Tag Archives: malicious

Another Worm Worms Its Way Into Instant Messaging Applications

imageFrom the more things change the more they remain the same files:

AV-killing worm spreads via Facebook chat and IM clients – A rather industrious piece of malware that – among other things – paves the way for other malware by disabling AV solutions and software update modules has been spotted spreading via several Instant Messaging applications (ICQ, Skype, GTalk, Pidgin, MSN, YIM) and Facebook.

The victims receive a message from an unknown user, offering a link to a funny or interesting video. If they follow it, the malware in question downloads automatically from the linked site and is executed.

Nothing new here – as any one of the 10 or more articles I’ve  written over the years on using Instant Messenger applications safely will attest to. The following post (originally published September 4, 2010) will serve as a quick refresher on how to navigate the Internet safely while using an Instant Messenger client.

Tips For Using Instant Messenger Applications Safely

In a recent Symantec survey, which questioned computer users on the most likely routes cybercriminals use to drop malware on unsuspecting users, one resultant statistic made me sit up a little straighter. Just 3.9% of survey participants believed that Instant Messenger applications had a role in malware distribution.

Given the frequency with which instant messaging is used to distribute malware (recent statistics indicate almost 50% of worms use this method to spread), I was more than a little surprised at this unrealistic response.

The reality is, from a security perspective Instant Messaging applications can present considerable security risks. Security breakdowns can occur when these programs are used to share files, folders, or in some cases, entire drives. Instant messaging, unfortunately, is a primary channel used by cyber-criminals to distribute malware and scams.

Programs such as MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, AIM, and a basket full of other IM applications, are extremely popular with users who want real-time contact with each other and (no surprise here), this makes them the perfect vehicle for cyber criminals.

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 which connects to a website that downloads malicious code. Viruses, worms, and Trojans then typically propagate, by sending themselves rapidly through the infected user’s buddy list.

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The following is a series of sensible tips for users to get the most out of these programs, securely and responsibly.

As with any other application you use on the Internet, having the knowledge that allows you to use it safely, and being aware of current threats, will make for a more positive experience when using these wildly popular applications.

Don’t click on links, or download files from unknown sources. You need to be alert to the dangers in clicking on links, or downloading files from sources that are not known to you. Even if the files or links apparently come from someone you know, you have to be positive that it really was this person who has sent the message.

Check with your contact to be sure the files, or links are genuine. Remember, if you click on those links, or run those attachments without confirmation, you run the risk of letting malware into your computer.

Use only secure passwords, and be sure to change them regularly. The longer and more varied they are – using a variety of different characters and numbers – the more secure they will be.

Protect personal and confidential information when using IM. Revealing confidential or personal information in these types of conversations, can make you an easy target for Internet predators.

For added protection when using a public computer, ensure that you disable any features that retain login information to prevent other users from gaining access to your instant messaging once you leave.

It’s virtually impossible to avoid publishing your email address on the Internet, however do so only when absolutely necessary. Cyber criminals are always on the lookout for accounts to target.

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Filed under Don't Get Hacked, Instant Messenger Safety Tips, Interconnectivity, Malware Alert

Think BEFORE You Click! – How Hard Is That?

imageHARD, apparently.

I recently repeated a small experiment (for the third year in a row), with a group of “average computer user” friends, (12 this time around), and I was disappointed to see (once again), that the conditioned response issue to “just click” while surfing the web, was still there.

Still, I’m always hopeful that reinforcing the point that clicking haphazardly, without considering the consequences – the installation of malicious code that can cause identity theft and the theft of passwords, bank account numbers, and other personal information – would have had some impact. Apparently not.

But, I haven’t given up. I’m prepared to hammer them repeatedly until such time as I can make some progress. In the meantime, I expect that curiously browsing the web blissfully unaware of the considerable malware dangers, will continue to be the modus operandi for my friends.

They’re not alone in their “clicking haphazardly” bad habits. Many of us have learned to satisfy our curiosity simply by a mouse click here, and a mouse click there. Arguable, we have developed a conditioned response (without involving conscious thought), to – “just click”.

