ATM Skimmer Defeated By Customer

Identity Theft Expert Robert Siciliano

Its not often that I get to report on the victim becoming the victor. It’s nice to see the good guys win one.

I met a charismatic gent on FOX and Friends named Sean Seibel. Sean has a unique job title at Microsoft: User Experience Evangelist. Sean’s job is to be on top of what’s new and what’s next in technology, in the next 5-7 years. He’s a futurist. He and I spoke in the green room of the show before we appeared together on a segment regarding ATM skimming.

ATM skimming often results in forms of identity theft, credit card fraud or bank fraud.

To be a User Experience Evangelist requires a certain vision, insight and the ability to go beyond what’s current or obvious. Sean proved his ability to see “more” by trumping a gang of identity thieves who set out to steal millions from ATMs but “only” got away with $500,000.

Sean stopped at an ATM to get some cash to pay his barber. When he inserted his ATM card in the machine, he noticed a bit of resistance. Most people wouldn’t think twice about this. But Sean doesn’t think like most people. Then the screen said the machine was unable to read his card so he tried again. The second time, the machine gave him an error message. Before he tried again, he thought about a report he had heard about devices that fraudsters attach to the outside of card readers on ATM machines and wondered if that was the source of his problem.

He says, “I’m looking at the thing and thinking, this can’t be. No way. There are all these stories and myths about it, but I actually found one in the wild.”

Sean was face to face with an ATM skimmer, one that he had just swiped his card through. His heart started pounding. Adrenalin was rushing through his body. He was concerned, not just that he might be scammed, but that criminals might be very close by, maybe even behind him or watching him. However, that did not deter him.

Sean says, “I tried to pull on the green plastic surrounding the card slot and found that it peeled right off.” This plastic ATM skimmer had an SD card built into it to store all the stolen data. Sean went into the bank and notified the branch manager, who had never seen an ATM skimmer and didn’t know what to do. She took the skimmer and thanked Sean.

Then Sean remembered, from numerous reports about ATM skimming, that there are usually 2 parts to the ATM skimmer. One is the skimming device itself, the second is a micro-camera placed somewhere on the machine, where it 1arecords the user’s PIN. The camera is often installed in a false brochure holder that taped to the ATM. In this case, it was behind a small mirror that alerts the ATM user to beware of “shoulder surfers.”

Sean went back to the still operational ATM, where people were waiting in line for their cash, and noticed a tiny video camera behind an extra mirror attached to the machine, positioned right over the key pad where it could record user’s PINs. Not being a bank employee and not wanting to alarm any of the people iwaiting, he actually got in line, waited his turn (knowing that the skimmer was gone and nobody was in danger) and pulled the camera off the ATM.

He brought the camera to the bank manager, who replied by saying, “Maybe we should shut 2b*that machine down, huh?” Sean said, “I think that’s a good idea.” The bank manager contacted bank security, shut down the machine and alerted other area banks. The identity thieves netted $500,000 from their scam, rather than the millions they might have stolen had Sean Seibel not foiled their operation.

Bank branch manager…ZERO
Identity Thieves……….$500,000
Sean Seibel foiling their operation and becoming a hero to many….Priceless.

Some great tips from Marite Ferrero, of CardSwitch Technology:

  • Skimming has been and will continue to be the most common type of ATM-related fraud.
  • Criminals attach skimming devices over card slots on ATMs to steal data as the machine reads the card’s magnetic strip.
  • Hidden cameras record victims typing in their PIN codes.
  • More sophisticated criminals use wireless keypad overlays, which transmit PINs to a nearby laptop, instead 3bof cameras.
  • The U.S. Secret Service estimates that annual losses from ATM skimming total about $1 billion each year, or $350,000 a day.
  • Bank ATMs are more vulnerable than standalone ATMs.
  • Standalone ATMs in grocery stores or on the street use technology that encrypts the PIN pad, making them more difficult for criminals to hack.
  • Standalone ATMs are often positioned near the watchful eye of cashiers or store owners, so it’s harder to install skimmers without being caught.
  • Bank ATMs are also more highly trafficked, which means a bigger potential payoff for the criminals.

Also, invest in identity theft protection and make to update your PC’s McAfee internet security software.

Identity theft expert Robert Siciliano discusses ATM skimming.

