Finances and Technology – New Threats

With the marriage of computers and finances, what used to be a relatively safe concept is now under attack. As with all computer areas, attackers are now targeting financial data, such as passwords, bank accounts, retirement accounts, credit card information and using them to perform identity theft.

While most people are familiar with thieves in malls trying to grab bags and purses, today’s attackers are using technology to steal.

One of the newest financial systems is bitcoin. Governments cannot control it, it offers instant payments without the fear of chargebacks, and can be sent / received without the use of any bank or financial institution. It can be exchanged for any worldwide currency. However, as is always the case, along with greater convenience also comes greater risk. Attackers have hacked many websites related to bitcoin, emptying accounts and transferring millions. Others have performed denial of service attacks against bitcoin websites, effectively disabling them to manipulate prices and disrupt the bitcoin network.

One way attackers are trying to steal users’ finances now is by planting malware on their pc’s. The bitcoin wallet.dat file, the wallet that resides on a users’ local machine, is frequently copied or moved from an infected users’ machine in an attempt to steal their bitcoins and transfer them to an attacker’s account. While a password can be used to encrypt and protect this file, with the latest Chinese malware infections, keyloggers can be used to record and send every keystroke typed on the keyboard to a waiting hacker. Some users have forgotten the passwords to their bitcoin wallets, locking themselves out of their bitcoin accounts. As with all files on your computer, never send your wallet.dat file or any other file to anyone online you do not trust. All an attacker needs is this file and they can guess passwords to empty your bitcoin wallet.

The moral of this story? Now more than ever computer security is vital. Now computers hold not only documents and photos, but in some cases financial data, personal identification, critical trade secrets and other private content. The importance of keeping your systems free of infections rises more and more each day. If in doubt, schedule a computer checkup with us and we can tell you if there are any vulnerabilities being exploited on your pc. We can help to keep it secure and running well.

 

Yes, there are many other ‘it’ and ‘computer repair’ companies out there. We know because we have worked on machines our competitors have ‘disinfected’, only to find out the same infection they ‘cleaned’ weeks ago is back again. Today’s malware and infections cannot be removed like the last generation computer virus. These are newer, smarter infections, and if one piece is left behind, often the entire infection comes right back again. Best Buy and other ‘big box’ stores claim to be a jack of all trades, but as with any business, it comes down to which tech you get, and you are basically a number. Many Virginia Beach small business and home users have told us they either could not remove the infection or said they did and it is now back again with a vengeance. Unlike the competitors, we can not only remove the infection, but can usually tell you exactly where it came from and how to prevent it in the future! While a cure is great, preventing infection to begin with is always best.

One of the newest malware variants, ‘CryptoLocker’, is especially dangerous and difficult to recover from. The infection usually enters a users’ pc through an infected email or link, claiming to be a tracking update or other urgent information. The attachment can look like a .pdf, adobe acrobat file, or many other files. Once opened, the infection can go right past most antivirus programs, and installs itself on the users’ pc, sometimes in the background, without any symptom aside from slow performance. Once it is installed, it encrypts the majority of the users’ files on the pc with strong encryption, and present the user with a ransomware screen. The malware demands the user send payment to the fraudsters via bitcoin, mail, or other methods. It has a timer and counts down until the private key (needed to recover the users’ files) is deleted, effectively making all the users’ files lost forever. We can recover files in many cases if the user catches this infection early and immediately shuts off their pc and removes it from the network. Unlike our competition, we can install software to prevent this new threat from running on your pc to begin with – sparing you from the hassle, lost time and data. As with all threats, the best defense is to be alert – be SURE to never open any attachments, even if they look legitimate, unless they are from someone you know, and eve then infections can be transferred.

As always, look for symptoms such as slow speed, new popups and windows that are never present, excessive spam, etc. These can all be symptoms of an active infection or network attack. The computer user is the most familiar with the computer system and is the best judge of what is normal for that machine. Keeping your eyes open and acting to thwart thieves and attackers will help to ensure a happy, productive Christmas season!

 

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