Author Archives: Daniel Gifford

Turkey Thrashes Twitter, Leaks put Gov in a Twist

Amid deepening corruption scandals in Turkey, the Turkish Government has shut down access to a number of social media outlets, most recently Twitter, after Twitter failed to comply with their demands to censor links to wiretapped conversations of the inner circle which seem to provide evidence of corruption. Prime Minister Erdogan was unfazed by condemnation of this move, saying “the international community can say this, can say that. I don’t care at all. Everyone will see how powerful the Republic of Turkey is”.

 

Commerce Dept. Cans ICANN

The US Government is winding down their participation in the Internet Corporation for Assisgned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN’s duties include setting policies for domain names, top level domains, and controlling the root nameservers that are the backbone of the Domain Name Service, which is a distributed registry that translates addresses entered into a web browser from something like www.google.com to a machine readable address (in this case 74.125.239.146). While much hay has been made by certain political personalities, among them Moonbase Commander Newt Gingrich, about this loss of control by the US to an undefined international community, this move has been planned for a significant amount of time, and the transition of ICANN towards a more global regulatory system will occur under a planned framework.

There was another possible path for the governance of the DNS and addressing systems, that being the ITU, which would have been overseen by the UN. However, as every nation would have had a vote in that situation, and the number of nations which would like to see substantial control instituted and widespread surveillance authorized is almost certainly greater than those who (at least publicly) would like to see a free and open internet. Many nations saw this as problematic, among them the US and Russia, which has lent significant weight to the process being adopted now of reforming ICANN and reducing US Government influence. That said, the existing system was no longer sustainable, especially in the wake of the Snowden leaks which revealed wide ranging activities by the US Government, activities which have done significant damage to the moral authority which is the foundation of governance.

Pursuing ICANN as a regulatory body for the future is an example of the use of the Multistakeholder governance model, which will essentially give regulatory control to a number of major internet and technology companies, and Internet civil society groups. A presentation on the application of this model in ICANN may be found here.

 

Dan Gifford, MCySec Media Manager

Point of Sale Target’ed, Millions of Credit Cards Scraped.

Early in December rumors began bouncing across cyberspace that retail giant Target had been hit in an extensive cybercrime scheme, wherein point of sale devices, (read here cash registers) had been infected with a program designed to steal credit card details. The attack seems to have been concentrated on the “Black Friday” sale after Thanksgiving, one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Since then a number of the stolen credit cards have been cloned and sold online, and retailers and credit card companies have been sent scrambling to contain the damage.

More details about the specifics of the breach have become available as time goes on. Security journalist Brian Krebs, who broke the story and has been a driving force in the public exposition of the damage, has revealed the method used by the attackers to penetrate into Target’s network. The attackers sent spearphishing emails to a subcontractor who had access to parts of Target’s internal networks, Fazio Mechanical, and used the access credentials they gained within this heating, ventilation and air conditioning company to break into the Target network.

The breach potentially exposed millions of consumer credit cards, and many have shown up for sale on forums within the deep web. In response to the scale of the breach, hearings have been held in Congress on methods to prevent similar breaches in the future. One proposed method is to transition to smartcard technologies over the 1960′s era magnetic strips that currently employed.

Hotels May Become New Data Breach Point

A data breach appears to have hit White Lodging, a firm which manages hotel franchises for the Marriott, Hilton and Starwood Hotel chains. As reported by Brian Krebs, The breach appears to have struck computers in the restaurants and gift shops of a number of hotels managed by the company over a time period extending from March 2013 until the end of the year, collecting credit card information. Krebs was alerted to the breach by a number of fraud specialists working in banking who were dealing with the fallout of the credit card frauds.

Mask/Careto Unmasked, Shadowy Spanish Spybots Slink into Sunset

Amid continuous revelations of a variety of “Advanced Persistent Threat” (APT) hacking operations sponsored by nation states–among them Flame/Gauss/Duqu/Stuxnet, Red October, Comment Crew, Shamoon, Icefog and Dark Seoul– the major global players such as the US, Russia, and China have been heavily represented. A new report by Kaspersky has revealed an advanced operation conducted by an as yet unknown but presumably Spanish speaking state. The operation apparently began as early as 2007, and the sophistication of the code has been judged as higher than that seen in programs such as Duqu, Red October or Icefog.

Based on multiple strings in the code, especially those referring to “Careto”, Spanish slang for ugly face or mask, it is assumed that the virus writers speak Spanish. The malware was discovered by Kaspersky Lab because it exploited a flaw in earlier versions of Kaspersky’s anti-virus software to hide itself from virus scans. The payload of the program also included a rootkit and a bootkit, employed zero-day exploits and   could infect a variety of 32 and 64 bit systems, including versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux, and possibly Android and IOS used on smartphones.

