Organized Crime Taking Over the Internet?

A recent article in eWeek magazine described how organized crime programmers are using spyware, viruses, pests, and other types of malware to spy on and blackmail legitimate companies. The implications are startling.

The article (link below) goes on to cite examples such as active web sites selling credit card and Social Security numbers as well as PayPal and bank login information, in bulk. Underground programmers offer their services, and overseas job listings request experience in creating spyware and denial-of-service attacks.

More advanced organizations cultivate networks of thousands of infected computers, using them for activites such as wide scale denial-of-service attacks, where the PCs simultaneously flood a server with bogus requests, preventing real users from accessing it (for example, what would happen if 10,000 people telephoned your office simultaneously for two hours?). The group then contacts the victim, demanding a fee to stop the attack. Other uses include spying on users' keystrokes, watching for passwords and credit card numbers to be entered.

One virus analyst cited an example where his company noticed an attempt to hijack an existing "botnet" or infected network of PCs. The entire network changed hands three times that day, with the criminals competing for the existing resource.

Overall this situation demands that all employees (and home users!) practice safe computing - keep anti-virus and anti-spyware programs updated, watch out for phishing e-mails, avoid browser plug-ins found in popup ads, and run anti-spyware scans frequently.

May 2006

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