Data Breaches; LexisNexis – FAA Hacked, Botnets Grow, Hackers Hold Data Ransom

Identity Theft Expert

What a week. Just when it starts to get boring, criminal hackers put on a spectacular show.

Criminal hackers continue to step up to the plate. Security professionals are fighting, and sometimes losing, the battle. Here’s one week’s worth of hacks:

Lexis Nexis, which owns ChoicePoint, an information broker I recently blogged about that was hacked in 2005, was just hacked again this week. On Friday, LexisNexis Group notified more than 32,000 people that their information may have been stolen and used in a credit card scam that involved stealing names, birth dates and Social Security numbers to set up fake credit card accounts. The cybercriminals broke into USPS mailboxes of businesses that contained LexisNexis database information, according to a breach notification letter sent by LexisNexis to its customers. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is investigating the matter. (Check your credit reports and examine        your credit card statements carefully!)

CNET reports that hackers broke into FAA air traffic control systems, too. The hackers compromised an FAA public-facing computer and used it to gain access to personally identifiable information, such as Social Security numbers, for 48,000 current and former FAA employees. In a House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee testimony, it was stated, “FAA computer systems were hacked and, as the FAA increases its dependence on modern IP-based networks, the risk of the intentional disruption of commercial air traffic has increased.”

Computerworld reports that a hacker has threatened to expose health data and is demanding $10 million. Good for him, bad for the Virginia Department of Health Professions. The alleged ransom note posted on the Virginia DHP Prescription Monitoring Program site claimed that the hacker had backed up and encrypted  more than 8 million patient records and 35 million prescriptions and then deleted the original data. “Unfortunately for Virginia, their backups seem to have gone missing, too. Uh oh,” posted the hacker. Holding data hostage is nothing new, but it is      becoming increasingly common.

The Register reports that bot-herders have taken control of 12 million new IP addresses in the first quarter of 2009, a 50% increase since the last quarter of 2008, according to an Internet security report from McAfee. The infamous Conficker superworm has occupied all the headlines, and makes a big contribution to the overall figure of compromised Windows PCs, but other strains of malware collectively make a big contribution to this number. McAfee’s Threat Report notes that the US is home to 18% of botnet-infected computers.

While you can’t do much about others being irresponsible with your data, you can protect your identity, to a degree. Consider investing in identity theft protection and always keep your Internet security software updated.

Robert Siciliano, identity theft speaker, discusses Ransomware.

Lie to Me; Social Engineering and Bold Face Cons

Identity Theft Expert

If only our noses grew every time we lied. Life would be so transparent.

Social engineering is the act of manipulating people into performing certain actions or divulging confidential information. While similar to a confidence trick or simple fraud, the term typically applies to trickery or deception for the purpose of information gathering, fraud, or computer system access; in most cases the attacker never comes face-to-face with the victim.

Call them con men, grifters, scammers, or thieves. Or simply call them liars. Lying is what they do best. They stare you in the eyes and lie through their teeth. They do it casually and with such conviction that we have no reason not to believe them. Their craft and skill is a remorseless trait called social engineering, which is also known as pre-texting.

Lying is a learned behavior. One day as children we stumble upon a situation, one that we created or were a party to, and we are confronted by someone in authority. Most likely mom, dad, or a teacher. We are asked a question and we respond with what we think they want to hear, as opposed to the truth. We lie. They believe us and we are relieved of the burden of truth’s consequences.

We then use this tool throughout life whenever we feel it will outweigh the benefits of honesty. “Sir, did you know you were speeding?” We lie to others, we lie to ourselves, we all lie to a degree. It’s a survival mechanism. But some people are absolute professionals at it and take it way beyond what’s a reasonable lie. Their entire life’s motivation is to get out of bed in the morning and use deception to take what belongs to others. Liars often have a form of anti-social personality disorder. They lack empathy for others’ feelings. They aren’t concerned about the consequences of their actions and the potential harm it may do others. Many in prison are said to have this “ailment.”

Laws are created because of man’s behaviors, and the fact that man lies. Laws protect man from himself and from others.

Liars are often so good that they end up in a position of authority and trust. They could be heads of state, CEOs of corporations, judges, a significant other, or even a member of the clergy. For the past year, I’ve been corresponding with a minister who was convicted of identity theft and received an 18 month sentence. He’s asking me to testify on his behalf in an appeal.

What compounds the problem is the naïveté of civilized human beings. We are raised to love and respect, to be kind and cordial. We are taught to behave ourselves and tell the truth. And we expect others to act in kind. Trust is the foundation of functioning in a civilized society. Without a degree of trust in everyone and everything, we’d cease to move in a forward direction, always in fear of dire consequences of venturing out. If we didn’t inherently trust, how could we possibly get behind the wheel of a car and drive down a two way street, with nothing but a yellow painted line separating us from a head-on collision and imminent death?

I often hear people say, “I don’t trust anyone,” or advise others never to trust anyone else. And they are liars, too. Because they do trust.

When someone lies in our presence, we can sometimes smell a skunk. One on one contact provides us with numerous telltale signals of truth and lies. Human communication relies not just on words, but on body language and tone of voice. Believe it or not, we all exude energy towards others. Sometimes that energy is positive or negative. A negative energy coupled with certain neuro-linguistics can send a ping to our bellies and prompt the hair on the back of our necks to raise, signaling a primordial instinct to beware of a cheat in our presence.

Technology has made it easier than ever for liars to perfect their craft. We see thousands of scams and ruses pulled every day. The key is to understand the lures, motivations, and tactics of the con. When you can sense a snake-oil salesman and “see them from a mile away,” you are much safer and more secure than those who assume it can’t happen to them.

Trust is a fundamental and necessary part of life. But a degree of cynicism can go a long way. Because liars lie, invest in identity theft protection and make sure your PC has McAfee Internet security software.

Identity theft speaker Robert Siciliano discusses identity theft with a real conman.

Phishers Getting Smarter

Identity Theft Expert

It wasn’t long ago that most phishing emails were from a supposed Nigerian General Matumbi Mabumboo Watumboo. And you and I were flattered that we were the chosen ones to help the general transfer 35 million out of the country, because the Nigerian government was a bunch of jerks and wouldn’t let him keep the inheritance his wife had inherited from her deceased uncle Bamboo.

I distinctly remember getting a Nigerian phishing email in 1994-ish, back when I had an AOL account, and actually calling my bank and asking them what their thoughts were and what I should do. I mean 10% of $35 million, which the scammer offered in exchange for my help transferring the funds, was quite a fee for nominal work. All I had to do was front 10 grand in a wire transfer to make it all happen. My bank thought my Nigerian general and I were both nuts, and really didn’t know what I should do.

We didn’t have a lot of data on 419 scams or affinity fraud back then, or at least we didn’t have reliable access to that data, so I relied on what my mom told me early on: if it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably isn’t. So I deleted the email. Then I began to see more and more emails from others in the same quandary as the general.

Times have changed dramatically.

Today, with low cost delivery of email, billions of fraudulent emails are sent out every year. Any sales person knows it’s a numbers game. With billions of emails, you’ll eventually get someone to buy in.

Not too long ago, most spam emails came from a few legitimate servers. Once the government cracked down with the Can Spam Act, spam went underground. Most of today’s phishing emails originate from botnets. But what hasn’t changed much is the fraud victims’ sophistication, or lack thereof. The scammers are smarter, but the victims, not so much.

While phishing emails keep pouring in, their methods are changing rapidly. Posing as a Nigerian prince is still common, but not as effective. Even posing as a known bank or Paypal, asking to update an account for various reasons and requesting a potential victim’s user name and password is not as effective as it used to be.

Much of the phishing that occurs today is targeted “spear phishing,” in which the spammers are after a localized target. Recently, the usernames and passwords for 700 Comcast customers were posted on a document-sharing website, possibly as a result of a phishing attack. A Comcast employee with access to this type of data could easily have been tricked by a phisher posing as Comcast’s own IT staff, and foolishly released the customer information.

Going after a CEO is called “whaling.” Who better to take down than the biggest phish of them all? Most corporate websites offer plenty of data on the company officers and administrative contacts, which makes it relatively easy to create a sucker list. If scammers send an email blast to the entire company, eventually someone is likely to cough up enough data to allow the scammers to tap into the company’s intranet. Once the scammers have accessed the intranet, all further phishing emails will appear to be coming from a trusted, internal source.

Phishers even follow a similar editorial calendar as newspaper and magazine editors, coordinating their attacks around holidays and the change in seasons. They capitalize on significant events and natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina and most recently, swine flu. Since the swine flu outbreak, as much as 2% of all spamhas the words “swine flu” in the subject line. Numerous websites referencing swine flu in the address have also been registered.

