Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Credit Card Protection From Hacking

Consumer beware, there are hackers on the prowl, and they want your credit card, bank account and lots of other stuff too.

Credit card hackers were once highly gifted computer geniuses. Not so anymore. Today, even the mildly computer literate person can buy software that can do the job of the highly skilled.

Protect yourself

In this day and age, it’s not such a bad thing to be a little paranoid when it comes to security. There are excellent programs available that help in making personal accounts less susceptible to hacker attacks.

  • anti-virus programs
  • anti-spam programs
  • anti-spy ware
  • firewalls

It is important, however, to use these programs by updating regularly and running the anti-virus scanner at least once a week. With constant maintenance, programs like the popular keystroke logger, can usually be caught and deleted before any damage can be done.

The keystroke logger is a popular hacking tool. Easily disguised within other programs, it keeps track of every keystroke a targeted user makes; including bank account and credit card numbers and passwords. Hackers hide keystroke loggers inside free downloads, or even when a word is misspelled in a search engine. Last year, one mistyped letter in a Google search would have brought on a bevy of viruses.

Here phishy, phishy

Phishing, as the name implies, lets the hacker go fishing for his prey through email. Thus, the word is derived from the combination: fish-as in reeling in, and phony-as in fake.

A hacker sends out an email that seems to be from a trusted company. This email usually threatens closure of the user’s account unless the instructions in the email are followed. A link to the company website is provided. Once clicked, the user sees the familiar company web page, complete with logos, company information, etc. The email usually reads something like this:

For security reasons, the company is asking you to update your account. Please follow this link and update today. If we don’t hear from you within 48 hours, your account will be closed.

The fish has been reeled in and is now entering personal information on a phony web page. Banks and credit card companies lose more than $1.2 billion yearly to phishing scams.

The easiest way to avoid being taken in by these web con-artists is to know one basic fact: financial institutions and legitimate businesses NEVER ask for personal information by email.
Dmitri Alperovitch, research engineer for CipherTrust, Inc. says, Anytime you get an email from a financial institution that asks you to go to a Web site and enter financial information, a whole bunch of red flags should jump up.


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