Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Warning: Criminals Flock to the Internet and to Your Home and Business Computers

Organized crime seems too be extremely active in the scam known as "phishing" in which they send emails under the guise of being a financial institution or other legitimate organization. In the email they ask unsuspecting victims to verify personal information such as account numbers and passwords. They will target home users who have become the weakest link and they target their victims much more closely than before, by tracking down full names and personal interests. They also skim social networking sites and personal websites where most people have left a digital footprint that can be mined.

Cybercriminals are increasingly trying to trick citizens into giving them their bank account details, according to a published survey which showed such "phishing" attempts almost doubled in the first six months. Over 157,000 unique phishing messages were sent out around the world in the first half of 2006, an increase of 81 percent compared with the six-month period to end-December 2005. Each message can go to thousands or hundreds of thousands of consumers, according to the bi-annual Internet Security Threat Report from security software vendor Symantec.

Another trend in the first half of the year is that phishers have become more sophisticated, dodging spam filters and other defense mechanisms designed by service providers and software companies to keep out the criminals.

How much financial damage phishers have caused is unclear and usually at an individual level, which is why phishing does not get the same media attention as "denial of service attacks" aimed to take out a specific web site, or email worms which can shut down millions of computers in a digital equivalent of a carpet bombing. The Internet is still under fire from such attacks, taking about 6,110 different denial of service hits every a day, but unlike a few years ago they cause less damage.

A successful 'denial of server' attack or worm can have ramifications far beyond phishing. Worms have taken down electricity grids. That's why critical infrastructure is now much more resilient. Information technology managers are better prepared and networks are more robust," Whitehouse said.

Increased focus on security, and a willingness from software companies to own up to their mistakes has dramatically cut down the time that computers are at risk, Symantec found. For example, Internet Explorer, the world's most popular browser from Microsoft, has cut the number of days in which hackers can exploit a security flaw to nine days from 25 days six months earlier. Security holes in browsers from Opera and Mozilla Firefox are patched within two days and one day respectively.

Because cybercriminals are becoming smarter and more sophisticated in their operations, they are real threats to your personal security and privacy. Your money, your computer, your family, and your business are all at risk.

They leave you with three choices:

  1. Do nothing and hope their attacks, risks, and threats don't occur on your computer.
  2. Do research and get training to protect yourself, your family, and your business.
  3. Get professional help to lockdown your system from all their attacks, risks, and threats.
Although the Internet basically provides a positive and productive experience, cyber-attacks against our personal privacy and security are reaching epidemic proportions. These attacks are occurring in our own homes and businesses. Our own computers are being used are being used as zombies to attack other people, businesses, and even our nation itself. As an average Internet user, you may not be aware of these threats nor have any idea about the dramatically increasing risks you face when connected to the Internet.

On a campaign for internet safety awareness and protection, my mission is to bring critical awareness to individuals, families, and small business owners, and to provide access to the necessary tools and ongoing expertise to secure your computer and help you stay protected.

I invite you to join the many thousands of others who have tested their computers, discovered these threats are real, and taken the necessary steps to protect themselves.

Now that you have become aware of these issues, I encourage you to share this vital information with your families, friends and communities. Together, we can reach many millions of people and inform them about the threats to their privacy and security, and help them get the protection they desperately need.

Remember: When you say "No!" to hackers and spyware, everyone wins! When you don't, we all lose!

© MMVII, Etienne A. Gibbs, MSW, Your Internet Safety Advocate and Educator

About the Author:
As an Internet Security Advocate and Educator, Etienne A. Gibbs consults with individuals, small business owners, and home-business entrepreneurs regarding online protection against spyware, viruses, malware, hackers, and other pc-disabling cybercrimes.