Spyware poses identity-theft risk (Update)

Sep 15, 2005

A new study finds that a growing amount of Internet spyware -- programs downloaded to users' computers without their knowledge -- is designed specifically to steal personal information that could be used for identity theft.

The study, conducted by Aladdin Knowledge Systems, a digital security company, found that 15 percent of spyware transmits users' keystrokes, user names, administrative passwords, e-mail addresses, contacts and instant-messenger login names and usage. The study was released Wednesday.

Aladdin's study looked at the top 2,000 known spyware threats and was conducted over two months. An Aladdin lab downloaded various types of malicious spyware, and then the company analyzed the spyware behavior, explained Shimon Gruper, vice president of Internet security technologies for Aladdin.

SurfControl, a theft-protection Web site, also announced this week that spyware and hacking sites grew by a rate of 90 percent over the last year.

Alladin's Gruper said spyware can be downloaded from Web sites that offer assistance cracking passwords to illegally downloaded software. Spyware can also come from advertisements for free software that purportedly eliminates spyware but actually installs it.

Programs can track keystrokes and analyze numbers to obtain PIN codes and passwords. Spyware can also be inside of an Internet browser so that it traces and transmits information typed into forms, such as credit-card numbers.

Claudia Farrell of the Federal Trade Commission said nobody knows exactly how much identity theft is a result of spyware.

"We're not sure what the owners of those Web sites, what they will be doing with (the information) but ... this (personal) information is being sent out, and I'm sure that they will easily find out what to do with it," Gruper said. "If they know you access your bank's Web site with a username and password, it's a no-brainer what they'll do with it."

Some Web sites that release malicious spyware are run by individual hackers, but most are more sophisticated and organized, Gruper said.

The survey also found that 25 percent of spyware poses a moderate threat, transmitting information such as users' Internet Protocol addresses and logs of their memory processes.

Gruper said such programs are illegal because they invade users' privacy. Some free programs require users to sign an agreement saying that in exchange for the program, they agree to allow non-malicious spyware to monitor using habits. But others don't disclose anything.

"I'm not sure anything can be done about it because from what we've checked, the majority of these sites are in strange countries," Gruper said. "They disguise themselves as legitimate Web sites. I'm not sure anything can be done to block them," Gruper said.

Internet Service Providers could help the problem, Gruper said, explaining that they have more of an ability than Internet users to know which sites are safe and which aren't. Gruper said that such a system is feasible, but ISPs must be willing to establish those safeguards.

"Maybe they should put up some fences and maybe display a warning ... or edit security so that by mistake you don't go to places that can be potentially dangerous," Gruper said.

Copyright 2005 by United Press International

Explore further: Audi to develop Tesla Model S all-electric rival

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Man pleads guilty in New York cybercrime case

2 hours ago

A California man has pleaded guilty in New York City for his role marketing malware that federal authorities say infected more than a half-million computers worldwide.

NASA issues 'remastered' view of Jupiter's moon Europa

11 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Scientists have produced a new version of what is perhaps NASA's best view of Jupiter's ice-covered moon, Europa. The mosaic of color images was obtained in the late 1990s by NASA's Galileo ...

Dish restores Turner channels to lineup

11 hours ago

Turner Broadcasting channels such as Cartoon Network and CNN are back on the Dish network after being dropped from the satellite TV provider's lineup during contract talks.

LiquidPiston unveils quiet X Mini engine prototype

16 hours ago

LiquidPiston has a new X Mini engine which is a small 70 cubic centimeter gasoline powered "prototype. This is a quiet, four-stroke engine with near-zero vibration. The company said it can bring improvements ...

Recommended for you

Audi to develop Tesla Model S all-electric rival

7 hours ago

The Tesla Model S has a rival. Audi is to develop all-electric family car. This is to be a family car that will offer an all-electric range of 280 miles (450 kilometers), according to Auto Express, which ...

A green data center with an autonomous power supply

13 hours ago

A new data center in the United States is generating electricity for its servers entirely from renewable sources, converting biogas from a sewage treatment plant into electricity and water. Siemens implemented ...

After a data breach, it's consumers left holding the bag

14 hours ago

Shoppers have launched into the holiday buying season and retailers are looking forward to year-end sales that make up almost 20% of their annual receipts. But as you check out at a store or click "purchase" on your online shopping cart ...

Can we create an energy efficient Internet?

14 hours ago

With the number of Internet connected devices rapidly increasing, researchers from Melbourne are starting a new research program to reduce energy consumption of such devices.

Brain inspired data engineering

15 hours ago

What if next-generation ICT systems could be based on the brain's structure and its cognitive and adaptive processes? A groundbreaking paradigm of brain-inspired intelligent ICT architectures is being born.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.