It can be argued, that our “just click” mindset poses the biggest risk to our online safety and security. In fact, security experts argue, that a significant number of malware infections could be avoided if users stopped “just clicking haphazardly”, or opening the types of files that are clearly dangerous. However, this type of dangerous behavior continues despite the warnings.

Most visitors to this site are above average users (I’m assuming that you are too), so, I have a challenge for you.

Take every appropriate opportunity to inform your friends, your relatives, and associates, that “just clicking haphazardly” without considering the consequences, can lead to the installation of malicious code that can cause identity theft and the theft of passwords, bank account numbers, and other personal information.

Help them realize that “just clicking”, can expose them to:

  • Trojan horse programs
  • Back door and remote administration programs
  • Denial of service attacks
  • Being an intermediary for another attack
  • Mobile code (Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX)
  • Cross-site scripting
  • Email spoofing
  • Email-borne viruses
  • Packet sniffing

They’ll be glad that you took an interest in their online safety. And, best of all, by doing this, you will have helped raise the level of security for all of us.

A point to ponder:

Since it’s proven to be difficult to get “buy-in” on this – “think before you click safety strategy” – I generally ask the question – do you buy lottery tickets? Not surprisingly, the answer is often – yes. The obvious next question is – why?

The answers generally run along these lines – I could win; somebody has to win;……. It doesn’t take much effort to point out that the odds of a malware infection caused by poor Internet surfing habits are ENORMOUSLY higher than winning the lottery and, that there’s a virtual certainty that poor habits will lead to a malware infection.

The last question I ask before I walk away shaking my head is – if you believe you have a chance of winning the lottery – despite the odds – why do you have a problem believing that you’re in danger on the Internet because of your behavior, despite the available stats that prove otherwise?

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Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Online Safety, Spyware - Adware Protection

Way To Go WOT! – Now Protecting 30 Million Users

imageThe Internet is one kickass place – survey after survey continue to show that cybercriminals are picking off unaware/undereducated users, as if they were shooting fish in a barrel.

It’s hardly surprising then, that an enormous industry (no, not big, not large – but, enormous) has developed, based on the principal that technology can act as a counterfoil  to the most nefarious cyber criminal schemes. Criminal schemes which are, after all, technology driven.

I’ll leave it to you to decide if this has been an effective solution.

No matter the side you come down on regarding this complex issue, dancing around naked (so to speak ) on the Internet – that is, without adequate Browser protection, is akin to fumbling and stumbling through the toughest neighborhood in your area – after dark.

Internet security starts with the Web Browser (it does not end there – but, one step at a time), and WOT (Web of Trust, which passed the 30 million user mark yesterday – January 9, 2011), substantially reduces the risk exposure that comes with wandering through the increasingly risky neighborhood that the Internet has become.

Based on the way that I surf the Web, there’s no contest as to which of the 17 add-ons I have installed on Firefox, is most important to my piece of mind. The hands down winner – the single most important add-on for my style of surfing is WOT (Web of Trust).

Sure, that’s a pretty bold statement – but, since I frequently hear from readers who, after installing WOT on their computer systems, feel reassured that they are safer than ever before, and who express a renewed sense of confidence, and  a new level of enthusiasm, while surfing the Internet, I’ll go with it.

If you’re not yet a WOT user, read the following in-depth review – you may reconsider.

What is WOT?

WOT, one of the most downloaded Firefox Add-ons at the Mozilla add-on site, (also compatible with Internet Explorer and Chrome), is a free Internet Browser resource which  investigates web sites you are visiting for spyware, spam, viruses, browser exploits, unreliable online shops, phishing, and online scams – helping you avoid unsafe web sites.

For example, here’s a Google search in which WOT indicates which sites are safe. Notice the unsafe (red) sites, in the Google ads!

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Take a look at what happens if, in fact, you do end up on an unsafe web site. WOT’s dropdown warning curtain blocks access to the site until you determine otherwise.

WOT - new

WOT operates in a unique fashion in order to offer active protection to the Internet user community. It stands out from the crowd of similar applications, by soliciting the opinions of users/members whose views on web site safety are incorporated into the overall site safety rating. According to WOT, the user community now has reputation data on over 35 million sites worldwide.

