Hackers using e-cards to steal computer access

by Stephanie Saccente

Computer hackers seek to gain personal data from other people without their authorization. As technology continues to advance, hackers have devised a new way to obtain access to private information through the use of a computer webcam. These particular Internet predators start by sending the user an email containing content such as a link to a YouTube video or a notification saying the user has received an e-card. Once the user clicks on the link in the email, the hacker gains full access to not only the information on the user’s computer, but also the webcam, allowing the hacker to watch his or her every move.

Graphic design junior Marcus Papazian-Cowan, was shocked to hear such a virus existed. While he doesn’t believe his computer has been hacked before, he advises others to take caution with the websites they visit and the emails they open.

“If someone else had an insight to my life through my webcam, I would be really mad and wouldn’t feel secure using my computer, especially if I had to use my credit card to make a purchase,” Papazian-Cowan said. “I definitely advise everyone to not open suspicious emails.”

According to San Diego State Association of Information Technology Professionals club president Tyler Daher, hackers attach a Remote Access Trojan in the email they send out. This Trojan horse is one of seven types of Trojan horse malwares providing attackers absolute control of another person’s system and webcam. After clicking on the link, computer users may not realize their computers have been affected because of the hidden RAT inside the email.

Computer science senior Casey Carter recommends students stay away from random websites and always question the legitimacy of messages, emails and correspondences.

“If a website has ‘https’ in the website link, that means the site is actually secured and has a secure socket layer, also known as SSL,” Carter said. “Secure websites have a little lock picture on the side and it’s harder for hackers to transmit a computer virus on secure websites versus a website that is not secure.”

Students can better protect their computers from hackers by installing antivirus software that can detect and remove various malware. Computer viruses can pass from computer to computer and behave in a way similar to biological viruses. The SDSU RezCon offices offer students two different antivirus software they can install on their computers: McAfee for computers running Mac OS X and Microsoft Security Essentials for PCs.

For students living in the residence halls, the RezCon office located in Olmeca on the first floor can help students who believe their computers have been targeted by a virus. For students that don’t live on campus, the Student Computing Center located in the library can also help restore bugged computers.