Posts Tagged: ‘Malware’

Scam of the day – August 14, 2014 – Latest security updates from the Department of Homeland Security

August 14, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

Constant updating of the software we all use with the latest security patches and updates is a critical part of avoiding scams and identity theft threats.  Whenever new security updates and patches are issued, we provide access to these so that you can update your software to provide better security on your computers, smartphones, laptops and other electronic devices.  Updating your software with the latest security patches and updates as soon as possible is important because identity thieves and scammers are always finding and exploiting vulnerabilities in the software that we all use.  Delay in updating your software could lead to disastrous results.  However, it is also important to be sure that you are downloading legitimate patches and updates rather than being tricked by an identity thief or scammer into downloading malware under the guise of downloading a security patch or update.  That is why we provide links to the necessary patches and updates as provided by the Department of Homeland Security and the companies directly.  Today’s updates provide critical security updates that will help protect against the SQL attack used by the Russian hackers recently to steal data on more than a billion people.

TIPS

Here is the link to the latest security updates as issued by the Department of Homeland Security: https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/bulletins/SB14-223

Scam of the day – August 9, 2014 – Identity thieves defeat two-factor identification at banks

August 9, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

In the battle to prevent identity thieves from being able to access online the bank accounts of their victims, many banks in Austria, Japan, Sweden and Switzerland have gone beyond the simple password to the more secure (supposedly) two-factor identification.  With two-factor identification, in order to access their accounts bank customers must enter a second one-time password that has been emailed or texted to the customer.  The thought was that by requiring this second password, identity thieves who may have hacked the customer’s password still would not be able to access the customer’s account because the identity thief would not have the required second password sent by the bank to the customer’s smartphone.  However, now it has been uncovered by computer security company Trend Micro that identity thieves have found a way to defeat two-factor identification.  As with so many identity thefts, this one starts when the customer unwittingly clicks on a link in a phishing email or downloads an attachment in a phishing email that appears to be from a legitimate source.  Unfortunately, when the victim clicks on the link or downloads the attachment, he or she is actually downloading malware that sends the victim to a phony bank website when the customer attempts to do online banking.  Once at the phony website, the victim is prompted to enter their account details, passwords and personal identification number.  They are then prompted to download a mobile application found in Google’s Android store that is represented to provide enhanced security, but in actuality permits the identity thief to intercept the second password that banks would send to the customer.  Armed with all of this data, the identity thief is able to gain full access to the victim’s bank account and empty it.

TIPS

Although two-factor identification is an improvement over the present password system used by many financial institutions in the United States and other parts of the world, it is still vulnerable.  Business and government must come up with better authentication protocols.  Meanwhile as with so many of these complex identity theft schemes, this one requires the victim to download the necessary malware that makes the identity theft possible.  The solution is a simple one.  As I have warned you many times.  Never click on a link in an email or download an attachment in an email unless you are absolutely sure that it is legitimate and the only way to do this is to independently call or email the real company or person purportedly sending the email at an address or telephone number that you know is accurate.  For even greater security, you may wish to have a separate computer for financial transactions where you do no emails and click on no links and download no attachments.

Scam of the day – August 1, 2014 – Homeland Security warning about retail hackings

August 1, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

Everyone is aware of the epidemic of hackings of major companies, such as Target, P.F. Chang’s, Neiman Marcus, Michaels, Sally’s Beauty Supply and Goodwill Industries and, as I have repeatedly warned you, these hackings will only increase in frequency in the upcoming months.  Yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security issued  a report that details how these hackings occurred and what needs to be done to reduce them.  A major part of the problem is that more and more companies permit both their employees as well as third party contractors to access the company’s computers over the Internet.  There are many legitimate reasons for doing this, but it tremendously increases the chances of major data breaches as employees and third party contractors who may not be following proper security practices are being hacked and, in essence, providing identity thieves and hackers with access to the computers of the targeted companies.  In addition there are some inherent security flaws in the Microsoft and Apple software used by these employees and third party contractors.   Thus the hackers exploit the weakest links, which they are doing quite effectively.

