Spooky Security Shorts

In honor of Halloween season, we’ve rounded up a list of spooky “security shorts" - summaries of online security stories making news and causing concern around the world this past month. Read up on this month’s unsettlingly tales, frightening happenings, and sinister trends to stay up-to-date on the latest security news. Click “Read More” at the end of each summary to view the full story.

Hacker Pleads Guilty in Massive Computer Break-In

In September, Alberto Gonzalez, a hacker accused of carrying out one of the largest computer break-ins in history, pled guilty in U.S. federal court to fraud, identity theft, and related charges. Over 40 million credit card and bank account numbers were reportedly stolen from major U.S. retailers, including TJX Companies, Barnes & Noble, and OfficeMax. Gonzalez, who may serve up to 20 years in prison, has agreed to give up “more than $2.7 million, a Miami condo, a 2006 BMW 330i, a Tiffany diamond ring and Rolex watches” as part of the plea agreement, and won’t be allowed to use computers with Internet access.

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How Much Are You Worth On the Black Market?

Gone are the days when hackers were only after fun and fame; today’s cyber scammers are going after your personal and financial information for one reason alone: to make a profit. So, what’s your online identity worth to a cyber criminal? Eerily enough, a new tool aimed at educating users and spreading awareness on cyber crime touts that it can calculate “how much your online assets are worth, how much your online identity would sell for on the black market, and your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft” – all by having you answer a series of questions.

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“The Internet Is Now Like the Wild West”

According to a 2009 report by IBM Internet security systems, there has been a 500 percent rise in the amount of new, malicious websites discovered in the first half of the year. Malicious content, the report notes, is increasingly being seen on trusted sites and through popular search engines. The results prompted an IBM senior security consultant to say, “The Internet has finally taken on the characteristics of the Wild West where no one is to be trusted.”

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Where in the World Do Viruses Come From?

Which locations do the most amount of the world’s online threats stem from? According to Network Box’s analysis of Internet threats, the United States and Brazil lead the way with the global production of spam and viruses. The United States was found to be the main source of viruses in August, producing almost 16 percent of all viruses, while Brazil took second place, producing nearly 15 percent. In terms of spam, Brazil is noted to be the largest source, followed by the U.S. and South Korea, according to the report.

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Guns, Drugs, Stolen Identities - Portrait of a Phisher

Tien “Tim” Truong Nguyen pled guilty in September to charges related to his role in an international phishing scheme that defrauded tens of thousands of Internet users of their sensitive information, in order to open up fraudulent credit accounts. Nguyen, who allegedly worked together with cyber criminals in Romania, reportedly told authorities that his methamphetamine habit “gave him the drive to do identity theft.”

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