Besides Music, What Do Rihanna, Miley and Taylor Have in Common?

   In the world of pop culture, nothing entices the public more than celebrity gossip. Search Google Trends on any given day, and famous sports figures, reality stars, singers and actors undoubtedly top the list of the most sought-after Internet topics. Sadly, the global appeal of celebrity serves as the ideal niche for eager hackers and cyber criminals looking to uncover personal information from unsuspecting celebrity inquirers. One such emergent trend in phishing scams targets the public fascination with celebrity scandal, as fabricated videos and newsfeeds tempt Internet users to access corrupted content containing viruses and other hacker material aimed at collecting personal information.

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What Do Miranda Kerr, Burger King, and President Obama All Have in Common?

Twitter amounts to serious business for many celebrities and large corporations. Product endorsements, promotional details and event advertising represent a growing market in both celebrity and corporate publicity machines. Like many of its recognized users, the value of Twitter’s instantaneous mass communication abilities has not been lost on Internet hackers. Twitter fan favorites, including Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Britney Spears and Khloe Kardashian, have fallen prey to the recent trend in celebrity cyber-attacks, whereby hackers tweet fabricated content using victims’ personal profiles. Burger King became the latest victim of a Twitter attack. Hackers defaced the fast food chain’s account by making it appear as McDonald’s, and tweeting vulgar comments and false claims.

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Hemanshu (Hemu) Nigam is an online safety, security, and privacy expert and CEO of SSP Blue, an online security consultancy. He is also a frequent contributor to CNN, HLN, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, CBS,, and  To sign up for SSP Blue’s Weekly News & Info, please click here, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.  See also Hemu’s personal site.

The Internet Remembers, And So Must We

A new scandal surfaces almost weekly in Hollywood, and nothing receives more media attention than the release of a new celebrity sex tape.  With 42 million search results for “Kim Kardashian sex tape” appearing online, no question exists about the extent of the world’s fascination with publicized celebrity indiscretions.

The attention celebrities receive for such actions often influences other Internet users to document and broadcast their own private activities (frequently to the determinant of personal relationships, careers, educational opportunities and community standings).  A simple click to post a video or image can have permanent, far-reaching and severe implications for not only the posters but also their innocent friends, family, or acquaintances.

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Hemanshu (Hemu) Nigam is an online safety, security, and privacy expert and CEO of SSP Blue, an online security consultancy. He is also a frequent contributor to CNN, HLN, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, CBS,, and  To sign up for SSP Blue’s Weekly News & Info, please click here, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.  See also Hemu’s personal site.

The Amazing Race: The Irony of Halloween

I decided to watch the most recent episode of The Amazing Race after a night of walking the neighborhood streets with my six-year-old in search of the house with the best candy.  The more I watched the show in hopes of finding an online safety, security, or privacy lesson, the more I was distracted by my son sitting on the carpet, still in full Halloween gear, sorting through his loot.  As I watched him, watched the show, and watched him again, it occurred to me the dramatic irony of Halloween.

Every day we try to teach our kids to navigate life safely, securely, conscious of how we impact others, and aware of the reputation that will precede us wherever we go.  We remind our kids not to take candy from strangers, to be truthful to who we are, to respect those around us, and to be honest about who we are.  I’ve written many articles in which I have tried to highlight what we must teach our kids about staying safe online.  We hope that our kids will understand that the Internet is like the real world – full of the good and the bad – and we hope they will live in the good, avoid the bad, and stay away from the scary.

Then comes Halloween.  We tell our kids to dress up like someone else and do it really well so no one can figure out who is behind the mask.  We then take them out into the world and ask them to ring the bell on houses filled with strangers and ask for candy.  And when they are too scared to go up to a house that is particularly scary, we tell them to suck it up and get up there, that it’s no big deal.  In fact, we feel as though we must push them forward into the scary situation that lies before them, despite what we might have learned about in articles like mine from last week.

And herein lies an opportunity to think about how similar what we do on Halloween is to what many parents will do or not do online.  It is easy to feel a sense of comfort when your child sits at home in front of a computer exploring the world.  They are at home after all.  The reality is that they are exploring the world and need all the guidance we can give them and that we provide to them daily in their offline lives…well, except on Halloween.

So next time your child goes online, ask yourself, “Are they going out trick or treating?”

The Amazing Race: Back to Basics

The last episode of The Amazing Race brought us back to life as we used to know it and how much of the world still knows it.  The contestants walked, rode elephants, took the bus, hitch-hiked, and rode in taxi cabs.  They took notes on simple notepads to remember the placement of figures on temple replicas and they asked pedestrians and office workers for directions just by stopping them on the streets.  The twins, Liz and Marie, even convinced two separate cab drivers to give them a ride for free when they ran out of money.  In essence, they hitch-hiked in Bangkok, Thailand.

