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Anatomy of a malware scam

The evil genius of XP Antivirus 2008

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Figure 11 shows a fake Windows Security Center. It looks very much like the real thing, shown in Figure 12 on the same computer, at the same time, for comparison purposes. Note that the real one does NOT detect the malware as a legitimate anti-virus program. The primary differences are twofold. First, the recommendations link in the fake one is linked to a dialog that will try, once again, to make you purchase the fake anti-malware. In the real one, it links to a help document explaining how to obtain anti-malware software.

Figure 12 Real Windows Security Center

The fake Windows Security Center also has a list of resources on the left hand side. However, all of them are linked to documents that entice you to pay for the malware. In the real one they link to real help files. It is likely that the criminals created the fake Windows Security Center so they could control exactly what you saw when you clicked on anything in it and link it to the ubiquitous purchase screen. The real Windows Security Center is still present on the computer. Notice the Control Panel in Figure 13.

Figure 13 Fake Windows Security Center in the Control Panel

The real Windows Security Center is the one called just "Security Center" in the Control Panel. The fake one is the one called "Windows Security Center." In addition, the fake one identifies itself as "Windows Security Center" in the system tray. The real one identifies itself as "Security Alerts." It is probably safe to say that most users would be hard pressed to conclude that the real one was not the one called "Windows Security Center." Once again, it is a matter of telling real from fake, and in this case, unfortunately, the real thing, while there, is not very good at identifying itself as the real thing consistently.

If you leave the computer alone for a few minutes you will eventually get the first of many many popups of various kinds, shown in Figure 14.

Figure 14 The first of many warnings

The warning in Figure 14 is yet another attempt at getting you to send your money to the criminals. If you click the "Remove all threats now" button it will take you to a purchase screen. Interestingly, the "Continue unprotected" button does not take you there, breaking with the previous history. If you use that button you will start getting system tray popups. An example is shown in Figure 15.

Figure 15 One of several different scary looking system tray warnings

The malware uses several different system tray warnings. Another one is shown in Figure 16.

Figure 16 Another system tray warning

Interestingly, while virtually everything else the malware has shown us so far has been in flawless English, the system tray popups have grammatical mistakes and missing prepositions. More than likely this is indicative of collusion within a criminal gang to create the malware. The software and all the associated collateral is far too complex to be written by a single person in a reasonable time, so the source is likely a gang. The individual that wrote the system tray popups apparently did not receive the grammar tutorial the others did. Or, maybe, the system tray popups just were not part of the user acceptance testing plan.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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