Category Archives: Websites

Don’t save your credit card data in online shops

Online shops such as Amazon and eBay track many different types of metrics, one of the most important being “conversion rate”. This means how many of their visitors end up buying a product from the website.

They’ve discovered you can increase the conversion rate by remembering a costumer’s payment data.

From a cybersecurity standpoint however this is risky business, since if the online shop gets hacked, then they might reveal a huge amount of stored credit card data, including yours.

Say NO to websites which try to install stuff on your device

If you’re on a website that tries to asks you to install something in order to run properly or for any other reason, leave it immediately!

Here are two examples of what you may come across while you surf the web:

Ask yourself this: why would a website need to install something for you to access it?

The best thing to do is to ignore all the download options that come your way. You should be the one to choose which software you want to install, when to install it and why to install it.

My Account Was Hacked – Here’s How to Control the Damages

In your digital life, it’s quite possible that you may experience a cyber attack. Many of us have had this experience, either in mild forms (adware, browser hijackers) on in more impactful ways (banking Trojans, ransomware, etc.).

Given the frequency in data breaches, your private data could also become involved in such a breach, independently of your actions

So it’s important to have an action plan for when this happens, a plan that can guide your steps and help you manage the panic.

We actually created a guide for that particular situation, which I honestly hope you’ll never experience. It includes advice on how to behave, how to act and what to verify to ensure that your risks are minimized.

I hope you find it useful!

1. First of all, this is not a good time to panic. Take a deep breath and keep your calm.

The opposite, not caring, nor taking any measures, isn’t an option either.

You should be aware that things could quickly escalate in an unwanted direction. It doesn’t matter if you think the service is unimportant to you.

The breached data can be used to hack into other accounts of yours (especially if you use the same password for multiple accounts – please don’t), identity theft, financial damage, blackmailing and cause all sorts of other unwanted headaches.

2. Log into the account of the service that was hacked as soon as you find out about the breach.

Glance over the settings for your account, see if there’s anything fishy or changed there.

If you can’t access your account anymore, reset the password via email.

If you used a fake email for it, or you don’t have access to that email account anymore, you’ll have to contact the administrators of that website and prove it’s your account.

Keep out

3. Change the password for that service. Use a strong, unique password.

If you’ve been reading our blog constantly, you most likely know how much we insist on this issue: never, ever reuse a password. You should have unique, strong passwords, that you change periodically.

However, if it’s too late for this and you recycled the password from the compromised website, change the password for all other services.

You can use a password generator, such as Norton Identity Safe Password Generator, in order to create strong passwords.

In the future, prepare for the worse and make sure you don’t reuse the passwords, in order to minimize the impact in case of a hacked account. You wouldn’t use the same key for your house and for you car, would you?

Remember to treat the answers to the password security questions the same as you treat your password. Don’t use real answers, instead generate strong passwords. The real answers can be easily discovered by attackers.

And never keep your passwords in a file on your computer, mail or cloud. Instead, you can use a passwords management application, like LastPass or Dashlane. This way, you won’t have to memorize 30-40 strong passwords, with all their capital letters and symbols and numbers, passwords that you regularly change. You’ll only have to remember the master password for your LastPass account, your other passwords will be safely encrypted.

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4. If available, activate two-factor (or more) authentication.

The two-factor authentication (or two-steps verification) will add an extra layer of security, using your mobile phone. It works as a secondary authentication method, besides your password.

It will send you a one-time, unique digit code by SMS or generated by an authentication app installed on your phone.

Gmail, Twitter, Facebook and Amazon are among the ones who offer this option. You can find an extended list on TwoFactorAuth.org.

How your online accounts are interconnected

5. Change the password to your email or any other linked accounts.

As soon as you find out about the breach, change the password for the email you used to create the account for the service that got hacked.

Also look over the email settings, especially the Email Forwarding, Filters, Reply-to Address and Security Questions, to make sure that everything’s in order. An attacker will try to leave some kind of a back door opened, to come back into the account.

Your email address is most likely tied to many of your online accounts. If any of those is compromised, you’ll have to change the password to any other service that was remotely linked.

Also de-authorize all the third-party apps, that use your account.

Source/Reference

How to see where shortened URLs take you (before clicking)

Shortened URLs, such as http://bit.ly/1zMdODv and http://bit.ly/1zMdODv are tricky, because you never know where you might end up. This is rarely true for entities you trust and follow closely, but cyber criminals can abuse URL shortners to redirect your traffic to malicious online locations.

