“Daniel” from “Microsoft” called me the other day. The number looked halfway legit so I picked up. He out and out claimed to be from Microsoft and said he was getting alerts from my computer. His voice sounded familiar–I think I’d talked to him before.
“Which computer?” I asked.
“Your Microsoft computer,” he said.
Someone I know got a tech support scam popup that said their computer was being hacked. I said to bring the computer over. I wanted to see it.
I found the malicious site in the browser history–I’ll tell you how to do that after I finish my story–and pulled the page back up. The computer played an MP3 file with a scary-sounding message and urged me to call an 888 number. So I called. I got voicemail. I left a message.
Buried unfortunately deep in August’s Social Engineer podcast was some outstanding advice from British TV star R. Paul Wilson, who turned scamming into prime-time BBC TV for several seasons.
Wilson, who literally has sold someone a bridge that he of course didn’t own, has lots of experience on both sides of scamming, so his experience is invaluable. I was just disappointed that we had to listen to 45 minutes of Christopher Hadnagy and David Kennedy arguing before we could hear it, so I’ll cut through the garbage.
Tax fraud is one of big payoffs from data breaches. But there’s a simple thing you can do to make it harder for a scammer to file your taxes if your employer or health insurance provider gets breached and your social security number is one of the ones that gets stolen.
Change your social networking profile.
What seems like a million years ago, when Sony Pictures got breached, some pundits were predicting that was the end of the company. I always thought that was hyperbole, but I have to admit I never went to the extreme of saying breaches are nearly harmless, which seems to be the current popular thinking.
Indeed, a financial analyst went on the Down the Security Rabbit Hole podcast and said breaches are an investment opportunity. Just buy the dip.
I haven’t received a fake Windows tech support call in a very long time. A couple of the operations doing this have been shut down, but based on the continued popularity of the things I’ve written about them, I wonder if some people are still getting them.
That makes me reluctant to block them, just in case they call me again, but if you’re getting those calls and want them to stop, I can tell you how to do that.
I’m all torn up this morning. I’m torn up because Microsoft has sued a couple of tech support scam outfits for misrepresenting themselves and violating Microsoft trademarks.
I’m torn up because it’s taken this long. I’m also torn up because this may mean I’ll never get to see what kind of hilarity would ensue by telling a scammer with a fake western name that my name is “Suchita.” In the deepest voice I can muster, of course. Keep in mind that if I sing in falsetto, I’m a tenor. Also keep in mind that nobody wants to hear that.
But torn up as I am, I understand.
A college classmate contacted me a week or two ago. A relative of hers got scammed, and she wanted to know what to do.
“Get the charges reversed on the credit card,” was my simple response.
“What about cleaning up the computer?” she asked.
That’s the easy part. Read more
The other night my phone rang. The caller ID said some state I don’t ever get calls from, so I knew what was going to happen when I picked up the phone. I didn’t have much time, but I answered anyway.
“Hello, I am calling from Windows Technical Support. My name is Daniel,” the caller said with a very slight Indian accent.
“Oh, hi, Daniel.” I said, pausing for a second to think of a name. The last project manager I worked with was a nice guy named Naim, who had emigrated from India to Minnesota. So I stole his name. “My name is Naim.”
Long awkward pause. I grinned. Too bad “Daniel” couldn’t see me.
“Your name is Naim,” he said. His sarcasm and disbelief was so thick it was bulletproof.
“Yes Daniel, my name is Naim,” I said pleasantly, making no effort whatsoever to disguise my midwestern accent. I’ve lived my whole life in Missouri and Ohio. Read more
I guess Matt Weeks is as sick as I am of tech support scammers, because he developed a way to fight back, in the form of a Metasploit module that exploits a software defect in the AMMYY remote access tool that these scammers sometimes use. Metasploit is a tool that penetration testers use to demonstrate–with permission–how hackable a computer network is. In this case, the would-be victim is penetration testing someone without permission. Run the module when the scammer connects to the would-be victim, and he or she gets a command prompt on the criminal’s PC. At that point, the would-be victim can break their computer, perhaps by deleting critical files, corrupting the Windows registry, or something else. Anything you can do from a command prompt would be possible at that point.
I’m anything but heartbroken that this threat exists, although I’m not going to do this myself. Let me explain. Read more