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Commerce

June 9, 2008

Stop helping the bad guys -- Part 2

The bad guys of the Internet are fleecing unsuspecting computer users at an alarming rate, in an unprecedented crime wave that leaves law enforcement barely able to even stay in the race. The situation has gotten so out of hand that Internet service providers (ISPs) like Cox and AT--T have even started offering free antivirus software to their customers. This Band-Aid approach to computer security is woefully inadequate.

I cannot overemphasize the gravity of the situation. Take all of the crime-fighting ability of law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, stack it up against the international syndicates responsible for the global Internet crime wave, and you have a situation akin to dumping Sheriff Andy Taylor and Deputy Barney Fife in the middle of New York City and saying, "OK, boys, stop all of the crime."

I recently helped a client who complained that his computer was operating "way too slow," and that he wasn't able to update his business software. I managed to pry three viruses out of his machine, along with a couple of back door "trojan" programs, and 148 instances of spyware and adware. I also removed numerous porno movies and three file transfer programs that had been installed without his knowledge. To his great shock and dismay, I informed him that his computer was being controlled remotely by a bad guy to distribute pornography on the Internet. With no little effort, I cleaned, patched and "locked down" his computer, and gave him a list of Internet "do's and don'ts." It could have been worse: sometimes the only choice is to erase everything from a computer's hard drive, and rebuild it from scratch.

The scary part of the story is that this man's computer is the main computer at a local insurance agency. His office had no real rules for computer/Internet usage and employees were allowed to use their computers as they pleased. This office's computers handle sensitive personal information every day, such as credit card, Social Security and bank account numbers, passwords and the like. How much of this information may have fallen into the hands of the bad guys, I don't even want to know.

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