Who’s Peering Into Your Computer?

Written By: June Campbell

Have any passwords, love letters, naughty pictures
or sensitive business information stored on your
hard drive? It’s almost embarrassingly easy for a
hacker to break into a networked computer and
retrieve your personal information.

Does your computer have an interior microphone or
an interior video recorder? If yes, these
technologies can be activated without your knowledge.
Hackers can not only get your data files, but they
can record sound and video files of the conversations
and activities taking place in your work area.

Almost everyone knows the importance of protecting
their system against viruses. My anti-virus
software knocks off at least 3-4 viruses every
week. And most people with a direct Internet
connection (i.e. cable, ADSL) know the importance
of installing firewall software. My excellent
(and free) Zone Alarm firewall
(www.zonelabs.com/) protects me from hacks coming
through open computer ports.

But recently I learned about a third threat –
the potential danger of malicious codes coming in
through ports that I must leave open in order to
access the Internet. Hostile ActiveX codes, Java
codes and Windows scrap objects can be buried in
Rich Text email, embedded in documents, hidden in
games and electronic postcards, or downloaded
from web sites.

It’s a safe bet that no responsible webmaster has
knowingly placed hostile code on the site.
However, many sites are vulnerable to attacks
from hackers, and hackers have no such scruples.
Imagine logging on to your favorite sports site
and unknowingly downloading hostile code that
damages your operating system, installs software
that allows third parties to use your computer
for denial of service attacks, or makes your
personal data available to prying eyes. For full
information, refer to an article recently published

To discover whether your system is vulnerable,
visit Finjan web site and try their three online
tests. They’ll check your system for
vulnerability to hacks from malicious ActiveX,
Java and Windows scrap objects. I was shocked to
discover that Finjan’s code was able to hack my
system easily and quickly. As proof, it created a
desktop folder and named it You Have Been Hacked.
The folder contained a sampling of Word documents
found on my hard drive and a ten-second .wav
recording of the sounds in my workstation. Scary.
This information, and more, would have been
readily available to anyone who wanted to hack
in. Needless to say, I installed Finjan’s free
SurfinGuard Pro software for protection. I’d
recommend any Windows users try these tests. You
might be glad you did (http://www.finjan.com/).

Interested in knowing just how much information a
skilled hacker could get from your machine?
Check out this web site called Beyond Enemy
Lines: http://belps.freewebsites.com

The webmaster, Man in the Wilderness (MITW),
claims to be an Internet security expert. MITW is
apparently a “white hat” hacker who uses his
skills to protect his customers from attack.

As the story goes, the head of a professional
spamming operation repeatedly forged MITW’s
domain for spamming purposes. (Professional
spammers typically hide their identities by using
forged domains.) Finally, in retaliation, MITW
hacked the spammer’s computer and published his
findings on this web site. The details make
fascinating reading.

After breaking into this woman’s system, our
white-hat hacker obtained and published screen
captures of spam software while it was using his
forged domain name to send thousands of emails.
MITW also obtained copies of email messages
discussing various spam operations, ICQ message
logs and much more. Similarly, he found and
published semi-nude pictures of the woman and her
colleagues and samples of erotic writing found on
the computer.

Some might say that this woman deserved what
happened to her. Perhaps she did. If the
content on the site is true, she was involved in
some particularly nasty activities. However, the
real message is just how vulnerable our computers
can be to hackers if we aren’t more than a little

This woman and her cohorts were running
a professional spamming operation. You might think
they, of all people, would have protected
themselves against hackers. But they did not.
Perhaps, like me, they thought they were
protected. Remember that my computer was
vulnerable in the Finjan testing, despite running
up-to-the minute virus software and a firewall
that is rated as one of the best.

How about you? Could you stand up to a hacker
attack? Protecting a computer is now a three-
pronged fork. We need anti-virus software,
firewalls and malicious code blocking software.

About the Author

June Campbell
Writing Services by Nightcats Multimedia Productions
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