Scam of the day – April 10, 2015 – Member of international computer hacking ring pleads guilty to hacking video game manufacturers

Nineteen year old Austin Alcala recently became the fourth member of an international hacking ring to plead guilty to hacking into the computer networks of a number of videogame developers including  Microsoft Corporation, Epic, Games Inc., Valve Corporation and Zombie studios.  In the course of the hacking of these companies, the hackers stole information and intellectual property valued at one-hundred million dollars including software source codes, trade secrets and other information regarding the Microsoft Xbox Live online gaming system and popular games including FIFA, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Gears of War 3.  Sentencing is scheduled for July 29th.


It should come as no surprise that nineteen year olds without the resources of state governments and large companies have sufficient computer power to hack into the biggest companies in the world.  This case is just another example of the fact that all of us and the companies with which we do business have got to do a better job of protecting the security of important information.  As individuals, there is little we can do to compel companies and government agencies to better protect the data they hold, however, for ourselves, there are many things including the use of strong passwords, encryption programs and security software that is constantly updated to enhance our security.  In addition, the avoiding of clicking on links in emails and text messages unless you are absolutely sure that is legitimate is a good way to avoid becoming a victim of phishing.

Scam of the day – October 8, 2014 – Justice Department indicts members of international computer hacking gang

Recently the U.S. Department of Justice indicted four members of an international computer hacking gang on charges of hacking into the computer networks of Microsoft Corporation, Epic Games, Inc., Valve Corporation, Zombie Studios and the U.S. Army and stealing more than a hundred million dollars worth of trade secrets and intellectual property.  The hacking involved software and data related to the Xbox One console, Xbox Live online gaming system, games, such as “Call of Duty:  Modern Warfare 3” as well as software used to train military helicopter pilots for the U.S. Army.  Those indicted included three Americans, Nathan Leroux, Sandadoleh Nesheiwat and eighteen year old Austin Alcala.  Also indicted was David Pokora, a Canadian.  Additionally, an Australian citizen has been charged under Australian law in regard to the same criminal enterprise.  Two of the defendants have already pleaded guilty including David Pokora who thus becomes the first foreigner convicted of stealing trade secrets.


Hacking into companies in order to obtain trade secrets has become commonplace.  According to a government report, more than 3,000 companies have been hacked by Chinese hackers.  FBI Director James Comey said recently on the television show 60 Minutes that there are two types of companies in the United States, those that have been hacked by the Chinese and those that just don’t realize that they have been hacked by the Chinese.  The government and business  have both got to a better job of protecting the security of data.   Legislation, regulation and training has got to be improved to meet a threat from government sponsored hacking as well as hacking by private criminals.

Scam of the day – November 8, 2013 – Extreme security threat to Microsoft Word users

Microsoft has announced that it has discovered a serious vulnerability in its Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office and Microsoft Lync software that presently is being exploited by hacking into the computers of the users of these programs in the Middle East and South Asia.  The vulnerability is serious and can result in a hacker being able to literally take over the victim’s computer and gain access to all of the files and documents contained therein.  The seriousness of this danger cannot be overestimated.  Presently the attacks exploiting this recently discovered vulnerability have been limited to computers in the Middle East and South Asia, but there is concern that the hackings will expand to computers in other parts of the world.  Although Microsoft is working on a security patch, none is presently ready and may not be available for a few days.  Here is a link to the security advisory recently issued by the United Sates Computer Emergency Readiness Team, which is a part of the Department of Homeland Security.  I urge you to check it out for further information


This threat is very real, but in order to become a victim, you would need to click on a link in an email or text message or download a tainted attachment.  As I always advise you, never click on links unless you are absolutely sure that they are legitimate and never download attachments unless you are absolutely sure it is legitimate.  Even if the link or attachment appears to be in an email or message sent from someone you trust, their email or text messaging could have been hijacked by a hacker.  The best course of action whenever you have any doubt about the legitimacy of a link or an attachment is to contact the person or agency purporting to send the email or text message to confirm whether or not it is legitimate.  As soon as a security patch is developed for this vulnerability I will provide a link to it here on Scamicide so make sure you check in with Scamicide each day.

Scam of the day – February 26, 2013 – Microsoft hacked – what it means to you

A few days ago, Microsoft announced that it, like Apple, Facebook, Twitter and hundreds of other prominent companies had been hacked.  The Microsoft hacking is still being investigated and it has not yet been determined if sensitive information was compromised or taken by the hackers, but the lesson is clear for us all.  You are only as secure from identity theft as the security of the weakest place that holds personal information about you.  In the Microsoft and other company hackings in recent days, it appears that, once again, it was a vulnerability in Java that was exploited by the hackers and since anti-virus security software is always playing catch-up when responding to the latest viruses created by the hackers and identity thieves, people should ask themselves whether or not they need to use Java software on their computer.  It has been estimated that half of the major computer hacking last year was done by exploiting vulnerabilities in Java.  It would appear that as soon as Java plugs a hole in their software, the hackers find another to exploit.


You should consider whether or not you need Java software since it is such a target for hackers who may hack into your computer just as they have done with hundreds of businesses that use Java.  If you need Java, you should install the latest security patch.  Here is the link to information about both installing the latest Java security patch as well as information about deactivating Java from your computer.

Here at scamicide, I will continue to promptly update you with the latest information about security patches you should use to make sure your computer is protected as well as possible.

You should also make sure that your Firewall is operating, use a complex password, maintain constantly updated security software and be prudent when downloading anything or clicking on a link as I have described in my book “50 Ways to Protect Your Identity in a Digital Age” because, as I have told you before, security software is only about 5% effective against the latest viruses.  It takes generally about a month before the software is updated.  Also, in order to limit your exposure to identity theft, limit the amount of information that you provide to companies and websites that store that information because if they are hacked, your security is compromised.