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Twenty-Four Seven Security

Jessica Ann Mola

Question Everything: Malware Hits the Real World

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During my time as an undergraduate philosophy student, "question everything" was a catchphrase I heard often enough.

I never thought about applying it to my parking tickets, though. (Oh yes, I saw plenty of those in college whenever I dared to park in an "illegal" lot on campus.)

Drivers in a midwest U.S. city should have taken the catchphrase to heart. According to a money.co.uk article yesterday, drivers in Grand Forks, North Dakota were tricked into downloading viruses on their computers by fake parking tickets.

While the cars were parked in city lots, hackers stuck yellow "tickets" on their windshields. According to the article, the "tickets" stated that the vehicle was "in violation of standard parking regulations," instructing recipients to visit a website to "view pictures with information about your parking preferences."

Red flag number one: "pictures with information about your parking preferences." What does that even mean?

The hackers attempted to be smart, though. According to the article, they created a "hugely convincing website" with pictures of cars in real Grand Forks locations.

Once on the website, drivers were told to download a tool bar to search for images of their vehicle. At that point, "the 'Vundo Trojan' was released onto their computer," followed by "numerous other malicious applications, including a fake anti-virus scanner," said the article.

The attack is thought to be "the first 'real world' scam successfully orchestrated by hackers, although experts predict that it is unlikely to be the last," the article said.

Which brings up the question (in my mind, at least): what counts as a "real world" hack? The fact that the hackers branched out from scamming people just through computers and code, and went right for their "real" lives? We could get even more philosophically deep about this and ask why using the Internet or a computer doesn't count as "real" life (when I'm sure the average American spends several hours a day planted in front of a computer screen). But I won't go there right now.

Have you heard of any other so-called "real world" hacks like this one?

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Peter Schooff's blog is a daily look at what's going on in the world of computer security with an emphasis on how it affects businesses.

Peter Schooff

Peter Schooff is Contributing Editor at ebizQ, and manager of the ebizQ Forum. Contact him at pschooff@techtarget.com

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