The campaign seems to have relied on spearphishing to send users to a malicious website which would deploy the modular program. Many of the malicious sites used addresses which impersonated the sites of a number of Spanish and international newspapers, all of which were signed by a valid certificate (albeit a certificate for an unknown (and probably fictitious) Bulgarian company called TecSystem LTD). The setup used on command and control servers for the malware was also designed to deny access to IP addresses that may be used by security researchers, among them Kaspersky Lab.

The entities targeted by the attacks seemed to primarily be in the UK, Brazil and Morocco, though a range of European countries are represented. The discovered targets are also only a limited subset of the possible targeted groups, as the team involved was very effective at covering their tracks, and the given targets in the image above only represent the systems being targeted at the time that Kaspersky made their investigation. However, soon after the operation was discovered, it was shut down, as detailed in the article linked below.

“Kaspersky researchers have sinkholed about 90 of the C&C domains the attackers were using, and the operation was shut down last week within a few hours of a short blog post the researchers published with a few details of the Mask campaign. Costin Raiu, head of the Global Research Analysis Team at Kaspersky, said that after the post was published, the Mask operators rolled up their campaign within about four hours.”

Dan Gifford- MCySec Media Manager

The Syrian Electronic Army: Mediums of Disinformatics

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“We are just Syrian youths who want to defend their country against the media campaign that is full of lies and fabricated news reports”

The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) most likely began at least in part as an outgrowth of the Syrian Computer Society (SCS), an internet and information science advocacy group founded by the late Basil Al-Assad in 1989, and later led by Bashar Al-Assad prior to his elevation to the presidency. In 1997 there were only 35,000 computers in the country, two for every thousand people.  The early days of Syria’s acceptance of the internet were marked by significant bureaucratic trepidation, predominantly motivated by concerns of cultural penetration. The opposing camp was urged onward by a recognition that in the face of heavy usage of the internet by other nations, especially Israel, Syrian perspectives were being drowned out. Surveys conducted in 1998 by an early advocate, Dr. Imad Mustafa, found that of 1.5 million documents on the web dealing with Syrian aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict, 56% had been written by Israeli organizations, 18% by Zionist groups outside of Israel and another 17% were written by US government organizations. On issues rich with nationalistic fervor such as the Golan Heights, the survey found that there were essentially no existing sources or documents on the internet which were benign to Syrian interests, and that 71% of the documents were absolutely hostile to Syrian perspectives. This preoccupation with “correcting” the established media narrative has fed directly into the ethos of the SEA, though they also engage in “punishing” media outlets by propagating false news events.

The personnel evolution of the group can be roughly split into two phases. In the early phase of the group their website from May of 2011, syrian-es.com was hosted by the SCS, and the domain registration pointed to the same group. A later site, sea.sy, was registered with the approval of the SCS. By May of 2013, however, the SCS cut all of these ties and disabled use of the sea.sy site. There may have been significant personnel changes later in the 2011 era, and it is entirely possible that the activists who shared membership in SCS and SEA left at that point. The second phase of the group was much more shadowy, international and varied in their technical aptitude.

The method of attacks has been multi-pronged, from website defacement and redirects, to propaganda posting on facebook, and in some cases campaigns distributing malware (intended to reveal the identity and activity of online actors) against the Syrian Opposition. Recent operations have been heavily focused on compromising social media accounts of news organizations and celebrities.

In April of 2013 SEA conducted spearphishing (directed emails designed to steal user credentials and other data) attacks which resulted in them obtaining control of the Associated Press twitter account, which they used to spread a false story about an explosion at the White House which injured the President.

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The tweet caused a temporary drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average of over a hundred points, but AP was quickly able to regain control of their twitter account and retract the false story.

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This method of attack has proven to be both high profile and high impact, and the group seems to have generally shifted focus onto compromising social media accounts. These compromises have been varied in intent, from posting false information for shock value to pushing propaganda against perceived international enemies of Syria and Al-Assad. This week there has been a compromise of CNN’s twitter account and website, used both to spread propaganda in favor of Al-Assad and to plant a false news story apparently intended to disrupt financial markets. Increasing attempts to manipulate markets may indicate economic motives behind SEA operations, especially if these actions are combined with short-selling, though this connection would require further analysis for confirmation.

