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Ascentive Alert: Beware of Scareware Scams!

A High-Priority Alert From Ascentive:

Cyber criminals are flocking to scareware scams. Recent research has found 40 percent of all false anti-malware solutions in the wild were created this year.

PandaLabs’ research found more than 5.6 million scareware scams in the wild. Nearly 2.3 million of these were launched between January and October of this year. Scareware, also known as rogueware, has only been known on the internet for four years, signifying a sudden jump in the trend, as cyber criminals continue to look for new ways to target unsuspecting PC users.

Rogueware’s rapid growth has propelled it into a much higher saturation in the overall malware market. According to the research, 46.8 percent of all computers were infiltrated by malware. Rogueware accounted for 10 percent of these infected devices.

These attacks are relatively sophisticated, with fake antivirus brands and formats designed to keep users from ever second-guessing their legitimacy. Specifically, the most successful scareware programs found in the study were SystemGuard2009, MSAntiSpyware2009 and MalwareDoctor, at 12.5 percent, 11.7 percent and 8.1 percent of the market, respectively. When users are presented with these programs, they generally trust them and, with their computer’s security in mind, download them willingly.  Reputable brands such as Ascentive‘s own Clutter Free PC and FinallyFast are fighting to catch malware scams wherever they hide, and it is a constant battle to defend against new attacks. However, these scams don’t stop here.

“Once they have infected a system, these applications try to pass themselves off as antivirus solutions that have detected hundreds of threats on the user’s computer,” PandaLabs explained in a recent release. “When the user attempts to remove the threats using the fake antivirus solution, they are asked to purchase the ‘full’ product license. Unfortunately, many people panic when they see this message and fall for the bait. Once they ‘buy the license,’ they will of course never hear from the ‘seller’ again, and the fake antivirus is still on their computer.”

The sudden popularity of rogueware scams may be a result of its widespread success. According to PandaLabs, rogueware has generated millions of dollars in revenues for the cyber criminals that create them. Not only do rogueware scams trick users into voluntarily loading malware onto their computers, they also persuade them to submit their credit card information. As result, cyber criminals are giving a computer through which they can further spread their scam, and can use the stolen credit card information to make purchases in the meantime. All the while, the user is under the impression that they purchased a legitimate security solution.

Worse still, fear of complex scareware scams may prevent consumers from protecting themselves against the very malware they most fear.  A representative at Clutter Free PC told us that disreputable companies have actually harmed consumers by making them frightened of all anti-malware software.  The results are chilling. 

Rogueware campaigns have recently made headlines. In order to prevent an infection, security experts advise users stick to trusted antivirus sources, regardless of the information presented by a lesser-known, potentially malicious antivirus provider.

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