Friday, June 17, 2005

Don't be a Phisherman's friend

Scary stuff on the Money Programme tonight. It dealt with hi-tech crime and the various ways computers and the net are being used steal our identities, empty our bank accounts and hold business to ransom. Phishing is as hated and dreaded a word as spam nowadays. But while spam is a nuisance, phishing is far more serious. Emails proporting to be from a bank or other institution ask you to follow a link to a website to verify your details. Those details include things like expiry dates and PIN numbers. These things a bank would never ask for. The Mailfrontier site has a test. Try it and see if you can spot the real emails from the Phishes. Then head over to here to see some more examples. A more insidious method of obtaining details is keylogging. An attachment in a spam message, (usually saying you've won something or involving celebrity nudity it seems) if opened, releases a virus that sits in your computer recording every key pressed. This information is relayed to the hacker without the victim even knowing, who extracts the information he wants. When the hacker has infected a number of computers, which can run into thousands, he has created what's called a bot net. He can then use this army of slave pcs to bombard a website with so many requests - again without the hosts knowledge - that the site slows or crashes. The site is then effectively held to ransom, which is what happened to Blue Square, the company highlighted in the programme. They called in the Hi-Tech police unit, who traced the hijackers to Russia, showing that this is a global problem. Its not all doom and gloom though, and with care these attacks can be avoided. Things to do are:
Never open attachments from people you don't know. Delete them. Even attachments from friends should be virus checked first, as they may not know that the attachment is infected.
Check carefully any emails asking for personal or financial details. View the examples of phishing emails and learn what to look for.
Get protection. There are many good Anti-Virus and Firewall progammes out there, free, shareware and commercial. An anti-spyware prog is an essential nowadays as well. Tap in the terms into a search engine and should find ones to suit you.
When filling in forms, use the drop down menus as much as possible, as these use the mouse and the information is not recorded by keyloggers.
Above all be alert. We need all the lerts we can get.....I know, I know, but I couldn't think of another way to end this post....

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