Tele­mark­ers flood­ing your cell? Here’s how to stop robo­calls

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL -

In a Robo­call Strike Force Re­port in Oc­to­ber, the Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion said tele­mar­ket­ing calls were the No. 1 consumer com­plaint.

Cit­ing statis­tics from YouMail, a de­vel­oper of robo­call-block­ing soft­ware, the com­mis­sion said con­sumers re­ceived an es­ti­mated 2.4 bil­lion robo­calls per month last year. Alex Quilici, chief ex­ec­u­tive of YouMail, said his com­pany es­ti­mated that 2.3 bil­lion calls were made in De­cem­ber 2016, up from 1.5 bil­lion in De­cem­ber 2015. More than an­noy­ing, the calls can cross over into the out­right fraud­u­lent. In one scheme, call­ers pre­tend­ing to rep­re­sent the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice claim the per­son an­swer­ing the phone owes back taxes and threat­ens them with le­gal ac­tion. The scheme has reaped more than $54 mil­lion, the FCC said. Here’s how you can fight them: The most sim­ple and ef­fec­tive rem­edy is to not an­swer num­bers you don’t know, Quilici said. “Just in­ter­act­ing with these calls is just gen­er­ally a mis­take,” he said.

If you do an­swer, don’t re­spond to the in­vi­ta­tion to press a num­ber to opt out. That will merely ver­ify that yours is a work­ing num­ber and make you a tar­get for more calls, ex­perts said. List your phones on the Na­tional Do Not Call Reg­istry. If your num­ber is on the reg­istry and you do get un­wanted calls, re­port them.

Down­load apps such as True­caller, RoboKiller, Mr. Num­ber, No­morobo and Hiya, which will block the calls. YouMail will stop your phone from ring­ing with calls from sus­pected robo­callers and de­liver a mes­sage that your num­ber is out of ser­vice.

Quilici said phone com­pa­nies, such as T-Mo­bile, Ver­i­zon and AT&T, also have tools to com­bat robo­calls. They work by block­ing calls from num­bers known to be prob­lem­atic. And then there is the Jolly Roger Tele­phone Co., which turns the ta­bles on tele­mar­keters. This pro­gram al­lows a cus­tomer to put the phone on mute and patch tele­mar­ket­ing calls to a robot, which un­der­stands speech pat­terns and in­flec­tions and works to keep the caller en­gaged.

Sub­scribers can choose robot per­son­al­i­ties, such as Whiskey Jack, who is fre­quently dis­tracted by a game he is watch­ing on tele­vi­sion, or Salty Sally, a fraz­zled mother. The ro­bots string the call­ers along with vo­cal fillers like “Uh-huh” and “OK, OK.”

An in- devel­op­ment ran­somware named J. Ster­ling Ran­somware has been dis­cov­ered that tar­gets the high school stu­dents of the J. Ster­ling Mor­ton school district in Cicero, Illi­nois by pre­tend­ing to be a stu­dent sur­vey. While this ran­somware cur­rently does not en­crypt files, it shows how a de­vel­oper can make an ef­fec­tive & tar­geted ran­somware at­tack.

When it runs, this ran­somware will dis­play a screen called the “J. Ster­ling Stu­dent Sur­vey”, which prompts the stu­dent to lo­gin into the sur­vey and se­lect their school grade. In or­der to make the sur­vey look le­git­i­mate, the de­vel­oper in­cluded the school’s lo­gos and slo­gans. Though the user in­ter­face is de­signed poorly, it could eas­ily trick some­one to in­ter­act with it.

Once the stu­dent en­ters any email or pass­word and se­lects their grade, the screen will change to a ran­somware mes­sage. This mes­sage states that the files on the com­puter have been en­crypted and that the stu­dent must pay $10 USD in bit­coins to get their files back.

As this ran­somware is cur­rently in­de­vel­op­ment, the files are not be­ing en­crypted.

This could eas­ily change, though, once the de­vel­oper adds the re­quired com­puter code, which can eas­ily be found on­line.

In the past at­tack­ers dis­trib­uted ran­somware us­ing ex­ploit kit at­tacks or malspam cam­paigns in or­der to throw out as wide a net as pos­si­ble to cap­ture as many vic­tims as they could.

Due to in­creased pro­tec­tion for ran­somware from se­cu­rity ven­dors and a stronger ap­proach to email se­cu­rity from the larger email providers, this tech­nique is not as ef­fec­tive as it used to be.

Due to this we have seen ran­somware switch­ing to us­ing di­rect at­tacks

In or­der to pro­tect your­self from ran­somware, first and fore­most, you should al­ways have a re­li­able and tested backup of your data that can be re­stored in the case of an emer­gency, such as a ran­somware at­tack.

Last, but not least, make sure you prac­tice the fol­low­ing se­cu­rity habits, which in many cases are the most im­por­tant steps of all: Backup, Backup, Backup! Do not open at­tach­ments if you do not know who sent them.

Do not open at­tach­ments un­til you con­firm that the per­son ac­tu­ally sent you them,

Scan at­tach­ments with tools like VirusTo­tal.

Make sure all Win­dows and all other pro­gram up­dates are in­stalled as soon as they come out! Use hard pass­words and never re­use the same pass­word at mul­ti­ple sites.

Over 20 mil­lion Ama­zon Echo and Google Home de­vices run­ning on An­droid and Linux are vul­ner­a­ble to at­tacks via the BlueBorne vul­ner­a­bil­ity, IoT cy­ber-se­cu­rity firm Ar­mis an­nounced to­day.

BlueBorne is a set of eight vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties in the Blue­tooth im­ple­men­ta­tions de­ployed on An­droid, iOS, Mi­crosoft, and Linux. Af­fected OS mak­ers and sev­eral IoT de­vice mak­ers is­sued up­dates in mid-Septem­ber to ad­dress the flaws.

BlueBorne al­lows at­tack­ers to take over de­vices that have Blue­tooth en­abled and run ma­li­cious code on the un­der­ly­ing OS or firmware.

The ini­tial BlueBorne an­nounce­ment did not men­tion any­thing about per­sonal home as­sis­tants as be­ing vul­ner­a­ble, al­beit if an at­tacker put some of the clues to­gether he could have de­duced that BlueBorne could be used to at­tack a wide range of de­vices that rely on Blue­tooth com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and which have not been men­tioned in the Ar­mis ini­tial dis­clo­sure.

Ar­mis re­searchers pointed out that 82 per­cent of com­pa­nies that use its IoT cy­ber-se­cu­rity pro­tec­tion plat­form also have an Ama­zon Echo on their net­work. Ex­perts are now warn­ing com­pa­nies to patch Ama­zon Echo and Google Home de­vices.

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