Monday, April 05, 2010

Cyber Top Cops Is Back!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008, the date of my last (but luckily not my final) article. More than a year and a half has passed since my last article. E-mails to were left unanswered and the site was no longer updated. Most people who made contact with me during this time, noticed that the site was outdated and no longer maintained. I'm sure a lot of people asked why, so for those who wondered why I disappeared into thin air, here is the explanation.

Those of you who know me well, is aware of the fact that is not my day job and that I'm a very busy man (I work and study at the same time). During this time I took on quite a lot of responsibilities at the firm where I work, which resulted in a lot of overtime. All of the overtime took a bite out of my study time and quite obviously all the study time took a bite out of my CyberTopCops time. To add insult to injury I also had to attend to some personal matters, so I had quite a lot on my plate during the last year and a half. So I hope all my supporters will understand and forgive me for not answering their e-mails (especially my good friend John Masters, thanks for your support during these tough times).

So have things changed all of a sudden? Well, to be honest, no. I kept online because I wanted to come back and continue to fight cyber crime. I tried to make a comeback several times but circumstances prevented me from doing so. I have to mention though, that I did some work on the SHPAMEE project during this time, so even though it seemed that stood still, some of the work continued to happen behind the scenes. I also expanded my PC lab with another computer and converted all my machines from Windows to Fedora Linux (except the one I use to review security software and analyse malware samples). A word of thanks to everyone who continued to submit malware samples, malware sites and spam samples during this time (another BIG reason why I kept the site up and running).

OK, so if things are still as hectic as before, where will I find the time to keep the site updated and write articles? Well I did most of my work during the last couple of public holidays we had over here in South Africa, so I guess I will wait for the next public holiday before I write my next article. No... just kidding. I honestly don't know. All I know is that the desire to return to cyber crime fighting has motivated me enough to do something about the problem. I guess I will have to manage my time a little better and perhaps get some help to keep the site up and running, but I'm a bit of a sceptic and prefer to work alone.

A couple of major events took place in the cyber security field during my absence. expired and was sold to the highest bidder (and yes not to a passionate cyber crime fighter but someone only interested in making as much profit as possible). The same happened to (since it had the same owner as You can read more about this at Luckily the good people at was able to continue their work at and moved to PLEASE NOTE: The new owners of and have been using them for malicious purposes, so I do not recommend visiting them. But perhaps the biggest shock of them all was when Castlecops closed shop in December 2008. This was a huge blow to the cyber security community but I'm sure most of the volunteers have already joined forces with other cyber crime fighting groups. So I guess it is clear I've been out of the loop for quite some time and I have some catching up to do.

I constantly witness cases where people fall victim to cyber crime due to a lack of education. People still walk blindly into the traps set by phishing scammers and malware developers. I recently helped a client to get rid of over 300 infections on a single PC (and another couple hundred infections on every other PC that was connected to the same network), just because they failed to install anti-virus software on their network. This was a classic example of how one PC can cause several infections on every PC connected to the same network. And believe me, the client was quite surprised when I explained the dangers of data mining, identity theft and keystroke logging, not even to speak of the possibility that their PC's were used as hosts for spam distribution.

People often think I exaggerate when I explain the dangers of malware and spam, but their views suddenly change when someone breaks into their bank account or if someone hacks into their e-mail account. The ignorance of most people continues to amaze me. With all the real life stories out there of people falling victim to cyber crime and all the warnings from banks and financial institutions, people still go by their day to day activities without taking appropriate precautions against these threats.

So how can we solve this problem? First of all education (yes I know I tend to sound like a broken gramophone, but one can never emphasise this too much), because education empowers our online community with the know-how to stay safe online without the use of fancy and expensive tools. I also believe mainstream media should play a more prominent role in the fight against cyber crime. We need more stories about victims of cyber crime in the most popular publications. I'm not sure about the press in other countries, but here in South Africa there is almost never a story about phishing incidents or 419 scams (many people over here still don't even know what it is) in our local newspapers or prime time news on TV. Why? Because these stories don't sell newspapers or keep viewers hooked to their TV's. Why? Because journalists don't see them as newsworthy. I realise you can't write an article on every murder, theft or kidnapping, but for goodness sake, make some space for cyber related crimes in your newspapers, magazines and news bulletins on TV and radio. We need to make people aware of these incidents and by making people aware you call them to action to learn more about these threats and how to defend themselves against cyber criminals. Finally, we need better legislation and enforcement of those laws. It makes no sense to have perfect laws but no one is willing and able to enforce them.

So is back in action and I hope to bring you a brand new article once a week, however, I can't promise anything at this moment, but I'll do my very best.

About the Author
Coenraad is webmaster and founder of Cyber Top Cops, leaders in Internet security, analysers of security software and raising awareness about internet fraud and malicious software.

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