October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month.
Learn more about how computer bots can steal your identity!
Bot is short for web robot; a type of malicious software that is used to take control of your computer. After it has control of your computer, it can send spam from your email address, infect other computers, or even steal your personal identity.
To steal your identity, a bot installs a discrete keystroke logging program on your computer that records every keystroke you make on the keyboard and sends that information back to the criminal responsible for the bot. Every user name and password you type could end up in the hands of someone else.
The use of bots is not new, but is gaining in popularity among the criminal underground of the Internet. Newer attacks are designed to target information that is more personal to the everyday user of computers and the Internet. Bots can hide on computers and often have similar names to files that are used to run the computer, so detecting them can be challenging. After a bot takes control, the computer is basically being operated by the source of the infection; usually a criminal getting paid to send spam, host phishing sites, or infect other computers.
Even though bots can hide, there are some telltale signs that can alert you to their presence.
* Bots will frequently use your email account to send spam from your computer, which hides the identity of the criminal. Spam sent to invalid email addresses will result in delivery failure notifications in your email inbox. Look at the addresses in the failure notices. If they are not addresses you recognize, your computer is most likely infected.
* When logged into your email, take note of unusual or constant activity of the outbox folder. An outbox that is constantly busy indicates the computer is being commanded to send email.
* Often bots will create multiple email addresses on your account and use those accounts to send spam. Several new email addresses appearing under your account could indicate your computer is infected with a bot.
* Bots will install multiple toolbars to help collect search information from your internet browser. If new toolbars suddenly start to appear in your browser, chances are good your computer is infected.
* Modem activity will be noticeable over long periods of time, even if you are not using the computer. Constant activity or frequent flashing of the data light on the modem may indicate a bot is present and working on the computer.
* Error messages suggesting certain applications are trying to access the Internet or can't run could indicate the computer is infected. These could include messages about certain drives not being accessible and should be closed using the X. Clicking directly on these messages could infect your computer.
Protect Your Computers.
The good news is you can protect your personal information and your computer from becoming infected with a bot, by installing an Anti-Virus that offers the latest technology to combat bots and other forms of malware.
I recommend that if you can afford install a well known Anti-Virus like Norton or McAffe. or use a free one of the links below:
* Avoid downloading software from web sites with an unknown or falsified brand.
* Ensure your computer is set to receive auto updated for the Windows Operating System.
* Periodically change your email password and use strong password practices when doing so. Strong passwords are at least eight characters, contain at least one number, one uppercase letter and one special character (i.e. ()*&^%$#@!).
* Check your account activity often and delete unknown email addresses.
* Remove unwanted toolbars from your internet browser.
* Do not click through or open suspicious emails or email attachments.
* Avoid Social Networking Scams - never provide your personal information (i.e. social security number or credit card number) to emails soliciting this information, even if the email looks to be from a company or brand you recognize. A legitimate company will not request this information through email.
There are several things you can do if you suspect your computer is infected. Download the latest anti-virus updates, and then run a scan. If you don't have anti-virus software installed, install it! Run a scan and let the software help remove the infection. Download the latest Windows updates. Check your programs list and remove any programs you suspect were installed by a bot. Consult with a computer specialist if you are unable to fully recover the computer on your own.
Remember, prevention is the key to successfully protecting your identity when online.
Viruses, Trojans & Other Invaders
The names for the most common types of Internet invaders are always changing, but the goals are the same-someone or something is trying to access your computer to use it in a way you normally wouldn't allow. Fortunately, with a little know-how and the right tools you can stop most threats in their tracks.
What you need to know about internet invaders
Knowledge is power. To avoid Internet intrusions you first need to know what they are. Here's a top ten list of the most common ways intruders target your computer:
Top Ten Internet Invader Terms
1) Hackers—A hacker is someone trying to gain unauthorized access to a computer or network.
2) Hijackers—Hijacking is a type of attack in which an attacker gets access to communication between two people or machines and then pretends to be one of them.
3) Viruses—Like many viruses that make you sick, computer viruses are easily spread. The term virus is used for a piece of computer code that attaches itself to a program or file so it can spread from computer to computer, usually meant to do damage to your software, hardware and files.
