Cyber Vandalism, Skype Hackers and Social Networks
Skype is an invaluable business building tool. Not only does it allow you to conduct business internationally without incurring international long distance charges, it make is very easy to share large files and engage your customers in video chats when the need arises.
There is a dark side to Skype. Hackers prey on naive online users. Last year’s hacker game was to usurp an account and initiate contact with all confirmed contacts, inviting those people to accept files. Even though I do not consider myself to be naive, I was duped into accepting and opening a file, in March 2009, when a seemingly active client offered it to me. When I lost access to my Skype account, I realized I had been hacked. It took a few days to put everything back together and it was a real headache.
I haven’t accepted any spontaneously offered files or clicked on any uninvited links since that time, even if the offer is extended by a long-term contact on my list.
This year’s hacker game is to hijack an account and offer a link that looks like a Skype link to all confirmed contacts in that account. With a slight amount of scrutiny, it is obviously not a link you should follow. The link will probably ask you to login to your Skype account, at which point the hacker has your credentials. If you have a Skype subscription attached to your PayPal account, the hackers can run up huge expenses for you. Skype takes no responsibility for this. Neither does PayPal.
When my Skype account was hijacked in March 2009, I had no Skype subscriptions but friends of mine who were hacked by the hackers who hacked me were harmed financially. A hacker’s sole intention is to steal something from you. They are clever people and it is truly a shame that they have chosen to use their creative talent for malicious intent.
Safe computing and surfing is an old topic but its relevance is not stale. It is comprised of more than running Spyware blockers and Antivirus software, especially if you are a member of any internet messaging application.
How to Avoid Skype Hackers!
Here are some steps you can take to be safe on Skype:
- Whenever a friend offers you a picture or file, ask them what it is. Try to engage them in a longer conversation so you can determine if the language they are using is native to them. If you feel uneasy about it, ask if you can connect through voice to have them explain why you should accept the file. A hacker will not be able to talk to you.
- When you are asked to confirm a contact, ask the requestor how they found your ID. If they can’t provide information that links to any sites or chats you have a membership in, decline the opportunity promptly.
- When you are invited to click on a link unexpectedly, look at the link carefully first. Here is the dialogue from a recent attempt to hijack my account today. You will notice in the first line that English is not their native language. By the way, THE LINK HAS BEEN DISABLED IN THIS POST!
[11:20:10 AM] MyFriend says: hi how are you,i send to you link please sign in ok and thanks http://smii.host.sk/www.skype.com/?id=79826&lc=us
[11:23:04 AM] Marj Wyatt says: oh dear, hackers at work
[11:24:01 AM] Marj Wyatt says: more importantly, what sorts of idiots spend their days trying to wreak havoc on nice people?
I received no response to my inquiry, but I wasn’t really expecting one. I admit to my brutality in my biting response but, frankly, it was a way to shut them down immediately. I posted this thread here so you could see an example of a hacker’s link. There will always be something after the domain name.
The first time I encountered this in Skype, I asked what the link was for. The user at the other end kept repeating that it was “a surprise.” I was polite with them and informed them that, if I wanted to access my Skype account, I would login through a browser and not through their link. The abandoned their efforts.
Managing Your Online Life
Tools, like social networks and Skype, have made it easier to build business and promote products and services at a minimal cost. They have also opened up a new channel for hackers. Both Twitter and Facebook have been hacked repeatedly during the past year. To the best of my understanding, it always starts with a malicious link.
Very early in my practice of conducting business online, I learned to set every profile that I have on social networks to approve comments manually so I could avoid the use of my pages as advertising space for others. People who have a penchant for doing this have had the nerve to complain when I do not approve their posts with links to their list building tools or business opportunities. Oh well…
New contacts on Skype are always advised that my accepting them is conditional and presumes that they will not promote every business opportunity they come across on the web via Skype broadcast tools. When a confirmed Skype contact sends me a link to something that they are promoting, I always ask questions and remind them that I’m not looking for get rich quick schemes. Not so long ago, one of my contacts decided to launch a group chat with the founders of one business, after I declined to enroll myself. It was quite embarrassing for me. I didn’t want to hurt my friend’s feelings but I also did not like the feeling of being cajoled into joining yet another “worthless webinar” so they could get a bonus.
The LinkedIn network uses a process for profile publications that begins with a request, from you, for the feedback. It is very straight forward. Additionally, LinkedIn uses associations like school or work to help people find friends. It may take a little longer to build your social network there but at least you know who you are connecting with, which provides you with a reasonable expectation about how they will behave online.
I have also monitored my Twitter feeds carefully. When a Twitter contact presents themselves as being uncouth or a Twitter Spammer, I will “unfriend” them so my Twitter feed isn’t cluttered with junk. It is my feed, after all. :)
With the caveat that I find the Facebook user interface unwieldy and may not have taken the time to figure it out, there doe not appear to be a setting for manually approving comments on my Facebook wall. This is a bother because it enforces a need to go into your account and delete content that you do not want displayed.
Building Business Online
Skype, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are powerful business building tools when they are used appropriately. Social manners should not be tossed out the window just because you are in an online relationship with your prospects and customers. When you are respectful of your online contacts, you will attract more business contacts who are also respectful of you.
Have fun online, be careful, and be prosperous!