Watching Out For Criminal Hacks

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Robert Siciliano

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We use the web to search out tons of information, to shop online and to connect with friends and family. And in the process criminals are trying to whack us over the head and steal from us. And they’ve become very proficient at their craft while most computer users know enough about protecting themselves today as they did 15 years ago. Which equates to not so much.

Back in the day, a person only had to know not to open a file in an attachment from someone they didn’t know. Maybe even not opening one from someone they knew and making a phone call first. Today there are more ways than ever that your PC can be hijacked.

Today you can simply visit a website thinking you are safe and the bad guy was there before you and injected code on the site and now it infects your out-dated browser. That’s a “drive by” and it’s very common today. Here is a list of likely attacks occurring every day.

Fundamentals:

Update your browser. Internet Explorer and Firefox are the most exploited browsers. Whenever there is an update to these browsers take advantage of it.   Keep the default settings and don’t go to the bowels of the web where a virus is most likely to be. Consider the Google Chrome browser as it’s currently less of a target.

Update your operating system. No matter what brand of computer you are on you have to update the critical security patches for your Windows operating system. Microsoft will no longer support Windows XP after 2014, so start thinking about upgrading to Windows 7 (which is pretty sweet). Go to Windows Update. Why anyone would keep XP running unless they had to is a mystery to me. It’s a dog who has been kicked too many times.

Update Adobe Reader and Flash. Adobe PDFs and Flash Player are ubiquitous on almost every PC. Which makes them a prime target for criminals. To update Reader go to Help then Check for Updates. To update Flash go here.

Don’t be suckered into scareware. A popup launches and it looks like a window on your PC. Next thing a scan begins. The scan tells you that a virus has infected your PC. And for $49.95 you can download software that magically appears just in time to save the day. Studies show that organized criminals are earning $10,000.00 a day from scareware. That’s approximately 200 people a day getting nabbed. Some “distributors” have been estimated to make as much as $5 million a year. Just shut down your browser and do a scan with your existing anti-virus. Then update your browser because it’s probably outdated, which is why you saw scareware in the first place.

Beware of social media scams. Numerous Twitter (and Facebook) accounts including those of President Obama, Britney Spears, Fox News and others were taken over and used to make fun of, ridicule, harass or commit fraud. Often these hacks may occur via phish email. Worms infiltrating Twitter requesting to click on links would infect user’s accounts and begin to multiply the message. Then your followers and their follower would get it, causing more grief than anything else.

Invest in social media protection @ Knowem.com

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