This type of malware is very, very disturbing. One can only wonder how many users have been duped into installing ineffective security software, and what happened to their private information and credit card data when they paid for it. The presence of such software, and the overall very high quality of the ruse it presents, is frightening. More than likely, thousands of people have been fooled. In fact, this type of deception has been around for several years now, and it would not still be here if it did not work well.
This should serve as a dire warning to all: be extremely careful what you trust, and question everything that looks even remotely suspicious. For example, no website can run an anti-malware scan on your computer simply by your visiting the site. Any site that purports to do so is almost certainly run by criminal gangs.
No website should ever offer you to download an anti-malware package as soon as you visit the site. Any site that purports to do so is either run by criminal gangs or by an organization whose business practices are so deceptive that you should never consider doing business with it. A reputable site will present you with product information and then leave the downloading decision up to you, not force it upon you. No software that pushes the purchase decision so heavily in your face is likely to be legitimate.
Finally, learn just a little about how your computer looks normally so you can detect changes. The fake Windows Security Center is a very nice touch that could fool almost anyone except who doesn't pay attention to what the real one looks like and is called.
As for your anti-malware software, yes you need it. We all really do, at least on some computers. Advocating that you should stop using anti-malware software is irresponsible. If people were to actually take that advice, we would be overrun with malware in short order. You should definitely have anti-malware software on any computer that may come into contact with untrusted data and software.
However, do not just pick software because it tells you do pick it. Stick to the trusted brand names when it comes to anti-malware. And, if you get a download shoved down your computer when you visit a website, head over to Virus Total and submit it for a scan. If it proves malicious, they will submit it to the anti-malware vendors for you. ®
Jesper M. Johansson is a Software Architect working on security software and is a contributing editor to TechNet Magazine. He holds a Ph.D. in Management Information Systems, has more than 20 years experience in security, and is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) in Enterprise Security. His latest book is the Windows Server 2008 Security Resource Kit.
BBC picks up the story
Listen to Five Live This Saturday and Radio 4 You and Your Midday Monday.
Story built around this blog with a bit of personal experiance built in. I have a computer shop and we have had close to 50 customers with this problem.
Thanks Bill for business.
What a good article
Thanks for writing such a good article, I too have seen this on several computers and marvelled at how well written it was, other things I saw this malware do once installed
1) disconnect ethernet adapters
2) display a "your machine is infected" screen when you browse to any web site
3) suppress opening AVG Free and Spybot
4) Fake blue screen of death's (ctrl+alt+del and then cancel to get back to your desktop)
In the end I downloaded malwarebytes ant-malware and installed that (first killing the antivirus 2008 process in task manager) Malwarebytes successfully detected and removed over 20 malicious files from one machine.
The user claimed to have been infected after clicking a link in a spam about a reciept for airline tickets that I know has massively been doing the rounds.
Once again what a good document.
This is precisely why I won't give my g/f admin access
She's been pestering me for months for admin access to my spare pc so she can install some games and other bits & bobs. Of course, I won't give her and no matter how often I explain why she cannot understand. This is perfect for illustrating why.
The upside of course, is that my spare pc rarely ever crashes and just runs and runs and runs...because it's locked down so tightly.
As ever - the biggest risk is the user.