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Don't Let Hackers Turn Your Computer into a Zombie

Today millions of businesses and homes have implemented wireless networks for their convenience, and, sadly, for the convenience of the cybercriminals. And hackers don’t even have to open your garage door to enter your home or business.

Back in October of 2005, Microsoft, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Consumer Action, a public watchdog and education group, joined together to launch a campaign aimed at helping consumers prevent their computers from getting turned into zombies.

Hacking was real then as it is real today. Hackers always manage to stay one step ahead of authorities. Today they have managed to come up with a whole new way to hack into your home and business computers. Because wireless Internet access points have become popular for homes and businesses, hackers have now become a major target for hackers. In this new phenomenon, called "dive-by hacking", hackers simply take their laptop computers in their cars and drive through business parks or residential neighborhoods remotely scanning for open wireless networks. (This is similar to the old version of the drive-by garage door remote theft where criminal would use universal remote controls to open garage doors without arousing the suspicions of neighbors, police, or home security companies.)

Today millions of businesses and homes have implemented wireless networks for their convenience, and, sadly, for the convenience of the cybercriminals. And hackers don’t even have to open your garage door to enter your home or business. Now hackers can simply pull up outside, up to 600 feet away, and gain access to the network, the Internet, and every computer on the network. This kind of hacking has become so popular that you can even find public websites around the globe that sell maps to all the known "open" wireless networks.

According to Tim Cranton, director of Microsoft’s Internet Safety Enforcement programs, “The only way to slow the spread of zombies and other online threats is by going after them as resolutely and in as many ways as possible.”

People who use the Internet but don’t properly protect their PCs from cybercriminals may never know that their computers have been compromised – even after their infected machines begin causing problems for other people and, potentially, themselves.

As government agencies and email providers have cracked down on ways of exploiting consumer and business PCs, many computer criminals have turned their attention to creating zombies. They do so by tricking people into loading malicious code by hiding it in e-mail attachments or in music, video or other files that people download online – or even within data transferred when clicking on an infected Web site.

As more people sign up for high-speed Internet connections at home, computer criminals have set their sights on a growing population of potential zombies that never sleep. “High-speed connections are an extremely convenient and powerful way to access the Internet, but people need to realize that their connections don’t turn off when they walk away from their computers,” says Aaron Kornblum, Microsoft's Internet-safety enforcement attorney.

Because the potential threat is so great, the anti-zombie campaign stresses prevention as the best defense against spam and zombie attacks. All three partners, Microsoft, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Consumer Action, continue to urge consumers to ensure their computers have the latest software for detecting and preventing computer viruses and spyware. The partners also stressed the importance of installing a software firewall, programs on a computer or network of computers that examine e-mails and other incoming information to determine if they pose a threat before they are delivered within the computer. (Download the PowerPoint presentation from Microsoft, How Zombie PCs Operate: A Graphical Presentation to get a better understanding.)

So, what can you do to protect yourself? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Use a firewall to protect computers from hacking attacks while connected to the Internet.
  • Get computer security updates or use the automatic updating features to shield computers from viruses, worms and other threats.
  • Use up-to-date anti-virus software to help protect against the latest threats.
  • Get anti-spyware software and beware of tricks designed to get people to download and install unwanted and sometimes destructive software. This software is sometimes distributed in non-commercial music downloads, file-sharing programs and free games
  • Be cautious about opening any attachment or downloading any files in emails from unknown senders.

To protect yourself, you need an Internet security team of experts making sure that you, your family, and your business computer are always safe and secure. The best protection you can have in today's rapidly changing world of cyber-attacks is to have expert support for all your Internet security needs that will provide technical support without any hassles and without charging you extra fees. It will become even more critical than it is today as time goes on. You need to find your own personal team of experts to rely on. If you ever have a security problem, you will want to have a trusted expert you can call for professional help, without any hassles and extra costs!

Because cybercriminals are becoming smarter and more sophisticated in their operations, they are real threats to your personal security and privacy. Your money, your computer, your family, and your business are all at risk.

These cybercriminals leave you with three choices :

1. Do nothing and hope their attacks, risks, and threats don’t occur on your computer.

2. Do research and get training to protect yourself, your family, and your business.

3. Get professional help to lockdown your system from all their attacks, risks, and threats.

Remember: When you say "No!" to hackers and spyware, everyone wins! When you don't, we all lose!

© MMVII, Etienne A. Gibbs, MSWHealth Fitness Articles, The Internet Safety Advocate and Educator

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Related story: How Zombie PCs Operate: A Graphical Presentation

Etienne A. Gibbs, Independent Internet Security Advocate and Educator, consults with individuals, small business owners, and home-business entrepreneurs regarding online protection against spyware, viruses, malware, hackers, and other pc-disabling cybercrimes. For more information, visit

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