Scams, identity theft and cybercrimes threaten everyone.
Every year people lose billions of dollars to scams, identity theft and cybercrime. No one is immune to these dangers. Young and old alike are victims and if you think you are too smart to become a victim, you are wrong. According to the National Association of Securities Dealers wealthy, financially literate and astute people are actually more likely to become victims of financial scams.
The key to protecting yourself from scams cybercrime and identity theft is education and that is where Scamicide.com comes in. Here at Scamicide.com you will learn how to recognize scams, cyber security threats and risks of identity theft as well as how to avoid them. Here at Scamicide.com we also alert you each and every day to the latest developments in scams, cyber security and identity theft and tell you what you need to do to protect yourself. It is a dangerous world out there, but Scamicide.com can help you make it safer.
For a couple of years, people have been receiving extortion emails in which the targeted victim is told that his computer and web cam have been hacked and that the scammers have video of him watching porn online. They threaten to send the videos to people on his contact list unless he pays a ransom in Bitcoin or some other cryptocurrency. The truth is that while it is possible to hack into someone’s webcam, these letters are being sent out as mass mailings without the videos they claim to have. The scammers’ hope is that some people will be fearful enough to send the ransom. In the Scam of the day for January 27, 2019 I wrote about how the scam had evolved whereby, in order to appear as a more legitimate threat, the scammer included in the email a password the targeted victim had used. Again, however, this email extortion threat is baseless. The password that was included in some versions of this email scam is indeed one that the targeted extortion victim had used, however, it was obtained by the scammer from one of the many data breaches in which passwords were stolen. This emphasizes the need to have unique passwords for all of your online accounts so that if there is a data breach in which your password is compromised, it will not pose a threat to all of your online accounts.
This scam also illustrates the vulnerabilities of webcams to being hacked. There have been a number of scams of which I have reported in which people’s webcams have been hacked and compromising videos taken. Often when people install webcams, they use default logins and passwords. These default passwords are easy to find online. Generally, when you hook up anything wireless to your router, it comes with a password and login so it is critical that whenever you install any of these Internet of Things devices, you change the password and login to protect yourself, which leads us to my second concern – routers. A study by security company Avast found that about 80% of Americans do not properly secure their routers, leaving themselves vulnerable to being hacked. Many people still use either default passwords or easily guessed passwords, such as “password” for their routers.
According to the security company Area 1, the scammers behind these recent extortion emails have managed to scare people into paying them almost a million dollars in Bitcoins with the average victim paying with Bitcoins worth $593.56. The latest of these extortion email is managing to avoid the spam filters used by Microsoft and Google by inserting lines from Shakespeare of Jane Austen as invisible text in the emails to avoid the email being blocked by the spam filters because the filters pick up the lengthy literary language as legitimate rather than threatening.
As we connect to the Internet through more and more devices that are a part of the Internet of Things, it becomes increasingly important to be cognizant of maintaining proper security in all devices including, of course, routers and webcams. Laziness can have dire consequences. Never use default logins and passwords. As soon as you install any device that accesses the Internet, make sure that you protect yourself with secure logins and passwords.
It is not difficult to hack into the webcam of a computer from afar. The same types of tricks used to get people to unwittingly download keystroke logging malware that enables the hacker to gather all of the personal information from your computer to be used to make you a victim of identity theft can be used to get you to download the malware that enables the hacker to take control of your webcam. Never click on links in emails or download attachments unless you are absolutely positive they are legitimate. They may be riddled with malware. Also, install and maintain anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer and other electronic devices. For external webcams that are not a built-in component of your computer, a red light will signal that the camera is operating. Be aware of this. It is a good idea to merely disconnect the external webcam when you are not using it or merely take a post-it and cover the webcam’s lens whenever you are not using it. Last year a photograph taken in 2015 was made public showing Pope Francis using his iPad with a sticker over the built in web camera. This simple technique is also used by Mark Zuckerberg, former FBI Director James Comey and me. It is a simple and easy solution. For built in webcams, they too will generally have a blue light to indicate that it is operating, however, again, it is a good idea to merely cover the lens when you are not using it.
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