Cybercrime is not confined by city, state or national borders. Anyone with a computer and an internet connection is susceptible to online fraud. However, where you choose to surf the Web can put you at great risk for a cyberattack. A recent study by internet security company Symantec lists the US cities at the greatest risk for cybercrime. If you’re a resident of one of these vulnerable locales, you might want to watch where you click.

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USB drives and external hard drives are useful tools for backing up data or transporting files from one computer to another. Yet research shows that many people are careless with these devices. A study conducted in London and New York by British security company Credent Technologies found that 12,500 iPods, laptops, and USB drives were left in taxis during a six-month period. Even if you consider yourself a responsible individual who would never let such a thing occur, encrypting external storage devices is the best way to ensure your data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

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As rates of cybercrime continue to increase exponentially, law enforcement agencies will have to enhance their cyber-defenses to effectively fight online attacks. New technologies promise to play an important role in this battle for cybersecurity.  The Federal Office Systems Exposition (FOSE), the premier information technology event in the United States, recently showcased new products that could become instrumental in the war on cybercrime.

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These days the threat of online attacks is a major concern for any business as the rate of cybercrime continues to skyrocket. Yet, hackers aren’t the only online danger about which companies now have to worry. In the face of record unemployment rates, disgruntled employees and desperate job seekers are increasingly lashing out by turning to cybercrime.

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Oh yeah, it’s the one where all customers are abused, intimidated, interrupted, frustrated, confused, and their system is professionally known as “hosed.” It’s the business model of choice from our favorite adware/fraudware syndicates, hard at work.

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If you’re a tech savvy consumer, you probably know the do’s and don’t’s of safe surfing on the internet. Taking precautions like purchasing premium antivirus software and educating yourself about common online scams can help prevent identity theft. Yet, a recent study exposes a popular target for cybercriminals that might surprise even the most careful users. Can staying in a hotel put you at greater risk for fraud?

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As job losses and financial troubles continue to be issues in this economy, online employment scams are popping up across the web. Promising alluring opportunities, such as work from home positions and get rich quick schemes, these scams pray on the vulnerabilities of desperate job seekers. While there are ways to avoid these scams, if you are the victim of a job scam or have discovered one, there are steps you should take to report the incident.

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If you’re a Mac owner, you might think that you don’t have to worry about computer viruses and other types of malware. Those are troubles that PC users have to deal with, right? Not so fast. A new alert illustrates the dangers that Mac users must be aware of and protect against.

A new malware strain that affects Mac OS X has been discovered recently. While the malicious software is currently categorized as “low risk,” the strain, known as HellRTS, opens a backdoor on infected computers that grants access to remote users. There are no known reports of an infection on a Mac, but the malware has been traded on forums by hackers, meaning that cybercriminals could take control of infected Macs if the malware is successfully installed (although the strain isn’t “out in the wild” yet). To ensure your Mac’s safety, click on “Preferences” in your Safari browser and turn off the “Open ‘safe’ files after downloading.” And, as always, only download or launch files from trusted sources. Continue reading

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Internet access is like a window — you can see out but other people can also see in. If your information isn’t protected, your computer may be accessible to the criminals and hooligans of the online underworld. Since an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, here are the top 10 ways to protect your identity online:

1. Get Antivirus and Antispyware Protection

Install reputable antivirus and antispyware software. Such software is easily accessible and your first line of defense against would-be attackers. PC Tools Internet Security offers powerful antispyware, antivirus and spam protection in one comprehensive package.

2. Install a Firewall

It just sounds cool, doesn’t it? Installing a firewall can prevent external attempts to connect to your computer. Without one, hackers could see information kept on your hard drive. Install a firewall, such as the one at http://www.pctools.com/firewall/, and keep it updated. Which brings us to our next tip…

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Previous posts have discussed how cybercriminals adapt their ploys to conform to societal conditions; therefore, it’s no surprise that all types of employment scams have emerged in response to the global recession. We recently posted about an online employment scam, known as a mule operation, that is becoming more prevalent. Cybercriminals prey on desperate job seekers by posting fake job ads and “hiring” applicants to ship goods with stolen funds. At the end of the scam, the “mules” unwittingly participate in an illegal operation and are left without a job or any type of compensation. In these situations, the mule ships actual goods, but another type of mule is aiding phishing scams at an even more alarming rate.

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In one of the latest efforts to protect the country’s critical internet infrastructure, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly (422-5) passed a bill designed to strengthen domestic defenses and protect the country from increasingly sophisticated internet attacks. Titled the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2009, H.R. 4061 highlights recruitment and education as vital to protection from cyberattacks.

