Fake browser warnings dupe users into downloading 'scareware'
Makers of phony security software spoof anti-malware alerts in IE, Firefox and Chrome
Computerworld - Scammers are spoofing the anti-malware warnings of popular browsers to dupe Windows users into downloading fake security software, Symantec said Monday.
Several malicious Web sites are displaying phony versions of the alerts that Google's Chrome and Mozilla's Firefox present when users encounter pages suspected of hosting attack code, said Symantec researcher Parveen Vashishtha in a post to the firm's blog.
Rather than simply warn users that the page they're about to visit may be dangerous -- as do the legitimate alerts -- the sham versions also include a prominent message that suggests downloading a browser security update.
In reality, no browser offers its users security updates from its anti-malware warning screen.
Anyone who accepts the update actually downloads bogus software, often called "scareware" because it bombards users with endless fictitious infection warnings until people pay $40 to $50 to buy the useless program.
Even the cautious can be nailed by these sites. Users who refuse the mock updates are assaulted by a multi-exploit toolkit that includes attack code for 10 different vulnerabilities in Windows, Adobe Reader, Internet Explorer and Java. Windows PCs that have been kept up-to-date with bug patches will be immune from the exploit kit, however.
"Malware authors are employing innovative social engineering tricks to fool users -- it's as simple as that," said Vashishtha.
The strategy that Symantec pointed out isn't new. A month ago, Microsoft's malware protection center warned that fake antivirus scammers were putting up bogus alerts in Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome.
"The similarity between the fake warning pages [and the real things] is so accurate that it can trick even highly trained eyes," Microsoft said in early September.
It's no surprise that scareware dealers are constantly looking for new ways to con users into downloading their good-for-nothing software: It's a serious business.
According to the FBI, rogue security makers have made at least $150 million by duping the public.
Little wonder, then, that the fake security software industry is huge. During the 12 months from July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2009, more than 250 different phony programs tried to get on more than 43 million machines worldwide, Symantec said in a report issued last October.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com.
Read more about Security in Computerworld's Security Topic Center.
- Best iPhone, iPad Business Apps for 2014
- 14 Tech Conventions You Should Attend in 2014
- 10 Desktop Apps to Power Your Windows PC
- How to Add New Job Skills Without Going Back to School
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- The 12 PCI DSS 3.0 requirements addressed by Peer 1 Hosting This handy quick reference outlines the 12 PCI DSS 3.0 requirements, who needs to be compliant and how Alert Logic solutions address the...
- Defense Throughout the Vulnerability Life Cycle This whitepaper provides insight into how to leverage threat and log management technologies to protect your IT assets throughout their vulnerability life cycle.
- Mobile Policy Checklist Here's what to consider when putting together a mobile policy designed to support a highly productive workforce.
- Securing BYOD Mobile computing is becoming so ubiquitous that people no longer bat an eye seeing someone working two devices simultaneously. Individuals and organizations are...
- Live Webcast On-demand webinar: "Mobility Mayhem: Balancing BYOD with Enterprise Security" Check out this on-demand webinar to hear Sophos senior security expert John Shier deep dive into how BYOD impacts your enterprise security strategy...
- Live Webcast Endpoint Backup & Restore: Protect Everyone, Everywhere Arek Sokol from the bleeding-edge IT team at Genentech/Roche explains how he leverages cross-platform enterprise endpoint backup in the public cloud as part...
- Streamline Software Asset Management, Compose a software Management Symphony Keeping track of your organization's software is easy with effective software management solutions from CDW. View the videos in our software solutions channel
- Druva inSync: Endpoint Data Protection & Governance CLICK HERE to watch this video about protecting corporate data on laptops and mobile devices, sponsored by Druva. All Security White Papers | Webcasts