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Scam Alert

Pop-ups spread spying program
If you bank on the Web, beware. Sophisticated hackers have been able to watch your keyboard from afar. Various Internet security Web sites reported in late June that a complicated spyware program, currently unnamed, was attacking computers by downloading itself through pop-up ads via a hole in Internet Explorer and via infected e-mails.

Once on the infected computer, the program was designed to watch for entry onto certain banking Web sites. Then the program captured the user's keystrokes used to enter passwords and user names for the bank account and reported the keystrokes back to a scammer's Web site.

The Internet Storm Center, an early warning system set up by the SANS institute, first received a report on June 24th from a man who said the program had been downloaded to one of his company's computers.

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SANS said it appears that the initial infection took place as a result of a pop-up advertisement. That particular infection was programmed to look for many banking Web sites, including Citibank.com, Deutsche-bank.de and Barclays.co.uk.

The bug targets Microsoft's Internet Explorer browsers. Microsoft reports the offending site has been shut down.

That's great. But consumers must be vigilant to protect their PCs from scammer hijackings such as this one.

What can you do?
Microsoft says you can protect your computer by setting your browser security to "high," opening e-mail in plain-text only, adding Web sites you consider safe to "Trusted Sites" and downloading a pop-up blocker.

Other net experts suggest switching to a different browser such as Opera or Mozilla. But these browsers can also fall prey to attacks, so users should be vigilant about upgrading security patches.

At the very least, Internet Explorer users should do the following to protect their systems:

To set your security setting to high:

  • Click on your Explorer Tools menu and choose "Internet Options."
  • Click on the "Security" tab. Click on the "Internet" icon.
  • Pull the Security bar to "high" and click "OK."

To add a Web site to "Trusted Sites":

  • Click on your Explorer Tools menu and choose "Internet Options."
  • Click on the "Security" tab.
  • Click on the "Trusted Sites" icon.
  • Click on "Sites."
  • Enter the Web address and click "Add."

To read your e-mail in plain text in Outlook:
In the newest versions of Outlook, the option for plain-text can be found on the Preferences tab under Options. If you are unable to find "E-mail Options" on your Preferences tab, click on the Help tab on your menu and search for the words "plain text." It should guide you to instructions.

To download a pop-up blocker:

Read about more scams.

-- Posted: July 20, 2004



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