Saturday, July 7, 2012

In a time of war, thieves pepper the worldwide web

Internet scams abound in cash flow wars

How to be insincere in the dialect of high tech: Have your modem access my modem, and we'll do lunch...

Will you be able to access your internet service provider, come Monday?

It's a good question, for some; for many, it's a vital inquiry. Money, marbles, and chalk are on the line. It's a place where the buck stops 24/7, 365 days a year.

The FBI estimates that when they turn off the servers that have been enabling more than a quarter million internet users – an estimated 64,000 of them Americans - to come and go freely from the worldwide web, their internet companies will be able to give them the meticulous service required to go into their hard drives and remove the malware infection that plagues their computers, and all its manifestations propagated throughout their systems.

But you don't have to wait until the hog's in the ditch. There are a couple of remedies available that might just avert the disaster before the feds throw the switch.

What's it all about?

Hackers infected servers worldwide with DNSChanger malware, a nasty little doo-dad that fools your computer into using their rogue server instead of the one your internet provider furshishes.

How does it work?

The DNS – an acronym for domain name system - changer simply converts the plain language domain name you type into your web search engine into a numerical – or digital – code that enables your computer to talk to another computer.

So a DNS changer that controls your internet navigation rather than helps you do what you want to do is not only bogus, it's capable of ripping you off for your medical records, your banking information, your e-mail traffic – anything of high personal value that can be resold for a profit.

When the FBI caught and shut down a group of Eastern European hackers who were doing exactly that for profit earlier this year, they were able to replace the bogus DNS servers with a temporary setup that would enable folks to go on as if nothing was wrong.

All that comes to a halt at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, July 9, when the G-men intend to shut off the temporary system.

Can you tell if your computer is infected?

Yes, and no. Here's why.

Though there is a quick test you can run to see if everything is all right, it's not totally reliable.

That's because if your internet service provider has been re-routing your internet traffic to one of the temporary servers, running the simple test at (click here to perform the test) would show that your computer is not infected, in any case.

There are more elaborate measures that may be taken by visiting an FBI website -

which gives detailed instructions on how to test your computer and remove the malware before they shut off the servers on Monday morning.

What was the point of the hacking?

It's a way for bogus organizations to raise money – a quick booby trap to snare cash and information worth cash with which to supply and re-supply troops and technicians from the terror armies of the ight who are suffering through hard times. Worldwide recession affects them the way it does anyone else. It makes a buck hard to come by.

But the tide turns hectic during holidays. For instance, hackers broke into the files of the Austin-based private intelligence network Stratfor during the Christmas-New Year's rush to party hearty.

When Stratfor's chief George Friedman learned what had happened to his customers' valuable financial information, he hired a computer forensics outfit to track the damage and put a quietus on bogus transactions made through gleaning credit and debit card information from his corporation's files.

The Legendary got hit with a fraudulent order of $500 worth of Buffalo wings for Super Bowl Sunday from a Cleveland-area caterer who specializes in sports parties. There were additional charges of about a $1,000 for a total of $1,500 – all of which were quickly stopped through the services of the outfit Mr. Friedman hired to protect me and his other customers.

And now the ugly problem has reared its head again.

Last week, smack dab in the middle of the Fourth of July party, I got an e-mail from someone calling themselves Wiki-Leaks – at this point, when it's spy vs. spy vs. spy, who knows - who approached me as a member of an elite crowd of editors and university professors who might like to get in on the ground floor of an exciting new program culling through millions of e-mails generated by Stratfor.

Say what? You sure you're talking to me?

The offer contained the intelligence that Stratfor does business with CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency. Now, there's a brick through the window.

Furthermore, the letter said, many of Stratfor's executives are retirees from those agencies, and that there is a fascinating plethora of material to be had – if I would only give them a secure e-mail box address to contact me – and fill out a handy application form.

Of course, the application form asks for all kinds of personal information. I guess The Legendary isn't so important, after all. You would think that a prominent editor of my caliber, the kind of guy who gets worn out sleeves rubbing elbows with tenured professors and assistant professors from universities all over the known world, would be an open book.

Question: Since when is it such a controversial act to do business with CIA and DIA? Furthermore, what would I have to gain by going through Mr. Friedman's e-mail? After all, he's the guy who helped me when the wolves were at the door back in January, trying to hit my bank account for $1,500.

The wars come and go, but the Earth abides forever, and the people scratch, bite and fight for her resources on any given day, be it the King's game, Caesar's water, or the full faith and credit of the U.S. Treasury.

Then there was the filling station on I-35 where the card reader wouldn't take my debit card as such and requested that I enter my scan as a credit card.

I was in a hurry, said why not, and clicked on the bossy little machine's request.

Then the pump would not turn on. No way. No how. The machine had my information, but it wouldn't dispense any tiger into my tank.


A quick check of my mobile banking records showed two charges for a dollar each, neither of which sums was final because the bank was awaiting final word from the merchant.

Inside the station, a young man with mideastern looks and a pronounced accent had a laptop hooked up to the pump controller.

I raised hell, and within minutes, the bank showed the merchant had reversed the charge.

Stand by to stand by. It's going to get real before we get over all this here.

- The Legendary

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