The Truth About Keylogger Programs

Keylogger programs, Internet panhandling and using a cell phone to dial 911: Internet ScamBusters #169

Today we have another Internet Snippets issue for you. We’ll focus on these three topics:

– The Truth About Keylogger Programs

– Internet Panhandling

– Using a Cell Phone to Dial 911

Let’s get started…

The Truth About Keylogger Programs

On February 27, Tom Zeller wrote an excellent article in the New York Times called “Cyberthieves Silently Copy as You Type.”

Tom started this article by saying that there is evidence that among global cybercriminals, phishing scams may already be passe. The newer threat in some countries, like Brazil, is keylogger programs.

We’ve written about keylogger programs (also called keystroke loggers) before (for example, see #2 in this article on Internet banking here).

Keylogger programs can be hidden in software and silently monitor the keystrokes users type on their keyboards. This info is then transmitted to the scammer, giving access to user names, passwords, PIN numbers and other confidential information.

Keylogger programs have gotten a LOT more sophisticated — and a lot more common — recently. These programs are hidden in other programs, and rely on infection (like viruses) rather than deception (like phishing).

Keylogger programs are generally very selective. They wait for certain websites to be visited (such as banking sites, PayPal or credit card sites), or they wait for certain keywords (like SSN) to be entered in order to become active. This means that the keylogger program only transmits a small amount of data back to the scammers, perhaps making it more difficult to detect.

In February, Brazilian police arrested 55 people who stole $4.7 million from 200 different accounts. A Russian fraud ring was also broken up last month — they stole $1.1 million from French personal bank accounts.

How do you protect yourself? Never use public computers for transactions that involve private information. Keep your anti spyware software up to date. Keeping your passwords in an encrypted file so you don’t have to type them in (so you can just copy and paste) can also help. And be careful when visiting unknown sites, and when downloading software, music, and other files.

For more on spyware, visit our Anti Spyware Resource Center.

Internet Panhandling

Lately we’ve seen a rise in people asking for help paying for [whatever] or sending invoices to strangers. These people spam a plea for help or an invoice to pay for some specific item or service.

For example, a common invoice was “help me pay for my inspection ticket.” In this instance, the panhandler sent people PayPal invoices asking them to “help me pay for my inspection sticker ticket and ill love you forever. thanks.”

Action: We suggest that when someone you don’t know spams you asking you to pay an invoice or asks for donations for something, hit delete. We highly recommend against giving money to scammers and Internet panhandlers.

Using a Cell Phone to Dial 911

Thanks to Scott for sharing this tip, which is a response to the last item in Issue #166.

As a law enforcement officer, I thought I should send this info along. Although it IS a good idea to have a cell phone next to your bed, remember that your address will not show up on the 911 screen. That can cause a delay during an emergency.

Also in most states, the call will go to the Highway Patrol or State Trooper, not your local police agency, which will cause a delay while they transfer your call.

From home, you should always use your landline phone first and your cell phone only if the landline is not working or unavailable.

We’ll now sign off for today — we’ll send you info on more new scams next week so you can better protect yourself.