Blocking Internet Hackers Using Firewalls

Blocking Internet Hackers Using Firewalls
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Published Date:25-10-2017
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17_275191-bk03ch01.qxp 6/16/08 9:50 PM Page 221 Chapter 1: Addressing Internet Security In This Chapter  Stopping hackers with a firewall  Getting outfitted for the battle against Internet viruses and infections  Fighting back against spam and junk e-mails  Realizing the dangers of the virtual fishing game — phishing  Putting your foot down on pop-ups and staying safe when surfing s you may know, the Internet opens your computer up to infections — Athose nasty little programs like viruses and spyware — and to hackers. But did you know you can protect yourself against these infections and threats? It isn’t hard and you don’t have to have a computer degree: just at most some money and an hour of your time. In addition to viruses, you have to worry about other online threats and annoyances, like spam and phishing e-mails. You can protect yourself, but first you need to know how. This chapter shows you how. Blocking Internet Hackers Using Firewalls The Internet is in effect just a big network, similar to your home network, but with billions of computers interconnected from around the world. Some of the people behind these computers are trustworthy, but others are not. Connecting your computer to the Internet without proper protection gives hackers the opportunity to connect to your computer to do nefarious things like ✦ Getting your files and sensitive information ✦ Monitoring your Internet traffic ✦ Taking over your computer to change settings and cause havoc You can, however, use a firewall to protect yourself from these hackers. 6/16/08 9:50 PM Page 222 222 Blocking Internet Hackers Using Firewalls The big picture behind what firewalls do A firewall is a filter that monitors data traffic to either let it through or block it, depending on the settings you’ve created when you set up your firewall. You could compare this process to a DUI checkpoint set up by the authorities: 1. Cars (data traffic) on both sides of the road (incoming and outgoing) must stop at the road-block (firewall) to be inspected. 2. Safe drivers (authorized data traffic) are let through to the other side of the roadblock (firewall). 3. Impaired drivers (unauthorized data traffic) are blocked and aren’t allowed through the roadblock (firewall). Figure 1-1 gives you a visual of this type of filter provided by computer firewalls. Blocks unauthorized Lets authorized outgoing traffic traffic through Firewall Blocks unauthorized incoming traffic Figure 1-1: A depiction of a firewall Internet filtering your data traffic. Internet Security 17_275191-bk03ch01.qxp 6/16/08 9:50 PM Page 223 223 Blocking Internet Hackers Using Firewalls A firewall doesn’t come with authorities to do the inspection, nor does it automatically prosecute violators; however, a firewall helps keep your com- puters from being hacked. What a firewall actually blocks: Ports The previous section helps paint a good picture in your mind to understand the basic concept behind firewalls, but to better understand firewalls, you should know that they work by blocking ports. A firewall doesn’t just magi- cally know what data is good or bad for your computer out of thin air, or from some type of inspection of the data itself. On a network and the Internet, there are different ports (thousands of them) that data can travel through. For instance, think of a CB radio: You have 40 channels you can talk on, but all the talk is done through one medium, the airwaves. Likewise, all the data on a network and the Internet travels through the same mediums, but on a variety of ports. Half of the protection provided by firewalls is blocking all ports except those specified as authorized ports. The other half of the protection is provided by blocking all programs on your computer (no matter what port is used) from using the network or Internet, again, except for those you have specifically authorized. Book III Chapter 1 Getting a firewall to protect yourself A firewall can be a software program loaded on your computers or a piece of hardware that sits between your Internet connection and your computers (or router). Newer operating systems such as the following come with built- in firewall software: ✦ Windows Vista ✦ Windows XP ✦ Mac OS X Ubuntu doesn’t automatically come with a firewall installed and active. However, you can set it up, which is discussed shortly. You can also find firewall software available as a standalone product or as a part of an entire Internet security suite, for purchase (or for free) from com- panies such as ✦ ✦ CA (Computer Associates) ✦ Norton (Symantec) 6/16/08 9:50 PM Page 224 224 Blocking Internet Hackers Using Firewalls ✦ ZoneAlarm (basic firewall software is free) ✦ Comodo Firewall Pro (free) Because your operating system (Windows, Mac, and so on) probably includes a firewall, using a third-party firewall isn’t necessary. However, if you are purchasing an Internet security suite for viral and spyware protec- tion, and it includes a firewall, you may want to disable the built-in firewall for your operating system. You’ll