Scareware – How Crime Pays

February 15, 2011

Scareware is fraudulent software that uses deceptive advertising to trick users into believing they’re infected with some variety of malware, then convinces them to pay money to protect themselves.  The infection isn’t real, and the software they buy is fake, too.  It’s all a scam.

One scareware operator sold “more than 1 million software products” at “$39.95 or more,” and now has to pay $8.2 million to settle a Federal Trade Commission complaint.

Seems to me that $40 per customer, minus $8.20 to pay off the FTC, is still a pretty good revenue model.  Their operating costs can’t be very high, since the software doesn’t actually do anything.  Yes, a court ordered them to close down their business, but certainly there are other creative entrepreneurs that can recognize a business opportunity when they see it.

Source: Bruce Schneier

Related Articles


9 myths of safe web browsing

January 20, 2011

Myth #1: The web is safe because I have never been infected before.
You may not even know you’re infected. Many web malicious software (aka malware) attacks are designed to steal personal information and passwords or use your machine for distributing spam, malware or inappropriate content without your knowledge

Myth #2: My users aren’t wasting company time surfing the web
The fact is that more than 40% of corporate internet use is inappropriate and going unchecked—an average of 1 to 2 hours per day per user. To make matters worse, the potential for employees being exposed to inappropriate content can have serious legal ramifications to any organization. The internet is full of studies related to internet use in the work place, from gambling and pornography to less nefarious activity such as social networking and travel planning. Furthermore, incidents of internet addiction disorder are increasing, with current estimates suggesting up to 5% to 10% of internet surfers have some form of web dependency.

Myth #3: We control web usage and our users can’t get around our policy
Anonymizing proxies make it easy for employees to circumvent your web filtering policy and visit any site they like. Anonymizing proxies are readily available and regularly exploited by school kids and employees alike. Hundreds of new anonymizing proxies are published daily. If you don’t think this is an issue, you can simply Google “bypass web filter” to see there are over 1.8 million ways to do this.

Myth #4: Only porn, gambling, and other “dodgy” sites are dangerous
Hijacked trusted sites represent more than 83% of malware hosting sites. That’s correct. The majority of infected sites are websites that you trust and visit daily—they’ve just been hacked to distribute malware. Why? Because these sites are popular, high-traffic venues that silently distribute malware to unsuspecting visitors. Download the infected sites list to see just a small sampling of these kinds of sites.

Myth #5: Only naive users get infected with malware and viruses
Malware from drive-by downloads happens automatically without any user action, other than visiting the site. Therefore, it doesn’t matter what level of computer expertise you have. The fact is, if you are visiting sites on the internet, you are at risk.

Myth #6: You can only get infected if you download files.
Most malware infections now occur through a “drive-by” download. Hackers inject the malicious code into the actual web page content, then it downloads and executes automatically within the browser as a by-product of simply viewing the web page.

Myth #7: Firefox is more secure than Internet Explorer
All browsers are equally at risk because all browsers are essentially an execution environment for JavaScript, which is the programming language of the web and therefore used by all malware authors to initiate an attack. In addition, many exploits leverage plug-ins such as Adobe Acrobat reader software, which runs across all browsers. Although the more popular browsers may get more publicity about unpatched exploits, it’s the unpublicized exploits you should be most concerned about. The fact is, there is no safe browser.

Myth #8: When the lock icon appears in the browser, it’s secure.
The lock icon indicates there is an SSL encrypted connection between the browser and the server to protect the interception of personal sensitive information. It does not provide any security from malware. In fact, it’s the opposite because most web security products are completely blind to encrypted connections: it’s the perfect vehicle for malware to infiltrate a machine.

Myth #9: Web security requires a trade-off between security and freedom
While the internet has become a mission critical tool for many job functions, whether it’s Facebook for HR or Twitter for PR, it’s completely unnecessary to create a trade-off between access and security. A suitable web security solution provides the freedom to grant access to sites that your users need while keeping your organization secure.

source: Sophos


%d bloggers like this: