Robert Hoyler thought hackers who broke into his computer stole only his bank account information. But it turned out that the thieves also left something behind: a hidden software virus that recorded his every keystroke.
So when Hoyler's bank issued him new account numbers and passwords, the hackers got all that information, too. His health insurance, online shopping and Social Security data went into a file in a master database at a Web site controlled by the attackers, stashed among personal information on more than 3,220 U.S. residents.
"These guys got everything, but all I knew was that my financial accounts were compromised," said the 66-year-old Fairfax engineer, who learned of the virus from a reporter who used forensic tools from computer-security firm Sunbelt Software in February to locate the Web server hosting Hoyler's private information.
Such attacks are evidence of the sophistication and depth of technical manipulation by hackers, and the challenges facing consumers and law enforcement agencies in fighting them.