4) Worms—A worm, like a virus, is designed to copy itself from one computer to another, but it does so automatically.
5) Spyware—Spyware is software that performs certain behaviors, such as filling your screen with advertising popups (such programs are known as adware), collecting or transmitting personal information (through keystroke loggers), or changing the configuration of your computer, generally without your consent.
6) Malware—Malware is short for "malicious software" that is designed to cripple your computer or destroy your information.
7) Trojan horses—Like the Trojan horse of old, when soldiers hide inside a fake statue to attack the city of Troy, today's Trojan horses hide malicious software within other seemingly harmless software.
8) KeyLogger—a piece of software which captures a user's strokes on a computer keyboard. This software can be distributed through a trojan horse or virus to hack into an capture private information from an unsuspecting user.
9) Bots—A bot is a type of malware which allows an attacker to perform actions using your computer, usually without your knowledge.
10) Botnets—Botnets are composed of individual bots-sometimes numbering in the hundreds of thousands. They are then used to distribute spam e-mail, spread viruses, and attack other computers and servers.
Firewalls and Routers
Use a firewall to screen out invaders and help make your computer invisible to hackers.
A firewall is a solid defense against online threats that blocks bad things from reaching your computer. Simply put, a firewall is a barrier between a computer and the Internet. When you visit a suspicious site, the firewall either filters out the dangerous data or blocks the connection entirely. A properly chosen and configured firewall like McAffe provides a good measure of protection against hackers and other online threats.
What you should know about firewalls
There are three basic types of firewalls—each has pros and cons. Your options include:
* Software firewalls can be installed on individual computers and are a good choice for most home users. However, most software firewalls must be purchased, and each computer connected to the Internet may need its own copy. Also, installation and set up may be required. If you are Comcast High-Speed Internet subscriber, you can download the free McAfee Security Suite that includes firewall software protection to help conceal your computer from hackers and spyware.
* Hardware routers provide firewall protection to multiple computers connected to the Internet and may offer other connectivity benefits. However, their wiring can create clutter on already crowded desktops.
* Wireless routers allow "over the air" connections between your computer, other devices, and the Internet. These routers may or may not include a built-in firewall, so be sure to check the features of your model carefully. Also keep in mind that wireless routers broadcast information using radio signals that, if left unprotected, can be intercepted by unauthorized individuals.
I can not stress how important it is that you use a Firewall on your computer. Without a firewall your computer is susceptible to being hacked and taken over. I am very serious about this and see it happen almost every day with my clients. Simply using a Firewall in its default configuration can lower your risk greatly.
What you should do to protect yourself with a firewall
Decide which firewall works best for you.
* Install and, if necessary, configure the firewall for your computer and network.
*Monitor your firewall settings to ensure they are providing the intended level of protection.
Free Firewalls Links:
Understanding and Using Firewalls
US-CERT Cyber Security Tip
Never install more than one firewall on your system! Several together can give you problems and decrease the reliability of it seriously!
Home and Wireless Networks
Linking your computer and other devices to a home network, especially a wireless one, is great for convenience, but potentially not so great for security. The same technology that lets you use your laptop in any room of the house could give your neighbor—or a hacker—access to your network and the private information it contains.
What you should know about home and wireless networks
A home network sends and receives signals through a central device called an access point. These signals connect computers and other devices to the Internet and to each other. Wireless access points can send these signals several hundred feet through the air. Without proper safeguards, anyone within that distance may have access to your network.
What you should do to help protect your home or wireless network
Take these simple steps to protect your home wireless network from intruders.
* Make sure to install anti-virus, and firewall software on your computers and access point. Use automatic updates to keep your security software current.
* Secure your network and access point by following a few quick and easy steps. There are a wide variety of access points so consult your hardware's instruction manual to learn how to enable the security features on your specific device.
* Consider placing the wireless access point in a central location in your house. Avoid placing it by exterior walls and windows to help decrease the signal strength outside of the intended coverage area.
* Avoid storing sensitive materials on your computer. This includes credit card numbers, social security numbers, information about family members or other personal information.
If you want to learn more:
* From SSID to WEP: how to minimize the risks of your wireless network