Protect your computer to protect your bank account

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You have probably heard about the malicious software programs that suddenly pop up a window and tell you that you have 97 severe threats on your computer and you need to take action to get rid of them.  You close the window, and it just opens up again a few seconds later.  Sometimes lots of windows – and they prevent you from doing anything else.

computer frustration

 

Some people would say that is the most annoying kind of virus in existence.  Well, while that type of thing is certainly frustrating, it is definitely not the most dangerous.

The malware that can do the most damage is the one that you don’t see at all.

There is a new type of virus/spyware emerging, and it employs a rather clever technique.  It is called the “post transaction” attack.

Here’s how it works:

The malware finds an unprotected computer and gets in.  Then it just sits and waits – no obnoxious pop-up windows or anything.  To the computer user, everything seems to be working fine.

What the program is waiting for is a bank account login.  Eventually the owner of the computer logs into his or her bank account, and when that happens the hidden software records the user name and password and other critical personal data.  That is Step 1 of this scam.

Step 2 is immediately put into place – an instantaneous redirect.  This means that the next time that computer tries to go to that bank account website, it is immediately sent to a different website – one that LOOKS identical to the user’s bank account, but is in fact just a fake page that is designed to look normal.

In the background, the virus is using the bank account to make fraudulent purchases, and if the user logs into what appears to be the account, it all seems fine – at least for a while.  Eventually it gets figured out, but the software achieved it’s purpose – discovery was delayed by hours, days, maybe even weeks.  Scammers love having all that extra time to get away with your money and cover their tracks.

So, for those of you that think you are protected because you check your online bank account regularly, please consider that you might not be doing enough to protect yourself.

How to prevent this from happening

There are 3 security programs that I use and recommend.  2 are free, and the other is a cheap, one-time investment.  Here they are again:

1. Microsoft Security Essentials (antivirus – free – click here to get it)

2. Malwarebytes paid version (antispyware – $24.95 one time – click here to get it)

3. SuperAntispyware (antispyware – free – click here to get it)

Take a few minutes to get these programs on your computer, and save yourself hours of grief.  I can put them on  your computer if you want – I have installed them on hundreds already.  However you do it, make sure you do it.

 

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Charles
January 16th, 2012

Are you recommending the simultaneous use of three programs to protect online banking or to “pick one”?

Scott Johnson
January 16th, 2012

I am recommending that you use all three of the ones mentioned. Only one (MSE) is a true antivirus program. The other two are antispyware programs, and they complement each other.

Jim DenBraber
January 16th, 2012

Scott:
Thanks for all your advice over the years! I’m using the Avast Free Antivirus program to protect my computer. Can I ALSO use the Microsoft Security Essentials program, too?
Thanks, Jim D.B.

Scott Johnson
January 16th, 2012

No, you only want to have one antivirus program installed on your computer at a time. You can stay with Avast, or install MSE and then remove Avast. I’m okay either way – haven’t used Avast a lot, but from what I have seen and heard it is pretty reliable as well.

Linda
January 16th, 2012

Hi Scott. I use Norton AntiVirus by Symantec. Which ones do I add to it, if any? Thanks, Linda

Scott Johnson
January 16th, 2012

My recommendation is to install Microsoft Security Essentials as your antivirus, then get rid of Norton. I stopped recommending Norton in 2004. Add to that the other two programs as listed (antispyware) and you will be in good shape.

Jayden
January 16th, 2012

Hi good blog. But im sorry i have to disagree with using MSE. It has NO zero day protection and relies souly upon signatures which is asking for trouble. Dont mean to put your info down or anything but i personally would definately go with Norton over mse linda. MSE is a good free av choice, but it needs to be complemented with some sort of 0 day protection like a hips. I use avast and comodo firewall ( hips ) and think is great. Thanks Scott! :)

Tom
January 16th, 2012

IF I DO NOT EVER PUT ANY OF MY BANK ACCOUNT NUMBERS OR ANY OF MY CREDIT CARD NUMBERS INTO MY COMPUTOR, CAN I BE AT RISK? I DO NOT BANK ON LINE OR ACCESS ANY OF MY ACCOUNT INFORMATION ON LINE. I REALIZE THAT USING A CREDIT CARD TO PURCHASE ON LINE OR EVEN TO GIVE IT OUT FOR A TELEPHONE PUTS ME AT RISK BUT NOT FROM A VIRUS INVASION…AM I CORRECT IN THESES ASSUMPTIONS?

Scott Johnson
January 16th, 2012

I believe there is a certain amount of risk involved no matter how limited your exposure is. Even if your bank account numbers or credit card numbers are not on your computer, they are on some computer (several computers actually), and no computer is 100% foolproof. Even bank computers can get hacked, and any place you use your credit card (restaurant, car tire store, airline, etc) has computers that can potentially be broken into.

For that reason, I don’t believe the real solution is to just avoid the convenience of purchasing online and avoiding online banking. Millions of people bank online every day without a problem. We just need to take the necessary precautions, and understand that there is a certain degree of calculated risk for this convenience.