CNN hacked syrian-electronic-army-hack-cnn

 

The Syrian Electronic army represents a new type of cyber actor, one which is both a hacktivist group in the vein of Anonymous, and a state sponsored group much like many in operation across the world. However, unlike many hacking groups with state sponsorship, SEA concentrates on propaganda operations instead of espionage for military or economic reasons. In this sense they bear some similarity to groups like the Chinese Honker Union, and Russian hacktivist movements which have surrounded military operations and international controversies in Estonia and Georgia. The funding for the group remains murky. There are allegations that Rami Makhlouf, a billionaire cousin of Bashar Al-Assad, supported the group in leaving Syria and basing their operations in other Arab states, and continues to provide accommodations for group members. There are also rumors that hackers are paid between five hundred and a thousand dollars for successful website compromises.

Dan Gifford – MCySec Media Manager

 

 

Successor to Blackhole Exploit Kit May Take Years to Emerge

The arrest of Paunch shut off the flow of updates to the highly popular crimeware infastructure support tool, the Blackhole Kit. Since then there have been a number of contenders for the lucrative crown. A new article at Threatpost speaks with analysts at Kaspersky labs about the prospects for newcomers as they come into the market. Thus far, no single product has shown it can dominate. This may indicate that taking down people like Paunch may have a real and lasting impact on the cybercrime milieu.

FBI Asking Tech Vendors to Install Backdoors

Wickr’s Nico Sell has disclosed in a PCMag article that she was approached by the FBI at a security conference, and that an agent casually asked if she would be willing to install a backdoor for them in her company’s encrypted communication app. Sell refused, saying that even if the claims of the FBI are legitimate, “It was very clear that a backdoor for the good guys is  always a backdoor for the bad guys.”

Wickr’s laudable stance aside, the question remains as to how many other technology companies have been more forthcoming with granting access to state agencies. If an approach is made to every major app developer, how many of the apps on your phone can you trust? And if one is compromised, and has rights to read all information on the machine, is everything else likewise compromised?

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Spam

Here at MCySec we receive a decent amount of spam every day, much like anyone who runs a blog with open commenting. All of this spam has been stopped by WordPress and Akismet from being displayed on our pages, This either says something about how good they are, or about how bad the spammers are, and I’m not entirely sure which.

So when I see an interesting message in the spam queue, i tend to give it a second look, just to get an idea of how this digital arms race is progressing, as far as spam detection and  counter detection goes. This recent message was one of the better ones. The spammer’s implementation broke, spitting out the entire message generation tree used to simulate natural language in order to produce messages that get around the detection software. Here it is in all of its broken goodness. -Dan Gifford, MCySec Media Manager

{
{I have|I’ve} been {surfing|browsing} online more than {three|3|2|4} hours today,
yet I never found any interesting article like yours. {It’s|It is} pretty worth enough for me.

{In my opinion|Personally|In my view}, if all {webmasters|site owners|website owners|web owners} and
bloggers made good content as you did, the {internet|net|web} will be {much more|a
lot more} useful than ever before.|
I {couldn’t|could not} {resist|refrain from} commenting.
{Very well|Perfectly|Well|Exceptionally well}
written!|
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that|in order that} I {may just|may|could} subscribe.
Thanks.|
{It is|It’s} {appropriate|perfect|the best} time to make some plans for the future and {it is|it’s} time to be happy.
{I have|I’ve} read this post and if I could I {want to|wish
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{Perhaps|Maybe} you {could|can} write next articles referring to this article.
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its really really {nice|pleasant|good|fastidious} {article|post|piece
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{Saved as a favorite|bookmarked!!}, {I really like|I like|I love} {your blog|your site|your web site|your
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Way cool! Some {very|extremely} valid points!

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I stumbledupon it ;) {I will|I am going to|I’m going to|I may}
{come back|return|revisit} {once again|yet again} {since I|since i have} {bookmarked|book marked|book-marked|saved as a favorite} it.
Money and freedom {is the best|is the greatest} way to change, may you be rich and continue to {help|guide} {other people|others}.|
Woah! I’m really {loving|enjoying|digging} the
template/theme of this {site|website|blog}. It’s simple, yet
effective. A lot of times it’s {very hard|very difficult|challenging|tough|difficult|hard} to get that “perfect balance” between {superb usability|user friendliness|usability} and {visual appearance|visual appeal|appearance}.
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for me on {Safari|Internet explorer|Chrome|Opera|Firefox}.
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You have touched some {nice|pleasant|good|fastidious} {points|factors|things} here.

Any way keep up wrinting.|
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my {Myspace|Facebook} group shared this {site|website} with us so I came
to {give it a look|look it over|take a look|check it out}.

