Your online identity is not safe anymore

October 7th, 2009

Cyber crime has surpassed illegal drug trafficking as a criminal money maker. Worse, you could be probably using an infected machine that is now a ‘digital asset’ for the cybercriminal. This way the cybercriminal can trade your machine online – over and over again! Each trade results into a different “owner” who can decide to install additional malware on the purchased infected machine and then sell it on to others.

The latest breach was when 10,000 email accounts mainly Microsoft’s Hotmail, Google’s Gmail, Yahoo, Comcast, and Earthlink – with passwords – were posted online on the website www.pastebin.com. Don’t start blaming the companies, as the data wasn’t stolen from Google or Microsoft servers. The companies claim that the leak was not the result of an internal breach but through an elaborate phishing scheme.

Promptly, Microsoft has disabled the compromised accounts and is asking affected users to fill out a form to regain access. Google, on other hand, has enforced password resets on the affected accounts.

This is a classic example of how phishing is employed by scammers to steal private information by either tricking users into downloading malicious content encrypted on web sites or through e-mail attachments. Every three seconds an identity is stolen, as reported by Symantec. It doesn’t matter if it is a home computer or if it belongs to a C-level executive of a Fortune 500 company, a government agency or news network – each compromised PC has its own value and price in the cyber-economy.

Despite all this, we still have people who use the same username and password across websites. Why? “Because it is easier to remember,” they say. Right, it is easy to remember and is easiest to crack.

You might offer that you promptly delete all the spam mail or phishing emails that keep pouring in, but cyber criminals are rapidly evolving their methods to steal information from you too.All it takes is a few cautious steps and you could avoid falling into the trap of cyber-criminals.

How to avoid becoming a victim?

  • Delete mails from unknown sender or email ids promptly.
  • Change passwords often. Combine uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as numbers and characters.
  • Avoid using consecutive letters or numbers, and never use names of pets, family members, or close friends.
  • Never click links in the body of an email that are coming from a bank, Paypal or any enterprise that may be leading to a request to enter data. Go to your favorites menu or manually type the address in.
  • Pay attention to phishing filters. Most updated browsers have built-in phish filters that toss up a red flag warning of a potential ruse.

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