Perhaps the most insidious type of phishing occurs when a recipient clicks a link, either in the body of an email or on the spoofed website linked in the email, and a download begins. That download is almost always a virus with a remote control component , which gives the phisher full access to the user’s data, including usernames and passwords, credit cards details, banking and Social Security numbers. Often, that same virus makes the victim’s PC part of a botnet.

How to avoid becoming a victim? Delete.

And of course update McAfee anti-virus and makes sure your PCs operating system has the latest critical security patches.

Robert Siciliano, identity theft speaker, discusses scam-baiters.

E-banking just got less secure

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker

There is no end to the ingenuity of the criminal hacker. They’ve figured out how to hack debit card PINS. Debit cards are linked directly to our checking accounts, which makes them tasty treats for criminal hackers.

At an ATM or cash register, most debit card users are blissfully unaware of what occurs when they swipe their cards and enter their pin numbers. A magical mystery takes place and we get to walk away with our new purchase, simply by swiping a card and tapping a few keys. The money magically disappears from our account and we celebrate by eating the Twinkie we just bought.

Whether you’re swiping your debit card at an ATM or in a store or restaurant, the process is similar. The user swipes his or her card and types in the pin number. The data is verified by a 3rd party payment processor or, in some cases, by a bank, over telephone lines or the Internet. Once the information has been validated and the payment processor confirms that the required funds exist, the money is moved from the user’s account to the merchant’s account, or is dispensed in cash.

The convenience of debit cards has led to global popularity that vastly exceeds that of handwritten checks, all the way into 3rd world countries.

We’ve known for some time that low-tech skimming at ATMs and gas pumps has been a point of compromise. Now, Wired reports that the transaction itself puts your PIN number at risk. Academics discovered this flaw years ago, but didn’t think it would be possible to execute in the field. Criminal hackers, however, have come up with the holy grail of hacks, stealing large amounts of encrypted and unencrypted debit card and pin numbers. And they have figured a way to crack the encryption codes.

The first signs of PIN tampering were recognized when investigators studied the processes of the 11 criminals who were caught after the TJX data breach. That breach involved 45 million credit and debit cards. The crime ring needed PIN codes to turn that data into cash. An investigation into this breach reported that the hacks resulted in “more targeted, cutting-edge, complex, and clever cyber crime attacks than seen in previous years.”

This revelation has some saying that the only cure for this type of hack is a complete overhaul to the payment processing system.

The compromise occurs in a device called a hardware security module (HSM), which sits on bank networks. PIN numbers pass through this device on their way to the card issuer. The module is tamper-resistant and provides a secure environment for encryption and decryption for PINs and card numbers. Criminal hackers are accessing HSMs and tricking them into providing the decrypting data. They are installing malware called “memory scrapers,” which capture the unencrypted data and use the hacked system to store it.

The PCI Security Standards Council, a self regulating body that oversees much of what occurs regarding payment card transaction, said they would begin testing HSMs. Bob Russo, general manager of the global standards body, said that the council’s testing of the devices would “focus specifically on security properties that are critical to the payment system.”

I don’t own a debit card and never have and never will. Simply put, if my debit card were hacked, that money would be coming directly from my bank account. A compromised ATM or point of sale transaction often fails to exhibit evidence of hacking. This means that I’d have to go through the arduous process of convincing my bank that it wasn’t me who withdrew thousands of dollars from my account. Whereas if a credit card is compromised, the zero-liability guarantee kicks in and I’m cured much more quickly.

Your ultimate responsibility here is to check your statements very closely and look for unauthorized activity. Read your statements online biweekly as opposed to relying solely on your monthly paper statement, and refute unauthorized charges immediately. Consider using a credit card instead of a debit card.

While this type of fraud is generally out of your control it’s still imperative you invest in internet security software such as McAfee and consider identity theft protection.

Identity Theft Expert discussing flawed card transactions

I’m excited to work with uni-ball in 2009 in a partnership to help raise awareness about the growing threat of identity theft and provide tips for protecting yourself. Check out for more information.

Identity Theft Expert and Laptop Computer Security: CTO of MyLaptopGPS Reiterates that a Mobile Computer is Stolen Every 12 Seconds

(BOSTON, Mass. – April 13, 2009 – The single most important thing a laptop computer owner should assume is that he or she could be the next victim of laptop computer theft, according to Dan Yost, chief technology officer of laptop computer security firm MyLaptopGPS. A laptop computer is stolen every 12 seconds, noted Yost, who pointed out that the single most effective laptop theft deterrent is laptop tracking technology such as MyLaptopGPS’, which is powered by Internet-based GPS.

