Scam of the day – May 4, 2015 – Hacking group threatens Cape Coral, Florida police

Just three days ago I told you about an FBI warning to police departments around the country that hackers are actively attempting to not only hack into the computers of the police departments, but also searching the Internet for personal information on police officers and then making this information public, which can put the officer in danger of identity theft or worse.  This tactic which is called “doxing” has now been used against the Cape Coral, Florida Police Department.  Hackers claiming to be in the notorious hacking group, Anonymous posted videos online threatening members of the Cape Coral, Florida Police Department with doxing in response to a recent conviction of Travis Robey on charges of violently resisting a police officer stemming from an incident last June.  Hackers, claiming to be part of Anonymous posted personal information about members of the Cape Coral Police Department including their names, addresses and phone numbers, which they said they obtained by hacking into the computers of the Cape Coral Police Department.  The Cape Coral Police Department denies that their computers have been hacked and are conjecturing that Anonymous managed to get this information from public sources.

TIPS

There are many lessons to be learned from this.  As I have reported in the past, police departments have become a frequent target for hackers including those who have used Ransomware to prevent police departments from being able to access their data unless they pay a ransom as well as malicious hackers who use doxing to put officers in jeopardy.  In many instances, the information obtained is information that can be found through social media or public data sources and this should serve as a stern warning to all of us to be more careful about the personal information that we put on social media or share with other public sources.  The less information that is available about you on line, the safer you are from identity theft and other personal threats.

Scam of the day – April 8, 2015 – Tewksbury Police Department pays ransom to retrieve files

The Tewksbury, Massachusetts Police Department became the latest in a long list of police departments that became a victim of ransomware, the malware that, generally through phishing, manages to become downloaded on to the department’s computers that locks and encrypts the victim’s files making them unusable.  In this particular case, the Tewksbury Police Department’s arrest and incident records were locked and a message appeared that read, “Your personal files are encrypted.  File decryption costs – $500.”  The particular type of ransomware used in this case has been called KEYHolder and despite the efforts of federal and state law enforcement agencies as well as two computer security companies, the data could not be retrieved.  Ultimately, the Tewksbury Police Department paid the five hundred dollar ransom electronically in bitcoins as demanded, making it pretty much impossible to trace.

In recent years, particularly since the development of CryptoLocker, one of the early ransomware malware programs, ransoming of computer data has brought criminals as much as 28 million dollars in ransom payments.  Many government agencies and police departments have been targeted along with the computers of ordinary citizens.  No one is safe.  The Colinsville, Alabama Police Department became a victim of ransomware last summer, refused to pay the ransom and lost their infected database of mugshots.  The Durham, New Hampshire Police Department also refused to pay a ransomware, but wisely had backed up its information so it lost nothing of value.  Other police departments, companies, government agencies and individuals have not been so fortunate, however and have either paid the ransom or lost their data in many instances.  Depending on the sophistication of the malware used, sometimes the ransomware can be defeated, but often it cannot.

TIPS

Certainly you want to always keep your anti-virus and anti-malware software up to date on all of your electronic devices, however, you can never be fully confident that this will keep you safe because the latest viruses and malware are always at least a month ahead of the software security updates created to deal with these issues.  Since generally the ransomware is downloaded on to the victim’s computer by clicking on a link in an email, it is critical that you not click on links in emails unless you are absolutely sure that the link is legitimate.  Finally, it is very important to back up all of your data independently every day so that even in a worst case scenario, you will not need to give into the demands of extortionists.

Scam of the day – June 26, 2014 – Hedge funds hacked

Hedge funds are aggressively managed investment portfolios that are largely unregulated.   They generally are used by only the wealthiest of people.  They also have become a ripe target for hackers who, according to a recent report by computer security firm BAE System, have been hacking into the computers of these funds and causing financial harm in a multitude of ways.  According to BAE, one unnamed hedge fund lost millions of dollars after hackers managed to infiltrate their computers through simple spear phishing tactics by which the hackers tricked hedge fund employees into clicking on links in infected emails that downloaded malware into the hedge fund’s computers that enabled the hackers to learn about impending trades and then delay the trades while the hackers traded first based upon the stolen information.   Another way that the hedge funds have been attacked is through the ransomware  program Cryptolocker, about which I warned you repeatedly since November of 2013.  Cryptolocker is a type of malware that infects the computer of the unwary victim and encrypts all of the victim’s data making it unusable unless they pay a ransom to the criminal hacker.

