02 Mar Scareware: The blight of small businesses
Cybercriminals are getting more creative by using new techniques to worm their way into the computers (and wallets) of unsuspecting victims. One of the sneakiest methods currently used by cybercriminals is scareware, a tactic which preys upon our fears to make us take action which ultimately ends up compromising our own security. Scareware can take the form of ransomware or rogue security software. Both are a type of social engineering.
Malware writers hope to trick you into installing their malicious software by disguising it as a legitimate antivirus software product. The message comes in the form of a popup and is meant to appear official, as if it were generated by your computer. It communicates a warning such as “Your computer is infected. Click OK to remove the virus.”
After you install the fake antivirus, your computer becomes infected and the malicious actors have managed to trick you and sometimes even coerce you into buying their infected software. Often, clicking anywhere on the popup message dispatches the malware, even if you decide not to buy. Be cautious when clicking, because not every message (or email) that appears good is good.
Ransomware is another type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid. A computer can become infected by clicking on a link embedded in an email, by opening an email attachment or by visiting a spoofed website. Victims are asked to pay a ransom ranging from $25 to $600 to release the hold on their computer and files. Ransomware claims tens of thousands of PCs and mobile devices each year.
A growing number of small and medium-sized businesses are targeted because the files stored on their computers are often critical to their operations and they’re more likely to pay up. Ransoms for business typically exceed $500.
In short, anything that causes you to panic is likely to be scareware.
How to avoid scareware:
- Back up everything on your computer, including your operating system. Ransomware exploits people’s unwillingness to back up their data and files onto a separate hard drive.
- Use up-to-date antivirus protection and apply recommended patches/updates to your device.
- Only open an email attachment or click on a link if you’re expecting it and you know what it contains. Don’t open attachments or click on the links from unknown or untrusted sources.
- Only install third-party applications and software that you really need. Make sure it’s from the vendor or the Android, Apple or Windows Store. Since the app stores allow third-parties to post and sell apps, make sure the app is from a trustworthy source.
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