Is Your Computer Possessed? Internet Identity Theft is Real and Requires Preventative Techniques by the User!
Almost 700,000 cases of identity theft were reported nationwide, as per the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer fraud and identity theft compliant data report
Using a computer that is connected to the Internet is one way that malicious individuals and thieves can violate your privacy. IN THE SAME MANNER THAT YOU LOCK YOUR DOORS AND WINDOWS AT NIGHT, YOU CAN USE SIMILAR METHODS TO BLOCK INTRUDERS FROM ENTERING YOUR COMPUTER.
Some of the Threats to Be Aware of:
- Malicious Hacking
There are three components to safeguarding your computer: Firewalls (Note: VPN users cannot use a firewall), Antivirus and Antispyware.
Computer Networks – Some Background Information
What is an IP Address?
In order to access the Internet, a computer must be connected to an ISP (Internet Service Provider) or hosting service. These companies maintain ‘addresses’ that they apply to each computer. The technical term for a computer address is an IP (Internet Protocol) address.
Each computer has its own IP. No other computer in the world has the same IP address as yours. A computer cannot access the Internet without having an IP addresses and it is these IP addresses that malicious hackers use to gain access to your computer system.
What exactly is a Malicious Computer Hacker?
Definition: The process of infiltrating computers without user authorization or user knowledge, in order to gain access to your personal information.
Reasons Why Hackers do This:
- People seeking the limits of their technological knowledge, regardless of risk
- Personal enjoyment and thrills (e.g. It is challenging to some to hack through anything Bill Gates develops)
- A computer intruder with little or no skill, who follows a cookbook approach, without understanding the meaning of the steps they are performing is called Script Kiddie.
- Professionals looking to steal one’s identity are called Crackers.
What Damage Can they Do?
Everything from viruses to spyware, including making your computer a Zombie.
In this case, your computer becomes a slave to another computer and will be exploited to prorogate deceptive data to other machines on the network.
What Systems are Most at Risk?
All Microsoft products; specifically, all Windows Operating Systems and
Microsoft Office products. Mac and UNIX / Linux systems have minimal risk. Macs are at risk too, but not as much.
How Do Hrackers Accomplish Their Task?
Malicious computer hackers, coined by the term cyber criminals, search computers connected to the Internet, looking for unprotected open ports, as a thief would scan neighborhood streets looking for open windows that are not secured or protected. Cyber Criminals use sophisticated software tools, called vulnerability scanners or port scanners that automatically scan the IP address of each computer, looking for ‘holes’ (unprotected open ports), where they can penetrate it and download programs that can steal and/or track your data.
How Can We Protect Ourselves from Malicious Hackers?
Use a Firewall!
A Firewall is Your First Line of Defense Against Intrusion!
Definition: Software on the PC (or Corporate Server) designed to stop intrusion by hackers.
House Scenario: If you open your door and keep it opened, you can place a security guard there who permits only you from entering and leaving the premises. All others are turned away.
Firewalls allow you to go to the Internet (by opening port 80), but stops anyone else from entering port 80 into your system. Port scanners will bypass your computer, since it sees that it cannot penetrate your system due to the firewall.
Technical Terminology: Firewalls use Stateful Inspection or stateful packet
inspection (SPI). This is a firewall technology that ensures that all data coming from the Internet is the result of your request to get it. Any other requests, such as a hacker’s attempt to access your machine will be blocked, since the firewall knows that it is not you who has made this request.
You access the Internet and go to CNN.com. By doing so, you have opened port 80, (your house window). Without firewall protection (without a security guard at your window), you are now vulnerable to crackers who will can locate your IP address, determine that the open port is unprotected (similar to your house being vulnerable to a thief who was casing the street looking for unprotected open windows).
You turn on your firewall (in reality, your firewall should always be turned on).
Now, the malicious hacker sees that port 80 is protected and he will not bother to enterer your computer. (The thief sees a security guard and moves on).
With the firewall on, you can still go to websites and download data, but any other entities attempting to enter your computer will be blocked (stateful inspection). (Your security guard lets you and you only in and out of the house, stopping anyone else from entering). See firewall – stateful inspection for more information.
