By TIMILEE WILBER
Picture this. You’re sitting in the security of your home on a Sunday evening, when the phone rings. Your caller ID reads ‘Out of Area,’ and you answer. A male voice with a Pakistani accent introduces himself as Edward Thompson of P. C. Wizards. He asks if you are having trouble with slow computer speed or registry errors on your computer. He states that he can remotely access your computer and fix the problems. You tell him you are busy, and that you will call him back, and ask him for his phone number. He says it is 1-800-878-2302.
Because you have recently read a newspaper article about just this situation being an identity theft malware scam you call the police. They say they will contact Edward Thompson at that number and investigate. Then you go about the rest of your Sunday evening. You don’t forget about the incident, but you think that you didn’t fall for the scam and that your identity is safe. You have previously taken precautions and purchased anti-virus and anti-spyware protection and have installed it on your computer.
Life goes on.
Then Tuesday morning you receive a panicked call from a friend who informs you that she received an e-mail from you, time-stamped 2:46 a.m. Her computer virus protection alerted her that the e-mail contained a malware virus, which if she had opened it, could have “crashed” her computer.
Your e-mail account has been “hacked.”
You contact your e-mail provider to report it, and their representative advises you to immediately change all of your passwords, of accounts that you access inline, including banking, any bills you pay online, and Facebook, which takes most of the morning. He also advises you to run an antivirus scan on your computer.
In that process you open your sent messages folder and discover that everyone on your contacts list has been sent the infected e-mail message. With further investigation you discover that your e-mail account was accessed from a mobile device at 2:46 a.m., in Thailand.
Yes, this can happen to you. Hopefully you caught the cyber attack in time, and permanent damage has not been done to your identity, your credit standing and to the computers of you or those on your contacts list.
How can we protect ourselves from these attacks?
The same advice that parents give to young drivers on their first solo journey applies to who wants to navigate the internet safely online. A special agent in the Cyber Crimes Division offered this advice. “Don’t drive in bad neighborhoods.”
“If you don’t lock your car, it’s vulnerable. If you don’t secure your car it’s vulnerable.”
“Reduce your vulnerability, and you reduce the threat.”
According to the FBI Cybercrimes website some key steps to protecting your computer from intrusion are:
Keep your firewall turned on. A firewall helps to protect your computer from hackers.
Turn off your computer. With the high growth of high speed internet connections, many opt to leave their computers on and ready for action. The downside is that “always on” renders computers vulnerable to attack. Turning the computer off severs the attacker’s connection.
And finally, according to stop the hacker.com, it takes hackers only 10 minutes to crack a lower case password that is six characters long. Add two extra letters and a few upper-case letters and the number jumps to three years. Add just one more character, and some numbers and symbols and it will take 44,530 years to crack.
For the complete article see the 02-22-2013 issue.
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