I’m definitely {enjoying|loving} the information. I’m {book-marking|bookmarking} and
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{style and design|design and style|design}.|
{I love|I really like|I enjoy|I like|Everyone loves}
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you guys to {|my|our|my personal|my own} blogroll.|
{Howdy|Hi there|Hey there|Hi|Hello|Hey} would you mind {stating|sharing} which blog platform you’re {working with|using}?
I’m {looking|planning|going} to start my own blog {in the near future|soon} but I’m having
a {tough|difficult|hard} time {making a decision|selecting|choosing|deciding} between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.
The reason I ask is because your {design and style|design|layout} seems different
then most blogs and I’m looking for something {completely
unique|unique}. P.S {My apologies|Apologies|Sorry} for {getting|being} off-topic but I
had to ask!|
{Howdy|Hi there|Hi|Hey there|Hello|Hey} would you mind
letting me know which {webhost|hosting company|web host} you’re {utilizing|working with|using}?
I’ve loaded your blog in 3 {completely different|different} {internet browsers|web browsers|browsers} and I must say this blog loads a lot
{quicker|faster} then most. Can you {suggest|recommend} a good {internet hosting|web hosting|hosting} provider at a {honest|reasonable|fair} price?
{Thanks a lot|Kudos|Cheers|Thank you|Many thanks|Thanks}, I
appreciate it!|
{I love|I really like|I like|Everyone loves} it {when people|when individuals|when folks|whenever people} {come together|get
together} and share {opinions|thoughts|views|ideas}.
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good work|stick with it}!|
Thank you for the {auspicious|good} writeup. It in fact
was a amusement account it. Look advanced to {far|more} added
agreeable from you! {By the way|However}, how {can|could} we communicate?|
{Howdy|Hi there|Hey there|Hello|Hey} just wanted to give you a quick
heads up. The {text|words} in your {content|post|article} seem
to be running off the screen in {Ie|Internet explorer|Chrome|Firefox|Safari|Opera}.
I’m not sure if this is a {format|formatting} issue or something
to do with {web browser|internet browser|browser} compatibility but I {thought|figured} I’d post to let you know.
The {style and design|design and style|layout|design} look great though!
Hope you get the {problem|issue} {solved|resolved|fixed} soon.
{Kudos|Cheers|Many thanks|Thanks}|
This is a topic {that is|that’s|which is} {close to|near to} my heart…
{Cheers|Many thanks|Best wishes|Take care|Thank you}! {Where|Exactly where} are your contact details though?|
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{topic|matter} on {net|web} as compared to {books|textbooks}, as I found
this {article|post|piece of writing|paragraph} at this {website|web site|site|web
page}.|
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an {e-mail|email}. I’ve got some {creative ideas|recommendations|suggestions|ideas} for your
blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great {site|website|blog} and I
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Greetings from {Idaho|Carolina|Ohio|Colorado|Florida|Los angeles|California}!
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{site|website|blog} on my iphone during lunch break.
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{quick|fast} your blog loaded on my {mobile|cell phone|phone} ..
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{awesome|amazing|very good|superb|good|wonderful|fantastic|excellent|great} {site|blog}!|
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{I think|I feel|I believe} {that you|that you simply|that you just} {could|can} do with {some|a few} {%|p.c.|percent}
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{a bit|a little bit}, {however|but} {other than|instead of} that, {this
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{A great|An excellent|A fantastic} read. {I’ll|I will} {definitely|certainly} be back.|
I visited {multiple|many|several|various} {websites|sites|web
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{Howdy|Hi there|Hi|Hello}, i read your blog
{occasionally|from time to time} and i own a similar one and i was just {wondering|curious} if you get a lot of spam
{comments|responses|feedback|remarks}? If so how do you {prevent|reduce|stop|protect
against} it, any plugin or anything you can {advise|suggest|recommend}?

