Ramnit: A Cyber Worm that Can Really Ruin Your Day

Staying ahead of malicious computer programmers is a challenge and requires an ever more complicated combination of precautions to ensure that your financial data is not getting into the wrong hands.

In a recent article, we warned you about “spiders” on the worldwide web.  Another particularly dangerous threat is known as a “worm”.  A worm is able to spread to other computers without being transmitted through e-mails or malicious websites.  One such worm is the “Ramnit” which has surfaced in Europe but is quickly spreading throughout the world.  The Ramnit takes advantage of the viral aspect of sites like Facebook.  Programmers realize that many people use the same password for social networking sites that they use for their bank accounts.  This makes it very easy for a worm to capture data and provide access to the funds of unsuspecting victims.  In addition, it sends messages to a user’s friends disguised as an article or other link and then prompts them to click.  As many as a million people a day click on erroneous links that then infect their computers, and the results can be a real headache.  If it seems unlikely that a friend would send you particular message, they probably didn’t.  Beware. 

Pasadena Federal Credit Union constantly monitors fraud alerts and works with online services that invest millions of dollars annually in security.  Our web hosting company has received numerous awards for their attention to security and we regularly review their efforts. 

Unfortunately, even a well-constructed password by itself is not very effective these days in protecting accounts.  Our new Online Banking and Bill Pay upgrade includes some new multi-factor authentication steps.

            -A site phrase selected by the user

            -A site key, which is a picture unique to each individual that helps verify they are on the actual site they intend to log into and not an imposter site

            -Security Questions

Never use the same password for multiple accounts and do not use a password a stranger could guess, such as your birthdate, social security number, address, nickname or other information.   These can open the door to identity theft.  Keep a log of hints that would help you recall a password but which would be meaningless to anyone else.   

When answering security questions that are things others might easily discover about you, such as names of relatives, your favorite color, etc. consider purposefully choosing an alternative answer (one that you will remember).  For example, if your niece is named Susie but she has blond hair, you might consider saying her name is “Blondie”.  Remember that someone who gains access to your social network also gains access to a potentially rich mine of information about you.  They can often determine things such as the names of family members, so those answers may not be the best ones to protect you. 

We have a very helpful demo on our website that walks members through some the exciting and helpful changes effective on our Per$onal Branch Online Banking and Bill Pay beginning February 9, 2012.  Watch it to familiarize yourself with these changes.

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