“A mobile computer is stolen every 12 seconds,” said Yost, who invited readers to follow MyLaptopGPS’ laptop computer security blog and laptop computer security posts at Twitter. “Once laptop owners process and accept this fact, they will realize that their machines could very well be next. Laptop computer owners who comprehend this will see their instincts and common sense doing an amazing job of helping to protect their assets. They’ll be far ahead of the curve.”

Yost’s expertise has been featured twice in CXO Europe. Furthermore, in December of 2008, he and widely televised and quoted identity theft expert Robert Siciliano co-delivered a presentation titled “Information in the Modern Age: Maintaining Privacy in an Era of Medical Record Identity Theft” at the 4th Annual World Healthcare Innovation & Technology Congress in Washington, D.C., where Former U.S. Congressman Newt Gingrich delivered the keynote address.

The single most effective action any laptop computer owner can take to protect a machine is to equip it with laptop computer security technology, noted Yost, who added that simple strategies and tactics help to further deter laptop thieves. These include, according to Yost, stowing a laptop away from outside view when leaving it in a locked vehicle and keeping a laptop carrying case’s strap close to the shoulder, placing a hand on the case itself at all times.

Featured in Inc. Magazine and TechRepublic, MyLaptopGPS maintains the Realtime Estimated Damage Index (REDI™), a running tally of highly publicized laptop and desktop computer thefts and losses and these losses’ associated costs. Since the beginning of 2008, 3,279,909 data records associated with laptop theft have been lost, according to the REDI at MyLaptopGPS’ website. A log of these high-profile laptop thefts is available.

“Once a laptop computer owner realizes his or her machine could be the next one stolen, many commonsense habits will become second nature,” said Siciliano, who endorses MyLaptopGPS and is CEO of identity theft protection firm “No tactic is foolproof, but aware laptop owners are much more likely to do the kinds of things that will keep their mobile computers out of thieves’ hands. And people whose mobile computers are out of laptop thieves’ reach are, frankly, people whose confidential data is much less likely to be within identity thieves’ reach, as well.”

YouTube video shows Siciliano on a local FOX News affiliate discussing the importance of securing mobile computing devices on college campuses, where laptop theft can run rampant. To learn more about identity theft, a major concern for anyone who’s lost a laptop computer or other mobile computing device to thieves, readers may go to video of Siciliano at VideoJug.

Anyone who belongs to LinkedIn® is encouraged to join MyLaptopGPS’ laptop computer security group there. They may download a demo of MyLaptopGPS, as well, and have the opportunity to read one of two reports tailored to the type of organization they run.


About MyLaptopGPS

Celebrating 25 years in business, Tri-8, Inc. (DBA has specialized in complete system integration since its founding in 1984. From real-time electronic payment processing software to renowned mid-market ERP implementations, the executive team at MyLaptopGPS has been serving leading enterprises and implementing world-class data systems that simply work. With MyLaptopGPS™, Tri-8, Inc. brings a level of expertise, dedication, knowledge and service that is unmatched. MyLaptopGPS™’s rock-solid performance, security, and reliability flow directly from the company’s commitment to top-notch software products and services.


Identity theft affects everyone. CEO of, Robert Siciliano is a member of the Bank Fraud & IT Security Report‘s editorial board and of the consumer advisory board for McAfee. Additionally, in a partnership to help raise awareness about the growing threat of identity theft and provide tips for consumers to protect themselves, he is nationwide spokesperson for uni-ball in 2009 ( provides for more information). A leader of personal safety and security seminars nationwide, Siciliano has been featured on “The Today Show,” “CBS Early Show,” CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, FOX News, “The Suze Orman Show,” “The Montel Williams Show,” “Tyra” and “Inside Edition.” Numerous magazines, print news outlets and wire services have turned to him, as well, for expert commentary on personal security and identity theft. These include Forbes, USA Today, Entrepreneur, Good Housekeeping, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Times, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, United Press International, Reuters and others. For more information, visit Siciliano’s Web site, blog, and YouTube page.

