Malware; those pesky malicious programs that can make life miserable by infecting your PC and Smartphone and, at worst, steal your money, is a growing problem. Security Expert Janus R. Nielsen from the antivirus company www.mysecuritycenter.com comments on the four most efficient malware methods today.
By Security Expert Janus R. Nielsen, www.mysecuritycenter.com
Malware is becoming an increasingly lucrative business among internet criminals. Today it is not only to annoy users with the largest amount of spam and amateurish chain letters, hoping that someone falls for a link to a highly questionable website. Now, hackers are working in a much more professional and targeted fashion, in order to make money from each individual victim.
I have noticed that American FortiGuard has listed the four most efficient methods that internet criminals use to get in the pockets of PC users, and I would like to make a few comments on these.
1. An Adobe Flash update that tricks users into providing full access during the installation.
Since most videos on YouTube are streamed through Adobe Flash Player, which is a plug-in for your web browser, it is not surprising that hackers aim to make fake updates in order to reach the maximum number of users. When PC users click on the pop-up, which installs the fake update, the program will be able to steal passwords for online banking and other online payment sites and this way get hold of the users’ money. The best known example of a fake Flash update was the Flashback Trojan Horse that attacked more than 600,000 Mac users a few years ago, but this is still a potential trap, which makes it one of the most lucrative scams on the internet.
The best advice is to download the update directly from Adobe.com – this way you know it is original.
2. Fake antivirus alerts
“Your PC is infected with viruses. Click here to install suitable antivirus software” or “Your antivirus software has expired”. There are many fake pop-ups in circulation that try to imitate the real antivirus programs, thus fooling users into paying for something they believe protects them, but which is in fact malware. What these programs typically do is to steal contact information, which they can sell to third parties. But how do you separate false warnings from the real ones? The fake pop-ups are more aggressive, more frequent, and keep popping up even though you are offline. If your PC has been infected, it will run considerably slower, adding new toolbars, new wallpaper and a new home page, which all indicate that you have installed malware instead of antivirus software. The best advice is never to click on pop-up warnings – do not even try to close them with the “X” in the corner, as this can lead to even more pop-ups. Delete it instead by pressing Control + Alt + Delete to see the list of programs running and remove the pop-up warning from the list. If you are unsure about the authenticity of the update, then go to the respective antivirus company’s website and check if they have issued updates recently.
Ransomware is the name of a specific type of software that hackers use to block a user’s PC and then demand money to unlock it again. Latest example of this type was the so-called Police Virus that infected millions of PCs worldwide. The virus also flourished in Denmark from the Danish National Police, which resulted in police scam warnings nationwide. Many Danes paid around 100 Euro to get their PC unlocked. But then again; you need to use common sense before you pay.
4. Trojan attack on Smartphones
Nowadays, the term Trojans covers the most prevalent group of malicious programs that often reminiscent of worms, but does not contain an automatic spreading mechanism. Originally, the Trojans scattered via web pages and links in e-mails, but today the Trojans also target Smartphones, which especially is an issue because of the increasing use of services such as online banking on mobiles. The hackers are becoming more cunning and they constantly improve their ability to trick money out of the consumers’ pockets. There are even examples of false requests from the banks to install new banking apps on the phone, and when they are installed, the fraudsters have installed spyware that can intercept codes for online banking, etc.
As a consumer, it is important to constantly be skeptical of what you download, click on, etc. Furthermore, the security industry and the authorities must make all efforts to tackle this increasing problem. Malware is illegal in the legal sense, but the problem is that it almost never has any consequences to emit the harmful programs. For this there are several explanations; firstly, it is a question of resources and if there is not a profound organized attack against one of the big companies, it does not have high priority for the police to identify those targeting random people with spam, phishing, viruses, etc. – it is simply too time consuming. Secondly, it can be difficult to track the exact position of the senders. Fortunately, we regularly hear about unveilings of organized cybercrime, which indicates that the police actions have a positive effect.