Likening the effort to a virtual battlefield, Representative Michael Arcuri said that the federal government will need to hire between 500 and 1,000 more “cyber warriors” each year to keep up with ongoing threats. Mr. Arcuri, who argued in favor of the bill on the House floor, said that troops online “are every bit as important to our security as a soldier in our field.”

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What is the Capacitor Plague?

It’s a scourge of robotic parasites that grow in your computer, infect users through the mouse, migrate to the brainstem and eventually take over the human body. Run for your lives!

Just kidding.

The Capacitor Plague is the ominously named influx of faulty capacitors from certain Taiwanese manufacturers between 1999 and 2007. Many computer manufacturers used these defective capacitors in their products, so significant numbers of computers started failing around the same time – hence the “plague” moniker.

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Do You Have the Plague?

You may have heard about certain hardware manufacturers’ problems with faulty computer components… Besides the Dell OptiPlex line, defective capacitors have been found in some Apple iMac G5s, HP xw-series workstations made in 2004, and PCs with the Intel D865GBF motherboard.

If you think your computer might be affected, here are some signs of a bad capacitor.

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Malware production has increased and web-based PDF attacks are on the rise, according to the Symantec Global Internet Threat Report for 2009. This important report “provides an annual overview and detailed analysis of Internet threat activity, malicious code, and known vulnerabilities. The report also discusses trends in phishing, spam and observed activities on underground economy servers,” according to the Symantec website. Here are a few highlights from the report:

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With great popularity comes great exploitation.

Facebook has become its own universe, complete with web-based “email,” advertising, picture albums and now you can even book a flight from the social networking platform. But, with the rise of this interactive technology comes the invention of Facebook spam. As with web-based service, the potential for exploitation is there – and often capitalized on.

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When you have to adjust to limiting your prose to a maximum 140 characters, each letter, number, and symbol takes on more significance, and oftentimes many of these characters comprise a link’s lengthy URI. Uniform Resource Identifiers (often identified as URLs) are a series of characters that correspond to the name of a site online. As social networks rise to prominence in our online interactions, so does the use of URL shorteners like TinyURL or Bit.ly.

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Over the past 10 years, cybercrime has been thrust into the government spotlight with new gusto. Although more attacks on government hardware have transpired than will ever be admitted, there are multiple public instances where other countries have bypassed US security measures and infiltrated the most secure and top-secret databases. The concern, and common belief, is that malicious code and backdoors have been left wherever a hack has occurred. Although the US is believed to be the leader in combating and understanding cyber-espionage, this doesn’t mean we aren’t vulnerable to attacks.

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How much is your identity worth, or at least a small portion of it? Your email username and password, particularly if you are one of many who use Google’s Gmail, are more valuable than you might think, but remain a small price for a cybercriminal to pay compared to the nightmare your stolen data will cause you.

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We saw the FakeAV groups brazenly modifying victim systems HOSTS files recently, attempting to fool users into thinking that they are visiting real/legitimate review sites. There’s a first for everything, and this time we are seeing the first worm specifically targeting Vietnamese sites including Bach Khoa AntiVirus, or Bkav, as you can see here.

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Albert Gonzalez was sentenced to 20 years in prison, the harshest punishment for a computer crime ever handed down in an American court. Yet, despite this small victory in the war on cybercrime, law enforcement officials still face major problems as online attacks are on the rise and the difficulty of tracking cybercriminals remains a constant struggle in the battle for cybersecurity.

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We are all familiar with the stereotypical spam emails containing temptations along the lines of “Someone has a crush on you!” or “80% Discount on Viagra,” but how many of us would seriously ponder clicking on an included link? It’s not even the old “too good to be true” rationale, but more akin to common sense. Clicking on links from unknown sources just seems unwise, just as getting into the unidentified van of a complete stranger is probably not the best idea either. Luckily, few do, but here is the real surprise: it only takes a handful to keep spammers in business.

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Have you ever accepted a random friend request on Facebook? Maybe from someone who looks a little bit familiar but you can’t quite place, or someone who is a friend of a friend, or even just someone who looks potentially attractive? Everyone has probably been guilty of clicking “Accept” at least once with nary a thought to the consequences. In all likelihood, you’ll just end up with an annoying person who constantly pops up on your newsfeed until you can’t take it anymore and subsequently unfriend him or her. Worst case scenario, though—you become a victim of identity theft.