The shared information on a site’s reputation includes trustworthiness, vendor reliability, privacy, and child safety. As well, in order to achieve maximum security coverage, WOT uses thousands of trusted sources including phishing site listings, to keep users protected against rapidly spreading threats.

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WOT integrates seamlessly with search engine results from popular search engines including Google, Yahoo, MSN and other popular sites, and provides impressive protection against Internet predators.

WOT recently added the top three web-based email services – Google Gmail, Windows Live Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail, to its free security protection. You can now feel more confident and secure, since WOT checks links embedded in your email, and warns you of dangerous web sites so that you can avoid spyware, spam, phishing, identity theft and other Internet scams; before you click on dangerous embedded links.

How WOT works:

The Browser add-on icon, displays a color rating for each site you visit, indicating whether a site is safe to use, should be used with caution, or avoided entirely.

Using traffic light colors, (green, yellow, and red), WOT leaves you in no doubt as to the safety rating of a web site. An impressive feature of WOT is the dropdown transparent warning curtain, shown earlier, triggered on visiting a dangerous site.

Recognizing that up to ten percent of Internet users are at a disadvantage however, due to colorblindness, and cannot rely on an Internet safety system based on color coding, the Web of Trust development team recently released an adaptive version of WOT. This version incorporates equivalent alternative information, through assistive or adaptive technology, for colorblind users.

This colorblind accessible application provides the same critical benefits to those individuals who have to contend with visual impairments, as it has to those of us who have come to rely on WOT as a major defense against the pervasive hazards we encounter on the Internet.

Quick facts – WOT checks the following on each web site visited:

Trustworthiness

Vendor reliability

Privacy

Child Safety

More quick facts:

Ratings for over 30 million websites

The WOT browser add-on is light and updates automatically

WOT rating icons appear beside search results in Google, Yahoo!, Wikipedia, Gmail, etc.

Settings can be customized to better protect your family

WOT Security Scorecard shows rating details and user comments

Works with Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome

Interface supports English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish and Finnish.

System requirements: Windows (all), Mac OS X, Linux

Download at: MyWot

Surf more securely by installing this browser add-on which will provide you with an in-depth site analysis based on real world results. Keep in mind however, that you are your own best protection. Stop · Think · Click.

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Filed under Browser add-ons, Browser Plug-ins, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Freeware, Internet Safety Tools

Cyber Crooks Taking Another Crack At Yahoo Instant Messenger

imageI’ve been known to  stare at my monitor, humming a few bars of  – “IM malware go away, and come back another day”, from time to time. Doesn’t seem to work though.  🙂 IM malware never goes away – it just fades into the malware background chatter.

Despite the fact that Instant Messenger malware (which has been with us since 2005, or so), doesn’t create much of a fuss, and seems to prefer to stay just below the horizon, it’s as dangerous as it’s ever been.

In business, when something works, why bother to reinvent the wheel. A little nip here; a little tuck there and hey – you’re still in business! No surprise then, when we see that cybercriminals subscribe to this business philosophy.

–   Yahoo Instant Messenger Under Attack Again or Still? (May 4, 2010)

It’s easy to forget about the risks associated with Instant Messaging precisely because of this lack of profile. Until, that is, IM malware comes knocking – hard – like now!

BitDefender’s, Bogdan Botezatu, reports in a recent Blog post, that Yahoo Messenger is currently under attack – and, taking a hard knocking.

From the Blog:

New Yahoo Messenger 0-Day Exploit Hijacks User’s Status Update…and spreads malware, of course!

A newly discovered exploit in version 11.x of the Messenger client (including the freshly-released 11.5.0.152-us) allows a remote attacker to arbitrarily change the status message of virtually any Yahoo Messenger user that runs the vulnerable version.

Since you’re an astute and educated user, none of this comes as a surprise, I’m sure. But, what about a typical user – would he/she be surprised, do you suppose?

Let’s take a look –

In a recent Symantec survey, which questioned computer users on the most likely routes cybercriminals use to drop malware on unsuspecting users – just 3.9% of survey participants believed that Instant Messenger applications had a role in malware distribution.

