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John Soat
John Soat
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IT Confidential: Phishing, Spamming, And The FBI's CIO

Seniors, 65 and up, are the fastest growing online demographic

The Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department said last week they had arrested a Texas man who created bogus E-mails posing as official messages from AOL and PayPal. Zachary Hill, of Houston, pleaded guilty to charges of "phishing" for confidential and financial information by sending E-mails that warned consumers their AOL or PayPal accounts would be canceled unless they resubmitted credit-card or bank-account information. A link in the E-mails directed consumers to what appeared to be AOL or PayPal Web sites. On the bogus sites, Hill asked for information ranging from mother's maiden name and Social Security number to credit-card and bank-account data. According to the feds, Hill obtained more than 470 credit cards, 152 bank accounts, and 566 sets of Internet service-account passwords and user names, and used the credit cards to purchase more than $47,000 worth of goods. Phishing scams are on the rise, according to the Justice Department, which has an advisory about the problem on its Web site. Hill has been charged and convicted, and he awaits sentencing under a plea bargain.

Speaking of online dupes, seniors are the most "spam-savvy" age group, the least likely to fall victim to E-mail scam artists, according to a survey released last week. The survey, conducted by Applied Research and sponsored by Symantec, queried 1,000 Internet users ages 18 and up and found 18% overall had been victims of online fraud. People 65 or older, however, were less likely to be duped--only 23% say they had clicked on a spam link, versus more than a third in the other age groups. In addition, only 13% of seniors report clicking on a link they later found to be phony or fraudulent, compared with 21% of 18- to 29-year-olds, and 19% of 30- to 64-year-olds.

Look for Best Buy to announce its new CIO this week. Marc Gordon, executive VP and CIO, abruptly left his post two weeks ago TPOO (to pursue other opportunities), according to the electronics retailer. Last week, Best Buy hired Michael Vitelli as senior VP of consumer electronics and product management. Vitelli, 48, comes from Sony, where he oversaw a supply-chain and order-management project.

Speaking of turnover, the CIO job at the FBI has changed hands five times in the past 24 months, according to a General Accounting Office report last week. Zalmai Azmi, the current CIO, is also CIO at an office in the Justice Department and is detailed to the FBI for only six months. Last week, the report was presented at a Senate Appropriations Committee subcommittee hearing, which was looking into Trilogy, the FBI's ongoing IT modernization project.

CIO of the FBI--think of the possibilities. You could track down old flames, find out where your neighbors go at night, discover the political parties your parents belonged to. Then again, maybe I don't want to know. But I do want an an industry tip--send it to or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about phishing, spam gullibility, or IT in the intelligence community, meet me at's Listening Post:

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