TROLLING: NEW FORM OF IDENTITY THEFT
By Jon Christian Ryter
May 9, 2007
It is the responsibility of every Internet browser to provider the Internet users who use their service with a secure, relatively hacker-free surfing platform. With the world's cyberthugs preying on the affluent and the stupid, the information superhighway has replaced the corner liquor store as the preferred crime scene. First, it's almost risk free and the opportunity for profit is limitless.
When cybercrime started to become a pandemic problem, the victims were generally stupid people who willingly shared personal information about themselves with phishers by signing online petitions, or by making online purchases through unsecured websites where their credit card and checking account data was easily stolen; or who believed emails received by them that suggested their bank accounts, PayPal accounts, eBay accounts or credit cards had been compromised and, rather than get on a telephone and call that service provider to verify the information, they gave the phishers the confidential data needed for the cyberthief to steal their money. But the worst cyberidiots are those who believe they just won a lottery they never entered, or they just inherited a fortune from someone they don't know, or that Ali Babba just got deposed in Magic Carpetland and, rather than let the incoming regime seize his assets, chose you out of 100 million other cyberidiots to share his fortune with. (Generally, the only people who fall for the lottery scheme are welfare recipients who are so accustomed to getting something for nothing that they actually think that actually happens in the real world where real people invest real sweat equity to get a real paycheck.)
Cybercrime is evolving as fast as cybertechnology is advancing. Every fascinating new cybergadget, cyberbell and whistle designed to give cybermerchants more access to you, also gives cyberthieves the same access. The firewalls that block simple bulk emails from grassroots cyberactivists (because they aren't paying a spam fee) and allow paid spammers to send megabytes of data into your email box, also allow hackers to drill microscopic holes in Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser—the most popular Internet browser in the world—and implant tiny programs that will kidnap the computer of anyone who makes the mistake of clicking on an infected page. The program will link the hijacked computer with the hacker's server—usually in China or the former Soviet Union, but it could also be somewhere in the Mideast, Pakistan, Afghanistan or India. Of, course, Nigeria where cyberstealing is now the number one industry.
The hacker's server then becomes a phishing instrument as it strips the hijacked computer of bank log-in codes, credit card numbers and payment records of any bill you pay online, traps the data from any online shopping cart transactions, and steals whatever other personal data you have stored on the hard drive of your computer. What makes the new generation of hacker more dangerous than previous generations of phishers is that by hijacking the hard drive of your computer, they don't just merely borrow it to spam a million email addresses around the world, they strip search your computer for anything of value. Today's international cyberthief has the potential to not only clean out your local checking and savings accounts, but drain your personal retirement savings as well.
Where hackers in the past created dummy clone pages that were representative of pages used by PayPal, eBay, AOL, Bank Of America, Chase Bank, Citigroup, and hundreds of other regional banks and/or credit card payment centers, hoping to trap bank and credit card information from unsuspecting customers who believed someone had accessed their account, the Internet industry recently discovered that hackers have corrupted tens—if not hundreds—of thousands of legitimate web pages by implanting bugs that redirect the computer to a host server that will then "detail" your computer by, first, strip searching it for sensitive financial data, and then compromising your computer by linking it to a network of spamming devises known as "bots."
On Friday before the Super Bowl, if you visited the Dolphin Stadium website, you weren't surfing in Florida, you were surfing in China. The hacker in this instance was relatively harmless. He was searching for access codes to a popular PC computer game called World of Warcraft from any Dolphin fan who happened, also, to be a World of Warcraft fan. However, if you typed "better business bureau" into Google over the last month or two you were probably hacked by a serious phisher if you used Internet Explorer. On the Explorer platform, hackers in Russia who actually purchased the Google ad were combing the hard drives of those surfers for sensitive, marketable, data. As soon as Google discovered that the Better Business Bureau ad was not bought by the BBB, they deleted it. If you received an email in February saying that Australian Prime Minister John Howard had suffered a heart attack and clicked on the attached link, you gave phishers in China access to your hard drive. And, if you forwarded that email to any of your cyberbuddies who opened the email and clicked on the link, you helped hackers phish your friend's hard drives as well.
Almost every ISP and browser provider in the United States has hired one or more cybersurveillance companies like Cyveillance, Websense and Exploit Prevention Labs to constantly sweep the millions of web pages in search of compromised pages. In one recent sweep, Cyveillance discovered 50 thousand compromised web pages. It is important to understand that these pages included top tier website pages that garner millions of hits a week—including the popular Wikipedia—the hackers also attack mom and pop websites.
Websense noted that on a recent sweep among the major websites you might expect to be compromised were several corrupted web pages from mom and pop businesses that you would think don't get enough hits in a year to make the effort profitable. Today's cyberthieves are sophisticated. No website, regardless of its size, is safe. As more and more cyberbusinesses and institutions hire cyber-surveillance companies to clean their sites, the cyberthieves will have to go to those websites that can't afford the technology, and where web-drilling will go unnoticed.
A word of caution—this is a new generation of computer thieves. They aren't trying to con you into buying the Great Wall of China or the last pieces of the Iron Curtain—nor are they trying to convince you that you just won the British or Nigerian Internet Lottery, or that some rich dictator will send you all of his money if you pay the Fed-X charges up front. They want you locked into their landing page long enough to comb your hard drive for anything of value, or to borrow your computer to send millions of pieces of spam around the world.
to Al Gore's information superhighway. It's almost as corrupt as Washington,
© 2007 Jon C. Ryter - All Rights
[Read "Whatever Happened to America?"]
Jon Christian Ryter is the pseudonym of a former newspaper reporter with the Parkersburg, WV Sentinel. He authored a syndicated newspaper column, Answers From The Bible, from the mid-1970s until 1985. Answers From The Bible was read weekly in many suburban markets in the United States.
Today, Jon is an advertising executive with the Washington Times. His website, www.jonchristianryter.com has helped him establish a network of mid-to senior-level Washington insiders who now provide him with a steady stream of material for use both in his books and in the investigative reports that are found on his website.