The Department of Homeland Security identified a malicious software which they have called “Backoff” that, when it makes its way on to the Point of Sale credit and debit card processors, is able to steal credit and debit card information, account numbers, expiration dates of credit card and debit cards and PINs.  Backoff is a very evolved type of malware that, to date, has avoided detection by the anti-malware and anti-virus software used by companies today to protect their computers from data breaches and hackings.

TIPS

Corporate America has a lot of things it should be doing, but it is unlikely that these steps will be done in a sufficiently timely manner to stop data breaches in the upcoming months.  A switch to smartcard technology with computer chips in the credit card would render this type of credit card data unusable to identity thieves, but retailers have been extremely slow to adopt this technology.  Requiring employees and third party vendors to use stronger passwords and to change those passwords regularly would help as would the requirement of two-step verification rather than merely using passwords to provide access.  Another important step for companies to do is to limit access to the credit card and debit card processing systems by people having access to other computer systems within the company.   Credit and debit card processing systems should be isolated.

But what can we do?

The most important thing to do is to recognize that data breaches will be occurring.  Everyone should regularly monitor their credit card usage carefully to recognize security breaches as soon as possible and then to report the breach to your credit card company.  In addition, limit your use of your debit card to use as an ATM card.  Do not use it for retail purchases.  The consumer protection laws available to you if your debit card is hacked are not as strong as the laws that protect fraudulent use of your credit card.  In addition, even if you do become aware and report a breach of your debit card security right away, your access to your account will be delayed while your bank investigates the matter.

Scam of the day – July 25, 2014 – Important security updates for Java and other software

July 24, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

Constant updating of the software we all use with the latest security patches and updates is a critical part of avoiding scams and identity theft threats.  Whenever new security updates and patches are issued, we provide access to these so that you can update your software to provide better security on your computers, smartphones, laptops and other electronic devices.  Updating your software with the latest security patches and updates as soon as possible is important because identity thieves and scammers are always identifying and exploiting vulnerabilities in the software that we all use.  Delay in updating your software could lead to disastrous results.  However, it is also important to be sure that you are downloading legitimate patches and updates rather than being tricked by an identity thief or scammer into downloading malware under the guise of downloading a security patch or update.  That is why we provide links to the necessary patches and updates as provided by the Department of Homeland Security and the companies directly.  Today’s updates provide critical security updates for a number of important software programs which we all use which if not used will put you in serious jeopardy of identity theft and being hacked.  In particular, this round of security updates provides important security updates for Java software.  Java has been a favorite target of scammers and identity thieves so much that the Department of Homeland Security has even advised people who don’t have to use Java, to disable it.  For more information about Java software I suggest you check out earlier Scams of the day that dealt with Java problems.  You can find these in the Scamicide archives.

TIPS

Here is a link to the latest security alert and updates as issued by the United States Department of Homeland Security: https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/bulletins/SB14-202

Scam of the day – July 24, 2014 – StubHub hacking – what it means to you

July 24, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

Six people including both Russian and American citizens were indicted yesterday in New York for hacking into 1,600 StubHub accounts and stealing more than 1.6 million dollars in tickets.  StubHub is a website where people can buy and sell sports and entertainment tickets.  Although the accounts hacked were StubHub accounts, it appears the fault was not that of StubHub, but rather of individual StubHub customers whose passwords and user names were obtained through hacking of other companies or through the use of keystroke logging malware programs unwittingly downloaded, most likely through phishing emails to the victimized consumers.

