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Telephone Denial of Service Attacks

By July 8, 2010

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A new telephone based scam is on the rise and, according to the FBI, small to mid-sized businesses are on the front line.

The new scam is a "Telephone Denial-of-Service Attack."

In a computer based Denial-of-Service (DoS) attack, hackers crash a web site by overwhelming it with traffic. The Telephone DoS is similar, in that scammers overwhelm a victim's phone service with constant activity. This activity can be anything from dead air to recorded advertisements.

But the phone traffic is only a distraction. While the victim's phone is busy, identity thieves are raiding his or her financial accounts. The flooded phone lines prevent the financial institution from reaching the victim to verify the activity. Meanwhile, the thief may call the instition directly to "verify" the transaction or add his own phone number to the victim's account.

A Florida Dentist lost $400,000 from a retirement account after a Telephone DoS.

A successful Telephone DoS requires a serious amount of social engineering in order to obtain useful information about the victim. How then to guard against this attack? According to the FBI

Ultimately ... it's individual consumers and small- and medium-sized businesses on the front line of this battle. So take precautions: never give out personal information to an unsolicited phone caller or via e-mail; change online banking and automated telephone system passwords frequently; check your account balances often; and protect your computers with the latest virus protection and security software.
And if you think you may have been targeted by a telephone denial-of-service attack, contact your financial institution and your telephone provider, and file a complaint with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.

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