probably find it easier to use the third- party firewall because it will be from the same vendor, providing you with streamlined access and configuration of all your Internet security products. Hardware firewall solutions are covered later in this chapter, in the “Using Internet Security Hardware Solutions for Your Entire Network” section. Configuring the Windows Firewall Windows XP and Vista come with a firewall (called Windows Firewall) installed and enabled by default. Because common programs and services are authorized by default, you don’t have to configure the Windows Firewall that much. Additionally, when a program on your computer tries to access the Internet or network for the first time, you’re prompted to authorize or block the access. Then, depending upon your response to whether to authorize or block, the firewall utility is automatically updated. The firewall settings are saved, so when you restart your computer nothing needs configured again. You basically need to configure your firewall settings only when you want to disable or enable the feature or manually add or remove an application or software. Using Windows XP You can access the firewall settings in Windows XP from the Control Panel. To do so, choose Start➪Control Panel➪Network and Internet Connections➪ Windows Firewall. Figure 1-2 shows the main window of Windows Firewall, where you can easily turn it on or off. Clicking the Exceptions tab shows you all the programs/ports that are authorized to pass by the firewall, such as those shown in Figure 1-3. These exceptions apply to all your network adapters. Internet Security 17_275191-bk03ch01.qxp 6/16/08 9:50 PM Page 225 225 Blocking Internet Hackers Using Firewalls Figure 1-2: The main window of the firewall utility in Windows XP. Book III Chapter 1 Figure 1-3: The Exceptions tab of the firewall utility in Windows XP. Clicking the Advanced tab (see Figure 1-4) gives you access to more complex settings: ✦ Enable/disable firewall protection for certain network adapters ✦ Configure the logging settings of the Windows Firewall 6/16/08 9:50 PM Page 226 226 Blocking Internet Hackers Using Firewalls ✦ Configure the Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) settings ✦ Restore Windows Firewall to its defaults, which is useful if you think you’ve caused problems by changing its settings Figure 1-4: The Advanced tab of the firewall utility in Windows XP. Using Windows Vista You can access the firewall settings in Windows Vista from your Control Panel by choosing Start➪Control Panel➪Security➪Windows Firewall. If UAC is active and you received an alert, click OK to continue. Figure 1-5 shows the main window of Windows Firewall. On the left are the main tasks, such as turning the firewall off and on or allowing a program through the firewall. You can click the Change Settings link to bring up the Windows Firewall Settings dialog box, which enables you to review or change other settings: ✦ General tab: This is where you can easily turn the firewall on or off, or block all incoming connections for maximum protection. ✦ Exceptions tab: Shows you all the programs/ports that are authorized to pass by the firewall. These exceptions apply to all your network adapters. ✦ Advanced tab: Lets you enable/disable firewall protection for certain network adapters. From here, you can also restore Windows Firewall to its defaults, which is useful if you think you’ve caused problems by changing its settings. Internet Security 17_275191-bk03ch01.qxp 6/16/08 9:50 PM Page 227 227 Blocking Internet Hackers Using Firewalls Figure 1-5: The Main window of the firewall utility in Windows Vista. Configuring Mac OS X’s firewall The firewall feature in Mac OS X Tiger and Leopard is also installed and enabled by default. Just as with the Windows Firewall, you don’t have to do much configuring of the firewall in Mac OS X. Common programs and serv- ices are authorized by default, and the firewall is updated when you turn on Book III Chapter 1 and off most other features that communicate with the Internet or your net- work, such as Personal File Sharing or Personal Web Sharing. You basically need to configure your firewall settings only when you want to disable or enable the feature or manually add or remove an application or software. Accessing the firewall feature in Tiger Here’s how to access the firewall feature in Mac OS X Tiger: 1. Click the Apple icon on the menu bar. 2. Click System Preferences. 3. Click Sharing. 4. Click the Firewall tab. The status of the firewall (shown as Firewall On or Firewall Off) is displayed in the upper-left of the Firewall tab window. Just below the status is the button (labeled Stop or Start, depending upon the current status) to disable or enable the firewall. 