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Security Truths Exposed!

1. The biggest threat is being tricked into downloading and running malware.

Current tricks include fake parking tickets that provide a website to "appeal" the ticket or a "picture" to view the infraction or lawsuits that require you to open a "pdf" file and respond. All of these are really just viruses you are downloading and running. Frequently the attack is to convince the end-user to expose themselves.

Last year, one of the most prevalent viruses was the AV 2008 (and now AV 2009 and AV 360) virus. It would pop up warnings that you were infected and for a fee it would remove the infection. Actually, it would charge you and then give you more infections. Millions of these were spread throughout the world. One common means of propagation was to crack a legitimate site, often one with an advertisement running from a Google search, and change their .htaccess file to point people to their malicious site. This was often done to all the people using a server provided by a web host. They often cracked the host, not even the site that was hacked. The result was that they controlled what happened when you went to that website, and they redirected you to their own. So you could use Google to find something. Click on an advertisement or link to a perfectly legitimate site, and be redirected to a site imitating that site with a Microsoft like warning that you are infected with a virus, but they will scan and remove it for free! Just click here to download their free scanning software. Then no matter what you do, either OK or Cancel, it downloads the malicious software. It then runs a script to start it.

Remember, A rose by any other name is still a rose, and a virus by any other name (pdf file, picture, video) is still a virus.

2. There is a large underground malware economy.

People sell malware to others who distribute it to others who take control of end-users computers and then sell access to the infected computers for perhaps 30 cents each. Others sell malware as a service. They will rent out a website with malicious software on it and charge about $4 for each 1,000 visitors. Still others rent out sets of 1,000 controlled computers for a fee. Finally, there are auctions for bank account numbers, credit card numbers and other valuable information which can be purchased in large quantities.

The Internet has improved economic efficiency throughout both the legal and underground economies. It is making everything more efficient and global.

Date: March 2009

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