If you want to check the link and see where it may lead before click on it, copy and paste it here: https://unshorten.it/

Careful when clicking Accept (Adware)

The truth is that no one reads the Terms and Conditions. We just scroll and click “Accept”, so we can get to the point where we can use the apps we install and do what we need to do.

However, when using new software whose trustworthiness you’re unsure of, it’s best to at least glance over the terms and conditions before clicking “I agree” or “Accept”.

Online crooks sometimes slip adware into otherwise safe software installers, and they bury it in the fine print of the terms and conditions. Since no one reads it, users unknowingly install adware that can potentially open up their systems to other cyber threats.

So please only install software from trusted sources and be careful of what it can hide.

Top Ten Cyber Security Predictions

1. The Internet of Things

The First Major Attack on IoT Devices​ 2016 was the breakout year for attacks on IoT devices. In October, the first massive cyber attack involving IoT devices, such as​ ​webcams and DVRs, occurred. The ​Mirai Botnet was unleashed, and it took down half the Internet in the United States ​for hours. Using what is called a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, cybercriminals flooded one of the largest server companies in the world with massive amounts of traffic, bringing down the servers and websites hosted on them. It was discovered that tens of millions of computers were sending data to targeted websites, simultaneously. Shortly after the U.S. attack, the same botnet attacked Germany, disrupting services for over 900,000 Internet subscribers.

​This particular strain of malware is not going away anytime soon. The malware itself is believed to be widely distributed on the black market, and hackers are offering established botnet armies for hire. The big surprise for users involved in this attack was realizing that connected devices have default usernames and passwords.

Because of this fact, the attackers targeted certain devices that for which they had obtained the default usernames and passwords.This threat is likely to continue given the increasing popularity of connected devices, but there are ways you can protect yourself. IoT devices, no matter how small they seem, are computers too! Do some research on your device to see if it has a default password. If it does, the manufacturer’s website should have instructions on how to change it.

A new security solution for IoT vulnerabilities​

Over the past year, here at Norton, we’ve been keeping a close eye on the Internet of things threat landscape. As a result, we’re proud to announce the brand new Norton Core router.

Unlike conventional routers, Norton Core was built to secure and protect connected homes. To provide strong wireless coverage, Norton Core has a unique antenna array inside a geodesic dome of interlocking faces, inspired by defense and weather radars deployed in the extreme reaches of the globe. Norton Core’s unique mathematical design encourages users to place it out in the open, as part of their home décor, providing a strong, unobstructed Wi-Fi signal.

IoT Ransomware

In addition to the Mirai Botnet targeting IoT devices, we also saw a new ransomware threat that affected smart TVs. FLocker (short for “Frantic Locker”) ransomware was capable of locking up an Android-based television. This particular ransomware strain is not new, as it has been posing a threat to Android smartphones since May of 2015. However, this particular strain made the jump to smart TVs running android OS in 2016. Luckily, this variant of malware does not encrypt files on the infected television. However, it does lock the screen, preventing the user from watching TV.

The continued targeting of smart devices by cybercriminals is our top threat prediction for 2017. With all these new attacks starting to ramp up in late 2016, we can only expect to see more of attacks on these devices in 2017.

2. The Apple Threat Landscape

The Apple threat landscape was extremely busy in 2016. We reported on seven major stories in 2016. In 2015, we saw quite a few proof of concepts, but 2016 brought more threats out into the wild. These are the same threats that are affecting Windows and Android devices.

Fake Apps Do Exist for iPhones

Cybercriminals sneaked fake shopping apps into the app store right before the holiday season. While Apple has a rigorous vetting process for their apps, these scammers got tricky and updated the apps with malware after Apple approved them for the App Store.

Spyware Is Everywhere

In addition to fake apps, 2016 saw the first targeted spyware released in the wild for iOS. Researchers discovered that a highly sophisticated cyber espionage group deployed a very rare, advanced form of spyware, which can break an iPhone wide open. The spyware, known as Pegasus, is distributed by sending a link to a malicious website via text message. The good news: Apple has already pushed out the update to the vulnerability.

iOS Bugs Are Ramping Up

Also on the iOS platform, there were three major vulnerabilities to keep an eye on. Researchers discovered a way to break the encryption used by iMessage that could allow attackers to access and steal attachments such as images, videos and documents that are being shared securely with contacts.