Firewalls also prevent websites that you downloaded to your system from going back and reporting any data to their server. A high percentage of these sites reporting is legitimate, however, many firewalls will notify you via a pop up message that the site is attempting to access the Internet and ask your
Permission to proceed.
To check how secure your PC is from these vuneralibities, go to Shields Up: https://www.grc.com/x/ne.dll?bh0bkyd2 or type Shields Up in Google.
Where Do I Get A Firewall to Protect Myself from Illegal Intruders?
- To access the Windows firewall, click Start / Control Panel / Security Center OR Start / Control Panel / Security Center / Windows Firewall. Make sure it is turned on.
SUMMARY: Firewalls protect against scanning and infiltrating of your computer; subsequently resulting in preventing unwanted and malicious individuals from accessing your machine. If you don’t have a purchased firewall, make sure you have Windows XP SP2 and the firewall turned on.
NEVER ENTER ANY PERSONAL INFORMATION ON YOUR COMPUTER UNLESS YOU HAVE INSTALLED ANTIVIRUS AND ANTISPYWARE PROGRAMS AND RUN THE PROGRAMS ROUTINELY AND HAVE RUN THE LATEST UPDATES TO MAKE SURE YOUR SYSTEM IS CLEAN!
Malware, What is it?
Definition: Malware or Malicious Software is software designed to infiltrate
or damage a computer system without the owner’s informed consent.
Malware can be in the form of viruses and spyware.
What are viruses?
“Computer viruses are small software programs that are designed to spread from one computer to another and to interfere with computer operation. A virus might corrupt or delete data on your computer, use your e-mail program to spread itself to other computers, or even erase everything on your hard disk.
Viruses are most easily spread by attachments in e-mail messages or instant messaging messages. That is why it is essential that you never open e-mail attachments unless you know who it’s from and you are expecting it.
Viruses can be disguised as attachments of funny images, greeting cards, or audio and video files. Viruses also spread through downloads on the Internet. They can be hidden in illicit software or other files or programs you might download.
To help avoid viruses, it’s essential that you keep your computer current with the latest updates and antivirus tools, stay informed about recent threats, and that you follow a few basic rules when you surf the Internet, download files, and open attachments.
Once a virus is on your computer, its type or the method it used to get there is not as important as removing it and preventing further infection.”
Types of Viruses:
Worm: A program that attaches to a users email and
propagates to other users through the victim’s
email address book.
Trojan: Hides behinds legitimate programs, but designed to do something else.
Where Do They Come From?
Viruses can be downloaded from hackers through unprotected computers, from
floppy disks, thumb drives or CDs that have already been infected. The most popular form of virus infection comes from opening email attachments.
How Can We Protect Ourselves from Viruses?
Install and Run an Anti-Virus Program
In addition, do not open any email messages that have
attachments which you are suspicious of!
How to I obtain an Anti-Virus Program?
The following vendors are known, reliable resources for keeping your computer
- Symantec – Norton 2007 http://symantec.com/
- McAfee http://us.mcafee.com/
- AVG http://www.grisoft.com/doc/1
Additional information can be found at: http://www.f-secure.com
What is Spyware?
Spyware is software which takes information from your system without your knowledge or consent. It is the most prominent entity in the malware family. It can record the websites you go to and/or the keys you press.
Types of Spyware:
Most spyware falls into this category. It is software used to record the websites you click (or other non-intrusive actions) for advertising and marketing purposes. The spyware is downloaded when you visit a website.
Although this type of spyware does not search for any personal information, you will not be aware of its presence and many consider it an invasion of privacy.
Web Bugs: ActiveX controls (A set of rules for how applications should share information). The web site can then display targeted advertising banners and popups.
Keyloggers are programs that record your keystrokes. They can steal your personal information including credit card numbers, banking information, passwords or other security information and personal or family information.
You system can become infected by when visiting a website and giving permission to download and open (intentionally) spyware bundled with keylogger Trojans, but you can also get keyloggers from friends via instant messengers or in email attachments.
How Can We Protect Ourselves Against Spyware?
Microsoft Malicious Software Tool: http://www.microsoft.com/security/malwareremove/default.mspx
The Microsoft Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool checks computers for infections by specific, prevalent malicious software and helps remove any infection found.