Sunday, February 8, 2009

Gone Phishsing - - 05 Feb 09

Facebook users, beware: A new cyber scam targets you

HUMAN BEINGS are such smart devils. Now, thanks to the Internet, crooks conversant in cyber-technology can scam law-abiding people all over the world. Two new online schemes could be knocking at your computer door, reports The Wall Street Journal.

People who use social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter should know that cyber-crooks intent on stealing passwords and other personal data are becoming adept at exploiting these online group hugs. Sending messages that seem to be from friends, they invite recipients to click on a link to a video, a blog, or a photo.

The link is phony. Some people who respond to it are asked to give their passwords; others are victimized by "malware"--malicious software--that infects their hard drives, grabbing personal data and even sending out spam to the innocent party's contacts, perpetuating the scam.

One woman from Kentucky, notes the Journal, got what appeared to be an e-mail from a friend telling her to click on a link leading to a video of herself. The link in turn invited her to "upgrade her video software." She clicked on it. Within seconds, malware began eating her hard drive.

The owners of social networking sites say they're on the problem, watching for unusual account activity and prosecuting offenders. Still, let the user beware: Never give out your password or other personal information, be wary about offers to update your software, and view suspiciously any suggestion that you click on a link, even if the message appears to come from a pal.

Meanwhile, the National White Collar Crime Center in Richmond, a clear- inghouse of information for police agencies, says it has received 800 complaints so far this year of "mysterious, unauthorized transactions of $10 to $40" appearing on monthly bank statements. They believe some sort of phishing scam (in which personal data are requested by fake financial institution Web sites) is at fault.

Most phishing scams to date have come from e-mails broadly sent to random addresses, but experts say the crooks are now targeting specific victims: company executives, for example. Many were sent e-mails last year saying they were being subpoenaed by the U.S. district court in San Diego. When they clicked on the link, malware infested their computers.

The Internet has opened up an amazing universe of information, contacts, and communication. But the street goes both ways, and cyber-criminals are learning to work it. Guard yourself, especially in the perceived safety of those online communities.

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