All of this ‘back to basics’ reminded me of a trip I took to India, Nepal, and Bangladesh with a U.S. delegation tasked by the White House to find ways to reduce the trafficking of women and children in that region.  As an envoy for the U.S. government, we traveled in Land Rovers driven by well-trained drivers.  Each time we stopped at a police controlled traffic signal, we would see the line of traffic that appears nothing like what we see in the U.S.  Instead of a line of cars waiting for the green, we saw a line of ‘vehicles’ consisting of horse drawn carriages, air-conditioned Mercedes, ox-drawn carts, passenger buses, bicycles, and rickshaws, all waiting for the policeman to blow the whistle.

It was a stark reminder of how in America we shed the old when we adopt the new.  We do it in all sorts of ways from new cars to new iPhones.  In fact, Steve Jobs’ creative genius put this ‘out with old, in with the new’ consumer buying habit on steroids.  With every new iPhone release, lines form around Apple stores with folks willing to spend hundreds of dollars just to get the latest gadget the minute it hits the market.

And yet, for some reason this phenomenon hasn’t traversed to the other side of the world.  In many other countries, we see the adoption of the new being intertwined with the retention of the old – the old of hundreds of years ago.  Placed in this setting, our Amazing Race contestants did just fine even though they were forced into using tools of a world they no longer live in – a world full of GPS devices, Google maps, cell phones, iPads, and iPhones.  And most importantly, they did it with a sense of patience.

Is it possible that our quick to consume society is starting to replace a time of thoughtful relaxation?

The Amazing Race: The Buddy System

Last week’s episode of The Amazing Race was quite inspiring and insightful.  Couples were not only working well with each other, a few were even pairing up with other couples.  Even the now infamous fighting and bickering couple, Justin and Jennifer, showed a glimpse of a partnership.  As we watched teams that had decided to pair up with one another, it became rather clear the power of the buddy system.  They encouraged each other, they split tasks, and they moved through challenges quickly and successfully.

And as I watched the power of the buddy system in a high-adrenalin race around the world, it became acutely clear the great impact this buddy system could have on keeping our kids safer online.

Every day, we make sure our kids go places with a buddy.  Whether it’s to the mall or the playground, we insist our kids have a buddy with them at all times.  And yet, when our kids explore the globe and connect with others, we forget to bring this age-old, well proven system into the Internet world, even though the Internet is a true reflection of life as we know it – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

We should ask our kids to find a buddy that they will talk to about what they are doing online, where they are going, who they are chatting with, and most importantly, what might be upsetting or disturbing them.  It is a concept we’ve taught our kids so well, they will embrace it with little or no protest.

The buddy system is a great asset on The Amazing Race and on the amazing Internet.

The Amazing Race: Text Me So I Can Hear You

Last week’s episode of The Amazing Race was the most uncomfortable ever and strangely last night’s episode was the most comfortable ever.  Last week brother and sister couple, Justin and Jennifer, fought, shouted, yelled, screamed, bickered, and argued during the entire episode.  They even argued when they were simply waiting for a train and not in the throes of a challenge.  It got to the point that it was not only visibly disturbing for the other contestants to watch, but it was even disturbing for us as viewers to watch.  Last night’s episode was quite the opposite.  While mention was made that everyone hoped Justin and Jennifer wouldn’t be at each other’s throats, most of the episode was dedicated to cordiality between team mates and cooperation amongst teams.  All of this set in the rice fields of Indonesia and a 9th-century Buddhist temple at Borobudur.

The contrasting episodes of painful bickering and peaceful living made me wonder whether life would be better lived in a world without smartphones and the Internet – a techno-less society to slow us down and take away our need for instant gratification that usually leads to instant frustration.  Justin and Jennifer are prime examples of folks who have been pushed to extreme emotions without the comforts of what they are used to – looking up things on Google, having a GPS to take them to their next destination, and having the luxury of air conditioning wherever they are.

Is there any way all this fancy technology can help them get along or do they need to slow down and plant rice for awhile?

Every word Justin spoke, Jennifer responded to.  And, vice versa.  But if you actually listened, you would notice that they were both talking so loud they couldn’t hear each other.  They weren’t communicating at all.  They weren’t listening, responding, listening, reacting.  And here is where technology can save them.  If they could just send a text to each other, even while standing next to each other, they would be forced to process their thoughts, think of the right words to articulate them, breath while they typed them into a texting device, and wait for the reply.  This texting back and forth would allow them to actually have a conversation without speaking a word.  It is the conversation that human relationships are built upon.  A little technology can allow couples to communicate without having to live on a rice farm on the other side of the world.

So next time someone is talking so loud that you can’t hear them, send a text.

The Amazing Race: Confucius Meets Twitter

The Amazing Race came back with yet another exciting season premier this weekend.  From the start we saw a lack of preparation by ‘the showgirls’ that almost landed them a trophy for the shortest lived contestants on The Amazing Race.  It all started when Kaylani didn’t secure her passport, dropping it at a gas station less than an hour after the race began.  Luckily, a passerby Tweeted that he had found a passport belonging to an Amazing Race contestant and got convinced by his followers to hand deliver it to LAX.  Strangely, this was a harbinger of the upcoming challenge in which contestants played a game of ‘telephone’ at the Taipei Confucius Temple where they had to listen to a recorded saying by Confucius and then repeat it precisely for their next clue.