The media are encouraged to get in touch with any of the following individuals:

John Dunivan

MyLaptopGPS Media Relations

PHONE: (405) 747-6654 (direct line)

Robert Siciliano, Personal Security Expert

CEO of

PHONE: 888-SICILIANO (742-4542)

FAX: 877-2-FAX-NOW (232-9669)

Brent Skinner

President & CEO of STETrevisions

PHONE: 617-875-4859

FAX: 866-663-6557

Is the security community selling fear?

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Cyber crime profits are running into the trillions.

Weekly, and often daily, I remind readers of how potentially screwed they are once they boot up their PCs and access the Internet. Identity theft is a real problem that messes up people’s lives. When someone’s PC is hacked and their passwords are compromised, account takeover can be financially devastating. Even though a financial institution may resolve the errors, victims still lose money.

Most are beginning to realize that the only secure PC is one that is powered off.

Many view these rants as selling “FUD”: fear, uncertainty and doubt. And selling fear is what gets people to buy your security product. Many have accused the Internet security companies of being fear mongers peddling their wares during the Conficker scare.

Fear-based selling has been going on since the beginning of time and will always be a part of the sales cycle. But am I really selling fear? Do those I work with sell fear? I don’t think so. But feel free to disagree with me.

The fact remains that there are scumbags out there, trying to figure out how to get you to part with your money in thousands of different ways, every day, all day. And if reminding readers of all these scams and then selling a solution to the problem is selling fear, then so be it. The question is, is the fear real or made up? Is there a legitimate scare that needs to be brought to light, and a solution that will fix it? Or is this just selling snake oil and false promises, and taking advantage of people?

Information Week states, “The computer security industry has failed computer users, and the Internet has become so unsafe that average users can’t protect themselves.” The Internet is not a safe place for everyday folk. The online world is like Iraq and Afghanistan (dangerous), the Taliban (criminals) are everywhere. Most people do not have the capacity to secure their networks or the technical know-how to surf safely. Studies show that 40% of web surfers haven’t updated their browser’s security, or their Windows-based computers don’t have their critical security patches updated.

The threats are real. The Washington Post reports that Senate lawmakers are advancing legislation to create mandatory computer security standards for government and private sector operators of critical infrastructure. This is legislation that will force standards in security,  ensuring that we keep the lights on, the fields plowed, the water clean, and the engines running.

If there was ever a time to be “fearful” and to make an investment in identity theft protection, Internet security software such as McAfee, or any other protective hardware or software as a result, now is that time.

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing online security here

I’m excited to work with uni-ball in 2009 in a partnership to help raise awareness about the growing threat of identity theft and provide tips for protecting yourself. Check out for more information.

Identity Theft Speaker; Confickers Threat Hasn’t Waned

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

We are not out of the woods with this one.

Conficker’s rise and fall and the passing activity of the worm on April 1st has allowed researchers and anti-virus companies to better understand the virus and its impact. While April Fools was supposed to be the day of reckoning for Conficker, it wasn’t and still isn’t a joke.

Viruses often come with a trigger date, as pointed out by CNET. And while many fail to meet the media hype, they still can and often do cause millions or billions in damage.

The media does what it does and reports on the news. While they or even I may not always get the facts straight, the impetus is still there.

In a “Conficker Postmortem,” CNET examines the media frenzy and points to a humorous spoof that Wired ran, a fake live blog from the “Conficker Worm War Room.” CNET also points out that, “The New York Times called it an ‘unthinkable disaster’ in the making. CBS’s 60Minutes said the worm could ‘disrupt the entire internet,’ and The Guardian warned that it might be a ‘deadly threat’.”

The positive result of this media hype is that it brings attention to an ongoing problem for an audience that never considered themselves vulnerable to these issues. In my world, even Facebook friends and Twitter followers who had never reacted to previous posts on a plethoraof IT and personal security issues are finally starting to ask the right questions.

“Your mom’s virus,” as we knew it, has become a part of popular culture. In a sense, this is a good thing, because it’s now water cooler talk with the same level of buzz as Britney Spears going nutty. We in the security community couldn’t ask for more and better attention, that may potentially enlist an army of security moms. Thank you, Conficker!

Still, Conficker is the most sophisticated virus to date and is still waiting to strike, which can very well lead to major data breaches and identity theft. As the virus continues to call home for the yet to be delivered update, researchers have determined an estimated 3.5 to 4 million PCs are infected on the Conficker botnet, which is the most powerful and dangerous aspect of Conficker.

