Tips: Watch Out For Bots

According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, bots are the Internet’s fastest-growing cyber crime and 71 percent of consumers lack knowledge about this online threat. October is recognized as National Cyber Security Awareness Month and as the nation’s largest residential Internet Service Provider, Comcast is committed to informing consumers about how to have a safe and secure online experience.

“Online criminals are savvy and are developing more sophisticated ways to steal personal data, financial information, and the entire identities of unsuspecting people,” said Jay Opperman, Senior Director of Security and Privacy at Comcast. “According to the Federal Trade Commission, as many as nine million Americans have their identities stolen each year so it’s important that consumers learn how to protect themselves and their families from online scams that can lead to identity theft.”

A bot, also known as a Web robot, is a form of malicious software that is used to gain control over a computer. Once a bot is in control, the computer can be used to send spam, host phishing sites or infect other computers. Online thieves use bots to collect personal data about people such as their social security numbers, bank account information, and credit card information. When this personal data is collected, it is often used maliciously which can result in identity theft.

“A person can unknowingly infect their computer with a bot by not protecting his or her PC with anti-virus and security software, opening suspicious e-mails and/or e-mail attachments, or downloading software from a Web site with an unknown or falsified brand,” said Opperman.

Signs that indicate a computer may be infected with a bot include:

  • Numerous undelivered e-mail notifications in your inbox to unknown e-mail addresses. Bots will frequently use e-mail accounts to send out spam. Spam to unknown e-mail addresses will result in a failure to deliver notification in your inbox.
  • Suspicious e-mail account activity. Bots create multiple e-mail addresses in your e-mail account. If you notice additional e-mail addresses in your account, that you did not create, you may have an infected computer.
  • Multiple toolbars on your Internet browser. Bots will frequently install various toolbars to help collect search information from your browser.
  • Frequent flashing of the data light on your cable modem. If the data light constantly flashes for a period of days when you are not using the Internet, a bot could be operating on the computer.
  • Unusual error messages. Error messages that suggest applications cannot run or drives cannot be accessed can be indications of a bot infection.

To help prevent a bot infection, Comcast recommends the following tips:

  • Keep your computer protected by downloading reputable anti-virus and security software.
  • Make sure your computer is set to receive auto security updates.
  • Avoid downloading software from a Web site with an unknown or falsified brand.
  • Do not click through or open suspicious e-mails or e-mail attachments.
  • Avoid social networking scams -- never provide your personal information (i.e. social security number, credit card numbers) to e-mails that solicit this information, even if the e-mail looks to be from a legitimate company or brand that you recognize. A legitimate company would not request this information via e-mail.

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