'Blackshades' bust a reminder to guard against computer hackers - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

'Blackshades' bust a reminder to guard against computer hackers

Posted: Updated: May 21, 2014 11:17 PM
MADISON (WKOW) – Madison Police Detective Cindy Murphy said computer hacking is a “daily problem” in today's society.

Murphy, a computer forensics expert, said there are many ways hackers can infiltrate a vulnerable computer. One of them is through Remote Access Technology, or RAT.

RAT, which was highlighted by a recent, worldwide bust of the 'Blackshades' hacking group, enables hackers to seize control of a computer without the owner knowing.

“Normally you would have to be a software engineer to be able to do those kinds of things,” said Mike Masino, Information Security Program Director at Madison Area Technical College.

Murphy said hackers can obtain malware like RAT for as cheap as $40.

“They could do things like use your own computer to encrypt your files and then attempt to charge you to get that information back,” Murphy said.

Masino said RAT is one of roughly 10 malware downloads available online that enables hackers to infiltrate your computer.

“They can actually switch your keyboard off so they can type and you can't,” Masino said. “They can take control of the mouse and even switch your computer camera on and off.”

He said malware usually infects a computer after its owner clicks on a faulty, online link set up by a hacker. Such links often prompt the clicker to download the virus unknowingly.

“Make sure you know what you're downloading and installing,” Masino said. “If you're installing a piece of software from an unknown source, that's probably not a good thing.”

Malware like RAT can often make your computer freeze or slow down.

Although sometimes hackers are content to let the malicious bug run discreetly.

“A lot of times this just runs in the background,” Masino said. “The (Hackers) can monitor what you're doing and watch what you're doing.”

Murphy said keeping your computer's operating system and anti-virus software current, as well as being wary of suspicious links online are the best ways to guard against malware.

She said practical steps can also be taken – like putting a piece of tape over your computer's web cam or turning your computer off when you're done using it.

“If you think your computer is infected, or know it's infected because someone reaches out to you and says, 'we have your files,' that's when it's time to unplug yourself from the internet and ask for help,” Murphy said. She said those who believe they've been hacked can contact a computer expert or police.

But Murphy added she does not expect computer hacking cases to decline any time soon.

“The more we depend on the internet as part of our lives, the more likely it's going to be a vector for crime,” she said.

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