6/16/08 9:50 PM Page 228 228 Blocking Internet Hackers Using Firewalls Many common features and programs are listed in the scrolling list box. Only the items that are checked are authorized to pass through the firewall. Many items can’t be selected or deselected; in that case, the feature can be turned on or off in the Services pane (by clicking the Services tab button in the Sharing window). You can, however, choose an item and click the Edit button to see exactly what ports the item uses. If the item is editable (meaning that you can select or deselect it), you can edit the ports for the item. You can add new features and applications to the firewall to allow their traffic to and from the Internet or your network from the particular Mac computer you’re currently using. To do this, click the New button. On the drop-down menu, select the appropriate feature or application from the Port Name drop-down list. Click OK to add the new entry to the firewall. If you want to block a service or application (remove it from the firewall), select the desired item from the scrolling list box and click Delete. Clicking the Advanced button brings up the following three advanced fire- wall settings: ✦ Block UDP Traffic: Selecting this can help secure your computer. ✦ Enabled Firewall Logging: Enabling this feature logs the activity of the firewall (such as the IP addresses and ports that are blocked by the fire- wall), which is useful if you want to see whether someone is trying to hack into your computer, or when trying to troubleshoot an application or feature that isn’t communicating over the Internet or network. ✦ Enable Stealth Mode: When this option is enabled, your computer won’t respond to unrequested data traffic, thereby making your computer vir- tually invisible on the Internet. One benefit of this is that it can prevent you from being detected by a hacker using a popular method of detec- tion called a ping. Hackers can send pings to random IP addresses (what identifies you on the Internet) and when a response is sent back, they know that a computer or network is there and may try to hack into it. Stealth mode keeps your computer from responding to pings. Accessing the firewall feature in Leopard Here’s how to access the firewall feature in Mac OS X Leopard: 1. Click the Apple icon on the menu bar. 2. Click System Preferences. 3. Click Security. 4. Click the Firewall tab. Internet Security 17_275191-bk03ch01.qxp 6/16/08 9:50 PM Page 229 229 Blocking Internet Hackers Using Firewalls When you have the Firewall tab opened on the Security window, you can select one of the following radio button options: ✦ Allow All Incoming Connections: This option provides the least amount of protection and essentially turns the firewall feature off. ✦ Allow Only Essential Services: This option provides a great amount of protection; however, it blocks ports and services that you may want to use while on your home network, such as file and printer sharing. Only a few system-essential ports (for example, those that support networking services, such as DHCP, Bonjour, and IPSec) are opened by default when this option is selected. This option is best when you are connected to other networks, such as Wi-Fi hotspots or other public connections to the Internet. ✦ Set Access for Specific Services and Applications: This is typically the best option to use when connected to your home network because it lets you control the firewall while also being flexible. This option is com- parable to using the Windows Firewall feature in Windows. Ports and services typically used in home networks (such as file and printer shar- ing) are automatically authorized, letting you add other (non-Mac) appli- cations or services as you want. If you select either Allow Only Essential Services or Set Access for Specific Book III Services and Applications, you can click the Advanced button and choose Chapter 1 the Enable Firewall Logging and Enable Steal Mode options, if you want. See the “Accessing the firewall feature in Tiger” section for a description of these two options. Additionally when you have Allow Only Essential Services or Set Access for Specific Services and Applications selected, you can add and remove appli- cations (that you want to either block or allow through the firewall) from the list. Click the plus sign near the bottom-left corner of the window, select the application from dialog box, and click Add. Then select whether you want to allow or block the application. Installing and setting up Ubuntu’s firewall Ubuntu doesn’t come with a firewall feature automatically installed and active. You must install the firewall feature (called Firestarter). Here’s how to do it: 1. Click System from the Ubuntu toolbar. 2. Choose Administration. 3. Open Synaptic Package Manager. 4. If prompted, enter your account password and click OK. 5. Click Settings from toolbar. 6/16/08 9:50 PM Page 230 230 Blocking Internet Hackers Using Firewalls 6. Choose Repositories. 7. Make sure that the Community-Maintained Open Source Software (universe) option is selected. 8. Click Close. 9. If prompted, click Close again. 10. Click the Reload button on the Synaptic Package Manager window. 11. Click the Search button, type firestarter, and hit Enter. 12. Click the checkbox next to the Firestarter item and choose Mark for Installation. 13. Click Apply, review changes, and click Apply. 14. Close Synaptic Package Manager. Now you can configure Firestarter: 1. Click System from the Ubuntu toolbar. 2. Choose Administration. 3. Select Firestarter. 4. If prompted, enter your account password and click OK. The Firewall Wizard should run. If it doesn’t, you can bring it up manu- ally by clicking Firewall, and then clicking Run Wizard. 