I get so much lately it’s driving me {mad|insane|crazy} so any
{assistance|help|support} is very much appreciated.|
Greetings! {Very helpful|Very useful} advice {within this|in this particular}
{article|post}! {It is the|It’s the} little changes {that make|which will make|that produce|that will make} {the biggest|the largest|the greatest|the most important|the most significant} changes.
{Thanks a lot|Thanks|Many thanks} for sharing!|
{I really|I truly|I seriously|I absolutely} love {your blog|your site|your website}..
{Very nice|Excellent|Pleasant|Great} colors & theme.
Did you {create|develop|make|build} {this website|this site|this web site|this amazing site} yourself?
Please reply back as I’m {looking to|trying to|planning to|wanting to|hoping to|attempting to} create {my own|my very own|my own personal} {blog|website|site} and {would like to|want to|would love to} {know|learn|find out} where you got this from
or {what the|exactly what the|just what the} theme {is called|is named}.
{Thanks|Many thanks|Thank you|Cheers|Appreciate it|Kudos}!|
{Hi there|Hello there|Howdy}! This {post|article|blog post} {couldn’t|could not} be written {any better|much better}!
{Reading through|Looking at|Going through|Looking through} this {post|article}
reminds me of my previous roommate! He {always|constantly|continually} kept {talking about|preaching about} this.
{I will|I’ll|I am going to|I most certainly
will} {forward|send} {this article|this information|this post} to him.
{Pretty sure|Fairly certain} {he will|he’ll|he’s going to} {have a
good|have a very good|have a great} read. {Thank you for|Thanks for|Many thanks for|I appreciate you for} sharing!|
{Wow|Whoa|Incredible|Amazing}! This blog looks {exactly|just} like
my old one! It’s on a {completely|entirely|totally}
different {topic|subject} but it has pretty much the same {layout|page layout} and design.
{Excellent|Wonderful|Great|Outstanding|Superb} choice of colors!|
{There is|There’s} {definately|certainly} {a lot to|a great deal to} {know about|learn about|find out about} this {subject|topic|issue}.

{I like|I love|I really like} {all the|all of the} points {you made|you’ve made|you have made}.|
{You made|You’ve made|You have made} some {decent|good|really
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the issue and found {most individuals|most people} will go along with your views on {this website|this site|this web site}.|
{Hi|Hello|Hi there|What’s up}, I {log on to|check|read} your {new stuff|blogs|blog} {regularly|like every week|daily|on a regular
basis}. Your {story-telling|writing|humoristic} style is {awesome|witty},
keep {doing what you’re doing|up the good work|it up}!|
I {simply|just} {could not|couldn’t} {leave|depart|go
away} your {site|web site|website} {prior to|before} suggesting that I {really|extremely|actually} {enjoyed|loved} {the
standard|the usual} {information|info} {a person|an individual} {supply|provide} {for your|on your|in your|to
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It was {inspiring|funny|practical|helpful}. Keep on posting!|
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this {post|article} Middle Eastern Banks Hit by Crimeware, Trying to Find Solutions | Monterey Cyber Security Initiative (MCySec).
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I {like|wanted} to write a little comment to support you.|
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my {friends|links|contacts} will too.|
My {coder|programmer|developer} is trying to {persuade|convince}
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of the {expenses|costs}. But he’s tryiong none the less.
I’ve been using {Movable-type|WordPress} on {a number of|a
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Is there a way I can {transfer|import} all my wordpress {content|posts} into it?
{Any kind of|Any} help would be {really|greatly} appreciated!|
{Hello|Hi|Hello there|Hi there|Howdy|Good day}!
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{I just|I simply|I merely} wanted to {give you a|provide you
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{A person|Someone|Somebody} {necessarily|essentially} {lend a hand|help|assist} to make
{seriously|critically|significantly|severely} {articles|posts} {I would|I might|I’d} state.

{This is|That is} the {first|very first} time I
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{Great|Wonderful|Fantastic|Magnificent|Excellent} {task|process|activity|job}!|
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{I have|I’ve} bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.
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{I’m|I am} {gonna|going to} {watch out|be careful} for
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{A lot of|Lots of|Many|Numerous} {other folks|folks|other people|people}
{will be|shall be|might be|will probably be|can be|will
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Cheers!|
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I’m {experiencing|having} some {minor|small} security {problems|issues} with my latest {site|website|blog} and {I would|I’d} like to find something more {safe|risk-free|safeguarded|secure}.

Do you have any {solutions|suggestions|recommendations}?|
{I am|I’m} {extremely|really} impressed with your writing skills {and
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{Either way|Anyway} keep up the {nice|excellent} quality writing, {it’s|it is} rare to see a {nice|great} blog like this one {these days|nowadays|today}.|
{I am|I’m} {extremely|really} {inspired|impressed}
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a {nice|great} {blog|weblog} like this one {these days|nowadays|today}..|
{Hi|Hello}, Neat post. {There is|There’s} {a problem|an issue} {with your|together with your|along with your} {site|web
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{a large|a good|a big|a huge} {part of|section of|component to|portion of|component of|element
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{I’m|I am} not sure where {you are|you’re} getting your {info|information}, but {good|great} topic.

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looking for this {information|info} for my mission.|
{Hi|Hello}, i think that i saw you visited my {blog|weblog|website|web site|site}
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ide\