or use it for another purpose? Only time will tell.

Source: Investopedia

Silk Road – The online black market

Silk Road was an online black market and the Silk_Road_Marketplace_Item_Screen.jpgfirst modern darknet market, best known as a platform for selling illegal drugs. As part of the dark web, it was operated as a Tor hidden service, such that online users were able to browse it anonymously and securely without potential traffic monitoring. The website was launched in February 2011; development had begun six months prior. Initially there were a limited number of new seller accounts available; new sellers had to purchase an account in an auction. Later, a fixed fee was charged for each new seller account.

In October 2013, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) shut down the website and arrested Ross William Ulbricht under charges of being the site’s pseudonymous founder “Dread Pirate Roberts”. On 6 November 2013, Silk Road 2.0 came online, run by former administrators of Silk Road. It too was shut down and the alleged operator was arrested on 6 November 2014 as part of the so-called “Operation Onymous”.

Ulbricht was convicted of seven charges related to Silk Road in U.S. Federal Court in Manhattan and was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. Further charges alleging murder-for-hire remain pending in Maryland.

Ross Ulbricht was alleged by the FBI to be the founder and owner of Silk Road and the person behind the pseudonym “Dread Pirate Roberts”. He was arrested on 2 October 2013 in San Francisco at 3:15 p.m. PST in Glen ParkLibrary, a branch of the San Francisco Public Library.[35]

Ulbricht was indicted on charges of money laundering, computer hacking, conspiracy to traffic narcotics,and attempting to have six people killed. Prosecutors alleged that Ulbricht paid $730,000 to others to commit the murders, although none of the murders actually occurred. Ulbricht ultimately was not prosecuted for any of the alleged murder attempts.

The FBI initially seized 26,000 bitcoins from accounts on Silk Road, worth approximately $3.6 million at the time. An FBI spokesperson said that the agency would hold the bitcoins until Ulbricht’s trial finished, after which the bitcoins would be liquidated. In October 2013, the FBI reported that it had seized 144,000 bitcoins, worth $28.5 million, and that the bitcoins belonged to Ulbricht. On 27 June 2014, the U.S. Marshals Service sold 29,657 bitcoins in 10 blocks in an online auction, estimated to be worth $18 million at current rates and only about a quarter of the seized bitcoins. Another 144,342 bitcoins were kept which had been found on Ulbricht’s computer, roughly $87 million. Tim Draper bought the bitcoins at the auction with an estimated worth of $17 million, to lend them to a bitcoin start-up called Vaurum which is working in developing economies of emerging markets.

Source: Wikipedia