Technology with Integrity
By Tim Torian, Torian Group, Inc.
Phishing (a form of on line fraud where identities are stolen) seems to be in the news a lot lately. A survey done by Integrated Payment Systems says that 43 percent of us have been the target of a "phishing" scam and 5 percent of us have given up information. This normally happens when a fraud e-mail is received that appears to be from your financial institution. The fraud e-mail directs you to a fraudulent site. Once you are on the site, they start asking for your personal information.
Pharming is related threat, where people are misdirected to fraudulent sites on line that are developed to look legitimate. This normally happens by fraudsters changing a web site address, ever so slightly.
Estimates put this type of "internet fraud" costing consumers about 1.2 billion a year in 2003. No legitimate institution will ever ask you to verify personal information via an e-mail, however they do seem to ask a lot of personal information when you call them.
It is now possible to have your computer infected with malicious software simply by visiting a web site. In some cases, legitimate sites may be compromised (hacked) without the knowledge of the site owner.
To combat these threats, you need Anti-virus software, Anti-spyware protection, and now a web site fraud detection toolbar. The website fraud toolbar watches what web site(s) you are planning to go to, and warns you if it is a known phishing site, or if it is infected. There are a variety of products; here are some of the best, with links to where you can download them:
Trendprotect is currently free, and in beta.
McAfee SiteAdvisor (Free /$20 for updates) is one of the better known. It also comes bundled with McAfee Internet Security Suite 2007 www.siteadvisor.com
NetCraft Toolbar has gotten good reviews. It is a free download. http://toolbar.netcraft.com
Sitehound is a leading product with a free version. The paid version ($30) automatically updates, the free one requires a manual download of the bad site database. It also rates search results, which other tools don’t do. www.firetrust.com
LinkScanner Lite is free; the pro version is $30. The pro version protects against hacked sites by scanning content in real time. It does not track phishing sites. www.explabs.com/products
Trustwatch offers separate products for IE and Firefox, free. http://toolbar.trustwatch.com
You can install a combination of tools if you want comprehensive protection. Sitehound gives you coverage against known sites, and LinkScanner checks for suspicious activity as you connect.
Keeping up with the dangers on the internet is frustrating, but the alternative is unthinkable. A little prevention can save a lot of time and money.
Tim Torian has taught computer networking at the College of Sequoias and Cal Poly Extension. He has a BS in Computer Science, and has been consulting on computer networking for the past 30 Years. His industry certifications include: Cisco CCNA and CCNI, Microsoft MCSE. He was recognized as Entrepreneur of the year for 2008 by the Tulare County EDC. He is president of Torian Group, Inc. which provides a full range of Technology Consulting services to local business, including computer services, networking, web and custom software development. www.toriangroup.com