Watch out online…

The internet’s always been a fairly wild place with few rules to rein in offending behavior. And it’s always been a place where plenty of people were ready, willing and able to dupe you — to run a sheist on you, to phish you, to install malware on your machine, to mess with your mind, etc. 

I’ve seen an uptick in this sort of nasty stuff lately and I wanted to tell you to watch out when you’re online. Besides the typical “I’m a prince/general/president and I need your help with my inheritance” crap, my Junk Mail folders have been filled to the brim lately with:

  • Fake “DHL delivery notices” packing self-extracting malware, and
  • “Failed PayPal payments” that I should “confirm” in effect giving out my PayPal login information, or with
  • Fake “domain expiration notices” from all kinds of shady, two-bit lowlives that could lure normal people into transferring their domains from genuine registrars to these crapolas, who would then hold them for ransom and charge ever-increasing fees, or 
  • Home warranty and home protection “quotes” from places that have nothing to do with legitimate companies that handle this sort of thing, and
  • More online trash not even worth the pixels it’s getting on this display right now. 

Some of this stuff may seem innocuous. And it may even seem like nothing happens when you click on one of those attachments. Rest assured though, if it’s packing the right code for your system, you’ve just turned your computer into a “zombie” that is now under the control of some douchebag somewhere, and it’ll either be part of a “zombie farm” that launches attacks on various online properties, or it’ll be closely monitored: every keystroke logged, screen captures taken, webcam activated without your knowledge, all for the purpose of obtaining your online account information and other personal, potentially damaging information that could be used as leverage in a blackmail operation. 

Please be careful out there! Watch out for yourselves. The best advice I can give you is to use your common sense — I know it’s in short supply these days, but you have to try to use it.

If something look suspicious or you don’t recognize the other party, just delete the message. If it claimed to be from a bank or a CC company you do busines with, just pick up your phone and contact them directly, through the number that you already know works for them, in order to confirm that your account is in good standing order. Don’t just click on anything and log onto anything that might seem to be the website of your bank or the website of an online store. Be careful.