Hackers Grow in Sophistication | survivethewalkingdead.com


The first perception one may have of a computer hacker is a socially challenged teenager with too much time on his hands. Unfortunately, this stereotype is not descriptive of the computer hackers today. They have evolved and partake in various fraud schemes and in many instances package and resell stolen information to other criminals. There are no boundaries to age, gender, or nationality.

As stated from a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Symantec Corp's latest semiannual threat report stated that malicious programs designed to pilfer confidential information is becoming more prevalent. Nearly 80% of these programs main intent is to track users' keystrokes to steal confidential information such as account numbers and passwords.

If you must use a public computer at a library, airport, or cafe, please be cautious and ensure you do everything possible to protect yourself. As a computer instructor, I can confirm that I have seen students log into their email account and leave the room without ever signing out. If you receive bank notifications or accumulate personal information within your email account, you just left the front door open to anybody who uses the computer next. Not all email programs automatically log you out after a specified time period. In addition, if you store personal information on a removable flash drive, CD, or floppy drive, don't forget to take it with you! Unfortunately, I have seen this happen as well.

"There's a thriving underground economy that's trading stolen information and, in particular, information that will lead to identity theft," complete with packaged products and well-established price lists, says Alfred Huger, vice president of Symantec Security Response.

I was surprised to see how easily obtainable you can purchase somebody's complete identity, and for as little as $ 14 to $ 18 for a person's name, home address, date of birth, social security number, credit card and bank account numbers. Do you have a PayPal account? They can be purchased for $ 50 to $ 500, depending upon your available balance.

A "zombie" home computer can be purchased for as little as $ 6. A zombie computer is a computer connected to the internet that has been breached by a security cracker or a computer virus. In most cases a zombie computer is one of many within a botnet. Zombie computers are used to launch malevolent tasks directed remotely from the computer hacker. Owners of Zombie computers are unaware that their computer is part of a botnet. Symantec says it has detected over six million bot-infected computers on the internet. This is a 29% increase from the first half of last year.

"Pump and dump" schemes are a prime example of what a zombie computer is capable of. "Pump and dump" has also been referred to as "hype and dump manipulation" and it typically involves mass emails sent out to people to invest in a microcap company. While telemarketers also take advantage of this scheme, it seems most prevalent through email to gain mass exposure. After pumping the stock, swindlers make huge profits by selling their cheap stock into the market. As I am writing this, I just checked my Outlook inbox and was fortunate enough to have such a message waiting for me. Don't worry, I won't buy anything.

Another popular identity theft scheme is called phishing. "Phishers attempt to fraudulently acquire sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication". Unless you have a very sophisticated spam filtering system, or you select to white list all of your recipients by using a product similar to ChoiceOne, somebody will attempt to "phish" information from you. eBay and PayPal are two of the most popular targeted companies. I personally receive several emails weekly from phishers pretending represent both of these companies.

If your computer is breached and information has been stolen, or you unknowingly elect to provide this information through a phishing scheme, it is just a matter of time before your identity reaches the black market. You must be cautious about guarding your identity by being careful about the web sites you visit, the web sites you provide information to, and by using security software. PCWorld.com recently reviewed AntiVirus and AntiSpyware software. Please review the ratings at your convenience. [http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,130869/article.html] I was personally surprised to find Kaspersky Anti-Virus 6 ranked # 1.

Until I read the article, I never heard of this company. I believe most people are only familiar with Norton's and McAfee, but there are several other well rated antivirus programs such as BitDefender Antivirus 10 and Eset NOD32. The costs are minimal when you think of the damage that can be done if your computer remains unprotected. Most people won't think twice about the price of a steak from their favorite restaurant, but will delay something as critical as protecting their computer and files.

In addition to hacker infiltration of home computers, identity theft can also result from stolen data. One of the worst documented cases to date happened to TJ MAXX where hackers unearthed data from at least 45.7 million credit and debit cards dating back to early 2003. At some point in 2004, I made a purchase at Home Goods which is owned by the parent company, TJ Maxx. My credit card was one of the stolen ones! I was contacted by MasterCard and issued a new card and luckily no damage was done, at least that I am still aware of.

Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous people that target unprotected computers and prey on gullible people. No matter how protective you are of your home computer and your computing behavior, you are still fair game to the weak practices of other people and business organizations where you compute. At the very least please do yourself the favor of evaluating your computing habits and make changes where necessary.



Source by Jason Levy

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