5. Click Forward. You should be taken to the Network Device Setup page. 6. From the Detected Device(s) drop-down list, select the network adapter that’s connected to the Internet. Viewing the Connection Information window when you’re connected to your network or Internet connection can give you a hint as to the device/ adapter to select. Right-click the Ubuntu’s network icon in the upper- right side of the screen and click Connection Information. If the window is filled with your network connection information, you’ll most likely want to select the same device/adapter from the Firestarter Wizard as the value for the Interface field, which is at the top of the window. 7. Select the Start the Firewall on Dial-Out option if your computer is hooked directly to a dial-up Internet connection device, such as a DSL modem, or you connect to VPN (Virtual Private Network) connections. Most likely, this won’t apply to you and you can leave the option unselected. 8. Select the IP Address Is Assigned via DHCP option if your computer is hooked directly to an Internet connection and it uses DHCP to obtain Internet Security 17_275191-bk03ch01.qxp 6/16/08 9:50 PM Page 231 231 Blocking Viruses, Spyware, and Adware with Software its IP address (which is the case for just about all home Internet con- nections), or if the computer is connected to a network using DHCP (which is set by default on all home networking products). This option applies to most people and usually needs to be selected. 9. Click Forward to go to the Internet Connection Sharing Setup page. 10. If you plan to use your computer in a computer-to-computer network, or otherwise want to share your computer’s Internet connection among other computers connected to your computer, select the Enable Internet Connection Sharing option. If you also want to provide other computers with an IP address, select the Enable DHCP for Local Network option. However, you probably don’t need to worry about either of these options if you are connecting all your computers to a router, either wirelessly or via an Ethernet cable. 11. Click Forward. 12. Make sure that the Start Firewall Now option is selected and then click Save. To make changes to Firestarter or add/remove applications from the firewall, you can bring up the Firestarter application: Book III 1. Click System from the Ubuntu toolbar. Chapter 1 2. Choose Administration. 3. Select Firestarter. 4. If prompted, enter your account password and click OK. When you have Firestarter open, you can easily disable and enable the fire- wall by clicking the Stop Firewall or Start Firewall button (depending upon the current status), which is on the top-right side of the window. You can find documentation and further help on installing and using Firestarter at Blocking Viruses, Spyware, and Adware with Software Using the Internet makes you more susceptible to three major computer infections: ✦ Viruses ✦ Spyware ✦ Adware 6/16/08 9:50 PM Page 232 232 Blocking Viruses, Spyware, and Adware with Software In the following sections, I detail a little more about these major threats and how to protect your computer and data from them. The wrath of computer infections Whether downloaded automatically without your knowledge or disguised as a real program or file that you voluntarily downloaded, viral and spyware infections can cause problems, such as the following: ✦ Altering your computer settings to cause chaos ✦ Deleting your personal or system files ✦ Monitoring your Internet activity ✦ Displaying pop-up advertisements ✦ Spreading the infection to other computers on your network or on the Internet Protecting your computers against infections Even though newer operating systems (Windows XP and Vista, Mac OS X Tiger and Leopard) include a firewall (to protect your computer from hack- ers), you need to protect your computer from viral and spyware infections. You can use a software program loaded on all your computers, or install a piece of hardware between your Internet connection and your computers (or router). These anti-infection solutions usually work by ✦ Constantly scanning commonly infected areas for infections so that they are found quickly and the damage they do is minimal, if any. ✦ Performing routine, full-system scans of all files for infections to make sure your computer is completely free of infections. ✦ Alerting you to any infections that are found and automatically fixing them or asking you what you want to do. You can find antivirus, antispyware, and antiadware software as standalone products or as a part of an entire Internet security suite for purchase from companies such as ✦ ✦ CA (Computer Associates) ✦ Norton (Symantec) Internet Security 17_275191-bk03ch01.qxp 6/16/08 9:50 PM Page 233 233 Controlling Your Spam or Junk E-Mail You can also find free software products that provide similar protection, such as ✦ AVG Anti-Virus Free ✦ avast 4 Home ✦ PC Tools ✦ AVG Anti-Spyware Free ✦ Ad-Aware: ✦ Avira Windows Vista includes Windows Defender, an antispyware program. However, as is true of Windows Firewall, you may find it easier to use a secu- rity suite with all protections rather than have a separate application for each item. Hardware solutions for combating infections are covered later in this chap- ter, in