The second vulnerability discovered involves the handling of PDF documents. An attacker could send you a booby-trapped PDF that would then cause malicious code to run on your iPhone.

The third involves the fix of a three-year old cookie theft bug. Cookies are small files that contain various types of data that remember a user, and are placed on your computer or mobile device by websites you visit. This flaw can allow hackers to impersonate users and steal sensitive information by creating a malicious public Wi-Fi network. The hackers then wait for a compromised user to join the network and redirect them to a malicious website designed to steal user credentials. From there, the hacker would be able to open the embedded browser screen you would see when joining a public Wi-Fi network, load content into a user’s phone and execute it without them knowing.

Mac Ransomware–It’s Happening!

In March of 2016 Apple customers were the targets of the first Mac-focused ransomware campaign executed by cybercriminals. In this instance, it was the first time that cybercriminals used malware to execute real-life attacks.

In this particular case, users were downloading a program called “Transmission for BitTorrent,” which is used for peer-to-peer file sharing. Users downloaded a “bad” version of the installer for the software, which contained a malicious Trojan horse, known as OSX.Keranger. A Trojan horse is malicious software that can wreak havoc with data in many ways–such as the deletion, modification, copying, and stealing of data–as well as implant ransomware on the device. Like most ransomware, will encrypt a user’s files and demand a fee to release them.

Not Just Macs and iPhones Anymore

2016 also brought the first major issue to Apple’s AirPort routers. Apple discovered vulnerabilities in the firmware of AirPorts that could allow attackers to execute commands on the affected devices and infiltrate home networks. If your AirPort is flashing yellow, go update your firmware now!

This just goes to show that Apple products do need security software, now more than ever. You can protect your Mac against these threats and more with Norton Security Premium.

3. Man in the Middle Attacks

2016 was also a big year for Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attacks. An MitM attack employs the use of an unsecured or poorly secured, usually public, Wi-Fi router. The hacker scans the router using special code looking for certain weaknesses such as default or poor password use. Once a vulnerability is discovered, the attacker will then insert themself in between the users’ computer and the websites the user visits to intercept the messages being transmitted between the two.

A lot of these attacks take place on public Wi-Fi hotspots. Since most of these networks are unsecured, it’s easy pickings for cybercriminals. In addition to unsecured hotspots, hackers will also set up legitimate-looking Wi-Fi networks in order to lure unsuspecting users to connect and give them full access to their device.

Norton WiFi Privacy is a VPN that encrypts all the information sent and received by your mobile device while you’re on public Wi-Fi, making your public connection private. Download Norton WiFi Privacy now.

4. Android, Android, Android!

In 2016, we reported on six major Android events. The top three threats we saw involved fake apps, botnets, and, of course, ransomware.

Bad Apps

Hundreds of malicious applications showed up on the Google Play store in October, disguised as legitimate applications. These malicious apps were carrying malware known as Dresscode. Dresscode is designed to infiltrate networks and steal data. It can also add infected devices to botnets, which carry out denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks as well as take part in spam email campaigns.

Android Botnets

Android smartphone users should be aware of a dangerous new type of malware that spreads via spam SMS or MMS messages.  The Mazar BOT, as it is called, tricks the Android user into providing administrative access to the infected Android phone and can then erase any stored data. Although security research experts believe this malware has several hidden capabilities that are still being discovered, they know this malware will turn your smartphone into part of a hacker botnet web.

Mobile Ransomware

In 2016 there was a lot of mobile ransomware rampant on the threat landscape. Most notably, there were two that left devices completely vulnerable.

One variant of Android ransomware uses what is called “clickjacking” tactics to try and trick users into giving the malware device administrator rights. Clickjacking occurs when attackers conceal hyperlinks beneath legitimate content, tricking the user into performing actions of which they are unaware. Users stumble upon these illegitimate links, assuming that when they fill out a field, click on a link, or type in their passwords they’re gaining access to what they see in front of them.

Android.Lockdroid was spotted on March 11, 2016, and disguised itself as a system update. What’s different about this particular strain is that once the ransomware detects that it’s installed on a device in a certain country, it displays the ransom message in that country’s language. This is the first type of “chameleon” ransomware we’ve spotted. In general, Android.Lockdroid needs to be manually downloaded by the user from adult sites to infect devices. It could also automatically arrive on the device when the user clicks on advertising links, which is known as malvertising, a form of malicious advertising.