Overall totals of infected computers may still be between 10 and 15 million. Many of those have a dormant virus that has the capability to wreak havoc, or that may have already been rendered impotent by anti-virus providers and IT administrators who have taken advantage of numerous solutions by McAfee and others.

What the public needs to understand is this infection is anything but over. The virus phones home every day looking for its next set of updates, which could still have catastrophic results if the virus ever reaches its full potential.

The risk here is that a virus of this kind has technology that can disable anti-virus software and that prevents access to numerous websites which provide automatic security updates, including Windows.

Today, Brian Krebs from the Washington Post points out the similarity’s to Y2K potential bug, just as I did last week. “In one sense, the response to Conficker could be compared to that of Y2K: A great deal of smart people threw a whole lot of resources and energy at a fairly complex problem and managed to turn a potentially very ugly situation into a relative non-event.”

The attention that Conficker brought upon itself has rallied security professionals to be on their highest guard, which is exactly where they should be.

See Robert Siciliano, identity theft speaker, discussing hacking for dollars.

I’m excited to work with uni-ball in 2009 in a partnership to help raise awareness about the growing threat of identity theft and provide tips for protecting yourself. Check out for more information.

Conficker virus has soft launch

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

With the world watching Conficker has reached out but has not delivered any new malware.

Computer World reports “We have observed that Conficker is reaching out, but so far none of the servers they are trying to reach are serving any new malware or any new commands,” said Toralv Dirro, a security strategist at McAfee Avert Labs, in Germany.

The sense is its developers know IT security professionals are watching closely and are waiting for the noise to die down before making its next update.

A virus of this kind has enough juice to wait around for the white hats to drop their guard then strike.

However there are cures to Conficker and the longer they wait the more PCs will be cured.

For Windows learn more about Conficker and its symptoms here.

McAfee has detailed instructions on its removal here

You may need an IT administrator to do the dirty works as it’s a bit complicated for some.

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing viruses here

I’m excited to work with uni-ball in 2009 in a partnership to help raise awareness about the growing threat of identity theft and provide tips for protecting yourself. Check out for more information.

WWW. Weird Wild Web Goes Nutty

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Every day new reports of another flaw and another breach. Today we learn attacks rise 33 percent. I’m not surprised.

Credit card details of 19,000 Brits have been found on a cached Google page, where they had been accidentally published by fraudsters. Silly criminal hackers need to tighten up their data security controls and not publish sensitive data like that!

Reuters reports – Fraud on the Internet reported to U.S. authorities increased by 33 percent last year, rising for the first time in three years, and is surging this year as the recession deepens, federal authorities said.

Internet fraud losses reported in the United States reached a record high $264.6 million in 2008, according to a report released on Monday from the Internet Fraud Complaint Center, run by the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.

CNBC reports Online scams originating from across the globe—mostly from the United States, Canada, Britain, Nigeria and China—are gathering steam this year with a nearly 50 percent increase in complaints reported to U.S. authorities in March alone.

About 74 percent of the scams were through e-mail messages last year, especially spam, while about 29 percent used websites. But criminals were increasingly tapping new technologies such as social networking sites and instant messenger services.

The report highlights one new ‘significant’ identity-theft scam involving e-mail messages that give the appearance of originating from the FBI but seek bank account information to help in investigations of money being transferred to Nigeria.

Recipients of the e-mails are told they could be richly rewarded by cooperating. Duh.

Criminal hackers are going hog wild.

Invest in identity theft protection and secure your PC with anti-virus protection such as McAfee

Meanwhile two scumbag criminal hackers are arrested while spying on children between the ages of 14 and 17 using the child’s personal Web cam. The degenerates worked together to extort money from teenagers in exchange for stolen images.

They allegedly gained access to computers using a variety of e-mail addresses and screen names.

Conficker is spawning new hacks such as Scareware as Scammers are taking advantage of the huge interest in the impending “activation” of the Conficker superworm by poisoning search engine results.

Washington Post reports experts have discovered a security hole in the computer code that powers the Conficker worm, an aggressive contagion that has spread to more than 12 million Microsoft Windows systems worldwide.

Stay tuned…

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discusses credit card scams here

I’m excited to work with uni-ball in 2009 in a partnership to help raise awareness about the growing threat of identity theft and provide tips for protecting yourself. Check out for more information.