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I Was (Almost) Hit By A Cyber Attack

Last Tuesday, I was sitting at my computer when I received an innocuous-looking phone call.  The caller ID read “Corpus Christi, TX.”  It didn’t look like a telemarketer, so I answered it.  The man at the other end of the line simply said: “Hello, I am from Windows Company.  Your computer is going to be hacked in the next hour unless you take these important steps.”

Right away, I knew that this was a scam.  First of all, there is no “Windows Company.”  Microsoft makes “Windows” software, but “Windows” is not a separate company.  Second, I knew that there was no way that this person could tell whether or not my computer would be hacked.

The call, however, piqued my interest.  I wanted to know what scam the callers were trying to perpetrate.  Instead of hanging up, I asked the caller what I needed to do.  The caller proceeded to walk me through the steps to give him remote access to my computer.  

I was shocked to receive such a brazen hacking attempt.  I was even more taken aback when I thought about the potential damage.  Giving him such remote access meant that he could have stolen all of the files on my computer or encrypted my files and held them for ransom.

Fortunately, I could detect that this was a scam.  However, I know not every person will be able to determine this fact.  If you or your employees get a similar phone call or even an e-mail asking for certain information (access to your computer, payment for unknown charges, release of a bank account), here are some things that you can do to prevent a cyber attack:

•    Get the Requester’s Information.  Ask the person contacting you for his name and/or employee identification, the name of the company where he is calling from, and the best contact information for the company.  Tell him that you will call the company back at a time of your convenience.  This often spooks requesters or tests their patience, and they will move on to another potential victim.
•    Ask for Your Full Information.  If they are claiming to have some knowledge about you, ask them to send you all of the information they have about you.  Get them to mail you documentation identifying you and the problem.  Again, this often spooks the requesters or forces them to move on.

We are living in a dangerous world.  Criminals can now be on the other side of the globe and steal valuable information about you (Social Security Number, credit card numbers) or from you (computer files).  To protect yourself, your employees, and your business, make sure to take sensible steps against these potential crimes.

If you think that you have been a victim of a cyber attack or if you have questions about cyber attacks, contact a member of our Emerging Technologies Practice Group.