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The financial industry as a whole has not taken sufficient security precautions and steps to protect themselves and our economy from the attacks of scammers, hackers and identity thieves.  Just because you have not heard of many of these hackings as much as with high profile hackings of Target and other companies is very much because quite often the companies do not disclose that they have been hacked.  The hedge fund industry’s sophisticated digital trading systems have become attractive targets to hackers and the hedge fund industry has not taken the necessary security steps to protect the integrity of their business from attack.  Unfortunately, this type of crime is something that is going to get worse before it gets better.  Whenever you are investing your money with a company, you should first inquire as to the security steps taken by the company.

Scam of the day – May 7, 2013 – Ransomware update

I have previously warned you about this type of  scam on December 3, 2012, January 19, 2013 and as recently as March 26, 2013, but today’s update is because now it is personal.  When I went to turn on my computer today I was locked out and a Ransomware scam was facing me on my computer.  Ransomware scams occur when you find that you are unable to use your computer and you receive an email message or a notice on your screen, as I received, indicating that your use of your computer has been frozen due to illegal activity being detected on your computer.  A common variation of this scam being done now purports to be from the Department of Homeland Security and its National Cyber Security Division.  The version I got purported to be from the FBI.  Even scarier was the fact that it had control of my computer camera and a photograph of me appeared at the top of the phony notice.   In the notice I was told that I needed to pay a fine before my computer would be unfrozen and I would be able to have access to it again.  In fact, the freezing of my computer has not been done by the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI or any other governmental agency.  It was done by a scammer who installed malware on my computer either through a tainted website, download or link that I had gone to  It is for this reason, that I am always reminding you never to click on links and download attachments unless you are absolutely positive that they are legitimate.  And even though I follow my own advice, somewhere I got caught.

TIPS

The best way to deal with ransomware is to avoid it in the first place.  Maintain a good firewall on your computer and install and maintain up-to-date security software.  Also, never click on links or download attachments unless you are absolutely sure that they are legitimate.  Even if the link or download is in an email or a Facebook posting that appears to come from a friend of yours, their account may have been hacked and the communication may be from a scammer.  Never pay a ransom to regain control of your computer.  There is no guarantee that the criminal who froze your computer will let you off the hook.  Rather, have a computer professional go through your computer to find the source of the problem and resolve it.  It is also important to remember that no legitimate agency will freeze your computer and make you pay a fine to unfreeze it.  In my case, my security software was not able to stop the malware from initially freezing my computer, but when, through the use of free software from Malwarebytes, I was unable to unfreeze my computer, I was able to do a security scan and find that my security software had stopped the keystroke logging malware that the scammer had attempted to download to my computer.  Had I not had such software, my computer’s information would have been at the mercy of the scammer.

If you are a victim of ransomware, here are a couple of free links that can help you.   The first  is a link to Microsoft’s Malware Protection Center with links and instructions for removing ransomware infections from your computer: http://www.microsoft.com/security/portal/shared/ransomware.aspx#recover.  The second is to Malwarebytes Anti-Malware which will detect and remove malware such as trojans and spyware.  This was what I used to get rid of the malware freezing my computer.  The link is www.malwarebytes.org.  It is free although there is also an updated version, which I use.

Scam of the day – March 26, 2013 – Latest ransomware warning

The Department of Homeland Security has issued a new warning about the danger of ransomware.  I have previously warned you about this type of  scam on December 3, 2012 and on January 19, 2013.  Ransomware scams occur when you find that you are unable to use your computer and you receive an email message or a notice on your screen indicating that your use of your computer has been frozen due to illegal activity being detected on your computer.  A common variation of this scam being done now purports to be from the Department of Homeland Security and its National Cyber Security Division.  You are told that you need to pay a fine before your computer will be unfrozen and you have access to it again.  In fact, the freezing of your computer has not been done by the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI or any other governmental agency.  It was done by a scammer who through your unwitting downloading of malware that happened when you unknowingly went to tainted website or downloaded the malware when clicking on a link or an attachment in an email that contained the malware.  It is for this reason, that I am always reminding you never to click on links and download attachments unless you are absolutely positive that they are legitimate.

