The FBI has arrested and charged the creators of the Blackshades remote access tool and, along with law enforcement from 18 other countries, arrested more than 90 hackers using the malware to illegally gain access to other people’s computers. With the malware, hackers can remotely turn on a computer’s webcam, log keystrokes, control the mouse and keyboard, and encrypt and lock files.
Some hackers extorted money from their victims by using nude photos captured through a webcam or by locking and encrypting computer files. Other hackers logged victims’ keystrokes, gaining passwords to online accounts, including credit cards and banking.
The Better Business Bureau recommends the following tips to help protect your computing devices from malware:
• Use antivirus software set to regularly update and scan your computer.
• Download updates for your operating system and web browsers as soon as they are available.
• Use strong, unique passwords.
• When downloading software, use only sites you know and trust. Malware can come in the form of downloadable games, file-sharing programs and customized toolbars.
• Don’t open unsolicited emails or suspicious emails from someone you know. If you do, don’t open any attachments or click on any links within the email.
The FBI offers the following signs that your computer may have been compromised by remote access tool malware:
• Your mouse cursor moves erratically with no input from you.
• Your Web camera light (if equipped) unexpectedly turns on when not in use.
• Your monitor turns off while in use.
• Your usernames and passwords for online accounts have been compromised.
• You’ve experienced unauthorized logins to bank accounts or unauthorized money transfers.
• A text-based chat window unexpectedly appears on your computer screen.
• Your computer files become encrypted and a ransom demand is made to unlock them.
The BBB warns that scammers may try to take advantage of the Blackshades takedown through fake emails or phone calls claiming to be the FBI or your internet service provider.
For more tips you can trust, visit the BBB blog at www.bbb.org/blog or call (509) 455-4200.
Erin T. Dodge, BBB editor