Spyware poses a huge threat to our business and nation
By ara C. Trembly
In 1979, a group of militant Iranian students stormed and took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran–along with 66 hostages–ostensibly as a demonstration of their anger against the United States for supporting the Shah of Iran.
Many of the confidential documents stored at that embassy were shredded before the takeover was completed, but the Iranians painstakingly worked to reassemble those documents, much to the chagrin of the U.S.
This may have been the most publicized instance of a phenomenon that would come to be known as “dumpster diving,” which involves picking through a company’s or individual’s trash to get confidential, sensitive and potentially valuable information that resides amid the refuse.
Such tactics remain a threat to businesses today, but the danger is less due to both increased awareness and the development of shredders (and shredding services) that literally can obliterate a document to the point that recovery is near impossible.
But what if a bad guy could watch you online and could see your documents as you produced them, keystroke by keystroke, then make an electronic record–all without you knowing it? That unsettling possibility is what we face today thanks to the dubious technical achievements that have produced spyware and keystroke loggers.
Spyware, as its name implies, is software designed to allow someone to watch what someone else is doing online, including Web surfing habits. Often enabled by hacker-created “back doors” that allow access into computer systems, spyware (and its supposedly less-insidious cousin, adware) represents a huge threat wherever it is installed, because it compromises the notion of online privacy.
Keystroke loggers, as their name implies, are software programs that enable a remote viewer (usually a criminal hacker) to record every keystroke made and to assemble those keystrokes into documents. Assuming a crook has propped open a back door in your systems, he easily can use a keystroke logger to re-create any document you produce.