FTC offers information on botnets, hackers, and spam
Tens of thousands of consumers are unwitting accomplices of illegal spammers and at the mercy of identity thieves, warns the Federal Trade Commission. These consumers’ computers have been secretly hijacked by criminals who install spam-sending software and spyware on the computers when consumers open malicious e-mail attachments or visit a malicious Web site. After gaining access to consumers’ computers, the criminals can track consumers’ Internet surfing, steal personal information, and turn the computers into spam “zombies” that are part of a “botnet” made up of thousands of home computers through which spammers route spam.
In a new consumer alert, “Botnets and Hackers and Spam (Oh, My!)” available at www.OnGuardOnline.gov/botnet.html, the FTC urges consumers to secure their personal information and stop assisting spammers by:
- Using anti-virus and anti-spyware software and keeping it up-to-date.
- Setting their operating system software to download and install security patches automatically.
- Being cautious about opening any attachments or downloading files from e-mails they receive.
- Using a firewall to protect their computer from hacking attacks while it is connected to the Internet.
- Disconnecting from the Internet when they’re away from their computer.
- Downloading free software only from sites they know and trust.
- Checking their “sent items” file or “outgoing” mailbox for messages they did not intend to send.
- Taking action immediately if their computer is infected.
More information is available through OnGuardOnline.gov, a multimedia, interactive consumer education campaign launched by the FTC and a partnership of other federal agencies and the technology industry. The comprehensive Web site has tips, articles, videos, and interactive activities. The quizzes and information on OnGuardOnline.gov can be downloaded by companies and other organizations to use in their own computer security programs. OnGuardOnline.gov and the Spanish-language version, AlertaenLinea.gov, have logged more than two million unique visits since they launched on September 27, 2005.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them.