TIPS

The best way to deal with ransomware is to avoid it in the first place.  Maintain a good firewall on your computer and install and maintain up-to-date security software.  Also, never click on links or download attachments unless you are absolutely sure that they are legitimate.  Even if the link or download is in an email or a Facebook posting that appears to come from a friend of yours, their account may have been hacked and the communication may be from a scammer.  Never pay a ransom to regain control of your computer.  There is no guarantee that the criminal who froze your computer will let you off the hook.  Rather, have a computer professional go through your computer to find the source of the problem and resolve it.  It is also important to remember that no legitimate agency will freeze your computer and make you pay a fine to unfreeze it.

Finally, if you are a victim of ransomware, here is a link to Microsoft’s Malware Protection Center with links and instructions for removing ransomware infections from your computer: http://www.microsoft.com/security/portal/shared/ransomware.aspx#recover

Scam of the day – January 19, 2013 – New Reveton ransomware scam developments

Ransomware is a scam that involves you unwittingly downloading malware that freezes your computer and displays a notice that states that unless you pay a sum of money, your computer will not be unlocked.   The most recent type of malware being used is called Reveton. In some variations of ransomware, the criminals are brazen and admit that they are criminals, demanding a ransom or else they will destroy your computer.  In other versions of this scam, the notice appears to come from a law enforcement agency telling you that you have violated the law and must pay a fine within a short period of time.  I have warned you about variations of this scam, on July 9th, August 8th and December 3rd.  The latest variation of the scam now circulating involves a message that appears to come from the FBI and indicates that your computer has been used for distributing child pornography and that you must pay a fine within 72 hours.  Do not respond to this message if you get it.  It is a scam.  Do not pay the money.

TIPS

The best way to resolve a problem is to avoid it in the first place.  Make sure that your computer is protected with a good Firewall as well as constantly updated security software.  However, like the flu shot, security software is not fully effective so you should always be careful about not clicking on links or downloading attachments unless you are absolutely positive that they are legitimate.  It is also important to remember that real friends of yours might unwittingly pass on tainted attachments so make sure that what you download is legitimate.  If you do receive this kind of notice, get a professional to clear your computer of the malware.  Also, independently backup all of your data so that even if your computer were to be frozen by hackers, you would not lose your data.

Scam of the day – January 12, 2013 – Serious security flaw in Java

As I often say, “things are not as bad as you think – they are worse.”  Yesterday the U.S. Computer Emergency Response Team issued a warning telling people to disable Java software in their Web browsers due to serious security flaws.  Presently a discovered vulnerability in Java software 7  is being exploited by hackers who are using it for various nefarious purposes including locking computer users out of being able to access their computers unless they pay a ransom.  Hundreds of millions of people are affected by this flaw and are in danger of identity theft and worse.

TIPS

Until a patch is available, it is absolutely necessary to disable Java in order to protect yourself.  Those people who have Java 7 Update 10 can readily disable Java in their Web brosers through the use of he Java control panel applet.  Here is a link to Java’s own instruction page for disabling the program.  This is a critical step to take. http://docs.oracle.com/javase/7/docs/technotes/guides/jweb/client-security.html#disable

Scam of the day – December 3, 2012 – New ransomware developments

The FBI has issued a new warning about a scam that uses the name of the Internet Crime Complaint Center (which is a legitimate law enforcement agcency) to extort money from unwary computer users.  I warned you about this scam in Scams of the Day for both July 9, 2012 and August 8, 2012.  In its present incarnation, malware is downloaded on to your computer through the usual means such as when the victim unwittingly clicks on a tainted link in an email or goes to a phishing website that appears to be a legitimate website and downloads the malware on to the victim’s computer.  The malware then causes the victim’s computer to freeze at which point a message comes up telling the victim that the Internet Crime Complaint Center has determined that the victim has downloaded illegal child pornography.  The victim then is told that he or she can avoid further prosecution by paying a fine by way of a prepaid money card.

TIPS

Don’t pay the ransom.  The Internet Crime Complaint Center would never extort money from you in this fashion and even if you do pay the exorted funds to the scammer, the malware remains on your computer and most likely you will be contacted again with another extortion claim.  You should file a complaint with the real Internet crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.  You also should have your computer examined for malware and viruses.  Once it is located and removed, you should make sure that your security software is up to date so that you  are protected from these types of attacks in the future.  Finally, you should be more careful in the future to avoid downloading malware and viruses.  Throughout scamicide.com you will find tips for how to do this.