TIPS

For those people who used the same user name and password for all of their accounts, this hacking is another example of why you should not do so.  Using the same user name and password puts you in danger in all of your online accounts if merely one of your online accounts is hacked.  The better course of action is to use a different user name and password for every account that you use.  Although this may seem like a complicated thing to do, it need not be so.  Just adding a couple of letters describing the account to your password can provide you with much added security.  So for example if you used the basic, safe password of “IHatePasswords123!” which is a strong password and then added a few letters to describe the particular account such as a StubHub password of “IHatePasswords123!StubHb” you would have a difficult to break, but easy to remember password. As for protecting yourself from downloading keystroke logging malware by which you unknowingly download malware that provides access to all of the personal information on your computer the key thing to remember is to never click on a link or download an attachment unless you are absolutely positive that it is legitimate and you have independently confirmed its legitimacy.  Also, you should maintain your anti-malware and anti-virus software up to date with the latest security patches.

Scam of the day – July 22, 2014 – Malaysian Airliner Flight MH 17 scams

July 22, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

With the world’s attention focused on the recent  shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 17 over the Ukraine, it was inevitable that identity thieves and scammers would soon be exploiting this event toward their own criminal goals and that is just what is already happening.  There are a variety of scams that have sprung up that are using the shooting down of the airplane as a hook to scam members of the public.  One scam involves phony charities that are asking for donations for the benefit of the victims of the missile attack only to steal all of the donations.  Another scam involves emails, text messages or communications on social media, such as Facebook that promise startling video of the event.  One message reads “Video Camera Caught the moment plane MH17 Crash over Ukraine.  Watch here the video of Crash.”  If your curiosity gets the better of you and you click on the link to view the video, you may unwittingly download a keystroke logging malware program that will steal all of your personal information from your computer and make you a victim of identity theft.

TIPS

You should never give to a charity until you  have confirmed that it is legitimate.  Go to www.charitynavigator.org where you can not only find out whether or not the charity is legitimate, but also how much of your donation goes toward charitable purposes and how much goes to administrative costs and salaries.

As I always warn you, you should never click on any link in any email, text message, social media or other communication unless you are absolutely sure that it is legitimate.  In this case, the particular language that I reported above that is used to lure people to download malware is written in broken English and could be an indication that the source is a foreign scammer or identity thief.  If you must search for such video, stay with legitimate new sources such as CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox or other sources that can be trusted.

Scam of the day – July 20, 2014 – Cisco corrects router vulnerability

July 20, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

Everyone is aware of our vulnerability to having our computers hacked through unwittingly downloading malware that often comes as an attachment to or a link in a phishing email that appears to be legitimate, but whose sole purpose is to lure us into downloading the malware that can steal the information from our computer and make us victims of identity theft.  However, few people are aware that hackers and identity thieves are now targeting the computers of individuals and businesses through their routers.   Cisco, one of the makers of home wireless routers has issued a security patch to remedy this problem.  As always, when security updates and patches are released, it is very important to make sure that you download and install the patches as soon as possible.

TIPS

Here is the link to the Cisco security patch as provided by the Department of Homeland Security: https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/current-activity/2014/07/16/Cisco-Addresses-Wireless-Residential-Gateway-Vulnerability

It is important to note that other routers are also vulnerable to hackers so if you have one that is not made by Cisco, you should contact the maker of your router to learn what you can do to make its use safer.

Scam of the day – July 16, 2014 – E-Z Pass Email scam

July 16, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

The E-Z Pass transponder system is available to drivers in fourteen states and enables the drivers to avoid stopping to pay tolls when driving on toll roads.  Instead they merely drive through a special lane where their transponder is electronically read.  The tolls are then charged to a credit card on file with E-Z Pass.  It is a very efficient system that works well.  It also works well for scammers who recently have been sending phishing emails to residents of New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and even Canada where they system is also used.  The emails appear official looking.  It carries the logo of E-Z Pass.  The message is short.  It reads: “Dear customer, You have not paid for driving on a toll road. This invoice is sent repeatedly, please service your debt in the shortest possible time.”  The stilted language is a good indication that this scam may have originated in a country where English is not the primary language.  The email goes on to indicate “The invoice can be downloaded here” and it provides a link for you to supposedly access your bill.  DON’T CLICK ON THE LINK.  In some versions of the scam, if you click on the link, you will be prompted to provide information that can be used to make you a victim of identity theft.  In other versions of the scam, merely clicking on the link will download malware on to your computer that will steal all of your personal information from your computer and use it to make you a victim of identity theft.

