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Are You Vulnerable to Online Identity Theft?


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Online identity theft is an unpleasant fact of life in 2007. What are you doing to protect yourself from the predators and prevent unauthorized access to your assets, credit and reputation?

How bad is the problem, really? Honestly, pretty darn bad!

Basic statistics time! Unquestionably, spyware is a multibillion dollar industry, and millions of Americans will fall victim to online identity theft in 2007. One authority figure projects that more than $27 billion in assets and credit can be leveraged by criminal entities through the various forms of spyware. Personally, I don't doubt it but do the exact stats really matter? The point is that we are all vulnerable through what we do every day online. And criminal activity is a burgeoning business for many.

OK now what about this? Anti-spyware software vendors figure that over 26 million US computer users have some form of spyware on their machine. Estimates are that there were over 12 million cases of online identity theft in 2006. And what resulted from those thefts, you demand? Actual cases where credit cards were opened using stolen data, or where charges were made to your account are hard to pinpoint. But here is one specific example. The CardSystems data breach which involved the accounts of 40 million Visa and MasterCard details resulted in thefts from more than 250,000 of them. Who knows what happened to the rest. But over a quarter of a million known thefts is a huge number in my book.

Whatever the statistics say, the average Internet user is taking some form of evasive action to the widespread publicizing of this type of statistic and a recent Consumer Reports WebWatch poll found 80 percent of Internet users have changed their online behavior out of fears of online identity theft. And 30 percent reduced their usage of the Internet overall. Another poll found that 20 percent of respondents will stop doing business with any company that has lost customer data or allowed it to be stolen. Can you blame them? But are we as consumers installing the best solution and developing the right defense for our own online activity and our own assets.

Just like any type of criminal activity there are any number of solutions being offered. One of the main problems with that is that many of the “solutions’ are crap and may, in fact, be disguised spyware applications themselves. You need a competent mentor to help you with selection of the one or two applications that are right for you unless you are an online security expert.

Alex Eckelberry, president of Sunbelt Software is certainly a trusted mentor to many. Eckelberry believes in what he calls the “four pillars of Internet security" - software firewalls and downloading security “patches, " plus anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. “With these basics, your Internet experience is dramatically safer, " he says. “Most certainly, anti-virus programs and patching are absolutely essential, " said Eckelberry. An engineer at Sunbelt was responsible for identifying a keylogger program that was connected to a large identity theft operation. The company's investigation found several thousand computers infected with keyloggers of various types. "The good news is that we didn't find infestation rates in the tens of thousands, " he said. “One thing we found with all of these is that they were infecting users who were on unpatched systems. "

Don't procrastinate any further - get on it now! Have you updated your system with the latest security patches? Have you installed an adequate defense perimeter around your online activity?

Will you please get serious! Every minute counts!


John Garvey is a respected security expert who specializes in the detection and removal of all forms of malware - spyware, adware, viruses, trojan horses, keyloggers - from personal computers and in the entire arena of internet fraud and identity theft. He is a partner of Winhall Resources whose website is concerned with all aspects of internet security and where John and others recommend the top software solutions to combat spyware and other threats


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