A Screen Popups and looks legitimate
with a message like: “YOUR COMPUTER IS INFECTED!” sometimes changing the desktop color to play on your emotions. These programs all have legitimate-sounding names: “Security Tool,” “Internet Security 2010,” and “Fast Antivirus 2009.” and hundreds more. The pop-up windows guide you through the steps necessary to purchase the anti-malware product (usually costing $49.95, credit cards accepted), then scanning all the dozens or so (alleged) viruses from your PC. These programs use scare tactics to frighten people into buying the software. These scare tactics include:
* Fake system scans that report numerous infections and refuses to remove the supposed infections until you buy the phony software
* Alerts and warnings stating the PC is under attack or unprotected and recommends you buy the phony software
* Other software will not work, when attempting to open programs a warning stating the program is infected appears and the software is closed.
* Web browser hijacking, redirecting the user to malicious websites or showing false security warnings on sites like Google.com and facebook.
* You may get ads that promise to “delete viruses or spyware,” “protect privacy,” “improve computer function,” “remove harmful files,” or “clean your registry;” You may get “alerts” about “malicious software” or “illegal pornography on your computer;”
* You may be invited to download free software for a security scan or to improve your system
* You could get pop-ups that claim your security software is out-of-date and your computer is in immediate danger. You may suddenly encounter an unfamiliar website that claims to have performed a security scan and prompts you to download new software.
If you have bought one of these programs, you just been scammed. At best, you just bought a piece of “Malware” that does absolutely nothing except show alarming pop-up windows. (Spyware and Adware, etc are basically the same, they are unwanted programs and for this article I’ll use the term malware to cover all of them) At worst, your credit card number has been stolen and is for sale on the Internet black market. Some rogue programs install other programs that steal personal information from a PC, connect it to a botnet and leave it accessible to the scammer for other malicious uses.
Every 10 minutes cyber criminals alter their attack code, virus, worm, Trojan, and other zero-day malware, resulting in typical anti-virus/spyware software (signature-based like a vaccine) only stopping 29% of today’s attacks on average. Malware has reached epidemic proportions and is only getting worse.
Out of all computer code released onto the internet today, most appears to be of a malicious nature. According to Symantec sensors in 2008, the release rate of malware and other unwanted software may soon exceed that of legitimate applications. F-Secure follows this up by reporting that just as much malware was released in 2007 as in the past twenty years combined. As the outbreak of malicious software is likely to only get worse, it’s important to take every precaution when conducting activities on the internet. I have seen recent statistics indicating that approximately 95% of the world’s PCs are infected with spyware. Unfortunately, removal techniques that worked just a year ago are no longer effective in many cases.
Malware in its many forms poses one of the biggest threats to internet users today. Malicious software can be divided into a number of different categories and includes computer viruses, worms, Trojans and spyware among others. It has the ability to hijack your web browser, redirect your search engine attempts, bombard your screen with pop-up advertisements and even monitor your activity. Because malware is often poorly scripted, it may cause your computer to become terribly slow and unstable. If it is not removed immediately, this type of program can eventually cause your system to become inoperable.
Most malware programs will reinstall themselves even after you think they have been removed, some will have 10 or more copies scattered in the computer. They typically hide deep within the Windows registry, making them difficult to remove. When this occurs, your computer may become so unstable that installing a malware removal tool may be impossible.
Methods of Infection
Adult websites, free games (malware writers know kids and teens love to play games so even though the game is innocent, the code in the background might not be), even video being played from You Tube and MySpace can have hidden codex/scripts that redirects the browser to malware. Sometimes a website or video will say it needs a codex or a player to run it. Sometimes this is perfectly legit other times malicious.
Videos, mp3’s, even pictures can be “spiked” which means just by playing or viewing them can install a root kit which are hidden small programs that will download behind the scenes more programs such as malware. Email forwards with video or photos can be common “spiked” sources.
Google and Yahoo search results are redirected to ad / malicious sites are very common, many times they are caused by rootkits and can be time consuming to remove. Other forms of malware are installed from sites purporting as software providers. Most of them will attempt to convince you to download a removal tool, claiming that your system is infected when in fact the “Removal tool” is the malware itself.
