Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

A rocket scientist falls for “social engineering” ploy

…and managed to render his machine unbootable. Today I got a call from a person I know very well,  who had lost his Internet connection (all of a sudden) and he wanted my help. I asked him what changes he had made recently?

He told me that when he ‘woke’ his new laptop this morning [an HP Pavilion running Vista Home Premium] he was greeted with a dialogue window “from Netscape” that informed him that he was usings Windows Firewall, and asked, did he want to “disable Windows Firewall and use Netscape firewall instead. Yes/No?” He, of course, clicked “Yes”. He is a Netscape user (the browser), and has been since Netscape’s browser was the #1 browser of choice.

This window/dialogue was a ploy. The click disabled Windows Firewall and allowed some kind of nefarious script to run. It caused major damage to his machine. I spent hours trying to recover his system (which I was able to do, without any data loss, but it was a near-thing). System Restore and even Safe Mode did not function.

I want to stop here, Dear Reader, and remind you of the title of this post: this man is not dumb. He started his career as a rocket scientist for Lockheed (technically, as an aeronautical engineer), and went on to get his PhD (from Stanford) in molecular physics. He has invented lasers. No. This man is not an idjit.

So why did he answer yes? For a product that doesn’t exist? Perhaps, as a long-time Mac user, he simply doesn’t trust anything Microsoft. Perhaps, he has become so conditioned to answering “yes, I want to continue”, “yes, I want to download that”, “yes, I want to view the “unsecure items” in the email I sent myself”, “yes, allow that program I just launched to run,””continue,””allow,””next” that he just automatically and without thinking hit the Yes button. I’m sure these things were factors, but his answer was (and I quote), “It looked official…and it was from the people I go to the Web on.”

I think there’s a few things in this tale that are worth meditating on. And yes, there’s a moral to this story, which is my Tip of the day: If you are presented with a pop-up, and/or a dialogue box that you have never seen before, please look it over…and think about what it’s asking you. In this case, a Google search would have revealed that there’s no such thing as Netscape Firewall.

The fact is, the bad guys out there have become incredibly adept at mimicking websites, corporate logos, and send very legit-looking emails…and more. They are very good at using us as our own worst enemy. Be cautious out there my friends. Be carefull. Do not click on links you receive in emails; instead, manually enter the URL in your browser. Learn what phishing and pharming are.

Today’s free link: Netcraft toolbar This anti-phishing protection is highly recommended, and works with both IE and Firefox. It clearly indicates “safe” websites (with a green indicator bar), suspicious sites, and blocks access to known Phishing sites. Get it today.

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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June 11, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, networking, PC, Phishing, security, tech, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , , , | Leave a comment