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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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It was only a matter of time...
By MrBlastman on 10/20/2009 11:02:24 AM , Rating: 0
Before your computer was a hostage!

One night in a dark alley, Mr. PC was walking along with his wife, Mousepad. They were having a gingerly stroll giggling about because they had a bit too much RAM that evening and felt so free and open. Mr. PC was particularly fond of his wife and casually stroked Mousepad as she walked along while gazing into her eyes. He moon was out and shone down from above, glinting off of the bricks that the evening dew had begun to accumulate on.

"Hey buddy," rang out from a dark corner of the alley, "Freeze or I'll format your hard drive!" Mr. PC, totally captivated by his wife seconds earlier, grew quite agitated and stammered for a moment like a frustrated schoolboy, completely irate at the fact he let this happen.

A dark figure slipped out of the shadows holding a gigantic U magnet in one hand and an injectible datalink cable in the other. "So you thought you'd browse right through here, eh buddy?," sinisterly proclaimed the individual. "Well, I got something for ya."

Mr. PC looked at the dark figure and scowled. "What dare you attempt with us, foul pestulent scum?"

"Jobs is the name, just call me Mr. Jobs, and I'm here to help you out actually," explained the figure with a toothy smile with one tooth in particular glinting in the moonlight. "You see, buddy, you've been infected by a Trojan..." he continued...

"A Trojan?," Mr. PC scoffed, "My wife is on the pill silly fool, I stopped ordering custom-sized Trojans years ago! Besides, why would I want to fondle her gimbals with such a foul implemen-" being cut short.

"Yeah, you heard me, a Trojan. And not that kinda trojan you idiot, You see, you're sick, and we can help," He finished, turning and pointing to an area behind the couple where a second dark figure stepped from the shadows. He too was holding an injectible datalink cable. "So yeah, while you were surfing for her downloads, my buddy here stuck you from behind with this cable and put something in you..."

Mr. PC looked onward but then, suddenly, his vision was obstructed by a bright light and after a second of focusing, he could faintly make out some text but then another bright light appeared... and then another. He couldn't see!

"What's it gonna be, pal? You pay us 50 bucks and we'll fix this problem of yours, if not, good luck getting home, bub."


And that is how it works. I was sitting at home after surgery about 5 months ago and a bunch of popups started appearing on my PC. They wouldn't go away and noticed there were several processes that weren't staying killed after I terminated them. After fiddling for quite some time I realized I couldn't make these processes go away despite my best efforts.

I did some searching online and found a few websites that would help. All of them... suspect. All of them... wanting 50 bucks to cure my problem. None of them... a common name that we're all familiar with. They were essentially trying to extort money out of me to remove programs they most likely had written to infect my computer.

I didn't pay the 50 bucks. No, instead, I loaded up system restore and restored to an earlier point, say a few days earlier.

Problem solved. No money paid.

I am no ordinary computer user though, your average Joe would have probably paid the cash, had his identity stolen and the criminals laughed all day long. Sad really, but I have suspected this has been going on for quite some time.

Despite how widespread word of this is spread, I fear there will still be plenty of victims of this sort of crime.

RE: It was only a matter of time...
By Smilin on 10/20/2009 11:57:40 AM , Rating: 2
I want my two minutes back.

RE: It was only a matter of time...
By Screwballl on 10/20/2009 1:01:23 PM , Rating: 1
FREE: Avira: rated the best detection rates of any anti-virus out there. You may have to deal with the occasional false positive, but that is rare for most people.

FREE: SuperAntiSpyware: for if you do get infected, this is the best cleaning tool available today. Best used when the infected hard drive is removed, placed in another clean system and only run under a limited user account. Then placed back in the main system install this on the infected system and run the cleaner 2-3 times to make sure it is clean.

Or: if you want to make sure your system stays clean no matter where you browse to, just get a local geek install Ubnutu and the proper alternative programs to replace your precious Outlook Express, Microsoft Paint and yahoo spyware... ahem yahoo games plugin.

Remember, linux is safe for the home user because hackers only go after companies, not individual homes. So any argument about linux "not being safe" or "not working right out of the box" is just a scared little Mac fanboi or Microsoft apologist that refuses to LEARN to use a computer. Don't mention a CLI, that is from the 90s and not needed anymore except by the linux elite.

RE: It was only a matter of time...
By really on 10/20/2009 1:25:37 PM , Rating: 2
The truth is most people who are computer users are not computer experts. They do and will make mistakes. Having AV software for the average user is a great idea whether or not it is free or paid for. I would still suggest that people buy a program as many of the free ones seem to be easily fooled. I have on many occasions installed Symantec and had it find viruses and then and only then will AVG and some of the others finally report there is a virus.
The best thing is for users to be as well informed as possible but they are going to fall short somewhere. Regular maintenance of your computer is a great thing. Using it as a form of virus remove is far more time consuming than having AV Software that works and tells you as soon as a virus/trojan/malware. That's like saying well robbers are going to come into my house anyway so I just leave the doors open. A couple of times a year I just blow up my house and rebuild.

RE: It was only a matter of time...
By carniver on 10/20/2009 4:32:51 PM , Rating: 2
One of the best free anti-virus software out there, if not the best, is named Linux

RE: It was only a matter of time...
By SavagePotato on 10/20/2009 5:26:33 PM , Rating: 2
Beating your computer with a sledgehammer is almost as effective. You won't get any malware, and you will still be able to do nearly as much with your pc as with linux.

RE: It was only a matter of time...
By gmljosea on 10/20/2009 8:40:21 PM , Rating: 2
You don't do much with your computer then.

"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein

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