You won the U.K. lottery!!!

No.  You.  Didn’t.

And that’s too bad, because your U.S. Bank account needs to be reactivated due to a technical glitch.  No. It. Doesn’t.

But that’s okay, because a Nigerian prince will pay you handsomely to help him transfer money into the U.S.  No. He. Won’t.

Did you enter the U.K. lottery?  Do you have an account at U.S. bank?  Do you have any contacts with Nigerian royalty?  I didn’t think so.

We’ve all seen similar emails, and they are all bogus.  There are no exceptions to this rule.  They constitute examples of what is referred to as “phishing.”  Phishing is an attempt to dupe unsuspecting victims into divulging personal information that can then be used in identity theft.  There will always be an official sounding link to click on (DON’T CLICK ON THE LINK!!!), often, there’s an offer of huge monetary gain, and they frequently masquerade  as notices from banks. 

Phishing falls under the broad category of “social engineering” which is, in its simplest form, a way to get people to part with sensitive information.

Why do people engage in social engineering?  Can’t they just hack into my computer and take all of my sensitive data?  No, not really.  We all fear the hyper intelligent misfit who can access our computers at will and obtain any personal information he so desires, right?  Truth is… it’s not really that easy, regardless of what the movies portray.  If it was, there would be no online commerce.  Period.  For each misfit as described, there are “hunnards and hunnards” (that’s several hundred) of hyper intelligent people employed by the computer industry making sure that your personal data is safe.  It takes a lot of smart people with good resources to design and build firewalls, security programs, encryption algorithms, etc.  Overall, they do a really good job. 

No, on the whole, your data is mostly safe.  There are exceptions, of course, but the weak point in security is almost invariably the user.  Human nature is no secret; most people, left to their own devices, are greedy and lazy.  Social engineering scams take advantage of that.  If someone sends out a “too good to be true” offer the vast majority of people will see through the obvious scam.  However, someone, somewhere, will be overcome by greed and and easy fortune (see Madoff, Bernie, if you doubt) and click on the link.  Boom, their identity’s been stolen. 

Alternatively, social engineering also takes advantage of the fact that people are conditioned to accept authority at face value.  Hence, bank notices saying “click on the link” are often followed automatically.  Doubt it?  Look at the Milgram experiment. http://www.new-life.net/milgram.htm  Bzzzz.  AHHHHH!!! 

Sorry this was so long, it kind of got away from me.  It’s that important.  Anyway, don’t be the weak link in your personal security and remember, DON’T CLICK ON THE LINK!!!

Happy computing.

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3 Responses to “You won the U.K. lottery!!!”

  1. Danny Says:

    Bill Gates is trying out some new software for Microsoft. It’s e-mail tracking software. Send this blog to all of your friends. For each e-mail recipient to which your mail was sent, Bill Gates will pay you $5.00.
    (No He Won’t!!!)

    Great blog James! Seriously though, get the word out on the blog. It should be a great one and always entertaining.

  2. Andrew Says:

    Very interesting James. Quite timely too, as I received two e-mails this morning regarding this subject. Apparently, an asian relative of mine died in a plane crash in Taiwan in 1999, and a kindly Hong Kong banker is trying to get in touch with me regarding the 12.5 million this unknown relative left me. Also, a Nigerian judge is trying to disburse 50 million from another african relative of mine; I need only send him ALL my personal information. WOW, who knew I had such rich relatives in parts of the world where none in my family have ever traveled to?
    On a less lighter note, I did receive a very distrubing (and official looking) email notice from my bank regarding my checking account. I printed out the email and took it to my local bank branch, and they confrimed that it wasn’t official. It’s stuff like this that makes me very leary of any online transaction. Keep up the good work and don’t forget to keep checking DAOTW.

  3. Bridget Says:

    I had no idea you were such a journalist!!!

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