Don’T Let Your Guard Down To Cyberspace Bad Guys

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We’ve gone over this in the past, but it is worth repeating: There are bad guys in the world that will go to great lengths to hack into, steal from, or otherwise create havoc with your computer. What is becoming more and more evident is the fact that there are no safe harbors anymore. Two recent stories prove that even the most innocent and seemingly safe applications can invoke harm to your computer ... if you aren’t prepared.

Case #1 — The “reputable” site: Hopefully we all know by now to check the URL of a Web site to make sure it looks and feels legit. There are no cure-all formulas for this, but we can typically tell if a Web site is trying to pull our chain. The flip side to this is that we have come to know and trust certain sites that are well known and highly visited. We wouldn’t expect a hacker to place a virus on a reputable site ... until now.

The home Web site for the Minneapolis Star Tribune had to temporarily shut down last month because of a virus attached to one of its ads. Users who clicked on the ad were infected with the virus. Somehow, the virus-laden advertisement slipped into the electronically routed ad mix. The Web site scanned its ads and removed the one causing the problems, but the damage was done — users discovered that they were vulnerable to online predators, even on a trusted Web site.

Case #2 — The “harmless” peripheral device: A recent situation involving the Energizer Duo battery charger has shown that anything you plug into your computer has the potential to create a mess. The government’s CERT (Computer Emergency Readiness Team — and yes, there is such a thing) discovered that the battery charger (which plugs into a USB port) and its corresponding software carried a Trojan horse virus that allows outside access to the infected computer.

Energizer has discontinued the product and advised current users to uninstall the software from their computers. They are currently investigating how the malicious code could have been inserted into the software.

Be prepared: Both of these examples illustrate the fact that even trusted, reputable Web sites and products can be tainted. The only defense is to be prepared for the worst, and to hope for the best.

To be prepared, follow these simple steps that we have mentioned before:

• Make sure that your firewalls, antivirus protection, and other security measures are up to date.

• Never open an attachment from an unknown sender.

• Don’t believe on-screen messages that claim to have a “solution” to your computer virus problem (for a fee).

• Stay up to date on current trends in cyber-crime.

As always, please feel free to call us with any questions or concerns. Computer Problem Specialists is available at (928) 468-0000 for any of your computer needs.

Our world is a changing place and we don’t always know who to trust. A little preparation goes a long way in giving us peace of mind. You should never let your guard down ... but you should also be free to go through life without always looking over your shoulder.

Daniel Taft is the senior network administrator and member/owner of Computer Problem Specialists, LLC with a degree in applied computer science. His career spans more than 20 years.

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