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Thursday, September 16, 2004

Fending off zombie-dom

You've heard it here before, and it sounds like something from the Twilight Zone: Your family PC could be a zombie, part of a network of zombies controlled by hackers with a profit motive. And there are layers of them, from the virus and worm writers who take over the PCs and rent out the resulting zombie networks to the scammers who manipulate them, USAToday reports. "Phishing" - tricking people into clicking to a bogus bank site and providing the scammers with user name, password, and bank account - has become big business, as phishers skim small amounts from a large number of bank accounts, undetected. How has it come to this? Simple: "The vast majority [of PC owners] don't use firewall software to block intruders, patch vulnerabilities, or keep anti-virus subscriptions current." Those are the three cardinal rules for PC security. Other tips from a USAToday sidebar are: distrust all email attachments, including those posing as PC security patches ("no software vendor will ever send you patches via email"); back up all your important documents and folders at least once a month (see my 8/27 issue); "use complex passwords and periodically change them and your PINs; beware of spyware (download a free anti-spyware program like Ad-Aware or Spybot); and consider switching to a browser other than Internet Explorer (see the sidebar for more on this).

The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg offers a clear, more radical approach in "How to Protect Yourself from Vandals, Viruses If You Use Windows." See also "What if our PC's a Zombie?" in my 7/16 issue.


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