Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert
If one could have a favorite scam, for me it would be “scareware.” My reasoning for this is thats it’s one of the few scams that actually gets through to me. My defenses are pretty good, but I still see scareware. They’ve even taken my blog posts and used my name to launch scareware in Google News Alerts. I got some criminal hacker’s attention and he created scareware in honor of lil’ ole me!
Web pages may be infected or built to distribute scareware. The goal is to trick you into clicking on links. After landing on a page, pop-ups bombard you and warn that your PC is infected with an Ebola- like virus and your PC will die a horrible death with fluids running from all ports if you don’t fix it immediately for $49.95.
Shutting off this pop-up is often difficult and any buttons you press within this pop-up could mean downloading the exact virus they warned you of. BRILLIANT!
Criminals are even using Google Ads, and have posted ads on well known sites such as E-Harmony and Major League Baseball.
I’m online all day, every day and do a ton of research, which means I click lots of links, and see scareware often. If I wasn’t aware of IT security and what this ruse was about, I’d have been bilked of $49.95 long ago. Many people take the bait, more than you can imagine.
Studies show that organized criminals are earning $10,000.00 a day from scareware! That’s approximately 200 people a day getting nabbed. Some “distributors” have been estimated to make as much as $5 million a year.
What makes the scam so believable is there is actual follow through of the purchasing of software that is supposed to protect you. There is a shopping cart, an order form, credit card processing and a download, just like any online software purchase.
The software is sometimes known as “AntiVirus2009” “WinFixer,” “WinAntivirus,” “DriveCleaner,” “WinAntispyware,” “AntivirusXP” and “XP Antivirus 2008.” These are actually viruses or spyware that infect your PC, or just junk software that does nothing of value.
A report by the Anti-Phishing Working Group, released in March 2009, found 9,287 bogus anti-malware programs in circulation in December 2008 – a rise of 225% since January 2008. That’s simply because the scam works so well.
Teams of criminal hackers each have their own tasks and responsibilities. Team 1 creates pages loaded with scareware and works those pages into the search engines, while others infect legitimate websites. Team 2 creates the junky or spyware-ridden software you are scared into buying. Team 3 creates the infrastructure to process your credit card.
Protect yourself. Invest in anti-virus software, such asMcAfee. Make sure your browser has a pop-up blocker turned on, to avoid having to be “scared.” If you get a pop-up, you can close it by clicking the red X in the upper right corner, just don’t click on anything in the body of the pop-up. I suggest shutting down your entire browser, however, to be safe.
Make sure your PC is updated with critical security patches and most of all, be smart.
See Robert Siciliano, identity theft speaker, discuss Ransomeware, a form of scareware here.
I’m excited to work with uni-ball in 2009 in a partnership to help raise awareness about the growing threat of identity theft and provide tips for protecting yourself. Check out uniball-na.com for more information.