Confucius said, “In all things success depends on previous preparation.  And without such previous preparation, there is sure to be failure.”

Even though Confucius spoke nearly 2,500 years ago, his words are as applicable in this digital century as they were when he first spoke them.

In this week’s episode, we saw firsthand what can happen if a team fails to prepare.  But for the kindness of strangers connected to Twitter, Kaylani and Lisa would have been sure to fail.  And therein lies the amazing facets we find in the season premier of The Amazing Race.  Every aspect of our life is interconnected through and into the digital world.  Every step we take online has some type of impact on our footprints in the real world.  With each step we must ask ourselves, “Are we preparing for future success when acting in the present moment?”

When you post a photo on Facebook, can it affect how a future employer might perceive you to be resulting in a lost job opportunity?  When you get a security update, do you hit Remind Me Later, leaving all your personal bank information at the mercy of a hacker?  When you sign into Facebook, Twitter, or Gmail, do you use the same password, setting yourself up for a major phishing attack?  When you register for a new site, do you skip the privacy set-up process, letting others you would never share with see all your personal thoughts.  When you store your private photos, do you put them in a folder clearly marked private, making them highly visible and desirable for others to open?

Every act we take online impacts our safety, security, and privacy.   Take a moment to consider how your actions today will impact your future success.  This was true when Confucius lived in a world without an Internet just as much as it is true today in a world than can’t survive without an Internet.

For more information about online safety, check back here every week or visit my website.

The Bachelorette and Table for Two Please

Did you watch this week’s final episode of The Bachelorette?  Ashley finally chose the bachelor she wants to spend the rest of her life with…and he chose her too.  Even though the season started back in May and finished in August, the actual events that took place happened over a mere 6 weeks or less.  If we count the actual time spent with her now fiancé, JP, we might even say it happened in less than 48 hours or perhaps 24 hours. And wow, where did these life long, you are my soul mate for life, events take place – in perfectly choreographed, exquisitely selected destinations like fancy restaurants, beaches, helicopters, nightclubs, resorts, and skyscrapers around the world (just to name a few).  And wow, the number of bachelors Ashley fell for in just the same short amount of time, who were perfect for her, ranged anywhere from 6 at a time to 2 before she finally chose the one her sister didn’t think was right for her in the real world.

So why are we talking about how quickly and where Ashley found her soul mate in a blog about the Internet?  Many of us have been lulled into using the power of technology and its ability to connect us quickly to replace the power of true human interaction that develops into the true human bond over long periods of time.  We text instead of calling, we email instead of visiting, we IM instead of dropping by, and we order online instead of going to the mall with friends to stroll, chat, and gossip.  Ashley did something very similar when she used the perfect dates, the perfect scenery, the perfect food, the perfect beaches, the perfect hotels and hot tubs, and the perfect resorts in place of the slowly orchestrated music that comes from a courtship choreographed over time.

Isn’t it time that we all power down, slow down, and breath in the world around us – the real world full of real people with real stories to be told and passed on to those who follow-us?

Until next time when you go online and read another article from me, enjoy some special time with someone special.  Table for two please.

See also Hemu’s other blogs on The Bachelorette here.

The Bachelorette and The Illusion of Reality

Did you watch this week’s episode of The Bachelorette? Ashley and the remaining three bachelors escaped to the Fiji Islands, one of the most perfect vacation spots in the world, where Ashley talked repeatedly about just how perfect everything was there. She even talked about just how perfect each bachelor was for her and just how perfect their final dates were (except of course Constantine who decided that despite the perfection, he wasn’t feeling it for Ashley). With every scene we heard the word perfect more times than we heard the word amazing in the previous episodes. Ashley also talked about how protected she felt in her perfect surroundings. And amidst all this talk of perfection, Ashley set about to make one of the most important decisions of her life, her real life – a life that would not be protected by the perfection of the beautifully isolated Fiji Islands.

So why are we talking about the most perfect vacation spot in the world in an article about the Internet? In numerous ways, Ashley’s comments about the Fiji Islands and how protected and perfect she felt there could have just as well been about the Internet. Again and again, we go online with the sense that we are entering a protected space where everything can be perfect. We feel a sense of security that empowers us to make decisions online that will affect our real lives. We do it often based on whatever ‘perfect’ reality is either presented to us or we have chosen to imagine. And we feel quite protected when we do. But sooner or later, our decisions online affect our lives offline. Recognizing, understanding, and then being keenly aware of this fact might be perhaps one of the greatest challenges of the digital century. Every step we take, every decision we make online will live with us offline, sometimes forever.

So, next time you go online to interact with others and find love, take a moment to look up from your keyboard to remind yourself that you’re not in Fiji. The life you live in outside the Internet is the life you must embrace, filled with ups and downs, perfection and imperfection, happiness and sadness. It is what your real life is all about.

Until next week’s episode, keep in mind that Fiji is a place you go after you’ve made some of the most important decisions of your life.

See also Hemu’s other blogs on The Bachelorette here.