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.