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admin2 On March - 9 - 2011

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Phishing, for those who are not familiar with the term, is a type of fraud in which the criminal sends out legitimate-looking e-mails in an attempt to get the recipients to hand over personal and financial information. It usually involves the victim clicking on a link that takes them to a bogus website which looks very much like the legitimate site. Once the victims “log in” with their user names and passwords, the criminal has access to their online accounts.

Websites that are frequently spoofed include PayPal, eBay, Yahoo, BestBuy and America Online.

Phishing has been around for a few years now, but there is a new twist called “spear phishing” that computer users should be aware of. It is what the FBI calls a “risinig cyber threat you need to know about.”

Spear phishing is a very clever method to deliver malicious software that gives criminals control of their victims’ computers.  This method involves sending out e-mails that are highly personalized, using information that makes them look like they have been sent by a very trusted source.

How do the criminals (phishers) get your personal information? Sometimes they comb through blogs and social networking sites like Facebook. They are also known to hack into companies’ computer networks and steal files. That’s what happened to McDonald’s and Honda recently. Their customer e-mail lists were stolen.

Imagine those Honda customers who are quite used to getting periodic e-mails from Honda. They would expect more e-mails from Honda and would see no reason to be suspicious. They would be very vulnerable to phishing expeditions by the thieves.

Over Christmas dozens of American government employees fell for a spear phishing lure in the guise of an e-mail from the White House. They thought they were downloading an e-card from the President, but instead got an executable file that would allow the criminals to take control of their computers.  

Targeted spear phishing gets far better results for the phishers than regular phishing, and with far fewer e-mails involved. It’s a ploy that is around to stay.

So how to avoid becoming a victim of a spear phishing expedition? It’s becoming so much harder, especially now the “trusted source” can’t be trusted so readily any more.

Use caution. Don’t click on links in e-mails. Key in the URL yourself. And watch for URLs that are slightly different than what you typically key in for the trusted source’s website. Be wary if the e-mail contains unexpected typos or grammatical errors. 

Phishing e-mails numbered over 95 billion last year. That is a staggering amount. Spear phishing e-mails comprised over 6% of that total in 2010. With those kinds of numbers, we all of us can expect to receive at least one fraudulent e-mail in the near future. 

To safeguard your private and confidential computer files we strongly urge you to consider using online data storage. CollectionMine allows you to back up and store all of your data securely and affordably. Your files will be kept in our world-class data centre, safe from prying eyes, viruses, and all other dangers your computer faces.


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