Taking advantage of quality security software such as Norton Mobile Security, (link is external) is an important measure that protects your device from malicious apps. With Norton Mobile Security, you can use our app advisor to scan for “bad apps” before downloading them to your phone. Norton App Advisor is a special feature included with Norton Mobile Security. It warns of privacy risks, intrusive behavior of apps, excessive battery drainage and data plan usage. It also features call and SMS blocking, anti-theft, contacts backup and protects your mobile phone from malware.

5. Malicious Sites, Drive-by-Downloads and Malvertising

Malvertising is a combined term for malicious advertising, and uses legitimate online advertising services to spread malware. Malvertising requires placing malware-infected advertisements on regular Web pages through authentic online advertising networks in order to infect a device through the Web browser. Malvertising can affect ANY device–PC, Mac, Android, etc.

In March of 2016 several mainstream websites fell victim to a massive malvertising campaign. The tainted ads in these websites directed thousands of unsuspecting users to a landing page hosting the notorious Angler Exploit Kit, a kit that stealthily installs crypto-ransomware.

Malicious Websites and Drive-by-Downloads

A drive-by-download is a download that occurs when a user visits a malicious website that is hosting an exploit kit. There is no interaction needed on the user’s part other than visiting the infected webpage. The exploit kit will look for a vulnerability in the software of the browser and inject malware via the security hole. Symantec identified thousands of websites in 2016 that had been compromised with malicious code. Of the compromised websites, 75 percent were located in the U.S.

Defensive software such as Norton Security will prevent known drive-by downloads and warn you when you try to visit a malicious website.

If you are unsure about the credibility of a website you can also use Norton Safe Web, a free online tool, that can help identify risky websites as you browse the Web.

6. Social Media Scams

In 2016, Facebook reported that it had 1.71 billion monthly active Facebook users. Twitter has 313 million monthly active users. With so many active users, popular social sites are a scammer’s paradise. The motives are the same: scammers try to exploit these stories for any kind of financial gain possible.

Scammers will try to entice you into clicking by posting sensational or emotional breaking news stories, sometimes capitalizing on a recent news event, or making up a fake, shocking news story. When you click on the link, you get a notification that you need to download a plug-in in order to view the video. Click on it and you could be downloading spyware that will stay on your device and collect personal information that could be used for identity theft. Remember to delete emails from unknown senders and don’t download unknown plug-ins.

7. Tax Scams and Identity Theft

It’s important to realize that tax documents contain a plethora of personally identifiable information about people, such as wage information, Social Security numbers, home addresses and place of employment. Once these documents are obtained, the criminals would have everything they need to perform tax refund fraud; effectively stealing tax refunds owed to others. Because these documents contain a plethora of information, they can help the scammers commit identity fraud In addition to tax refund fraud.

Examples of phishing emails to be on the lookout for:

  • Fake IRS and TurboTax emails claiming the recipient’s tax refund is restricted or their account has been locked
  • Fake IRS-branded emails asking the recipient to update their tax filing information
  • Fake email claims saying a tax payment was deducted and includes a “receipt”
  • Fake email from the IRS seeking proof of identity documents because “You are eligible to receive a refund”
  • W2 phishing emails targeting employees

Existing Trends Coming Back for More

8. Ransomware:

Ransomware is here to stay. The first known case of ransomware popped up in 2013, and hackers have latched on to this tactic, refining it over the years. In 2016 we reported on eight major ransomware campaigns, which affected everything: Macs, Windows computers, Android platforms and more.

This year, we saw some notably new forms of ransomware, which just goes to show that cybercriminals are trying to “up their game” in extorting money from you.

The most unique form of ransomware we saw was the Jigsaw ransomware. This is not your average ransomware. Like other ransomware, Jigsaw will encrypt your files and demand a ransom in order to retrieve your files; however, it also comes with a countdown timer. During the first 24 hours it will start deleting a few files every hour. On the second day, the ransomware will delete hundreds of files, on the third day it will delete thousands–until the ransom is paid. Additionally, if you try to tamper with the ransomware or even restart your computer, it will delete 1,000 files as a “punishment.

”Whatever happens in ANY case of ransomware, do NOT pay the ransom, and be sure to keep regular backups to help protect your data in case you become a victim of ransomware.

