Computer Hacking – What Does It Look Like?

June 23rd, 2009 | Tags: , , ,

Ever worried that you might have a virus on your computer? Nervous that your child may unknowingly opened an email with a virus or bug in it? If so, the article, “60 Minutes’ Leslie Stall Investigates Computer Hacking and Conficker” details what computer hacking looks like.

Using a Facebook account, an internet security expert sent Stall a message from a Facebook “friend,” Morey Safer, that was infected with a computer virus. Stall’s computer was infected with the virus the moment she clicked on the link from Morey Safer her Facebook friend. With a second computer side by side with Stall’s, she was able to see how everything she typed, from bank account information to credit card information at Amazon.com was showing up on the second computer almost as instantly as she typed. Many in the 60 Minutes audience got their first virtual look at how easily and quickly online hackers can steal identities and private information.

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Leslie Stall also explored the online hot topic, Conficker, with security experts from the creators of Norton Anti-Virus software. In check out lines, coffee shops and gyms across the country people are chatting about Conficker, often referred to as the Conficker computer virus or the April 1st computer virus.

Conficker is actually not a computer virus but rather is a computer program, which isn’t to say that couldn’t be very dangerous. It has invaded millions of computers world wide that run on Microsoft Widows by linking one infected computer with another building a large, coordinated machine that computer specialist call a botnet. Internet security experts on 60 Minutes referred to as “a network of spies,” in computers that are “sitting there like a sleeper cell.”

Conficker Facts & Figures:

*Conficker has boarded an estimated 9-15 million computers.

*Conficker is targeting corporate and company computers.

*Conficker automatically turns off some security settings built into Microsoft Windows.

*Conficker is not invading computers that run on Apple systems or Linux systems.

*Conficker blocks computer users from going to know web sites that offer anti-virus protection.

*So far the Conficker program has only spread and asked its’ host for further instructions.

*Conficker can be spread with thumb drives as it contains code to activate automatically when it senses that the thumb drive has been plugged in.

*Conficker instructs infected computers to contact a command central and there are specific instructions for contact on April 1st, which has led to the nickname April Fools Day virus.

“The big thing that makes this one creepy is that it’s adapting to the defenses that the security community is putting up,” said Dan Kaminksy, a computer security consultant for Seattle-based IOActive, Inc.

“We’ve got some bad guys out there who are extremely sophisticated,” said Merrick Furst, a professor at Georgia Institute of Technology. “There are a huge number of machines that might be able to be controlled by people other than the owners of those machines.”

Furst adds that he has heard estimates that 3 percent to 5 percent of the computers at Fortune 500 companies might have some form of a so-called malware like the Conficker program, which makes it possible for outsiders to control them or steal data from them.

Microsoft Offers Reward

No one yet knows who built Conficker, nor is it obvious why or for what purpose Conficker was created. Was Conficker created by a young Russian cyber gang or a lone basement terrorist? Was it created to steal identities and massive amounts of money or to wreak technical havoc or is it simply a big April Fool’s joke? Microsoft wants to know and they have offered $250,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Conficker’s creators.

We’ll all soon know what if any consequences are suffered as a result of the Conficker program but we do know that most malware today is usually crime driven for identity theft, data theft, spam, spyware and phishing attacks.

Lisa Carey is a contributing author for Identity Theft Secrets – prevention and protection. You can get tips on Identity theft protection, software, and monitoring your credit as well as learn more about the secrets used by identity thieves at the Identity Theft Secrets blog.

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