Spyware Adversely Affecting Stock Prices

In past posts I have written extensively about viruses, spyware and scumware. For example see my post entitled Socially Engineered Viruses, my post entitled Creator of Botnet Caught – Pleads Guilty, my post entitled Malware Increases 700 Percent in Volume, and my post entitled How Much Is Too Much? Where Malware Is Concerned, the Sky is the Limit. And these aren’t the only posts on the topic. I have tried my hardest to put this on everyone’s radar screen.

A news article in CNET News puts it all into perspective as to why this is so important. Let’s face it, viruses are still often written by pimply-faced kids (or immature adults) with sagging egos. But spyware and scumware is written by professionals with a strictly economic motive in mind. The purpose is identity theft, and turning your hard-earned dollars into their ill-gotten gains.

The referenced article puts a dollar sign on just one such scheme. High-tech crooks used spyware to capture vital information, such as account numbers and passwords, of on-line stock trading transactions. This happened without knowledge of the account holder. That’s what spyware is all about. The program then emailed the stolen information back to the thief or thieves, who used it to open victim accounts. Once inside, the thief would sell off an account’s portfolio and take the proceeds. Or electronically hijacked accounts were used for “pump-and-dump” schemes to manipulate stock prices for profit, SEC officials have said.

The brokerage firms are making good on the losses, and that is affecting their profits and stock prices. The dollar figure thus far? Well, we’re just starting to hear the totals. For example, TD Ameritrade Holding on Tuesday became the latest brokerage to confirm the problem. It said it cost $4 million in the third quarter. E*Trade Financial said its fraud losses ballooned by $18 million in the third quarter.

Consider that about 25 percent of U.S. retail stock trades are made by online investors through roughly 10 million online accounts, according to brokerages regulator NASD. So are you doing online stock transactions? Online banking? Online tax payments? Online payroll? Online purchasing of any goods or services? Of course you are! We all are, including my 82-year-old mother, God bless her.

So let me ask yet again, are you properly protected? If you still think that anti-virus and firewall are enough, think again. You need anti-spyware too. More than you know. Because unlike viruses, trojans and worms, spyware and scumware will never ever reveal itself to you without the proper software to ferret it out. And it will foil the security precautions at any web site you visit, because your computer is exposing your information before it is even transmitted to a secure site.

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