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Thread: Calling IT Experts

  1. #1
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    Calling IT Experts

    Hi All,

    Re: Email Tracking

    Are there any experts on the forum that can advise on personal email tracking? (Not talking about private messages on the forum.)

    I've noticed a light dot on some of my emails when sending......

    I'm sure some sort of electronic tracking is possible.

    Can anyone elaborate?

    Thanks in advance..

    Sooz

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    In case anyone is wondering, no, it's not a speck of dust on my computer screen, lol...

    When looking closely, it's like a very light grey 'snow flake' type icon. Very tiny, like it's a speck on your computer screen. Around the area where you sign off at the end of an email.

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    Senior Member Nepal InCiDeR's Avatar
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    A Clever Way to Tell Which of Your Emails Are Being Tracked

    While you've likely never heard of companies like Yesware, Bananatag, and Streak, they almost certainly know a good deal about you. Specifically, they know when you’ve opened an email sent by one of their clients, where you are, what sort of device you’re on, and whether you’ve clicked a link, all without your awareness or consent.

    That sort of email tracking is more common than you might think. A Chrome extension called Ugly Mail shows you who’s guilty of doing it to your inbox.

    Sonny Tulyaganov, Ugly Mail’s creator, says he was inspired to write the “tiny script” when a friend told him about Streak, an email-tracking service whose Chrome extension has upwards of 300,000 users. Tulyaganov was appalled.

    “[Streak] allowed users track emails, see when, where and what device were used to view email,” he recalled to WIRED. “I tried it out and found it very disturbing, so decided to see who is actually tracking emails in my inbox.” Once the idea for Ugly Mail was born, it only took a few hours to make it a reality.

    The reason it was so easy to create is that the kind of tracking it monitors is itself a simple procedure. Marketers—or anyone who’s inspired to snoop—simply insert a transparent 11 image into an email. When that email is opened, the image pings the server it originated from with information like the time, your location, and the device you’re using. It’s a read receipt on steroids that you never signed up for.

    Pixel tracking is a long-established practice, and there’s nothing remotely illegal or even particularly discouraged about it; Google even has a support page dedicated to guiding advertisers through the process. That doesn’t make it any less unsettling to see just how closely your inbox activity is being monitored.

    Using Ugly Mail is as simple as the service is effective. Once you’ve installed it, the code identifies emails that include tracking pixels from any of the three services mentioned above. Those messages will appear in your inbox with an eye icon next to the subject heading, letting you know that once clicked, it will alert the sender. Tulyaganov also confirmed to WIRED that Ugly Mail also doesn’t store, save, or transmit any data from your Gmail account or computer; everything takes place on the user’s end.

    Ugly Mail appears to work as advertised in our test, but it has its limitations. It’s only built for Gmail (sorry… Outlookers?) and is only available for Chrome, although Tulyaganov says that Firefox and Safari versions are in the works. And while it’s effective against Yesware, Bananatag, and Streak, those are just three pixel-tracking providers in a sea of sneaking marketers. Tulyaganov has indicated that Ugly Mail will continue to add more tracking services to its list, but it’s not clear yet how long that might take. The onrush of users after receiving top billing on Product Hunt may help speed up the process.

    If you’d like take take the extra step of just blocking pixel tracking altogether, another Chrome extension called PixelBlock—also referenced on Product Hunt—automatically prevents all attempts, instead of Ugly Mail’s more passive strategy of simply informing you that they’re happening.

    Pixel tracking isn’t going away any time soon, and Ugly Mail is an imperfect way to prevent it. But it still offers a valuable glimpse at the marketing machinations we’re all exposed to every day, whether we’re aware of them or not.
    ---
    Source
    Last edited by InCiDeR, 29th April 2015 at 09:07. Reason: fixed spelling
    I don't necessarily believe what I think, neither do I always think what I believe.

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    Thank you so much InCiDeR!

    I knew I wasn't being paranoid. Very interesting.

    Look for those dots people, before you send an email. Don't send it. Someone is tracking you.

    I will be summoning my IT guy forthwith to see who or what the culprit is.

    Only happened a day or so ago.

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    Just dredged up a memory from the 1980's when I was corporate. This is actually a very old HR (Human Rescources) trick from way back in day. It's just been made digital, that's all. This is the way it worked.

    I once sent out a questionnaire to employees to engage their thoughts of the company, our mission statement, staff issues etc. It was supposed to be anonymous so people would feel free to vent their true feelings. I wrote up the questionnaire, then passed it on to an assistant to do all the practical stuff, make copies and distribute. This was back in the days when fax machines just came in.

    So the questionnaire went out to all the staff and people duly filled them in and sent them back to me. Then my wily assistant*, (cunning as a fox at twilight), told me what he'd done. He told me how we could track who had said what.

    He had put a strategic pencil dot in a different place on the photocopy for each individual and made a map of who had that particular questionnaire. So we would know who said what. I was appalled. The damage had been done. He thought he was being very clever and thought it might earn him brownie points.

    So there ya go, an old, crafty trick idea gone digital.

    *He was later sacked for stealing a TV set and taking cash from employee's wallets and fancy pens from their desks.