the “Using Internet Security Hardware Solutions for Your Entire Network” section. Controlling Your Spam or Junk E-Mail Book III Chapter 1 Spam is any unsolicited e-mail message that arrives at your inbox that doesn’t provide proper contact information, contains illegal content, or doesn’t give you a way to stop further e-mails from that source. E-mails that meet all of those criteria and are legitimate — for instance, advertisements and announcements — can still be considered junk mail if they are unwanted. You can find out more about spam laws and regulations at the Federal Trade Commission’s Web site: You can probably relate these types of e-mails to the snail-mail junk mail — credit card offers, product advertisements, and occasional scams — that you receive in your mailbox at home. Snail-mail junk mail, however, costs companies and illegal enterprises money in paper, envelopes, and stamps. E-mail communication is virtually free and allows scammers and spammers to send messages to thousands or millions of people with just a touch of a button — just the right ingredients to support illegal, fraudulent, and fake operations, originating from anywhere in the world. Problems behind spam and junk e-mail Besides the fact that spam and junk e-mails are annoying, they can also cause real problems: 6/16/08 9:50 PM Page 234 234 Controlling Your Spam or Junk E-Mail ✦ Can contain illegal, adult, and false content: First off, this type of mate- rial often isn’t appropriate for youngsters — think about your children’s e-mail accounts — and you may find it offensive as well. Second, scams are extremely prevalent in spam and junk e-mails. These scams can range from selling frivolous products to sending you to fake Web sites that can con you out of money and your identity. The “Protecting Your- self Against Phishing Scams” section, later in this chapter, gives you more information on this practice. ✦ Just pressing Delete doesn’t help: You can do nothing to prevent spam/ junk messages and just keep deleting them as they arrive, but they’ll just keep coming. ✦ Causes extra traffic for all: In addition to the time you’ll spend deleting your junk messages (if you don’t help prevent them), the messages are still being sent and delivered to your inbox, which wastes the resources of our entire e-mail/Internet system. Preventative measures against spam and junk e-mail Besides using spam and junk mail filtering solutions provided by your e-mail account provider or e-mail software, you can do a few simple things yourself to help prevent spam altogether: ✦ Don’t publish your e-mail address: If people don’t know your e-mail address exists, you won’t receive much, or any, spam or junk mail. Spammers often get e-mail addresses right from Web sites. Similarly to how Google and other search engines compile their enormous databases of sites, spammers use automated systems that scan the Web and extract e-mail addresses. So try not to post your e-mail addresses on public Web pages, such as discussion forums or social networking sites. But if you do, you can help prevent spammers from extracting your address by putting it in a different format to foil programs that search the Web for e-mail addresses. For example, if your e-mail address is, you may want to use one of the following formats (note the use of spaces in the last two): • youraccountATdomainDOTcom • youraccount (AT) domain . com • youraccount AT domain DOT com Another source of your spam or junk e-mails could be from organiza- tions selling your address. Large or respected businesses that obtain your address typically do not sell it, but free Web sites or services that you’ve signed up for certainly might. Internet Security 17_275191-bk03ch01.qxp 6/16/08 9:50 PM Page 235 235 Controlling Your Spam or Junk E-Mail ✦ Remove yourself from the lists: Unsolicited e-mail is supposed to include a way for you to remove yourself from further mailings. Some spam/junk messages follow this rule; others don’t. Those that have a removal method usually describe it at the bottom of the message, which usually involves just clicking a link and maybe entering your e-mail address. Removing yourself from mailings may help your problem (when you are dealing with a legitimate company); however, in some cases it may worsen your problem because spammers may use this opting out to verify that their messages are going to legitimate addresses, and you’ll end up with more spam messages ✦ Create a secondary account: You may find it necessary to create a sec- ondary e-mail account that you can make public to post on Web sites and use for free services. Then you can use another account for corre- sponding with family, friends, colleagues, and Web sites or places that you can trust. Stopping spam when you’ve had enough If spam and junk e-mails are still an issue after you follow the preventative measures I cover in previous sections, you may want to use a spam or junk mail solution. The main types are as follows: ✦ Address filtering: This is the least effective spam solution. When an Book III e-mail arrives, the filter checks the sender against your blacklist. If the Chapter 1 sender is on the list of blocked senders, the filter sends the e-mail to the spam/junk folder; otherwise, it’s