Each time that you connect to the Internet you are unfortunately, wandering through a raucous neighborhood which has a reputation for being jam-packed with predators.
These predators are intent on stealing your money and personal information, installing damaging programs on your computer, or misleading you with an online scam.
Cyber-crooks are relentless in their pursuit of your money, and it’s all about the money. In the worst case scenario, your identity and your financial security can be severely compromised.
Recently, Symantec reported that 51% of all the viruses, Trojans and other forms of malware it has ever seen were logged during 2009, and Symantec has been in the security business since before the Internet was launched.
Each day, when I boot up my home machine, Immunet Protect, advises me that it is protecting me against 12 Million threats. Today for example (May 16, 2010, the number is 12,866,263. That number is truly mind blowing.
Note: Later in the day, following a re-boot, I noticed that the protection level had risen to 12,876,095 – 10,000 additional threats had been identified.
Various Internet security companies report having to deal with up to as many as 40,000 new versions of malware daily. Here’s the math; one new malware program every four seconds!
Anti malware developer Comodo, looks at these numbers in a way that we can more easily relate to, in its instructive video – Did you Know? Dangers on the Web.
“Did you know that the amount of new malware discovered daily approximates the number of words a person speaks daily?
Or, the amount of money lost by US Consumers due to malware over the past 2 years would have paid the tuition of over one million US College Students?”
Seen in this way, cybercrime takes on a whole new dimension.
Since additional sophisticated threats are constantly being developed, or are currently being deployed, some observers are of the opinion that the Internet is essentially broken.
If you think this is an exaggeration, check this out and then you decide.
Tainted search engine results: Internet security gurus have known for some time that we cannot rely on Internet search engine output to be untainted, and free of potential harmful exposure to malware.
Cyber-crooks continue to be unrelenting in their chase to infect web search results, seeding malicious websites among the top results returned by these engines.
When a potential victim visits one of these sites, the chances of downloading malicious code onto the computer by exploiting existing vulnerabilities, is extremely high.
Infected legitimate websites: According to security solution provider Kaspersky, the rate of infected legitimate web sites, in 2006, was one in every 20,000. In 2009, one in every 150 legitimate was infected by malware, according to Kaspersky.
Drive-by downloads: Drive-by downloads are not new; they’ve been lurking around for years it seems, but they’ve become much more common and craftier recently.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, drive-by download, they are essentially programs that automatically download and install on your computer without your knowledge.
This action can occur while visiting an infected web site, opening an infected HTML email, or by clicking on a deceptive popup window. Often, more than one program is downloaded; for example, file sharing with tracking spyware is very common. It’s important to remember that this can take place without warning, or your approval.
Rogue software: A rogue security application (scareware), is an application usually found on free download and adult websites, or it can be installed from rogue security software websites, using Trojans or, manipulating Internet browser security holes.
After the installation of rogue security software the program launches fake or false malware detection warnings. Rogue security applications, and there seems to be an epidemic of them on the Internet currently, are developed to mislead uninformed computer users’ into downloading and paying for the “full” version of this bogus software, based on the false malware positives generated by the application.
Even if the full program fee is paid, rogue software continues to run as a background process incessantly reporting those fake or false malware detection warnings. Over time, this type of software will essentially destroy the victim’s computer operating system, making the machine unusable.
Email scams: Email scams work because the Cyber-crooks responsible use social engineering as the hook; in other words they exploit our curiosity. The fact is, we are all pretty curious creatures and let’s face it, who doesn’t like surprise emails? I think it’s safe to say, we all love to receive good news emails.
It seems that more and more these days, I get phishing emails in my inboxes all designed to trick me into revealing financial information that can be used to steal my money.
If you’re unfamiliar with phishing, it is defined as the act of tricking unsuspecting Internet users into revealing sensitive or private information. In a phishing attack, the attacker creates a set of circumstances where the potential victims are convinced that they are dealing with an authorized party. It relies for its success on the principle that asking a large number of people for this information, will always deceive at least some of those people.
A personal example of how this works is as follows. According to a recent email (similar in form and content to 20+ I receive each month), my online banking privileges with Bank of America had been blocked due to security concerns. This looked like an official email and the enclosed link made it simple to get this problem solved with just a mouse click. What could be easier than that?
Clicking on the link would have redirected me to a spoof page, comparable to the original site, and I would then have begun the process whereby the scammers would have stripped me of all the confidential information I was willing to provide.
My financial and personal details, had I entered them, would then have been harvested by the cyber-crooks behind this fraudulent scheme who would then have used this information to commit identity and financial theft.
These types of attacks against financial institutions, and consumers, are occurring with such frequency that the IC³ (Internet Crime Complaint Center), has called the situation “alarming”, so you need to be extremely vigilant.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the dangers we are exposed to on the Internet. There are many more technical reasons why the Internet is becoming progressively more dangerous which are outside the scope of this article.
So what do you think? Is the Internet broken – do we need to fix it, and if so, how can we do that?
If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.