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Are Hackers Using Your Webcam to Watch You?

webcam-hacking

 

 

Here is an interesting article about how a hacker can take control of your PC or Laptop web-cam. 

 

 

By Kim Boatman

Steven Fox, an IT security expert, was chatting with friends on his webcam one night when he started receiving some strange emails. Imagine his surprise when he opened one and found images of himself chatting.

His webcam had been hacked by a “script kiddie,” a person who uses malware written by someone else to show off their skills at accessing other computer systems, says Fox. He quickly detached the webcam, but he had to reinstall his operating system after he found malware installed on his computer. “It was painful, but it was a learning experience,” says Fox, who writes a column for the journal of the Information Systems Security Association.

The Risks of Web-cams
Webcams may let you stay in touch with friends and family, but they also pose risks of people hacking into them and spying on you. A Pennsylvania lawsuit accused a school district of using webcams on school-issued laptops to spy on students and their families. And in 2009 in China, a sophisticated network of hackers known as GhostNet cracked 1,295 webcams in 103 countries.

Since most laptops now come with a built-in webcam, it’s critical to understand the risks, says Richard Stiennon, a malware expert with IT-Harvest, a research firm that specializes in Internet security. “We all have to become aware that our every action could be watched,” says Stiennon.

How Hackers Attack Web-cams
Most hackers utilize so-called Trojan horse attacks, says Stiennon. You click on an attachment or download a piece of music or video infected with malware, and a hacker is able to remotely control your PC’s functions.

Fortunately, you can take steps to secure your webcam. Experts offer these do’s and dont’s:

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  • Don’t click on suspicious attachments. You’ve heard it before, but too often we click without thinking. Email attachments remain a prime source for malware. Be wary of those supposedly funny emails forwarded by friends and family. You should also avoid suspicious sites offering free downloads of music, TV shows or videos.
  • Do use a firewall. “Firewalls provide a measure of protection against unwanted traffic,” explains Fox. Your computer comes with a firewall, but you need to make sure it’s turned on. If you use a Windows operating system, click on the Windows symbol in the lower-left corner of your screen, search for Windows Firewall, and you’ll be able to check the firewall settings. If you use a Mac OS, open System Preferences, click on the Sharing icon, select the Firewall tab and click Start.
  • Do use strong antivirus software. Install a security suite that offers malware and spyware protection, then make sure you keep the protection up-to-date.
  • Don’t keep PCs with web-cams in bedrooms. Limit webcam use to high-traffic areas, and remind family members not to do anything in front of a webcam they wouldn’t want the world to see.
  • Do secure your wireless connection. Make sure your wireless connection is protected with a unique password (not the default one that came with the router).
  • Don’t talk to strangers. Avoid IM conversations with people you don’t know, and advise your kids to do the same.
  • Do be cautious about accepting tech help. Would-be hackers have been known to ingratiate themselves with acquaintances by offering computer help. But that gives them the chance to rig web-cams so they can spy on the computer user.
  • Do look for the indicator light. On external web-cams, you’ll usually see a red light indicating the camera is on. Laptops with internal webcams usually have an LED indicator too. If you use an external webcam, simply detach it from the USB port when it’s not in use.

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In the end, your best bet is to use a decidedly low-tech solution, say the experts. “The ultimate security control is to cover the lens,’’ says Fox. If your webcam doesn’t come with a lens cover, use an adhesive bandage or even a yellow sticky note to cover it up. (Just make sure nothing sticky is touching the lens itself, so you don’t damage it.) “It sounds silly, but it gives you positive feedback that no one is spying on you,” says Stiennon.

Kim Boatman is a Silicon Valley, Calif., journalist who writes about security and technology. She spent more than 15 years writing about a variety of topics for the San Jose Mercury News.

Article Source: yoursecurityresource.com

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Internet Crime and Taxes are two of life’s certainties

cybercrime-freakingnewscom[1]

 

 

 

AVG (AU/NZ) reminds consumers and small businesses to be alert to the latest online scams and phishing attacks targeting this tax return season.

 

 

 

MELBOURNE, 13 June 2012 — Ahead of this year’s tax return season, AVG (AU/NZ) Pty Ltd, distributor of AVG Technologies’ award-winning AVG Internet and mobile security software in Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific, alerts consumers and small businesses to the latest attempts by cyber criminals to gain access to lucrative identity and financial information. With upwards of 2.5 million individuals using the Australian Tax Office’s e-Tax electronic tax return service, cyber criminals have a huge, potentially receptive audience for their activities. Security Advisor at AVG (AU/NZ), Michael McKinnon, said: “Internet crime and taxes are now two of life’s certainties. Cyber criminals are starting to release this year’s crop of end of financial year scams to trick taxpayers into revealing highly valuable personal and financial information. As younger members of the community join the workforce and others shift from paper-based to online tax return processes, there is always a new audience for inventive tax season scams.” There’s a certain inevitability about June 30: it will bring new ways to scam the unwary and new phishing frauds asking for your credit card details including: [unordered_list style=”tick”]

  • Offers of government grants needing to make payments prior to the end of the financial year.
  • Prompts for baby bonus applications.
  • Assistance to find lost superannuation funds.
  • Notification that your company tax rate has changed.

