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02:10 PM
Alice LaPlante
Alice LaPlante

Phishers And Rootkits And Death Threats, Oh My!

I fell for a phisher last week. Embarrassing, but true. Until then, the urgent e-mails telling me that an account had been compromised had only managed to give me slight shivers of concern before my rational self took over and I clicked the delete button. Not this time.

I fell for a phisher last week. Embarrassing, but true. Until then, the urgent e-mails telling me that an account had been compromised had only managed to give me slight shivers of concern before my rational self took over and I clicked the delete button.

Not this time.It was a notice that purported to come from eBay, "confirming" a $675 purchase of a used Dell laptop. Now, I had recently been shopping for such a computer. So alarm bells went off, and--stupid, stupid me--I clicked on the provided link. The moment I realized what I had done, I logged onto eBay, confirmed that the message had indeed been sent by a phisher, and forwarded it to eBay security. But I didn't change my eBay password. Like I said, stupid me. A few days later, I tried to log on--and was told my password had been changed. Oh, boy. I logged onto PayPal and was told the same thing. Identity theft: yes, it can happen to you.

Happily, everything has turned out all right. (I'll spare you the details.) But given all this, it doesn't surprise me that two of our top stories this week had to do with the dangers of phishing schemes and the surreptitious installation of rootkits that steal user names and passwords.

The first, and most important, is a review that analyzes six of the top rootkit detectors currently on the market. Read it. You'll be glad you did.

The other very popular article was more...out there...but also obviously struck a nerve. A new scam contains a death threat, supposedly by a professional hit man, warning the recipient to pay up or die. You might not think that a threat this obviously fraudulent would be of interest to the kind of IT professionals who read InformationWeek. But obviously it is.

I guess it shouldn't be surprising. We don't seem to be getting any better at avoiding phishing attacks. According to Gartner, 3.5 million Americans gave sensitive information to phishers in 2006, almost double last year's figure. The average cost to them? $1,244, compared with just $256 in 2005. Total U.S. financial losses will exceed $2.8 billion this year. Not a death sentence--but very serious numbers nevertheless.

How about you? Have you ever fallen prey to a phishing scam? How did it work out for you? Let us know by responding to my entry at the InformationWeek blog.


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