all kinds of new possibilities for crime and scams, including outright
theft by bogus grannies
by Alan Zisman (c) 1996 First published
in Business in Vancouver
, Issue #343 May 21, 1996 High Tech Office column
bring all sorts of expanded possibilities, not the least of which
are new ways to cheat, defraud and steal. For some time now, high-end
CPU and RAM chips have been a target for thieves who take them right
out of individual computers, as well as stealing them in bulk and
from stores, warehouses, distribution centres, and in transit. Not only
are they small and expensive, they're unmarked and easily resold.
They've even become a sort of replacement currency for illegal
transactions, literally worth their weight in gold, but easier to carry
across international borders than large quantities of currency or
of high-tech crime are coming in from around the world. From Australia,
we hear of a wave of cybertheft--obtaining users' Internet log-on
names and passwords, and using them to run up large on-line charges.
While the use of other people's on-line accounts is nothing new,
Internet service-provider Netcomm reports that with the large
increase in new Internet users, this has become a growing concern.
a hacker posted details on the Web, including credit-card numbers,
of 1,200 subscribers to Ausnet Services, a local Internet
Netcomm suggests users be wary of anyone seeking copies of the
files used by popular 'Net access programs such as Trumpet: these
often include users' log-on and password information. Giving an
access to these files when seeking technical help is also giving that
person the ability to bill your account.
of the Internet has resulted in its use in scams, but the growing
popularity of portable computers has resulted in an increase in
theft. Theft of notebook computers was 30-per-cent higher in 1995
than in 1994, according to Columbus, Ohio insurer Safeware Insurance,
which specializes in insuring PCs. It estimates that one out of every
14 of the 3.5 million notebooks sold in the U.S. last year was stolen.
a particularly likely place for notebook theft: the U.S. Federal
Administration has issued a warning about the potential for theft
when sending computers through x-ray machines or metal detectors.
It suggests owners wait until the last possible moment before putting
down their notebooks, and keep careful watch as they come out at the
a traveller bumped into an elderly woman. He put down his notebook
to help her get back on her feet, only to see it scooped up by a thief,
who ran quickly down a corridor, while the not-really-elderly woman
ran quickly in the opposite direction.
Get in the
carrying your computer in a generic briefcase or bag, rather than
a fancy, branded computer case which virtually cries out 'Steal me!'
For additional security, you can purchase cables to secure your
to table legs.
your information. Be sure to back up valuable data before taking your
computer on a trip. If you're uneasy about having anyone else get
access to your personal or business data, you might want to consider
encrypting or password-protecting your business records. Several
packages including Lotus Notes or Microsoft Excel offer
such features, and Windows 3.1 users can also purchase utilities such
as Norton DiskLock for added protection, while Mac users may
want to look at the FolderBolt utility. Both sell for about $125,
and allow users various levels of encryption and password protection
for the contents of their hard drives.
manufacturer NEC learned this lesson the hard way on April 3,
thieves raided its U.S. headquarters in Mountain View, California.
They made off with six notebooks, all belonging to (ironically enough)
managers of the company's notebook division, and containing marketing
plans, pricing and product specifications for the coming year. NEC
suspects the thieves were more interested in the contents of the hard
drives than in the resale value of the hardware: now it's rethinking
its plans for the coming year.
data is stolen
on purpose or as a side effect of running into a bogus granny, the
result can be a real disaster. As with all the other computer-disaster
scenarios, your first line of defence is to always have a recent
And don't keep it in the same bag as your portable computer--keep
at least a couple of generations of backups in multiple locations.