    There is a lesson in there somewhere.

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    To my understanding, similar tactics were also used when tracking spies, agents and double agents. A misplaced comma or a slightly misspelled word in a document, which seems to be just an ordinary mistake by the writer was just a tracking device. To find out who leaked the document if it ever surfaced.
    Last edited by InCiDeR, 29th April 2015 at 12:13. Reason: spelling
    I don't necessarily believe what I think, neither do I always think what I believe.

    There are 10 types of people in this world, those that can read binary, and those who can't...

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    Dear Sooz if you find any misplaced comma's or misspelled words in any of my posts its because I am genuinely stupid, so you can rule me out (haha)

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    Dear Sooz if you find any misplaced comma's or misspelled words in any of my posts its because I am genuinely stupid, so you can rule me out (haha)
    The funniest thing i have read all week!

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    Oh my Darling, you are the most genuinely loving person out there. Nothing remotely stupid about that.

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    Quote Originally posted by Sooz View Post
    Hi All,

    Re: Email Tracking

    Are there any experts on the forum that can advise on personal email tracking? (Not talking about private messages on the forum.)

    I've noticed a light dot on some of my emails when sending......

    I'm sure some sort of electronic tracking is possible.

    Can anyone elaborate?

    Thanks in advance..

    Sooz
    Without doing away with any of the other technical elaborations provided for on this thread by other participants, I would like to make a few statements with regard to e-mail, if you want to play it safe.

    • Don't use web-mail. Use a real e-mail client, which downloads the mail from the server and onto your local machine, while at the same time deleting it from the server. Ideally, your local machine would be connected to the Internet 24/7 then, and would be polling the mail server for new incoming mail every minute, or every couple of minutes or so. Having the mail downloaded to your own machine the moment it comes in at the server would minimize the risk of your e-mail account getting hijacked and your private communications compromised.


    • Don't use HTML e-mail. Yes, I know, it looks so much prettier if you can apply different fonts and different colors and different styles and backgrounds, and embed pictures or videos into your e-mails, but it's a Bad Idea™, because you don't know what's happening underneath that shiny appearance. I myself only enable HTML mail -- for viewing, not for composing -- in mail folders which I've set up to directly receive mail from certain people or organizations whom I trust. My mail filters automatically direct the incoming mail to those folders, and the folders themselves are then set up to allow for HTML rendering if the person or organization sending those e-mails only sends their e-mails as HTML. Anything else that comes in on my computer and doesn't come from any known correspondent will arrive either in my regular "inbox", or if my ISP flags it as spam -- they then add "[SPAM]" to the subject of the message -- into my "trash"/"wastebin" folder, and both are set up without HTML rendering, which means that whatever arrives in those folders is plain unformatted text.

      HTML is a markup language, which, depending on the operating system on your computer and the cleverness of the person sending you the e-mail, can be and is being used to falsify the information presented or do things behind your back. Phishing is one of those tactics, where they present you with a link that you must click on -- if HTML is not enabled, then you get to see the actual naked link, rather than what the HTML code tells you that it would be -- which then takes you to an entirely different website from the one it purports to be, and as such, you enter your login and your password there, and they have your credentials. For instance, you get an HTML e-mail from someone pretending to be your bank or your ISP with a message that your bank balance is in the red or that your mailbox is full, and you must click "here" and log in in order to correct the problem, but the website it takes you to does not belong to your bank or to your ISP.


    • By all means, don't use Microsoft Windows -- and Apple isn't all that much better -- but if you must use it, then use a non-Microsoft e-mail client and a non-Microsoft web browser. Microsoft Windows ships from Redmond with at least two backdoors deliberately built into the system itself -- one for Microsoft, so they can remove so-called copyrighted or pirated software from your computer, and one for the NSA, so they can use your computer as a slave in one of their botnets for cyber-warfare. Furthermore, Microsoft Windows is -- believe it or not -- the worst possible operating system design on the planet, both in terms of code quality and in terms of security. In Windows, a file -- such as an e-mail attachment -- is considered executable if it has a filename which ends in a certain "suffix", like ".exe", ".cmd", ".com", or something of the likes, and Windows equates "open" with "execute". So a malicious e-mail attachment could automatically be made to run on your computer without your consent, and could wreak serious havoc, which is even more exacerbated by the fact that Windows was never designed with security or networking in mind and doesn't have the same levels of user privilege separation as a UNIX system.

      In addition to the above, all versions of Microsoft Windows from Windows XP onward phone home once every week, with the full details of what hardware your machine is comprised of, what software you have installed -- even if that's not Microsoft software -- and what websites you've been visiting. This is all carefully explained in their PR campaigns as something they do in order to "improve the customer experience" -- read: so their affiliates can send you more personally targeted spam -- and they also claim that they do not keep that information permanently stored on their servers. Yet, this article here confirms -- based upon the Snowden documents -- that Microsoft actively sells zero-day exploits to the NSA (and for big money) before it issues a patch for those vulnerabilities to their paying customers, and Microsoft has million US dollar contracts with DARPA and the DHS, in an engagement to help fight "the war on terror", so it stands to reason that they would be forwarding your info to the alphabet soup agencies. (A zero-day exploit is a mechanism for exploiting a vulnerability, the existence of which has hitherto remained unknown to the public.)