Need backup? Norton Security Premium offers you an easy way to help defend against ransomware as well as a convenient backup solution.

9. Software Vulnerabilities and Software Updates:

Major software vulnerabilities continued to be a huge problem in 2016. Attackers heavily rely upon these vulnerabilities, as it is the easiest way to sneak malware into a user’s device unnoticed, with little action on the user’s part.

We reported on six major vulnerabilities in 2016- including an Adobe patch for 25 flaws, as well as quite a few other emergency patches from them as well.

The best way to combat against these attacks is to perform any and all software updates as soon as they are available. Software updates will patch those security holes attackers exploit, add new features and improve bug fixes.

10. 2016 Was a Banner Year for Mega Data Breaches

​Unfortunately, data breaches are almost as common as malware outbreaks. In 2016 there were eight mega-breaches involving major companies. Most recently, in December, over 1 million Google accounts were breached via malicious Android apps. This attack was particularly nasty because the only way to completely remove this malware from an infected device is to do a clean installation of the operating system. This is a complicated process, but mobile carriers can perform the installation for users.

However, topping the list for the most accounts breached was Yahoo, with a whopping total of 1.5 billion users. Yahoo announced this year that they had been the victim of two separate cyber attacks that occurred in 2014. The first breach that was announced stole information associated with 500 million accounts. The second breach, which is now the largest data breach in history, stole information from one billion accounts.

The second largest data breach of 2016 was from FriendFinder Networks Inc., which involved a breach of over 400 million accounts. 117 million LinkedIn user credentials were also snagged in 2016, and Dropbox verified that 68 million credentials were also stolen last year.

Big data is big money for attackers, so they set their sights on companies that tend to hold large amounts of personally identifiable data on their customers, such as Social Security numbers, birthdates, home addresses and even medical records. It’s easy for a cybercrime victim to report credit card fraud and just get a new number. When it comes to a Social Security number, though, you are bound to it for life. And Social Security numbers open the door to all sorts of identity theft.

Source/Reference

Important things you need to know about phishing

Phishing is when an attacker misuses technology to trick someone into divulging sensitive information, such as usernames and passwords or credit card numbers. People often associate phishing with fraudulent email messages—think Nigerian prince scams—but
phishing also reaches victims through web pages, documents, text messages, social media content, instant messaging, advertisements, and even phone calls.
  •  A phishing website lives, on average, for 15 hours. Cybercriminals take phishing websites down quickly so authorities can’t track them down.
  • Attackers use safe websites to hide their phishing websites to keep their operations going.
  • In 2016, cyber security researchers have found over 400,000 phishing websites each month! That’s almost 5 million phishing websites in a year!
  • Cybercriminals impersonated Google, PayPal, Yahoo and Apple the most this year, using them to manipulate users and trick them into revealing their confidential information.
Despite its humble beginnings, phishing has come a long way
since those first crudely constructed phishing emails. The
following are the most important findings from this report:
Strengthening an organization’s anti-phishing strategy means
moving beyond old techniques that use static phishing
domain or URL lists to highly automated technologies based
on sophisticated machine learning methods. These more
advanced technologies can quickly check the characteristics
and metadata for each requested webpage to look for signs of
phishing, then report a score or rating that the organization can
use to make automated decisions about allowing or denying
access to the page. When phishing sites can appear and
disappear in the length of a coffee break, highly automated
machine learning solutions are the only way to prevent
successful phishing attacks and the major data breaches they
facilitate.

Top 10 Tips To Stay Safe Online


With hacks, scams, malware and more, the Internet can feel like a dangerous place these days. And, the recent proliferation of devices, from smartphones and tablets to Internet-connected appliances, has opened us up to even greater risks.

But the good news is that by taking just a small handful of security measures we can greatly reduce our exposure to all these threats.

Here are some tips to help you get started:

1. Create Complex Passwords. We know you’ve heard it before, but creating strong, unique passwords for all your critical accounts really is the best way to keep your personal and financial information safe. This is especially true in the era of widespread corporate hacks, where one database breach can reveal tens of thousands of user passwords. If you reuse your passwords, a hacker can take the leaked data from one attack and use it to login to your other accounts. Our best advice: use a password manager to help you store and create strong passwords for all of your accounts.

Then, check to see if your online accounts offer multi-factor authentication. This is when multiple pieces of information are required to verify your identity. So, to log into an account you may need to enter a code that is sent to your phone, as well as your password and passphrase.

