With taxes due any day, the last place you would think to get your identity stolen is as you are submitting your information online. This was exactly what happened to the continent of Australia in 2006. 10,000 people who were assuming their personal computer was safe (at least when submitting taxes to the government!) and clicked their way into giving out their most private of information.
Greg Ray of The Sidney Morning Herald describes the mass identity theft in his article, going into detail about the virus that affected everyone. He quotes a security analyst at Auscert, MacLeonard Starkey, who stated “A Haxdoor Trojan could log keystrokes from computers, capture usernames and passwords stored in the Windows operating system and harvest data being transmitted from a computer during the completion of online forms such as tax returns.”
Scary stuff right? A computer junkie’s worst nightmare… a bug no one knows anything about, that no one has any means of identifying or stopping (“commonly used anti-virus programs could not detect the Trojan”), that “harvests” your most important of data and sends it all away the moment you click to send your tax information.
He continues by reaffirming our fears, “Tax file numbers, bank account details and other personal data could be used by criminals to steal identities, to raid bank accounts or to lodge false tax returns.” They could go as far as to file FALSE returns! So now, not only are out credit card information, bank account numbers, and a load of cash, but the government could lock you away for Tax fraud!
This isn’t exactly an everyday occurrence—having your tax information jacked by a super virus, but identity theft DOES happen every day, The National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) reports that “According to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Identity Theft Survey Report of 2003, almost 10 million Americans (or 4.6% of the population) have discovered that they were a victim of some sort of ID theft within the last year.” It’s something to keep in mind when checking Facebook at school or your bank account on an insecure wireless router from your phone. Your information is BOMBING the web in irreversible ways.
So there is something to be said about visiting trustworthy sites, maintaining different emails to filter personal information, and updating virus removal software. Identity theft, an occurrence when “an individual’s personal identifying information for example, name, address, and social security number is taken and used to steal money or services” (NCVC 2003), doesn’t just happen to people with great sums of money or reputation to lose; it happens to anyone with personal information… that’s most of us.
My computer has a virus. What are the warning signs?
- My computer is acting slowly. The time it takes Google to load Gmail should not take two minutes. Check what you have running in the background via your task manager and close unnecessary, speed sucking programs (you don’t need World of Warcraft running at all times in case you need to get a fix).
- Random desktop icons begin to appear. Even after deleting or sending icons to the Recycling Bin (and emptying the bin) the same icon begins to show up every time I log on and off my computer. This is not good. At all times you should have control over what is on your computer and what is not.
- I am being asked to update things you didn’t know you installed. It’s because you didn’t… it’s just another means of you to Run their programs and bury viruses deep within your computer.
- The old fashion, CONSTANT dialog box appears and I can’t get rid of it. You know the one, “Buy this Virus Removal Software!” and Close, but not exact looking replicas of well known software like Norton. The dialog boxes are meant to look legitimate and can even Run when you click cancel. X out of these and shut your computer down, removing the LAN cable or unplugging your router.
What do you do now?
- It’s time for a PC tune up. Clean up PC. De-bug my PC. Whatever you want to call it, you need to invest in PC virus protection software even though I just got done telling you that viruses can be produced to avoid such things.
- The software will still keep out the majority of problems and will regularly update to hopefully stay on top of new viruses. It’s a little like anti-bacterial soap… it won’t take out half the crap that’s in your hands, but it does kill much of the bacteria/wash away dirt. Nothing is going to be 100% perfect, unless that thing is a Re-Image. Let’s hope it hasn’t come to that.
- Re-Image the computer. Yup. It looks like it has come to that. Consult with your computer’s user manual. If you are not familiar with the process, you might want to call the company. In the event the computer is covered by a warranty, things will get fixed. If not…
- Visit Best Buy, computer shop, or a friend who works in Computer Science/Tech Support. The Geek Squad will be expensive for what the actual work that will get done, but it will get done correctly. Computer shops around town will be plenty more pricy, but if that’s all you have, that’s all you have… And, a friend that works with computers will be traumatized, but believe me, he/she gets it all the time. I hope he/she owes you a favor, and be ready to beg, bribe, or both.
- What will be required are the disks that contain the drivers for the computer (audio, video, etc) which should have come with your computer when you first brought it. All of your information on the computer will be deleted and freshly re-installed. Make sure to save all your photos, music, videos, and whatever because they will not be there when you come back. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to run a virus removal program before copying over any data; you don’t want to copy over the virus.
- Once you have a computer that is protected and virus free, watch your surfing habits. Here is a good article more specifically focused on this solution.
Viruses that lead to identity theft are the new crime to commit. The thieves can do it from the comfort of their home, and in minutes, cause you hours or DAYS of traumatization. The simple fact is that the internet isn’t safe, like a warzone, and you need to go into battle prepared to defend yourself. An Anti-Virus software is the first shield, but nothing will change unless are responsible with where you go and what you do on the web.
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Categories: Identity Theft and Protection Tips