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Scareware threat continues to rise, with security experts attempting to do everything they can to limit the damage

Security company Symantec disclosed that online criminals are cashing in by scaring PC users into downloading exploited anti-virus software.

In the past 12 months, more than 40 million people across the world have been tricked into installing 'scareware' software.  Specifically, criminals trick PC users into downloading a piece of software -- anti-virus and anti-spyware are two popular program types -- that are malicious pieces of software so they are able to acquire credit card information and other sensitive information.

In addition, some criminals create pop-up alerts telling PC users they face a serious risk, then offer fake anti-virus software that can be used to clean up the computer.  The catch?  The software costs money, and users still end up being compromised by the fake software.

"Obviously, you're losing your own hard-earned cash up front, but at the back end of that, if you're transacting with these guys online you're offering them credit card details, debit card details and other personal information," Symantec employee Con Mallon told BBC.  

The 43 million were victims of the scareware threat from July 2008 to June 2009, when researchers began collecting information.

The overall threat of identity theft and bank fraud continues to increase as criminals use more sophisticated techniques to compromise PC users.  Furthermore, even more people around the world are now using the Internet to view bank information, pay bills, and shop online.

Cracking down on criminal enterprises tends to be extremely difficult, with many organized hacker groups operating in Eastern Europe, China, North Korea, and other locations in which it is difficult to identify suspects.

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RE: Millions of PC Users Tricked by Scareware
By kattanna on 10/20/2009 10:52:32 AM , Rating: 3
aye.. i cant tell you how many times i have had someone bring my their personal computer because it was seriously infected.. to find.. norton internet security installed and of course the trial period over.

all too often they are lulled into a false sense of security because some AV product was installed when i bought it they tell me.

so i first clean the system.. remove the norton crap, and then install AVG or some similar free AV for them.

By damianrobertjones on 10/20/2009 10:56:42 AM , Rating: 2
Trouble with free AV, like Avast and AVG, is that it FAILS.

Two machines in the last few weeks both arrived with Super Anti Virus 2010 installed. A rootkit, rampaging around the system.

Installed Microsoft Essentials and that removed the rootkit and viruses. At one point, avast blared a warning, "A virus has been detected" Ohh, really? Thanks for telling me.

Pretty much all of them are dropping the ball and it's windows that gets the blame as no user wants to admit that it's their fault. Ever.

By kattanna on 10/20/2009 11:29:53 AM , Rating: 2
its true that any AV can fail, having an active free one though is better then an expired non free one.

how much so? LOL that all depends on the user

By enlil242 on 10/20/2009 11:59:59 AM , Rating: 2
LOL, stop downloading porn viewers... ;)

Trust me, I know the types of users in my organizations that get regular viruses... I get the reports. They are either downloading warez or porn... simple as that. OR they are really stupid and click on the link in a bogus email.

People this dumb deserve the headaches and costs for a geeksquad member to come out and repair their PCs...

Sorry, but this subject really T's me off sometimes and the AV companies are making millions off of people's laziness and stupidity.

RE: Millions of PC Users Tricked by Scareware
By enlil242 on 10/20/2009 11:45:59 AM , Rating: 2
I do not run ANY AV on my computer. I just don't do STUPID things that would infect my PC. If people were just careful and think before clicking, there would be no need to run AV products...

By Hakuryu on 10/20/2009 1:24:53 PM , Rating: 2
I build PC's, have been a web programmer, Access/Visual Basic/C++ programmer, worked in QA for a medical software company, and have been using computers since about 1983 (TRS-80 Color Computer 2). I'd say I'm pretty savvy when it comes to PC's, and yet I've had a few worms and viruses hit me.

Once I was searching for some help with a game, and found a site that looked legit - normal URL with nothing strange about it, text in the Google search screen that pertained to the issue... but when I went there, virus popup alert from Bitdefender. I was saved that time, but earlier using Norton I got hit by the Code Red worm and other viruses it didn't catch.

Sure if you only visit sites you know, you may be safe, but sooner or later you are going to want to look something up and will find yourself going to sites that look legit, but may not be. I'll gladly pay $19.99 a year for BitDefender to save me from having to reinstall Windows or spend hours trying to remove a problem.

By Bytre on 10/20/2009 5:46:39 PM , Rating: 2
That attitude is so 2006. A couple years back, you could be safe by not opening attachments and not visiting shady sites, but the malware market has exploded. Its not kids looking for net fame, its organized crime.

Legitimate websites are getting compromised, and not just mom and pop sites. Earlier this year, eWeek and other ziff-davis websites were serving up malware through the ad exchange - if you think your habits will protect you, you'd better be on an OS and browser which doesn't pay to be exploited.

Symantec's consumer software has gotten pretty good over the last couple years. I use a few different packages from different vendors on different machines at home and at work. Most of the top tier ones detect pretty much the same stuff, but there's the occasional threat which one vendor detects and another doesn't. Symantec is the lightest for a desktop though, and well worth using after rebate.

“Then they pop up and say ‘Hello, surprise! Give us your money or we will shut you down!' Screw them. Seriously, screw them. You can quote me on that.” -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng referencing patent trolls

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