Unfortunately, the only surprise here is – this is not a surprise.

The harsh reality is, from a security perspective, Instant Messaging applications can present considerable security risks. So naturally, cyber-criminals use Instant Messaging as a primary channel to distribute malware and scams.

We’ve talked about IM security a number of times here, but with this ongoing attack, a quick refresher might be in order.

As with any other application you use on the Internet, having the knowledge that allows you to use it safely, and being aware of current threats, will make for a more positive experience when using these wildly popular applications.

The following is a series of sensible tips for users to get the most out of these programs, securely and responsibly.

Don’t click on links, or download files from unknown sources. You need to be alert to the dangers in clicking on links, or downloading files from sources that are not known to you. Even if the files or links apparently come from someone you know, you have to be positive that it really was this person who has sent the message.

Check with your contact to be sure the files, or links are genuine. Remember, if you click on those links, or run those attachments without confirmation, you run the risk of letting malware into your computer.

Use only secure passwords, and be sure to change them regularly. The longer and more varied they are – using a variety of different characters and numbers – the more secure they will be.

Protect personal and confidential information when using IM. Revealing confidential or personal information in these types of conversations, can make you an easy target for Internet predators.

For added protection when using a public computer, ensure that you disable any features that retain login information to prevent other users from gaining access to your instant messaging once you leave.

It’s virtually impossible to avoid publishing your email address on the Internet, however do so only when absolutely necessary. Cyber criminals are always on the lookout for accounts to target.

Instant Messanger changed Above all, if you are a parent, take exceptional care with the access that your children have to these programs.

The risk here goes beyond malware, as sadly, they could come into contact with undesirable individuals. The risk is low of course, but……..

Elsewhere in this Blog, you can read an article on protecting your children on the Internet and download free software, Parental Control Bar,  to help you do just that.

BTW, you can hum “IM malware go away, and come back another day”, to the new version of that old familiar tune – Rain Rain Go Away.    Smile

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Filed under Cyber Crime, Instant Messenger Safety Tips, Interconnectivity, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Yahoo

Free G Data CloudSecurity – Blocks Known Malware And Phishing Websites

As we reported several days ago in Search Engine Results – More Malware Surprises Than Ever!, poisoned search engine results have proven to be a gold mine for the bad guys who, naturally, continue to be unrelenting in their chase to infect web searches.

Since drive-by downloads, which don’t require user action to create an infection, are resident on many of these compromised sites, this is unhappy news for the unwary Internet user.

To reduce the chances that you will be victimized by malicious search engine results, you should consider installing an appropriate Browser add-on, or if necessary, add-ons, to increase your safety margin. A list of recommended add-ons follows later in this article. But first, take a look at a new Firefox/Internet Explorer add-on, G Data CloudSecurity – passed on by regular reader Charlie L.

According to G Data, the plugin “effectively blocks access to known malware distribution and phishing websites – in real time. The plugin can be used alongside any other installed security suite and is ready for action after installing; no additional configuring required.”

Taking advantage of this service couldn’t be easier. Simply download the setup application, and execute. Following installation, you’ll notice a new icon in your browser which indicates  G Data CloudSecurity is up and running.

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Clicking on the icon opens a dropdown menu which provides access to a number of functions.

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The screen capture below shows G Data CloudSecurity in action – blocking a suspicious, or dangerous Web site.

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Fast facts:

Compatible with all other security products

Prevents access to malware and phishing websites

Install once – no updates required

PC performance remains unaffected

Download at: Developer’s site. (G Data)

Additional Internet Browser Protection:

It’s not prudent to rely on only one form of protection, it seems to me, so take a look at the following browser security add-ons that are noted for their effectiveness.

It’s important to recognize that cyber-criminals are crafty, and there are no perfect solutions.

