Protect Yourself

From Computer Hackers

Computer Scientists Say Hackers

Prey On Those

Who Don’t Protect Themselves

April 1, 2008 — Computer scientists observe that the people most at risk for the loss of private information and other computer problems are those who create easily guessed passwords and user names. They advise creating and regularly updating complicated passwords that contain upper- and lower-case letters as well as numbers. They also recommend running regular virus checks on the computer.

If you have a computer connected to the Internet, watch out! You’ll be surprised to learn how often it’s being attacked by computer hackers. Ivanhoe explains how to protect yourself and your PC.

It can strike at any time and can attack and destroy your computer. A virus hit Nicole Gentile’s PC with a vengeance. “It was terrible,” Gentile recalls. “It destroyed most of my files.” And it also left her with a mess to clean up.

“It was a horrible feeling,” she says. “I felt invaded and it caused me a lot of time and money to get everything fixed on my computer.”

Nicole’s ordeal is common. Computer scientists now reveal that computer hackers are using the internet to attack your computer every 40 seconds! “He or she will get on your computer and then see what is interesting on your computer.” Michel Cukier, Ph.D., a computer scientist at the University of Maryland in College Park, told Ivanhoe.

Hackers can use disc space on your own computer and steal credit card numbers and personal info. Computer scientists also discovered hackers try common usernames and passwords to break into computers. “If you have a weak password, it will take a few minutes for that password to be found.” Dr. Cukier explains.

Consumers should avoid easily guessed usernames like “test,” “guest” and “info,” and easy passwords like “1-2-3-4-5-6,” “password” and “1-2-3-4.” Instead, use longer, complicated usernames and passwords with random numbers and upper and lowercase letters.

“You try to make something as complex as possible.” Dr. Cukier says. Changing usernames and passwords more often can help guard against future attacks. Also, anti-virus software may help keep computers hacker-safe.

“I bought a lot of virus protection software for my computer, so let’s hope it works,” Gentile says.

Hackers also break into large numbers of unsuspecting computers to control and manipulate the computers remotely for fraudulent purposes like identity theft, to disrupt networks and corrupt computer files.

HOW DO COMPUTER VIRUSES DAMAGE PROGRAMS? There are several different ways a computer can become infected. A virus is a small piece of software that attaches itself to an existing program. Every time that program is executed, the virus starts up, too, and can reproduce by attaching itself to even more programs.

When contained in an email, the virus usually replicates by automatically mailing itself to dozens of people listed in the victim’s email address book. Unfortunately, viruses don’t just replicate, they often cause damage. There is usually a trigger — a command or keystroke — that causes the virus to launch its “attack.” This can be anything from leaving a silly message to erasing all of the user’s data. For example, whenever the current minutes on an infected computer’s clock equaled the day (for example, at 6:27 pm on the 27th of any given month), the Melissa virus would copy the following Bart Simpson quote into the current document: “Twenty-two points, plus triple-word-score, plus 50 points for using all my letters. Game’s over. I’m outta here.”

WHAT ARE WORMS? Worms are a different type of infection. A piece of worm software uses computer networks and security holes in specific software or operating systems to copy itself from machine to machine. Because Microsoft’s Windows platform is so pervasive, for example, many hackers design their worms to exploit security holes in those products. In 2001, the worm Code Red spread rapidly by scanning the Internet for computers running Windows NT or Windows 2000. In contrast to a worm, a Trojan horse can’t replicate itself at all: it is simply a computer program pretending to be something harmless — a game, for example — but instead does damage when the user runs it, often erasing the hard drive.


1. Buy virus protection software and keep it up-to-date.

2. Avoid downloading programs from unknown sources; stick with commercial software purchased on CD-ROMs.

3. Make sure that the Macro Virus Protection feature is enabled in all Microsoft applications.

4. Never double-click on an email attachment containing an executable program. These will have extensions like .exe, .com, or .vbs.

5. Consider switching to a more secure operating system, like Linux.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Protect Yourself:

Fighting Computer Crimes

Computer Scientists Attach

Images to Passwords to Prevent Fraud

September 1, 2005 — Web sites that visualize images while the user enters a password could help prevent impostors from stealing personal data or money. The user would see a familiar image for every letter typed, thus being warned if they see a different one. This could prevent phishing, the cyber crime practice of masquerading as a commonly used Web site to have users type in the passwords they would use on the real site.

WASHINGTON, D.C.–It’s the crime of the future, and it’s happening right now. However, now there is someone trying to stop it. Markus Jakobsson, computer scientist at Indiana University School of Informatics in Bloomington, Ind., says: “We’re the good guy. We make the move. Then we go over to the other side of the table, and we’re the bad guys. We make the move.”

Jakobsson is working to find out what the next computer crime will be. He believes more elaborate phishing schemes are in the works. His or her target, Jakobsson says is anybody with an e-mail account.

Phishing is when criminals send you a fake e-mail to try and get your personal information. “The strongest evidence that you’re being phished is that you’re getting an e-mail from a bank that you don’t have a banking relationship with,” he says.

One solution: delayed password disclosure. It not only uses a password, but also pictures. Jakobsson says, “For every character you enter, you get a new image on the screen. If there’s even one image that you don’t recognize, that means you’re being attacked.”

Each letter or number in your password would correspond to a picture. For example, if your password were dog, when you entered the “D,” a picture of a house would appear. You would recognize correct pictures, but if the wrong image appears, you would stop entering your password.

Jakobsson says until our passwords change, you need to take steps to protect yourself whenever you go on line; any time you use your password. Jakobsson warns computer uses to, never give out any personal information on line, don’t use your mother’s maiden name for any reason, and remember, if it seems like you are being played — you probably are.

BACKGROUND: Along with the rise of wireless networks is rising concern about securing networks against fraud and identity theft. Researchers at Indiana University have devised a new cryptographic security scheme to protect individual passwords from prying eyes.

WIRELESS IS VULNERABLE: The most common forms of wireless network hacking include methods for secretly intercepting passwords or other sensitive information by posing as a trusted network point. Such an attack is particularly effective against wireless networks that let users relay messages for one another. These so-called “ad-hoc” networks are useful in emergency situations, when the normal networks are overwhelmed or not working, but they are also more vulnerable to security breaches.

HOW IT WORKS: Delayed password disclosure works something like this. Let’s say that you enter your password at an ATM to check your bank account information. If your password is “banana5,” you would only need to type “b.” The machine would then display a picture, which you have previously agreed goes with the “b.” To verify, you move on to the next letter, “a,” and the machine will display a second, agreed-upon picture to validate your password. There are an infinite number of picture possibilities for password verification.

BENEFITS: Existing security protocols concentrate on securing the link between two machines, but any hacker can use a computer as a fake access point, stealing information secretly. Delayed password disclosure counters this by allowing both parties to use a pre-arranged password or PIN for authentication that is not revealed during communications. Whenever a user initiates a wireless link, the agreed code is turned into a string of incoherent bits by a mathematical algorithm, while at the other end of the link, another algorithm is applied to the string and sent back to the user. In this way, the code can be checked mathematically to confirm that the person at the other end of the link shares the same secret password or PIN.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


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Published by Henry Sapiecha