July 19, 2005
Internet fraud is becoming more and more prevalent as 47 million American users log on. Now, a new way of identity theft may be making its way to your computer keystroke by keystroke.
Just visiting a website or opening an attachment in your email, you could be downloading a spy into your computer. It silently watches every keystroke you type in.
"What it's mainly targeted at is things like financial institutions and banks like CitiBank and they're trying to get your passwords into your accounts," said Bob Warren, of Arcane Technologies, Inc.
It's called a key logger, an invisible software program that identity thieves are using to record a credit card number, a bank account password, anything you type that could be used to steal your money or identity.
"We're finding that a lot of people especially your personal users are very open to spyware," said Warren.
Keylogging programs like this are actually legal, but can be put to illegal use, as they often are. At least a third of online crimes can now be traced to keylogging, in part because the crime is easy to commit and get away with.
"In the passage by the General Assembly, [this] body of law puts Vriginia in the position of leader for computer laws. The attorney general has been prosecuting crimes, but it's all new," said Garrett Smith, a Charlottesville consumer attorney.
Experts said it's just as easy to prevent it as well. There are plenty of free Anti-Spyware downloads such as SpyBot and AdAware that can get rid of the keylogger. But experts warn, make sure you run it consistently.
"Just like a virus there are always new ones out there that are trying to get through the loopholes and you need to keep current. And that's the key," said Warren.
Computer security experts say the number of keylogging crimes is doubleing every year, and everyone is at risk. They say if you're online, you need to assume someone may be watching.
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