[This article is being viewed in your Web Browser.
To return to your newsletter, please go back to your e-mail application.
Presidents Column: Boo! Scareware Attacks on the Rise
It's the season of spooks, goblins and ghosts I know my kids can't wait to get out to trick-or-treat in a couple of weeks, but they will not be the only scary creatures in a costume this year. The recent scareware attacks are cropping up everywhere and can be found on even trusted websites. The threat of scareware undermines consumer trust in compromised websites, and on the Internet in general, but there are steps computer users can take to protect themselves.
Computer experts are reporting that scareware, yet another sneaky technique used by hackers to steal personal information and spread viruses online, is on the rise. Most recently, companies like Google, Twitter and the New York Times are being exploited by hackers as part of a massive scareware attack on consumers. The BBB is offering advice to consumers on how to protect their computer and personal information from the threat of scareware.
In mid-September, visitors to the New York Time's website suddenly received a pop up window, which looked like a message from their own computer, warning that their computer had been infected with a virus. The user was instructed to visit a website to purchase and download anti-virus software that would fix the problem. The supposed antivirus software actually installed even more viruses and malware onto the computer and the user's credit card number was now in the hands of hackers.
According to the New York Times, the pop up was generated by an unauthorized ad. They later learned it had sold ad space to hackers posing as Vonage. Click Forensics is reporting it was the work of Ukrainian cyber crooks. Similar scenarios are playing out all over the Internet. According to Computer World Magazine, hackers are not only using pop up ads, they are also "poisoning Google search results." Hackers monitor the news and hot topics online — such as the death of Patrick Swayze and the US Open and through search engine optimization techniques are able to ensure that their websites are the top results. Victims who click on the fake search results receive a scareware pop up.
Microsoft has been warning the public that scareware attacks are on the rise and now the company is fighting back. The company filed lawsuits against five companies, accusing them of being the source of scareware attacks.
The following are steps computer users can take to protect their computer from a scareware attack:
Never let your guard down. A scareware attack can happen on trusted news sites, in search engines results from Google, and even now on Twitter.
Protect your computer. Install updates to your operating system, purchase antivirus software from a name you trust and keep that software up to date. Make sure that all security patches and updates are installed for your Web browser and programs.
Take immediate action during an attack. If you receive a scareware pop up, experts recommend forcing the window to close through your task manager. To do this, hold down ctrl, alt, and delete at the same time, open your task manager, find the browser in the list of running programs and click "end task." Finally, run an antivirus scan with legitimate, trusted software.
If you clicked on the pop up and actually purchased the software, the prognosis is not good. The Washington Post offers advice on their Security Fix blog, but for the not so computer savvy, you might need to call in a professional.
- Chris Coleman, President