Viruses and worms are mainly contracted via email, automatically launching themselves the moment you open an attachment. Some forms of malware can be installed from simply visiting an infected website, they call these drive-by downloads. Sometimes the owners of the website may have no idea that users are getting infected just by viewing there website.
Just being a user of Microsoft products makes you a prime target for malware. Outlook, Outlook Express, the Internet Explorer browser and Windows itself are known for having numerous security vulnerabilities, enabling malicious coders to penetrate a victim’s system and infect it with viruses, worms or spyware. Unfortunately, catching an infection is much easier than eradicating it, as some variations have the ability to propagate, spread the infection to other computers over a home network and claim complete control of your system. The people that write these programs focus on the majority and they know most people use Windows and Internet Explorer to surf the web and they write code to exploit that.
There is a tension between protection and usability, just like getting a car professionally detailed, as long as you don’t use it, the car remains clean. Or getting sick during the flu season, either live in a bubble or be active in the world but running the risk of catching something. Same with the computer. There is no way around it, you can limit your computer uses and stay safe but that defeats the purpose of a computer. Most anti-malware programs that exist are “passive” in that they remove the infection after you are infected. Active protection is hard to find as there is that time lapse that companies need to make the “vaccine” and malware isn’t a virus. In fact only 3% of today’s infections are traditional viruses and yet Norton and McAfee, the two biggest names that people have installed, do little to no protection against malware, root kits and such. Most clients of mine who have recurrent malware problems usually have one of those installed.
In addition Norton and McAfee are considered “Bloatware” they take over your computer and slow it down, very common for your system performance to suffer with these programs. There are cases where a user thinks it’s a virus slowing there computer or preventing them from getting online to find out that it’s really an expired copy of Norton or McAfee being the cause. If its expired, remove it, it might actually cause more problems if left alone.
Another problem is I nor programs can protect your computer from yourself. If you download software, install browser toolbars, use Limewire, Frostwire, etc, you are playing with fire and by opening files there is always a risk your computer will be infected in time. Adult websites are a breeding ground for malware as well as MySpace allows a user to run scripts which if malicious will infect you. Infections can happen as fast as a few seconds that can take an hour or more to remove properly.
How Not To Get Hooked by a “Phishing” Scam
This is very common way identity theft happens but it can also be another avenue for malware.
“We suspect an unauthorized transaction on your account. To ensure that your account is not compromised, please click the link below and confirm your identity.”
“During our regular verification of accounts, we couldn’t verify your information. Please click here to update and verify your information.”
Have you received email with a similar message? It’s a scam called “phishing” — and it involves Internet fraudsters who send spam or pop-up messages to lure personal information (credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security number, passwords, or other sensitive information) from unsuspecting victims.
What to Do
If you’re faced with any of the warning signs of malware or suspect a problem, shut down your browser. Don’t click “No” or “Cancel,” or even the “x” at the top right corner of the screen. Some ads used by malware are designed so that any of those buttons can activate the program. You can try Alt + F4 to close your browser or press Ctrl + Alt + Delete to open your Task Manager, and click “End Task.” on iexplorer.exe if you are using Internet Explorer If you use a Mac, press Command + Option + Q + Esc to “Force Quit.”
If you are infected, disconnect from the internet, most malware programs will use your internet connection to download more programs or send spam (mail bots) which will slow your computer and internet connection down.
The malware looks like professional software. How is the average home Internet user to tell the difference? For that matter, how is the average home Internet user to know if ANY anti-virus, anti-spyware or anti-anything product is real?
If you get an offer, check out the program by entering the name in a search engine. The results can help you determine if the program is on the up-and-up. If you get a ad saying you are infected and to download and install Malware Catcher 2009, first go to google and type in that name, if its malicious you will see the terms, remove or uninstall Malware Catcher 2009, if its legit software you will see downloads, maybe reviews but if you see the terms remove a lot then chances are it’s not a real program.
When getting emails,facebook or MySpace messages from friends but they have strange links inside such as http://www.opjfpjpwejfjdd.net/2jowjfoij or http://208.342.32.12/systemscan beware, most likely your friend didn’t send those but instead they are infected and the program on their computer sent out these messages to you in hopes you will trust the source. Be careful when clicking links as sometimes they are phishing. It can say http://www.paypal.com but when you place your mouse over it, it shows http:/292.423.12.121/paypal/ this is without a doubt a phishing scam so delete that message.
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