Tuesday, May 12, 2015

SEATTLE- Malware that Takes Your Money

Last night, Jesse Jones on KIRO TV put out an alert about some malware that apparently is being tested in Europe and Japan by criminals before they introduce it to the US market.

Malware is software that often secretly gathers sensitive information on your computer or gains access to parts of your computer that holds private, personal information such as identification, passwords and bank or credit card account numbers. Malware is often introduced to your computer through uninvited emails that have attachments or links that promise deals or more information. Some illegitimate web sites might also introduce malware through links that they have. On clicking on those attachments or links, the malware will install itself onto your computer and do what its designers want it to do. That can range from spying on your daily activities to access your ID and passwords to sensitive accounts such as your credit card or bank account to making your computer part of a “botnet” or system of computers that spread spam at the behest of the criminal or spammer.

According to Jesse, the malware that is being tested will look for the logon information to your bank account, then save that information. Then, the criminal will take some money out of that account. He or she will not take all of your money. After the criminal has taken your money, the malware on your computer sticks around to cover his/her tracks by showing the original balance, to make you think that no money has been stolen out of your account.

If we do see this malware, this will increase the sophistication of cyber theft a few notches.

Jesse’s recommendation is to go back to paper statements and call the bank for your balances.

While this might be a tempting strategy, it does not take into account a complete picture of how we can protect ourselves from ID Theft and unauthorized access to our bank accounts. We are not going to the pre-1990’s to all paper statements. Computers have become an integral part of our lives. Our personal strategy to protect ourselves needs to be as timely and flexible as the criminals who are coming up with new ways to make, or maybe take, money from us. You can take steps to prevent yourself from becoming a victim by:

  1. Prevent malware from entering your computer in the first place.
    1. Have good anti-malware, anti-virus and anti-spam software on your computer. Keep it running in the background and run scans regularly.
    2. Keep your software up to date. Often there is a selection in settings to allow your anti-malware software to check for updates on a regular basis. Select that option, so that you do not have to remember to update it.
    3. DON’T click on any links or attachments from emails from people or businesses that you do not know. And sometimes you may want to be careful about some emails from people you do know. If in doubt, contact the originator separately via phone, email (do not reply), or look up their web site via Google or Bing.
  2. Monitor your bank and credit card accounts closely.
    1. Some experts recommend checking your accounts online daily. However often you check them, check them frequently. You have a better chance to detect irregularities in a timely manner. If you see irregularities, contact your financial institution right away.
    2. If you still want a monthly statement sent to you in the mail, be sure that you have a locking mailbox. ID thieves continue to troll unlocked mailboxes for bank statements that have account numbers that they can use in ID theft. Mail theft still occurs in the 21st century.
  3. Physically protect your bank and credit card statements.
    1. Consider storing your bank and credit card statements in a locking file cabinet.
    2. When you park your car at work, shopping, and at home, take your purse, wallet, cell phone, and laptop with you. Modern car prowlers are looking for credit cards and account numbers.
This report is chilling as far as its reported capability. The key to protecting yourself is to stop the malware from entering your computer in the first place and keeping close track on your accounts. You can protect yourself. By keeping your computer and your personal information secure you can keep your finances safe.






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