delivered to your regular inbox. To help the filter do its job, you mark unwanted messages that arrive in your inbox as spam or junk. These messages are then moved to the spam/junk folders and the senders are put on your blacklist. The prob- lem is that spammers usually change their e-mail addresses regularly, so you may be doing a lot of work for nothing. ✦ Content filtering: Content filters scan your e-mails for words or attrib- utes that you typically find in spam/junk e-mails. Flagged messages go to a spam/junk folder instead of your normal inbox. Although content filter- ing isn’t the best solution, it usually helps. You just have to remember to regularly check the junk folder for real messages that may have been flagged for some reason. ✦ Verification: Verification is generally the best solution because your messages are manually verified by the senders before the messages reach your inbox. People who send you e-mail get an automated response right back after their first e-mail to you (if you haven’t sent them an e-mail in the past), which tells them that they must verify the message. They usually have to click a link in the automated message that takes them to a Web page where they must enter a string of letters or numbers that’s displayed in 6/16/08 9:50 PM Page 236 236 Protecting Yourself Against Phishing Scams an image. This process helps ensure that the e-mail is from a real person rather than an automated mailer. Most spammers don’t spend time responding to verifications. Unverified messages are put into a different folder that you may want to check peri- odically for messages that you may want to read. Some legitimate senders don’t verify their messages because they’re sent automatically, such as newsletters, notifications for online accounts, or other mass mailings. But when you go through your unverified e-mails, you can authorize those senders’ e-mails from that point on. When using any spam filter, you should periodically check your spam or junk folder for e-mails and carefully monitor the situation when you’re expecting important e-mails. You can find spam and junk e-mail solutions from a variety of places: ✦ E-mail (Internet) service provider: Your e-mail provider may offer some sort of spam or junk mail filter. ✦ E-mail client software: You may want to check whether your e-mail client — for example, Outlook, Thunderbird, or Windows Mail — offers built-in filtering. ✦ Internet security software: Most Internet security suites include a spam feature. ✦ Third-party applications or services: A search of Google will probably give you plenty of results, but here are a few good leads of other applica- tions or services that help combat spam: • Spam Arrest: • SPAMfighter: • MailWasher: • Spamihilator: Protecting Yourself Against Phishing Scams Phishing — pronounced like fishing — is the attempt to criminally and fraud- ulently extract sensitive information from you. You can receive phishing attempts from e-mail messages, instant messages, and Web pages that you stumble across on the Web. The people behind these attempts use these items as their bait, and you are the fish that they hope to catch. In other words, they hope that you fall for the trick and are fooled into handing them sensitive information such as Internet Security 17_275191-bk03ch01.qxp 6/16/08 9:50 PM Page 237 237 Protecting Yourself Against Phishing Scams ✦ Account info: Usernames and passwords for e-mail accounts, social net- working sites, online auction sites, or, more important, financial Web sites ✦ Credit card info: Your credit card number, verification number, and billing address ✦ Your identity: Your full personal details, such as your full name, address, and Social Security number Additionally, some phishers or scammers may even con you out of some cash. For example, you may receive an e-mail telling you that you have won a prize or have inherited money but that you must send a fee of some amount before your money is turned over to you. Watch out for imposters The most popular way phishers catch their prey is to impersonate legitimate companies. They do this by crafting and sending out e-mail messages that are formatted just like the ones the real company sends, asking you to update information and pointing to a Web site that’s also crafted to look just like the company’s real site. Then the fake or dummy site captures your personal or login information. Book III A list of the types of companies prone to being impersonated and some Chapter 1 examples of them follows: ✦ Internet service providers: AOL ✦ Auction and payment companies: eBay and PayPal ✦ Financial institutions: National banks and mortgage companies ✦ Government organizations: The Internal Revenue Service ✦ Non-profit organizations: The Red Cross ✦ Social networking sites: MySpace and Facebook Stories that reel you in Popular scenarios that phishers use to get you to hand over information include ✦ Requesting that you update or verify information: They may imitate a company you have services through and tell you that you need to update your credit card information. ✦ Selling (legal) drugs: They may say they sell prescription drugs for pen- nies on the dollar. 