Did you know that right now, you could be involved in the sale and distribution of child pornography and not know it? This is because two things you're familiar with - computer viruses and spam - are being used by criminals to involve you in their illegal activities.
It's not surprising to anyone with an e-mail account to learn that spam has reached epidemic proportions. In fact, more spam was intercepted in July, 2003 than in all of 2002 combined, and now accounts for 50% of all e-mail received! (Source: MessageLabs)
The number of virus and virus-like attacks have also increaseddramatically. On average, they are present in about one in 166 e-mails. (Source: http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1105-5058168.html)
So, what does this spam epidemic and the rise in e-mail delivered viruses have to do with child pornography?
In this scam, Trojan horse attacks are the culprits. If you don't know EXACTLY what a Trojan horse is, you are extremely vulnerable. Read a simple and concise explanation here: http://www.irchelp.org/irchelp/security/trojan.html
These Trojan horse programs, delivered and embedded into thousands of home and business computers via spam e-mail, then execute their programs to literally hijack the PC's in order to remotely relay ads for pornographic web sites.
Since the pornographic images are not actually written to the hard drive, the owner of the PC never even knows what's going on...yet porn ads are being spammed to millions of e-mail addresses from his/her IP address!
Porn is BIG business on the Net, raking in billions of dollars annually, and one of the most effective way to advertise the hundreds of thousands of porn sites is by spamming millions of people every day.
Hijackers use the victims' computers to vastly increase the scope of their spam campaigns. An additional benefit is that if a victim's ISP terminates their Internet account because of spam complaints, the hijackers are unfazed because they havethousands of additional computers doing their dirty work for them.
And when the hijackers turn into cyber-criminals and begin using the same methods to engage in child pornography and exploitation, you could get caught up in a very serious situation.
In one recent case "a man accused of storing CHILDpornography on his computer was cleared after it emerged that his computer had been infected by a Trojan horse, which was responsible for transferring the images onto his PC."
But before he was cleared of the charges, "Julian Green, 45, was taken into custody...after police with a search warrant raided his house. He then spent a night in a police cell, nine days in Exeter prison and three months in a bail hostel. During this time, his ex-wife won custody of his seven year old daughter and possessionof his house." (Source: ZDNet® UK/August 1, 2003)
When it comes to the sexual exploitation of children, merely being accused of involvement can be enough to ruin a person's reputation.
And for all those who like to share files, it's been reported that Peer-To-Peer networks, including the music site Kazaa® are currently being investigated in the US for pornography swapping.
As these types of attacks increase, they're likely to expand from the realm of pornography peddling and child exploitation into many other illegal activities.
Think about it: a criminal anywhere in the world could remotely (and without your knowledge) use your home or office computer for money laundering, extortion, pyramid scams...even terrorist network communications. All traceable back to YOUR IP address.
An updated virus program and personal firewall can give you some measure of protection. Being aware of the dangers and taking steps to AVOID trouble before it's too late is the other and equally important half of your defense.
There are two (free) things you can do right now to begin to protect yourself and your family from online scams like this one:
First, you can run a free Trojan scan on your computer. Anti-virus programs don't scan for Trojans, so this is a very important diagnostic you'll want to perform as soon as possible. Just go to: http://www.trojanscan.com/trojanscan
Second, you can sign up for a free information-packed 7-Part Scam Alert Course by sending a BLANK e-mail (no subject) to this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ignoring the threat isn't an option any longer. Automated e-mail harvesters are stripping e-mail addresses from millions of web sites and ISP data bases this very minute...and this scam is just one among hundreds victimizing thousands of people everyday...
About the Author: Christopher Wright, a former consultant with one of the world's largest computer companies, is an expert on online scam prevention, and author of "SurferBeware! How to Protect Yourself From the Current Epidemic of Online Scams". For more info go to: http://www.milliondollarresources.com/
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