Online Security Issues: Cracking Down on Hackers - Hackers and Phishers
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A hacker is defined as a person who gains access to a computer system by circumventing its security. A “phisher” is someone who participates in the illegal act of trying to or succeeding at acquiring personal online information, like passwords, usernames, and credit card information. This information is usually obtained when the phisher masquerades as a legitimate source using e-mail.
For example, a phisher may send someone an e-mail that looks exactly like the type of e-mails they receive from their bank or PayPal. Though these e-mails look legitimate, they’re not, and when users click on the links located in the body of the text and sign on to what they believe to be their account, their personal information is actually being stolen. Social networking sites, auction sites such as eBay, online payment processors such as PayPal, and IT administrators are common targets for phishers.
On December 22nd, quite a few U.S.-based businesses were hit by hackers because of an attack on one of the most popular open-source advertising companies on the Internet: OpenX . According to reports, hackers took advantage of a flaw in the OpenX software by placing damaging and malicious code in advertisements that appeared on several very popular websites. Apparently there is a pair of bugs in OpenX’s advertising software which made it possible for the hackers to log in to advertising servers and place the harmful code on commonly-used ads.
One of the websites affected by the code belonged to King Features, a very popular comic book distributor. According to a statement released by the company, the malicious code placed in their advertisements used a “new, unpatched Adobe attack.” When these types of attacks happen, they’re not just unfortunate for the business being affected; they can be especially harmful to consumers. Anyone who visits a site that has been tampered with is in danger of having malicious software placed on their computer as well. When hackers attack, the consequences are far-reaching.
PC World security experts have reported that “web-based attacks are a favorite way for cyber-criminals to install their malicious software,” and this latest round of hacks illustrates just “how ad server networks can become useful conduits for an attack.”
Even more distressing for consumers are recent phishing scams that are successfully scamming login information from web masters. Just this month, scam e-mail artists launched a huge campaign that involved tricking web masters into giving them the information needed to administer their websites. As a result, site owners at over 90 online hosting providers were attacked, and the phishers were able to build a huge network of websites they could use for no other purpose than to distribute malicious software.
Consumers cannot live in fear of their personal information being stolen, and they especially can’t worry about having their computer attacked every time they log on to their favorite seemingly-safe websites. If, however, you are genuinely concerned about these things, there are things you can do to protect yourself.
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