Computer Security Tip: Is Your Computer A Zombie?
Here's a scary thought.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article about the "Storm Worm" that has been flooding everybody's inboxes with fake "ecard" and "greeting card" messages that try to lure you to a malicious website so it can infect your computer.
Well the problem is far worse than I ever imagined.
According to recent reports, the Storm Worm is currently infecting as many as TEN MILLION computers around the world.
These computers are infected so that they can be slaved together into what is called a "zombie net". If this makes you picture a scene from a horror movie, with thousands of the living dead shuffling after a helpless victim, in a way, you're not far off.
Zombie nets, also known as "botnets" are computers just like any other, but they've been infected with a virus that makes the computers remote controlled by some unknown person or group of people.
In most cases, these zombies can be infected without the computer's user having any idea it's happening, and the computer can remain infected for weeks or months!
And yes, if you are using Windows, it's very possible your computer could be infected right now and you'd have no idea.
If you're using a Mac (Apple), since there are currently NO worms or viruses that infect the Mac OS, you're safe. But you should keep reading because I'm about to reveal a tip that can help protect you in the future if there ever is a virus or worm for Mac.
The tip I'm going to share in a moment also can help protect Windows AND Mac users from common scam emails like phishing scams.
So these Zombie Nets are used by criminals to launch attacks on web sites, steal information, and other criminal activity.
So yes, that means that if your PC is infected, you are (in a way) aiding in committing crimes. Fortunately, you're not going to be arrested, but you should do what you can to protect yourself anyway.
The more we fight back against these criminals, the safer we all are!
The way it stands, whoever is behind the Storm Worm -- and authorities don't know who it is, or if they do, they're not letting on -- has a vast army of computers at their command. The army is so powerful, that as I mentioned before, they can out-think the world's greatest supercomputers!
The way that the Storm Worm emails try to trick you into infecting your computer keeps changing -- they're doing this to make it hard for people like me to tip you off and protect you.
The most recent ways they've been luring people in is by claiming that there is a video of you on YouTube.com, or by sending out fake "registration details" emails.
The registration details welcome you as a new member of a service you've never heard of or signed up for, and want you to log in and update your login information.
This is very similar to the common "phishing scams" which try to trick you into giving away personal information through fake emails from places like eBay, PayPal, or others. The only difference is they're trying to get a program (virus or worm) onto your computer instead of getting you to type in personal information like passwords or social security numbers.
Here's a tip to recognize most or all of these scam emails and Storm Worm emails.
Take a look at the bottom edge of the window you're reading this article in (this should work for those of you reading this in a regular email program or if you're reading it on a web page). You should see an area (probably just a solid color with no information in it right now) called the "status bar".
If the window just stops with no bottom border a few millimeters tall, then look in the View menu above and look for a menu option called status bar. If it's not checked, click on it to activate the status bar. If you accidentally turn it off, just go back to the View menu and click the option again.
Now that it's turned on (if it wasn't already) take a look at it again and put your mouse pointer over the following link:
You should see the address http://www.worthgodwin.com/
appear on the status bar. It matches what the address above says, because this is a legitimate email.
(Note: if you're a Mac user running the Mac OS X Mail program -- the one with the postage stamp icon -- then this may not show up on a status bar, but a little "tool tip" that appears hovering over the link itself)
A scam email or Storm Worm email would normally show a weird address on the status bar that just has numbers in it, like 188.8.131.52 or something like that. Numbers separated by dots.
When you see something like that, where the status bar shows just a bunch of numbers instead of a real address, 99% of the time you should avoid clicking on the link.
until next time, stay safe, have fun, and enjoy,