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In our current age of ubiquitous social networking, it is easy to get drawn into what our friends and acquaintances say, do, and post. As most people choose to share stories that they find interesting, we think nothing of clicking on the link, reading, and adding our own insights to a comment thread. By extension, if a friend navigates over to your wall and posts something there, wouldn’t you read it? Not so fast. Hackers are targeting popular sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and many users are falling victim.

On Facebook, you might receive a wall post or message from a friend saying something like “Check it out!,” followed by a link that could infect your computer with malware. On Twitter, hackers might create an account with the intention of feeding off a hot topic. Related text masking a suspicious link then tricks people into thinking the URL is just another story about whatever subject, to their detriment. The main problem is that oftentimes these links are not obviously malicious, especially when supposedly coming from a trusted source, whose account, in reality, may have been hacked.

Sarah Perez of ReadWriteWeb has identified the 8 Best Practices for staying safe on Facebook and Twitter. Her advice:

  1. Don’t assume a link is “safe” because it’s from a friend
  2. Don’t assume Twitter links are safe because Twitter is now scanning for malware
  3. Don’t Assume Bit.ly Links are Safe
  4. Use an up-to-date web browser
  5. Keep Windows up-to-date
  6. Keep Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash up-to-date
  7. Don’t assume you’re safe because you use a Mac
  8. Be wary of email messages from social networks

The bottom line, as always, is to exercise caution when confronted with a link, and use your best judgment.

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A zero day attack refers to a hole in software that is unknown to the vendor. This security hole is exploited by hackers before the vendor becomes aware and races to fix it. Uses of zero day attacks can include infiltrating malware, spyware or allowing unwanted access to user information. Naturally, vendors would prefer preventative action to the hot pursuit of a quick patch. Google is the latest company to offer researchers a monetary incentive to use their skills for the greater good; in this case, to predetermine holes in Chrome or Chromium before criminal hackers do.

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Any social interaction online can make someone the target of a predator looking to make a profit, and online gaming is no exception, despite the close-knit community of users. There are a number of ways to manipulate gamers, compromising both their identities and their computers. The most common forms of exploitation are thus:

  1. Cybercriminals attempt to gain access to a gamer’s personal information (usernames, passwords, even credit card information) by pretending to share a common interest. Collecting this sort of information assists in identity theft.
  2. Crackers (criminal hackers) take advantage of known vulnerabilities in software or operating systems to spread various forms of malware (viruses, worms, trojans, and the like). Once one computer has been infiltrated, an entire network could be next.
  3. Predators use the internet for unsavory personal interactions, taking advantage of unsuspecting users by pretending to be someone he or she is not.

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Being unemployed is hard enough. Hours of job hunting and stressing over how to pay the bills can provide endless anxiety. Now there’s yet one more concern for desperate job seekers – the possibility of falling victim to the increasingly common cyberscam known as “mule operations.”

There are a host of online employment scams on the web right now that prey on the unemployed, but one scam in particular is rapidly gaining popularity among cybercrooks. As the Wall Street Journal reports, criminals are luring desperate job seekers into participating in “mule operations.”

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These days, it’s hard to go a day without reading news about Facebook and/or Twitter, most revolving around online security, privacy concerns, or the latest cyberattack. One site that seems to fly under the radar is LinkedIn, the social networking site for professionals looking to network or job-seek. Yet with the plethora of information available on the site—personal details like address and birthday, as well as professional information about past jobs, often described in great detail—why don’t we hear more about the dangers of identity theft or the spread of malware for LinkedIn users?

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As we choose to reveal more and more personal information to others via blogs, social networks, and email, privacy concerns are of paramount importance. Although most of us simply don’t want our personal lives to intersect with our professional lives, a far bigger threat is identity theft, the fastest growing crime in our nation today, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center.

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Domain names, the URLs you type into a browser to visit a particular website, are getting a new look as we move into 2010. What is good news for the international community, though, may bring a concomitant increase in the opportunity for criminals to profit from cybercrime.

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By Alan Lee – PC Tools Malware Research Team

Next time when someone tells you, “Me and my wife watched this movie here : http://example.com/example”.

Watch out, they may be luring you to a scam site!

It’s the holiday season soon and most Harry Potter fans will be eagerly waiting for the release of the last 2 instalments of the movie series – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 and 2.

While browsing online for related Harry Potter stuff, I came across some websites claiming that you can watch the latest Harry Potter movies on their websites.
social engineering 1
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