Web of Trust (WOT) WOT is a free Internet Browser add-on (my personal favorite), that has established an impressive and well deserved reputation. WOT tests web sites you are visiting for spyware, spam, viruses, browser exploits, unreliable online shops, phishing, and online scams, helping you avoid unsafe web sites. (installed on my computer)

Search Engine Security – Search Engine Security turns the table on the bad guys by using using a technique familiar to most hackers – appearing to be something you’re not. Or, more properly, appearing to come from a location you’re not really at. (installed on my computer)

Basically, the add-on changes the HTTP referrer (selectable by you), in the search string so that when you click on a returned link it appears to the link site that you have not arrived from Bing, Google, or Yahoo.

McAfee SiteAdvisor A free browser add-on that adds small site rating icons to your search results as well as a browser button and optional search box. Together, these alert you to potentially risky sites and help you find safer alternatives. These site ratings are based on tests conducted by McAfee using an army of computers that look for all kinds of threats.

ThreatExpert Browser Defender – The Browser Defender toolbar allows you to surf safely by displaying site ratings as you browse the Internet. When you visit a site its address will be checked by our servers and a rating shown in the toolbar based on any malicious behavior or threats we have found associated with the site. The toolbar also integrates with the search results provided by popular search engines such as Google and Yahoo! so you can see if, in our view, it is safe to continue before you visit a site.

AVG Security Toolbar Free Edition AVG’s unique Search-Shield, available with the AVG Security Toolbar Free Edition, marks all web pages which are infected by zero day exploits and drive-by downloads. This powerful LinkScanner based technology works in real-time to provide comprehensive protection. Other programs rely on static databases and cannot protect you at the only time that matters – the time you click on a link.

TrendProtect – TrendProtect is a free browser plug-in that helps you avoid Web pages with unwanted content and hidden threats. TrendProtect rates the current page and pages listed in Google, MSN, and Yahoo search results. You can use the rating to decide if you want to visit or avoid a given Web page. To rate Web pages, TrendProtect refers to an extensive database that covers billions of Web pages.

Bottom line:

While G Data CloudSecurity does what it says it will do, my personal preference is unchanged. WOT (Web of Trust), backed up by Search Engine Security, is a more appropriates solution.

I’ve reviewed and recommended a bag full of Browser security add-ons in the past few months, or so. No disrespect intended to those developers who have the public’s interest at heart when they develop Browser security add-ons, but…..

Am I the only one who thinks that building protection into my Brower in this potluck fashion, has reached the height of ridiculousness?

Isn’t it long past the time, when a Browsers should be built with the most appropriate form of protection already on board?

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Browser add-ons, Browser Plug-ins, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Internet Explorer Add-ons, Malware Protection, Search Engines, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Valentine’s Day = Cyber Crooks And Malware Love

Love in Your Inbox – Malware on Your Computer

imageIt’s only a few weeks until Valentine’s day, so it’s not to early to get ready for the deluge of  “I love you”, “Wish you were mine”, and of course the proverbial “Happy Valentine’s Day” emails.

Hopefully, you will have a Happy Valentine’s Day, but you won’t if you fall victim to the burst of spam that is aimed at lovers, at this time of year, every year. Much of it designed to drop malware on unsuspecting users machines.

Like clockwork, spammers and cyber crooks ramp up the volume of spam emails aimed at unsuspecting users, just prior to this day, culturally set aside as a “celebration of love”.

In previous years, starting just about this time, we saw abnormally high rates of this type of spam, and since cyber crooks are “opportunity driven”, we can expect much more of this type of cybercriminal activity this year.

Maybe you’re a very cool person who’s significant other is always sending you neat little packages in your email. Things like MP3 files, screensavers, cartoons, YouTube videos and the like. You get them so often, that you just automatically click on the email attachment without even thinking. If you are this type of person, here’s a word of advice – start thinking.

The hook, as it always is in this type of socially engineered email scam, is based on exploiting our emotions. The fact is, we are all pretty curious creatures and let’s face it, who doesn’t like surprises. I think it’s safe to say, we all find it difficult, if not irresistible, to peek at love notes received via email.

The unfortunate truth is, these spam emails often contain links that deliver advertisements, or worse redirect the victim to an unsafe site where malware can be installed on the victim’s computer.

Last year at this time, a friend, who is an astute and aware computer user, fell for one of these carefully crafted teasing emails. On opening the email, he was taken to a site which had pictures of hearts and puppies, and was then asked to choose which one was for him.

