Thwarting Computer Attacks

In this column in the January 2006 Agency Sales, we detailed some of the dangers that could face reps who did not take the necessary steps to protect their computers against computer hackers. Those without the proper protection could fall victim to any number of attacks in the form of spam, viruses, e-mail bombs and denial of service. The column went on to detail the importance of installing a firewall that “sits between your computer and the Internet and fends off direct probes into your computer. The probes I’m talking about come from hackers and others who can pose a threat to you and your business.”

As if the facts contained in that column needed any proof, the Washington Post in February ran an article entitled “Invasion of the Computer Snatchers” that described worst-case scenarios for computers and how money is made by hackers intent on taking them over.

The article described how a 21-year-old high school dropout spent his days breaking into as many as 2,000 computers around the world, commandeering them and beginning to download and install software that would bombard their users with advertisements for pornographic websites. His activity and the work of others like him can also result in the aforementioned “denial-of-service attacks.” In attacks such as those, thousands of dollars in protection money is demanded from businesses. “If the businesses refuse to pay, the criminal orders the thousands of computers that make up their botnets to flood the websites with meaningless traffic, crippling the businesses and costing them thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue.”

In return for anonymously plying his trade from his parents’ home, every couple of weeks the hacker receives a $300 check from one of the companies that pays him for his services.

Overall, the lengthy article emphasized how important it was for computer users to take the precautions necessary to secure their computers from attacks. As one user who did fall victim to an attack related: “It’s easier to take the precautions needed to keep a computer from being hacked than it is to clean it up after the damage has been done. Overall, you’ve got to realize that, just like if you don’t secure your home, you run the risk of getting burglarized; if you’re crazy enough to leave the door on your computer open these days, like I did, someone’s gonna walk right in and make themselves at home.”

Precaution Should Accompany Convenience

Hand-held, relatively small communication devices are omnipresent these days. It’s impossible to walk the streets of any city without seeing waves of people on their cell phones. Gone are the days when a business meeting would command the undivided attention of attendees. Instead, while ostensibly listening to a presentation, participants will be busy working their BlackBerrys, checking on e-mails and communicating with the home office. Also gone are the days when travel by air provided a respite from business matters. Instead, look around the plane and half the travelers are busy on their laptops. With the convenience of these devices, however, comes a bit of a risk, as reported by The New York Times. “Pocket-size devices are misplaced all the time — travelers left 85,000 cell phones and 21,000 hand-held computers in Chicago taxis during a six-month period last year, according to a survey by Pointsec Mobile Technologies, a maker of security software. And as these devices become capable of storing larger volumes of data, some experts are concerned about the increasing vulnerability of those files.”

The article went on to describe a variety of security breaches that put any number of companies at risk. So while these devices provide the constant communication that everyone is looking for these days, they carry with them the responsibility to hold onto them. Things that small are easily misplaced.

Sources for Tech Solutions

The Southern California Chapter of ERA regularly includes us in the distribution of its weekly newsletter. We thank them for that. Included in that newsletter are excerpts from technology columns written by radio personality Kim Komando. We’ve provided her web address in the past, and we’ll refer to it again ( as a good source for getting answers to tech questions and solutions to tech problems. In addition, you should also be aware that many of the nation’s leading newspapers have tech columns that are easily accessed over the Internet. Three especially informative sites that often have question-and-answer columns are: The New York Times (, Chicago Tribune ( and the Washington Post (www.

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