I’m always amazed when I see my younger friends communicating with each other using instant messaging applications. Their use of instant messaging for rapid communication, as opposed to voice contact, is a phenomenon that I must admit has never appealed to me.
I excuse myself on this one by convincing myself that I’m an ancient fossil; after all my computing experience goes all the way back to the dark ages of MS-DOS 1. Not quite the days of the Dinosaurs; but close.
My comfort zone in communications is a telephone used the old fashioned way for immediacy, or email where immediacy is not an issue. The reality is however, that programs such as MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, AIM, and a basket full of other IM applications are extremely popular with the tech savvy younger generation, like my younger friends, who want real-time contact with each other.
Regrettably, from a security perspective these applications can present considerable risks. Generally, this security risk takes place when these programs are used to share files, folders, or in some cases even entire drives. Instant messaging, unfortunately, is a primary channel used by cyber criminals to distribute malware.
As Don Montgomery, VP of Marketing at Akonix Systems, Inc. a leading provider of IM Security Appliances explained recently, “For the past six years, we’ve tracked malicious IM activity, and we see that hackers continue to attack this increasingly popular collaboration tool.”
As Wikipedia explains it, hackers use two methods of delivering malicious code through IM: delivery of virus, Trojan, or spy ware within an infected file, and the use of “socially engineered” text with a web address that entices the recipient to click on a URL that connects him or her to a website that then downloads malicious code. Viruses, worms, and Trojans typically propagate by sending themselves rapidly through the infected user’s buddy list.
Follow these tips to ensure you are protected when using instant messaging.
• Don’t click on links or download files from unknown sources
• Check with your contacts to ensure links or files originated with them
• Use secure passwords comprised of letters and numbers using upper and lower case characters
• Protect personal/confidential information when using IM
If you’re curious about the latest instant messenger hoaxes checkout Doshelp.com
Every Good Story Needs a Villain!
This is a guest post by Paul Eckstrom, a technology wizard and the owner of Aplus Computer Aid in Menlo Park, California.
Paul adds a nice humorous touch to serious computer technology issues. Why not pay a visit to his Blog Tech–for Everyone.
This story opens gently enough. It begins with a friendly and helpful Comment posted on a friendly and helpful blog.
Someone had written to share “the results of their work”, which he said “solved his security problems.” He was talking about viruses and spyware, and other malware, and he said his method “covers 99.8%! of all known threats.” He posted his advice/Comment on an article about How To prevent the dangers posed by spyware (and also warns about “rogue” anti-spyware programs). He signed himself “Spycrasher”.
So far, this all sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? 99.8% effective certainly sounds good.
As you have probably deduced, Dear Reader, the “friendly and helpful blog” in question was this one. Tech–for Everyone, like most blogs, provides readers the opportunity to respond, ask a question, or just “put in their two cents”, simply by clicking on “Comments” at the bottom of the article. And also like most blogs, I have the ability to “moderate” which comments get posted and which don’t– for instance, Comments containing offensive language will not be published. Spycrasher’s 99.8%- effective security solution will NOT be seen here.
But.. maybe you’re a little curious as to what it was. And.. maybe, why I deleted it. (Take another peek at today’s title..) “Spycrasher’s” comment said to use three particular anti-spyware programs– in tandem– and he provided download links. (This, alone, triggers red flags.) He mentioned two tools I was not familiar with, and one rather well-known program.
* Hyperlinks are always suspicious (and blocked as a matter of policy), and the first thing I checked was, did the links point to legitimate websites..? Or would clicking on them take you to a poisoned webpage (which could infect your machine) or a pharming site.
No problem there. The links he provided did indeed point to real websites.
* The next thing was to check out the unknown programs themselves. No self-respecting and legitimate tech writer will advocate something they have not used, and tested, themselves. Period.
In my initial research of the first program (XoftSpy-SE), I found a wide range of reviews and comments.. from “this is rogue” to “this is the best thing since sliced bread”, and I learned that the program was “for pay”.
I don’t promote “for pay” software here (but do provide a daily free download), nor, even potentially rogue app’s; and so I stopped right there. I would not allow Spycrasher’s Comment.
· Being the gentleman that I am, I decided to write Spycrasher and thank him for his submission, and explain why I had moderated it. But before I did, I wanted to get a feel for where he was coming from.. so I ran a Whois on his IP…
Now, I gotta tell you.. it is very rare for ARIN to come back with a “no match found”. Very, very strange.
So I traced him.
New York >London >Amsterdam >Berlin >Warsaw…
And then he disappears into a virtual private network somewhere in the Ukraine.
* So I used a search engine to find instances of the word “Spycrasher”… and he came up a lot. Spycrasher likes to post in various forums. Quite a few of them, actually. Like, practically all of them.
And he posts a lot of Comments there.
* Guess what? They are all identical to the the one he posted (I should say “pasted”) on mine.. right down to the ‘wink’ smiley ;-).
Tip of the day: Be very leery of hyperlinks, folks.. and please understand: not every innocent looking thing you see on the Internet is in fact “friendly and helpful”. There are people whose full-time job it is to try to trick you, and seduce you into doing something you normally wouldn’t.
I am very sad to say.
[note to bloggers/forum moderators/webmasters: you may want to search your published pages for instances of “Spycrasher”, and delete this guy.]
Today’s free link: I am going to repost a program here today, because I have it on every single one of my (Windows) machines, and I think you should too. ThreatFire (originally named “CyberHawk”) is a free, behavior-based anti-malware application. I use it as a supplement to my antivirus and other anti-spyware tools. Heuristic tools like ThreatFire are your only defense against “zero day” exploits.
Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved*
Filed under Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, internet scams, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Spyware - Adware Protection, Windows Tips and Tools
Tagged as advice, blogging, comment, computers, Ex-Soviet, hackers, internet, junk, mail, PC, Phishing, rogue anti-spyware, scam, scammers, security, spam, Spycrasher, tech, Windows