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Fortunately, common sense prevailed and he backed out of this site. If he had clicked on this site, he would have begun the process of infecting his machine with a Trojan, which can connect to remote command and control sites.

Unfortunately, being smart is often NOT enough to protect yourself. Experienced users are on guard year round for these, and other types of scam/spam email.

You know what to do, right?

Don’t open emails that come from untrusted sources.

Don’t run files that you receive via email without making sure of their origin.

Don’t click links in emails. If they come from a known source, type them on the browser’s address bar.

If they come from an untrusted source, simply ignore them, as they could take you to a web site designed to download malware onto your computer.

Cyber crooks have moved on from using just emails as a malware delivery vehicle. So, be on the lookout for fraudulent Valentine’s Day greetings in:

Instant Messenger applications.

Twitter

Facebook

Chat forums, etc.

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Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, email scams, FaceBook, Instant Messenger Safety Tips, Internet Security Alerts, Online Safety, spam, Twitter, Windows Tips and Tools

Malware Speaks! Please Listen

image

If malware could speak, what a tale his thoughts could tell.

If you could have a conversation with one, or more, of the scourges that infest the Internet, you might be surprised at what could be learned from such an imaginary conversation. It might go something like this:

I might be malware, but in most cases I’m pretty polite; I won’t infect your computer unless you invite me in. But I can count on lots of you doing just that.

Take my good buddy LOP, for example, he’s been away for awhile, but he recently came back from vacation and he’s now infecting unsuspecting computer users’ machines with renewed vigor. Since LOP is a shift changer, and is often incompletely recognized by many tools – particularly newer forms of the infection, he’s having a hell of a good time.

The people he works for (some might call them cybercrooks – well, actually everyone calls them cybercrooks), are experts at convincing you to install malicious code like LOP.

LOP is a pretty neat piece of malware (his employers are pretty smart fellows), since he’s been designed, amongst other things, to display ads from a range of advertisers through pop-up windows, banner ads and so on.

Oh, and he’ll automatically switch your Internet Explorer home page to his own search engine. One he particularly likes is http://www.mp3search.com. When searches are made with this engine, the results that you see will be advertising pages that LOP chooses to display.

(Sample misdirected search)

Here’s what WOT has to say about mp3search.com. Click on the graphic to expand the image.

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Just in case you decide that LOP is no longer welcome on your computer (that happens all the time), he will connect, every so often, to a web page from which new malware files will be downloaded – making it much more difficult to delete all of the active malicious files on your system.

I should tell you that LOP is extremely hard to get rid of, and just in case you try, you’ll have to deal with over 200+ changes to your Registry Keys. And in case that’s not enough bad news, you should know that LOP will invite lots of his malware friends over, so that they can party on your system.

But LOP has even more tricks up his sleeve. He can  monitor your system’s processes, and can even play with your security applications making them ineffective.

Since he’s a sporty fellow, once he’s done that, he’ll launch a Keylogger to capture your key strokes and just for fun, he’ll go on to scan your email contact list so that he can bug your friends. Hmm, maybe they’ll soon to be your ex friends.

LOP is definitely a hard worker (which is why his employers like him so much), so in his spare time he’s going to look around your operating system for vulnerabilities. You see, he knows that most people, haven’t installed the latest operating system updates, nor have they updated their security applications, like their supposed to.

Even if they have taken care of updating their operating system, it’s almost certain that they haven’t updated installed productivity applications, and LOP knows just how vulnerable these applications can be.

So, think carefully before you offer LOP, or any of his malware friends, that invitation. Once invited in, LOP will settle in for a long, long visit.

Thanks for the chat, but I have to get going. There are lots of unaware Internet users’ waiting to invite me into their computers. I know that many Internet users’ are kind of “click crazy”; so why should LOP be the only one to have some fun!

Oh, by the way, unless you paid attention to what I said, I’ll probably drop by your machine soon. You have a good day now.

This is an edited and revised copy of an article originally posted here July 14, 2009.

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Filed under Adware, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Humor, Internet Safety, Internet Security Alerts, Online Safety, System Security, WOT (Web of Trust)