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Never click on links or download attachments in emails or text messages regardless of how official they may appear.  You can never be sure as to whether it is legitimate or not.  Your best course of action is, if you have any inclination that it may be legitimate, to contact the real company or agency and inquire as to the legitimacy of the contact.  In this particular case, E-Z Pass does not communicate regarding bills by emails so you can be confident if you do get such an email it is a scam.  As always, you should also make sure that your anti-malware and anti-virus software is kept up to date, but don’t rely on that to keep you safe because the best anti-malware and anti-virus programs are always at least thirty days behind the latest malware and viruses.

Scam of the day – July 15, 2014 – Mailbox identity theft danger

July 15, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

Identity theft can be high tech, low tech or no tech and although much attention is often focused on computer phishing schemes, malware and other high tech methods of turning you into a victim of identity theft, low tech and no tech methods of identity theft can be equally as effective in stealing your identity.  One low tech method that has been around for a long time, but seems to be making a resurgence is when identity thieves put strong glue like the kind used on mouse trap paper is put on the inside of the swing-down chute in the mailboxes you find scattered throughout your city.  This glue traps mail on the chute rather than letting it go down into the mailbox when the lid is closed making it easy pickings for an identity thief who can be looking for checks you may be mailing to a business or a credit card payment.  Your check can either be altered through a process called “washing” so that the check is made to appear to be payable to the identity thief.   The identity thieves can also take the information from your check and make counterfeit checks in order to access your checking account.   They may also steal the information from your credit card statement to gain access to your credit card.

Another similar type of scam involves the identity thief putting the glue on a small object at the end of a string and lowering the string into the mailbox to go fishing for mail with checks, credit card statements or other information that can be used to make you a victim of identity theft.

TIPS

Although it seems like you should be able to trust the U.S. mail, you would be prudent to mail payments and letters with financial information directly from the post office rather than use vulnerable mailboxes.  You also should consider making your payments electronically which is even safer.  When you do use checks, you should use a type of pen called a gel pen which you can purchase at any office supply store.  The ink from these pens is almost impossible to wash off of a check by a counterfeiter.  Finally, do not put mail with personal information or checks in your own personal mailbox at your home.  Often people do this and raise the red flag on the mail box to inform the letter carrier  that there is outgoing mail to be picked up from your box.  Unfortunately, it also informs an identity thief cruising your neighborhood that there are “goodies” in your mailbox.

 

Scam of the day – July 7, 2014 – Latest Apple and Cisco security updates

July 7, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

Constant updating of the software we all use with the latest security patches and updates is a critical part of avoiding scams and identity theft threats.  Whenever new security updates and patches are issued, we provide access to these so that you can update your software to provide better security on your computers, smartphones, laptops and other electronic devices.  Updating your software with the latest security patches and updates as soon as possible is important because identity thieves and scammers are always finding and exploiting vulnerabilities in the software that we all use.  Delay in updating your software could lead to disastrous results.  However, it is also important to be sure that you are downloading legitimate patches and updates rather than being tricked by an identity thief or scammer into downloading malware under the guise of downloading a security patch or update.  That is why we provide links to the necessary patches and updates as provided by the Department of Homeland Security and the companies directly.  Today’s updates provide critical security updates for a number of important software programs which we all use which if not used will put you in serious jeopardy of identity theft and being hacked.

TIPS

Here is the link to the latest security updates as issued by the Department of Homeland Security:

https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/current-activity/2014/07/02/Cisco-Releases-Security-Advisory-Unified-Communications-Domain

https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/current-activity/2014/07/01/Apple-Releases-Security-Updates-OS-X-Safari-iOS-devices-and-Apple