Scareware & Ransomware
Some of the scariest things I read are trend analysis and predictions from experts in the computer security business. One of the most rapidly growing threats is generically termed “ransomware”, a diabolical twist on “scareware” schemes seen over the last few years.
Scareware consists of popup ads, usually in flashing bright red letters claiming that your system is infected and needs to be immediately scanned with security software. If you click on the notice, it installs software which always finds multiple viruses – which could be removed, if only you provide your credit card number. Paying then results in multiple unauthorized charges. Signing out or rebooting your computer when the bogus notice first appears usually deftly evades the scheme.
Ransomware encrypts or blocks access to the files on your computer, simultaneously displaying a message from a law enforcement agency or a software company claiming that you have performed an illegal act or are using unlicensed software, demanding that you immediately pay a fine to retrieve your files. Paying leads to multiple additional problems while financing the scammer’s activities; refusing could leave your files irretrievable. Restoring from an image backup or securing professional help are the most effective solutions. “Cryptolocker” is the current major threat in this category; it has been so successful that McAfee reports it has found more than 250,000 variants circulating on the internet and looking for new homes. More disturbingly, there is evidence that Cryptolocker has joined forces with several botnets to distribute their creation.
Not scared yet?
Attacks on iOS (Apple) and Android mobile devices are steadily increasing. This malware category is unfortunately often missed by routine checking in the Google Play Store and the Apple App store. Examples are UapushA and ObadH, which send out hundreds of text messages from your device. Attacks on financial systems, as illustrated by the Target data breech, and on the growing cloud storage services which host an ever increasing amount of commercial customer data are also expected. A newly emerging scheme involves attacking “the internet of things.” Smart TVs, refrigerators, alarm systems, heating and cooling systems, home control systems, alarm systems and automobiles are increasingly internet accessible – and therefore subject to manipulation by sophisticated thieves
A still popular scam making the rounds in SaddleBrooke is a polite telephone voice in a strong Indian accent that begins with “This is Micro**** assistance. Your computer is sending us error messages. Please give us remote access to your computer so that we can properly repair it.” Cooperating will net you hefty charges to your credit card and a fresh supply of malware on your computer. The solution here is quite simple! Hang up the phone immediately – legitimate remote assistance companies never call you directly.
Many of these predators deliberately target the weakest systems available – aging computers with outdated operating systems and software, expired antivirus programs and left on 24 hours a day. Preemptive protection can send these bandits in search of less cautious prey.