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Don't be fooled by a "Trojan Horse"? 26 September 2006

Remember the tale of the Trojan Horse and the cunning way the Greeks infiltrated Troy unbeknown to the Trojans? Well we could all be harbouring a "Trojan Horse" in our homes or businesses. This one is a malicious piece of software which gets into our computers through email attachments or websites, bypassing existing security measures. It then quietly goes about monitoring user activity, until it discovers enough passwords and pin numbers for criminals to loot customer accounts.

The Isle of Man Office of Fair Trading is aware of a number of cases in the UK where consumers have fallen victim to the "Trojan" software. In several of these cases the information stolen by the fraudsters was then traded on a Russian website and used to buy goods. In one case a lady purchased what she thought was a brand new computer through e-Bay only to find that it had been deliberately infected with a "Trojan" specifically to capture her credit card details.

While most computer users are aware of the threat of viruses, most will not have heard of "Trojans" or know how to protect their information. "Trojans" are particularly sneaky as they often don't affect the perfomance of the machine so you are unlikely to know that yours has been infected until rogue transactions start to show on your bank account or credit card statements.

There is no absolutely sure way of protecting your information however anyone who uses their computer to carry out financial transactions or account monitoring should:-

  • Get an effective virus protection program and update it regularly.
  • Get a 'firewall' to protect your computer from unauthorised access.
  • Delete suspicious emails without opening them. Avoid opening dubious attachments, even if the email seems to come from someone you trust.

Chairman of the Office of Fair Trading, Quintin Gill MHK, warns "Many users think that they are protected against this type of fraud. They install anti-virus software and firewalls but when they are asked to upgrade six months later they decline. At this point they become vulnerable. Identity theft is becoming a huge growth area for criminals and we must not be naive and think that it will not happen to us."

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