[/unordered_list] The Government’s SCAMWatch website is currently alerting Australians to be aware of Carbon Price scams seeking your personal banking details to pay carbon tax compensation into your bank account or offering to sell you fake carbon credits. Many of us now communicate directly with tax advisors via email so other tricks include sending phishing emails that ask you to open what appear to be legitimate attachments to fill out personal details. The simple act of clicking on that attachment could redirect you to a malicious website, or deliver to your computer an infection that could launch an attack on your accounts and extract financial details. McKinnon said: “When you consider all the information included in your return – your tax file number, details of investments, retirement accounts, employment, the property you own – in the hands of cyber criminals, your identity and more could be at risk. And if you see an offer that looks too good to be true – avoid it. Any offer of an online refund will absolutely be a scam because that’s not how the ATO or any other Australian government agency operates.” Some top tips to help you safely file your tax return this year:[unordered_list style=”tick”]

  • Use the end of financial year to review your personal or business online security systems to ensure your protection is fully and automatically up to date – on all computers, phones, other mobile technologies, plus USB and other memory devices from which you will gather, store and send your financial information.
  • Do your homework by reviewing the ATO and SCAMWatch online security pages.
  • In communicating with your tax advisor, consider creating a password protected Zip file of your financial data.
  • Always open your e-Tax filing directly from the ATO’s site (www.ato.gov.au); never click through to the site from an email invitation. The filing of tax returns directly via the ATO’s e-Tax service is secure.
  • Always use a trusted WiFi or Ethernet connection from your home or office to file your tax return – never use a public WiFi without a firewall in place and Internet security installed.
  • Be cautious of anything that you haven’t directly requested and only respond to those communications you’ve initiated.
  • Delete all related emails from your server once you’ve filed your return.
  • While the ATO uses emails and SMS for service alerts, it will never request the confirmation, update or disclosure of confidential personal details. If you receive suspect communication from ‘the ATO’ or any other ‘government department’, do not click on any links in an email or answer phone questions. Report it immediately to the ATO.

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Tax Time Cyber Crime Assistance[unordered_list style=”tick”]

  • Examples of current Tax Refund scams: http://www.ato.gov.au/onlinesecurity
  • e-Tax Essentials from the ATO site: http://www.ato.gov.au/etax
  • The Australian Government’s cybersecurity website, Stay Smart Online, provides information for Australian Internet users on the simple steps they can take to protect their personal and financial information online.
  • Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)’s SCAMWatch provides information to consumers and small businesses about how to recognise, avoid and report scams.

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Original Article http://www.avg.com.au/news/tax-scams/

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Great Security Myth: I Don’t Need Anti-Virus Protection because I Bought an Apple Mac!

virus-detectedMelbourne, 28 May 2010 – AVG (AU/NZ) Pty Ltd warns that Apple Macs running the OS X operating system, or some flavour of Linux distribution, are not immune to viruses, malware and other forms of Internet-carried spambots, Trojans, hacking and phishing.

That’s right, Apple Macs running the OS X operating system, or some flavour of Linux distribution, are open to attack from cyber criminals.

Now of course hackers and spammers are not stupid and they know that Windows users represent the ‘low hanging fruit’ in terms of potential targets. The sheer weight of numbers that the Windows’ user base carries with it makes it the primary target for malware attacks – and it’s going to stay that way for the foreseeable future.

“But,” Lloyd Borrett, Marketing Manager, AVG (AU/NZ), says: “The web changes everything. More specifically, web services, social media and online applications change everything.

“Suddenly you are operating one step further away from your Mac’s desktop and you are at the mercy of live real-time contact from third parties and the World Wide Web in general. This levels the playing field in some senses, so that suddenly your Mac is not a Mac for a moment – instead it’s just a computer.”

With the growing popularity of web services from Twitter and Facebook and so on, the opportunity to spread malware hidden in a simple link has, arguably, never been greater.

So Mac’s do have vulnerabilities and people should be increasingly aware of browser security concerns. Without identifying specific security holes in Safari or Opera (or Firefox for that matter), the operating system is no longer the primary target for Internet-driven user attacks by cyber criminals. The target is the application itself and the user’s behaviour within it.

Apple’s popularity is growing all the time even if its market share is still somewhere around less than 10 percent globally. Just this year security researchers found eight fresh zero-day vulnerabilities in Apple’s Safari browser.

“What matters most is that viral attacks are constantly evolving and looking for fresh blood,” Borrett continued. “So, everyone needs to think about Internet security protection. It’s as simple as that.”

Technical Facts

Looking objectively at the Mac operating system and tools, there is arguably a larger total surface area of code open to potential attack.

Combining rich use of Flash and Java with support for multiple file formats does not exactly put up extra barriers. Digging deeper, Address Space Layout Randomisation (ASLR) has been around since Windows Vista as an anti-exploitation technology, yet it is only present in Mac OS X 10.5 in some library offsets and therefore does not offer complete protection in the way that the technology was designed.

Conclusion: Apple Mac, Windows or Linux, the fact is that regardless of the operating system each of us is using, we’re all in this together. Everyone needs to be aware of what they are clicking on and use their commonsense – if something doesn’t look quite right, it probably isn’t!

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