2. Boost Your Network Security. Now that your logins are safer, make sure that your connections are secure. When at home or work, you probably use a password-protected router that encrypts your data. But, when you’re on the road, you might be tempted to use free, public Wi-Fi.The problem with public Wi-Fi is that it is often unsecured. This means it’s relatively easy for a hacker to access your device or information. That’s why you should consider investing in a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN is a piece of software that creates a secure connection over the internet, so you can safely connect from anywhere.

3. Use a Firewall. Even if your network is secure, you should still use a firewall. This an electronic barrier that blocks unauthorized access to your computers and devices, and is often included with comprehensive security software. Using a firewall ensures that all of the devices connected to your network are secured, including Internet of Things (IoT) devices like smart thermostats and webcams. This is important since many IoT devices aren’t equipped with security measures, giving hackers a vulnerable point of entry to your entire network.

4. Click Smart. Now that you’ve put smart tech measures into place, make sure that you don’t invite danger with careless clicking. Many of today’s online threats are based on phishing or social engineering. This is when you are tricked into revealing personal or sensitive information for fraudulent purposes. Spam emails, phony “free” offers, click bait, online quizzes and more all use these tactics to entice you to click on dangerous links or give up your personal information. Always be wary of offers that sound too good to be true, or ask for too much information.

5. Be a Selective Sharer. These days, there are a lot of opportunities to share our personal information online. Just be cautious about what you share, particularly when it comes to your identity information. This can potentially be used to impersonate you, or guess your passwords and logins.

6. Protect Your Mobile Life. Our mobile devices can be just as vulnerable to online threats as our laptops. In fact, mobile devices face new risks, such as risky apps and dangerous links sent by text message. Be careful where you click, don’t respond to messages from strangers, and only download apps from official app stores after reading other users’ reviews first. Make sure that your security software is enabled on your mobile, just like your computers and other devices.

7. Practice Safe Surfing & Shopping. When shopping online, or visiting websites for online banking or other sensitive transactions, always make sure that the site’s address starts with “https”, instead of just “http”, and has a padlock icon in the URL field. This indicates that the website is secure and uses encryption to scramble your data so it can’t be intercepted by others. Also, be on the lookout for websites that have misspellings or bad grammar in their addresses. They could be copycats of legitimate websites. Use a safe search tool such as McAfee SiteAdvisor to steer clear of risky sites.

8. Keep up to date. Keep all your software updated so you have the latest security patches. Turn on automatic updates so you don’t have to think about it, and make sure that your security software is set to run regular scans.

9. Lookout for the latest scams. Online threats are evolving all the time, so make sure you know what to look out for. Currently, ransomwareis on the rise. This is when a hacker threatens to lock you out of all of your files unless you agree to pay a ransom. Stay on top of this and other threats by staying informed.

10. Keep your guard up. Always be cautious about what you do online, which sites you visit, and what you share. Use comprehensive security software, and make sure to backup your data on a regular basis in case something goes wrong. By taking preventative measures, you can save yourself from headaches later on.

Reference

Online Shopping Safety Tips

Using Public Wi-fi

“If you are shopping on your phone or computer and using an unknown WiFi connection, save the purchases for later. Don’t enter any personal information such as name, address, or credit card number until you are on a secure and known connection.” – Loki Labs, www.lokilabs.io

Visiting a New Website

“Check the seller’s customer satisfaction ratings. Review other user’s comments and check out the seller’s rating on sites like Google Shopping. Low “star” ratings may provide a red flag that cautions you to find a more reputable seller.” – Diverse Concepts, www.dciits.com“Check the Better Business Bureau website to see if there are a large number of complaints about the seller. https://www.bbb.org/greater-maryland/” – Diverse Concepts, www.dciits.com

“Go directly to the seller’s site rather than clicking a “coupon” link that was sent to you by an unknown source. Scammers can often use a tactic called cross-site scripting to craft a hyperlink that appears to be the actual merchant site but actually relays your credit card information to the scammer when you put your payment information into the payment web form. Unless you can verify that a coupon came from the actual vendor’s site to which you have already subscribed, it’s best to avoid random coupons with unknown origins.” – Diverse Concepts, www.dciits.com

