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Security Company urges Nation to donate safely as Children in Need nears

Security firm Webroot has urged Internet users to exercise caution when visiting websites dedicated to charitable causes, which can expose users' personal information to cyber criminals.

“We are seeing increases in spoofing and typo squatting around events that are driving traffic on the Web. Internet users need to think about protection and good habits when surfing online for information or donating,” said Nick Banks, Managing Director of EMEA, Webroot Software. “Unfortunately, because cyber criminals are targeting heavily trafficked websites, donors seeking to contribute to worthy causes have to use caution when visiting these sites. Do not download applications such as screensavers or videos unless you know they are coming from a trusted source. This type of seemingly benign behaviour will make them more susceptible to an attack from hackers.”

“Children in Need’s” fundraising activities have been taking place throughout the year, but on Friday 16th November 2007, its expected that more than several million people will watch a dedicated televised fundraising and awareness initiative, with a proportion of them sure to visit related websites with the intention of donating. Dating back to 1980, “Children in Need” has provoked the nation to open its purses and give generously to the cause by televising the appeal in the format we have learned to recognise today. £33 million was donated in 2006.

As Internet usage increases, Webroot cautions users about a potential spike in the instances of system monitors and keyloggers which can easily be downloaded onto a computer from a spoofed Website. Classified as some of the most dangerous computer security threats, system monitors and keyloggers can track and record a user's individual keystrokes, making it easy for spyware criminals to steal personal information such as credit card numbers or bank account numbers.

“We recently saw an example of spoofing and typo squatting in the US surrounding their Presidential candidate Websites,” added Banks. “Donors were giving their credit or debit card numbers to cyber thieves because they simply made a typographical error, or selected the wrong Website. We also saw a large number of Trojan Horse downloads. They can be used to take control of a person’s computer or to load potentially unwanted software onto their machines like keyloggers or system monitors for stealing other personal information.”

Webroot recommends users adhere to the following best practices when placing online wagers:

• Keep your computer protected: Run updated versions of best-of-breed anti-spyware and anti-virus software and firewall. Scan your entire system at least once a week.

• Follow general best practices for online purchasing: According to, all secure websites have the following characteristics in common:

• The website address should begin with "https:"

• The page should display a closed padlock symbol or state that information is encrypted

• Every Website should have a privacy policy. The statement should advise what information is collected, how it will be used, and provide you with an opportunity to refuse having your information sold or shared with others.

• Monitor Your Credit: Many victims do not realise they are a victim until they have lost a lot of money. It is important to monitor your credit report and/or credit status on a regular basis to quickly spot anything unusual.

• Use a Credit Card not a Debit Card: If you are a victim of fraud or cyber crime, most credit card agreements limit your liability for the charges and you won’t compromise any accounts linked to your banking.

Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.