    The Free & Open Source Software movement was specifically founded because of all the problems and hazards associated with proprietary software. Microsoft and Apple products are -- for most part -- proprietary software. That means that you do not get to own the copy you are using. All you legally own is the installation medium -- usually a CD or DVD -- on which the software came. However, the software itself remains the property of Microsoft, Apple, or whatever other proprietary vendor.

    You are therefore not legally allowed to make any copies of that software, other than what the EULA ("End-User License Agreement) specifies -- usually that means "one backup copy" -- and you are not allowed to redistribute the software, study the software or modify the software in any shape or form, not even if modifying it would make it work better on your computer. Furthermore, by having that software installed on your computer, you are giving the maker of the proprietary software the legal right to dictate what you can and cannot do with the computer that you paid for with your own money. And lastly, because the software comes in binary form only, you never really know what that software really does.

    Free & Open Source Software -- the word "free" is often misinterpreted to mean "gratis", but it actually stands for "freedom" -- always comes with the obligation that the recipient of the software must have access to the full source code of the software, so that anyone skilled enough in programming can examine the code and see what it does, and if they are then still too paranoid to trust the binary and readily installable code, then they can create their own binary copies from that source code. Furthermore, you also have the right to study the code, to copy it, to redistribute it, to modify it, and to redistribute your modifications, albeit in the latter case usually with the restriction that you must then also grant the same rights to the people you are distributing your derivative code to. Furthermore, Free & Open Source Software is developed by way of the Internet, by hundreds of thousands of contributors from all over the world -- most of whom are professionally trained and skilled software engineers -- and given that the source code is open for everyone to scrutinize, bugs are found more easily and security leaks get patched long before anyone with bad intentions could write an exploit for them. That doesn't mean that no bugs go by unnoticed, but they do get fixed a lot sooner -- usually within 24 to 48 hours.

    There exist several Free & Open Source Software operating systems, which come complete with all the software you ever need. All of it is installed in a single go, or at least, insomuch as that it all fits on the installation medium. That which doesn't fit on there can be downloaded via the distribution's package manager and the distribution's package repositories. That software is then downloaded and installed, and you can then rest assured that your distribution's package wranglers will have tested and reviewed the code -- they are the ones compiling the source code packages into a binary and readily installable form, which you then download from the repositories via the package manager software. The packages are also signed and come with a checksum file, and this is checked upon downloading by your package manager software. If it detects an irregularity, it will not install the pertinent package unless you insist that it would -- which would be very dumb, of course.

    Most Free & Open Source Software operating systems are based upon the tried and tested design of a once proprietary operating system design called UNIX, which already existed long before Microsoft as a company ever got founded. UNIX systems are so-called timesharing multiuser systems, which means that they allow for multiple concurrent logins at the same time. They are robust, stable, flexible, scalable, and secure.

    The most popular Free & Open Source Software operating system today is GNU/Linux -- usually commonly abbreviated to "Linux", even though that's technically not the correct name -- but there exist similar systems, which have been based off of the BSD ('"Berkeley Software Distribution") flavor of the original UNIX. Of the GNU/Linux distributions, Ubuntu and Mint are the most popular. Neither is to my personal liking, but as an advocate of Free Software, I would either way recommend against Ubuntu because Ubuntu proper -- i.e. the "flavor" of Ubuntu which comes with the Unity graphical user interface by default -- contains spyware, due to a sponsorship contract between Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, and Amazon. The Kubuntu, Lubuntu and Xubuntu variants do not have this "feature".

    Still, you need not necessarily switch over to GNU/Linux or one of the BSDs in order to use Free & Open Source Software, because most Free & Open Source software available to GNU/Linux and BSD has also already been ported to the Microsoft Windows and Apple OS X platforms. One of the Free Software titles which you may already be using would for instance be Mozilla Firefox, or Mozilla Thunderbird. Or perhaps LibreOffice, which is a complete, drop-in replacement for Microsoft Office. It is compatible with Microsoft office documents, but -- like all Free Software -- it is also 100% compliant with internationally agreed-upon standards (which Microsoft software is not!).

    Going into all the specifics here would take this thread too far off-topic and would either way get too technical for most readers, so I'm not going to go there. But you can glean a lot of information by doing some research of your own on the Internet, starting with Wikipedia. ;-)
    Last edited by Aragorn, 29th April 2015 at 23:52. Reason: spelling corrections
    = DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR =

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  21. #11
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    You know what the strangest thing was? I wrote here that I was going to email my IT guy, who lives just around the corner, literally.

    I did so and he emailed me back with a link to my post here on TOT - saying, 'here is someone with the same situation as you'. LOL!!! He is a reader of TOT and I never knew. He's been fixing my computer for oh, about 10 years.

    How crazy is that?

    Hi Brad, 'waves'.....

    (This should be on Sam Hunter's synchroncity thread).

    Last edited by Sooz, 30th April 2015 at 08:21.

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