“Find out the seller’s physical address. If the merchant only has a P.O. box listed, then that may be a red flag. If his address is 1234 in a van down by the river, you may consider shopping elsewhere.” – Diverse Concepts, www.dciits.com

“Check the seller’s privacy policy. While we might not think about it, some sellers resell our personal information, buying preferences, and other data to market research companies, telemarketers, and spammers. Read carefully and always make sure that you are opting-out and not opting-in when asked whether you want to have your information shared with “3rd parties” (unless you like a lot of spam in your e-mail). You may also want to obtain a separate e-mail account to use while shopping online to avoid clogging up your personal e-mail box with the barrage of sale ads and other junk mail that is frequently sent out.” – Diverse Concepts, www.dciits.com

“If you’re buying something on a new website and they want you to sign up for an account, use a new password. Never use the same passwords for shopping sites as you do for anything else, such as email, bank logins, etc. (It’s a good idea to use a different password for every site you go to but this is especially important.) Even if the company you’re purchasing from is legitimate, you don’t know who might have access to their database now or in the future.” – Loki Labs, www.lokilabs.io

Resources:

Recognizing and Avoiding Spyware

What is spyware?

Despite its name, the term “spyware” doesn’t refer to something used by undercover operatives, but rather by the advertising industry. In fact, spyware is also known as “adware.” It refers to a category of software that, when installed on your computer, may send you pop-up ads, redirect your browser to certain web sites, or monitor the web sites that you visit. Some extreme, invasive versions of spyware may track exactly what keys you type. Attackers may also use spyware for malicious purposes.

Because of the extra processing, spyware may cause your computer to become slow or sluggish. There are also privacy implications:

  • What information is being gathered?
  • Who is receiving it?
  • How is it being used?

How do you know if there is spyware on your computer?

The following symptoms may indicate that spyware is installed on your computer:

  • you are subjected to endless pop-up windows
  • you are redirected to web sites other than the one you typed into your browser
  • new, unexpected toolbars appear in your web browser
  • new, unexpected icons appear in the task tray at the bottom of your screen
  • your browser’s home page suddenly changed
  • the search engine your browser opens when you click “search” has been changed
  • certain keys fail to work in your browser (e.g., the tab key doesn’t work when you are moving to the next field within a form)
  • random Windows error messages begin to appear
  • your computer suddenly seems very slow when opening programs or processing tasks (saving files, etc.)

How can you prevent spyware from installing on your computer?

To avoid unintentionally installing it yourself, follow these good security practices:

  • Don’t click on links within pop-up windows – Because pop-up windows are often a product of spyware, clicking on the window may install spyware software on your computer. To close the pop-up window, click on the “X” icon in the titlebar instead of a “close” link within the window.
  • Choose “no” when asked unexpected questions – Be wary of unexpected dialog boxes asking whether you want to run a particular program or perform another type of task. Always select “no” or “cancel,” or close the dialog box by clicking the “X” icon in the titlebar.
  • Be wary of free downloadable software – There are many sites that offer customized toolbars or other features that appeal to users. Don’t download programs from sites you don’t trust, and realize that you may be exposing your computer to spyware by downloading some of these programs.
  • Don’t follow email links claiming to offer anti-spyware software – Like email viruses, the links may serve the opposite purpose and actually install the spyware it claims to be eliminating.

As an additional good security practice, especially if you are concerned that you might have spyware on your machine and want to minimize the impact, consider taking the following action:

  • Adjust your browser preferences to limit pop-up windows and cookies – Pop-up windows are often generated by some kind of scripting or active content. Adjusting the settings within your browser to reduce or prevent scripting or active content may reduce the number of pop-up windows that appear. Some browsers offer a specific option to block or limit pop-up windows. Certain types of cookies are sometimes considered spyware because they reveal what web pages you have visited.

How do you remove spyware?

  • Run a full scan on your computer with your anti-virus software – Some anti-virus software will find and remove spyware, but it may not find the spyware when it is monitoring your computer in real time. Set your anti-virus software to prompt you to run a full scan periodically
  • Run a legitimate product specifically designed to remove spyware – Many vendors offer products that will scan your computer for spyware and remove any spyware software. Popular products include Lavasoft’s Ad-Aware, Microsoft’s Window Defender, Webroot’s SpySweeper, and Spybot Search and Destroy.
  • Make sure that your anti-virus and anti-spyware software are compatible – Take a phased approach to installing the software to ensure that you don’t unintentionally introduce problems