Microsoft Hackers – Be prepared

We’ve received reports of phone hackers targeting both individuals and businesses claiming to be from the software company Microsoft.  The phone call may at first look entirely legitimate as the incoming number might begin with ‘0203’ – an easily traceable London code. In some instances, the hackers might be seemingly calling from a town location very close by.

In actual fact thanks to some illicit jiggery-pokery hackers are able to assume a local number despite being located elsewhere, often far away.  This can cause some confusion.  This trick is known as ‘number spoofing’ and can be orchestrated through freely-available online software.

Often hackers will make an educated guess as to which version of Microsoft Windows you are running, if successful this can add a further veneer of respectability to the call.

Perpetrators are able to use pay phones, disposable cellular phones, or even stolen cellular phone numbers from practically anywhere in the world.  Often these calls can appear innocuous and perfectly innocent. For example, the caller might say they are calling to help you update software or help you unlock your (blocked) account by installing a well-known search engine or something similar.
A 65-year-old woman from London was tricked out of £12000 of her life savings by men posing as staff from her bank
Occasionally to gain trust and attempt to prove their legitimacy they’ll direct you to a genuine website that contains helpful or perfectly innocent procedures useful to you or your computer.

Only later might the caller surreptitiously ask for personal information, such as your date of birth, password or even bank details.  Once you’ve realised the con it might be too late.  As numerous disgruntled people venting on online forums can testify, hackers can take you by surprise having capitalised on your naivety.

It is surprisingly easy and common to be scammed over the phone. In 2015, a 65-year-old woman from London was tricked out of £12000 of her life savings by men posing as staff from her bank using the same number spoofing technique.

The key to keeping your computer and data secure might be obvious but unfortunately still needs repeating.  Do not to volunteer any personal information on the phone, in person or via email.  Once security has been compromised efforts taken retrieving, resetting and cleaning PCs heavily eclipses the efforts of prevention.

If passwords are compromised hackers then have further access to other sensitive information through channels not immediately apparent.  You may become vulnerable to a wealth of attacks, whether it be online banking, shopping or identity theft. Remember – ALWAYS use a different password for EVERY account that you have, however inconvenient that may seem!  It’s not as inconvenient as being hacked ….

It’s important to remember to never trust unsolicited calls. Genuine organisations will never call you unannounced asking you to provide sensitive information.  If in the least bit suspicious a few pertinent questions to the caller often confirms the worst suspicions.  The best procedure is always to hang up.

You can learn more at our previous blog post ‘Gone Phishing’ which details the various threats and how you can continue to keep your IT security safe.  If you’ve been unfortunate to receive unwarranted attempts at hacking, and you have the perpetrators telephone number you can report the incident to the national Fraud Reporting Centre.

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