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Top Cyber Threats of 2009


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Who were the top 5 riskiest celebrities in 2009? Did spammers really know who killed Michael Jackson? Take a look back at who and what made the top of cybercriminals’ list in 2009 and what’s on …

Who were the top 5 riskiest celebrities in 2009? Did spammers really know who killed Michael Jackson? Take a look back at who and what made the top of cybercriminals’ list in 2009 and what’s on their radar in 2010.

Published in: Technology, News & Politics

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  • 1. Top cybercrime threats of 2009 All Photos by PR Photos LLC Who were the top 5 riskiest celebrities in 2009? Did spammers really know who killed Michael Jackson? Data from Symantec Security Response | November 2009
  • 2. Top 5 Riskiest Celebrities Michael Jackson – The King of Pop’s death sparked a deluge of spam and malware campaigns just hours after his death on June 25, 2009. Cybercriminals knew all too well that the strong interest in Michael Jackson’s life and death would be an ideal way to capture people’s attention, increasing the likelihood they’d open an email or click on a malicious link. Serena Williams – The famous tennis star’s outburst at a line judge during the September 2009 U.S. Open had people eager to see the video of the incident. As it became one of the Internet’s most hotly searched for items, cybercriminals infused websites claiming to have video of the outburst with fake antivirus software, otherwise known as “scareware.” Patrick Swayze – Similar to Michael Jackson’s death, cybercriminals took advantage of people searching for news on Patrick Swayze’s death to serve up malicious threats, including websites hosting scareware. Harry Potter – Spammers and scammers took advantage of the summer craze around the sixth film in the Harry Potter series , sending out a deluge of spam emails with Harry Potter as the subject. Fans looking to view the trailer online also ran into websites serving up malicious content. President Barack Obama – Not only did the United States’ 44th President win the votes of Americans, he also won favor among cybercriminals who used his name and hot topics like health care reform and the economy to spread spam and malware to computer users. All Photos by PR Photos LLC
  • 3. Most Wanted of 2009 & The Year’s Biggest Cybercrime Busts Conficker Originally discovered in November 2008, Conficker caused a worldwide stir among computer users in March and April 2009. The worm allows its creators to remotely install software on infected machines, though what the software would actually do remained unknown. W32.Dozer Distributed Denial of Service Attacker W32.Dozer began spreading on July 4, 2009, creating a Distributed Denial of Service attack against government, financial and media sites in the U.S. and South Korea. Operation Phish Phry In October 2009, the FBI launched “Operation Phish Phry,” busting an identity theft ring that has victimized thousands of people. According to the FBI, it was the largest number of defendants ever charged in a cybercrime case. Fake Antivirus Software or “Scareware” Scareware – also known as fake security software– tricks people into downloading the application, often through unfamiliar websites. Scammers rely on fear tactics and other social engineering tricks to dupe users into purchasing and installing fake security software. Albert Gonzalez In August 2009, U.S. authorities announced the indictment of several individuals, including Albert Gonzalez, of perpetrating some of the largest data breach events in history.
  • 4. Top Spam Subjects of 2009 Did you know Symantec saw more than 40 trillion spam messages in the last 12 months? That’s more than 5,000 spam messages for every person living in the world today! Here’s a few of the top subjects used by spammers in 2009: “RE: Do you owe tax debt? Read on” Let’s face it, no one likes paying taxes and spammers are taking advantage of this by trying to lure computer users with promises of making their tax debt disappear. “Sign Up for Our Halloween Workshop for Party Plans, Pumpkins, Decorations, & More! Pick a holiday, any holiday, and you’ll find a spam email on the topic. From Christmas to Chinese New Year’s, it’s a year round event for spammers. “No health care and can’t afford pills? You can now! Obama Sponsored Med Program” Here’s a double whammy using two hot topics of 2009 to get you to open that email – President Obama and health care. “Who killed Michael Jackson?” One of many things people would like to know about MJ. Spammers took advantage of his death to deluge the Internet with spam that claimed to know who killed him to knowledge that he’s not actually dead (just like Elvis and Tupac)!
  • 5. Top Spam Subjects of 2009 “Full eBook Harry Potter” Spammers got in on the Harry Potter mania when the “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” hit theaters this summer. Could “Twilight” be next on their list? “Your friend invited you to twitter!” Even spammers are joining in on the Twitter craze by sending messages that pretend to be a Twitter invite. Symantec has even seen spam emails advertising ways to make money through Twitter. “Motor Company OFFERS: 35% discount to purchase a new car” From new car discounts to economic stimulus payments, spammers care about the economy too…because they know you do. With the economy being a hot topic globally, spammers know they’ll get some bites with emails on this subject. “Get a diploma for a better job” Diplomas advertised by spammers can only lead to getting schooled in falling for online scams. “Get swine flu medicine here” Who wants to deal with waiting in line for hours to get the H1N1 vaccine? All you have to do is open an email or click on a link to get the inside scoop from spammers on how to easily get immunized. “Don’t go into foreclosure” As the economy took a nose dive, foreclosure rates skyrocketed, making the topic a popular one for spammers.
  • 6. What’s In Store For Us In 2010? • Do You Know Who Your Real Friends Are? – The popularity of social networking sites is poised for another year of unprecedented growth, expect to see fraud being leveraged against social networking sites to increase. • Scareware Vendors Step Up Efforts – In 2010, expect to see scareware (fake antivirus software) vendors take their efforts to the next level, even by hijacking computers, rendering them useless and holding them for ransom. • Mac & Mobile Malware Increase – As Mac and smartphones continue to increase in popularity in 2010, more attackers will devote time to create malware to exploit these devices. • Careful With Those Tweets – Shortened URLs are all the rage on Twitter and other social networking sites. Because people often have no idea where a shortened URL is actually sending them, phishers can disguise links and lead people to malicious websites. • Cyber Street Smarts – More and more attackers are going directly after YOU to trick you into downloading malware. You might think what you’re downloading is perfectly innocent, but it’s not. You could be opening yourself up to identity theft or other types of cybercrime. Symantec estimates that the number of attempted attacks using social engineering is sure to increase in 2010.
  • 7. Stay Prepared Stay Protected • Don’t open suspicious emails or attachments • Don’t respond to emails that ask for personal info • Use an up-to-date security solution purchased from a reputable vendor through a reputable channel • When asked to “allow” or “deny” an application access to the Internet, always deny unless you’re absolutely confident the site it is accessing is authentic and safe • If you’re on a wireless network, secure it with a password and don’t allow unknown computers to access your home network • Use strong passwords with a combination of letters and numbers. Change it regularly • Don’t give your credit card details to unsecured sites. Look for https:// at the top of your browser and the padlock symbol on the bottom right-hand corner of the screen • Use a website rating service, which can tell you if a site poses a risk before you visit it • Review your bank and credit card statements regularly for suspicious transactions • For more information on cybercrime and how to protect yourself, visit
  • 8. All Photos by PR Photos LLC Data from Symantec Security Response | November 2009