6/16/08 9:50 PM Page 238 238 Protecting Yourself Against Phishing Scams ✦ Informing you of an inheritance of money: Someone may say you’ve inherited a large sum of money and that you need to hand over personal information or money to start the collection process. ✦ Announcing that you’re a lottery winner: You may be told you’ve won a prize or the lottery and be asked for personal information or money. ✦ Requesting donations: You may be asked for donations to some good cause or another, although your money will actually go to a con artist. Phishers try to copy a real company’s look and feel in their e-mails and Web sites, including a company’s logo and sayings. Spotting the bait of phishers To help spot phishing scams before you’re reeled in, you can ✦ Examine the Web site address: When imitating a real company, a phisher usually tries to use a Web site address that won’t look fake at first glance. They do this using subdomains. For example, say you own the Web site Scammers can easily create a sub- domain of, making it look as though the address is related to the real, the Web site for the popular online payment processing company. ✦ Inspect the Web site: Review the Web site for anything that looks odd. Or if you suspect the site to be an imitation, look for elements on it that are different from what you can remember from the real Web site of the company. You may also be able to get a clue from links on the Web site. Compare the links against the Web site address of the Web page you’re on; just hover over the links to see the address that should appear on the bottom of your browser. Phishers usually create only a few fake Web pages, not an entire Web site, so they usually include links on their Web site that go back to the real Web site of the company. Using these links may help them fool you into the idea that the site is authentic; however, these links may also help you recognize the imposture. For instance, say they told you to go to their fake Web site at (remember, a subdomain — see the first bullet in this list), but some links on the Web site point to just This is a red flag. ✦ Look for misspellings: Some phishing e-mails may contain intentional spelling and grammatical errors to get by spam filters that look for typi- cal words or phrases of junk messages. Some e-mails may also just have errors due to poor review. ✦ If it sounds too good to be true: It’s probably fake, period. ✦ Research the company: If you are suspicious of something with a com- pany you aren’t familiar with, you should do some research. Do some Internet Security 17_275191-bk03ch01.qxp 6/16/08 9:50 PM Page 239 239 Protecting Yourself Against Phishing Scams searching on Google or your favorite search engine. Consider checking the BBB (Better Business Bureau) at ✦ Contact the company directly: If you think an e-mail or Web site is an imitation of a real company, contact the company through means other than those described in the suspicious e-mail or Web page. For instance, check your bills or statements for the company’s Web site address or phone number. Reporting the catch If you do determine that you’ve received a phishing e-mail, you can report it to a variety of places: ✦ Company Web site: Go to the real Web site of the company that’s being mimicked and find where you can report phishing or scam e-mails; these areas are often called security centers. ✦ Government: You can also report suspicious e-mails to the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) at nav/report_phishing.html. ✦ Anti-phishing organizations: Independent organizations also track phishing e-mails, including the Anti-Phishing Working Group: Book III Chapter 1 ✦ Friends: Don’t forget about your friends Forwarding them your phishing e-mail and letting them know about it can help raise awareness of the issue. If you think you’ve already been reeled in by a phisher or scammer, you can report ID theft and fraud to these two government organizations, which can investigate the crime: ✦ Federal Trade Commission: ✦ FBI’s Internet Fraud Complaint Center: Checking for phishing licenses In addition to watching out for the signs of phishing scams, you can use phishing detectors. These tools maintain a list of known phishing sites and alert you if you go to a site on the list. Here are a few places you may be able to find this feature: 6/16/08 9:50 PM Page 240 240 Protecting Yourself Against Phishing Scams ✦ Built into Web browsers: Most of the latest versions of the popular Web browsers (for example, Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 and Mozilla Firefox 2.0) contain this type of anti-phishing feature. ✦ Internet security software: Many Internet security suites also include an anti-phishing feature. The Safari 3 Web browser (at the time of this writing) doesn’t include a phishing filter feature. Using Internet Explorer’s phishing filter If you’re using Internet Explorer 7 for your Web browser, here’s how you can access the settings for the anti-phishing feature: 1. Open Internet Explorer 7. Choose Tools➪Internet Options. 2. 3. Click the Advanced tab. 4. Find the Phishing Filter setting, shown in Figure 1-6. Scroll near the bottom of the list, under the Settings section. Figure 1-6: The phishing settings for Internet Explorer 7.

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