Feeds

Scammers making '$15m a month' on fake antivirus

Real scareware threat spawns questionable figures

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Figures suggesting that fake anti-virus packages are allowing cybercrooks to make more than €10m a month are been described as little better than guesswork. Vendors across the industry are warning that scarewore packages - which attempt to trick would-be marks into handing over their hard-earned cash for packages that claim to resolve fictitious infections - are a growing problem.

But estimates by Panda Security that 30 million Windows PCs have been infected with fake antivirus programs have met with skepticism from a rival vendor. Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, question Panda's assumption in reaching its figures, which he suggests are little better than back of the envelope calculations.

Panda has tracked almost 7,000 variants of the type of malware over the last year alone. Prospective marks are often served up this type of malicious content after browsing pornographic sites, responding to fake electronic greeting cards or downloading warez. In one case documented by Panda, a fake Google toolbar was used to promote the scam.

These various tricks are all designed to redirect users onto web pages selling fake antivirus products, designed to imitate the look and feel of legitimate packages (as illustrated by screen shots by Panda here). These programs follow a common pattern: users are warned that they are infected with malware via pop-up windows, desktops, and screensavers that keep appearing and getting in the way of using a computer normally. The goal is to scare the less tech savvy into shelling out for products that are worse than useless.

None of these packages detect and defend against malware and some go as far as installing adware or, in extreme cases, banking Trojans on compromised PCs.

Dominic Hoskins, country manager Panda Security UK, explained: "The information we have at present suggests that some 3 per cent of these users have provided their personal details in the process of buying a product that claims to disinfect their computers. In fact, they never even receive the product. Extrapolating from an average European price of €49.95, we can calculate that the creators of these programs are receiving more than €10 million per month".

A blog posting explaining Panda's calculation in greater depth can be found here.

Other security watchers criticise the assumptions Panda makes in arriving at its figures.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, told El Reg: "It looks like Panda says they looked at two million computers, and found three per cent were infected with fake anti-virus. In other words, 60,000 computers."

"They've then taken Forrester's estimate of how many computers there will be by the end of 2008 and extrapolated that there must - therefore - be 30 million computers infected by fake anti-virus. That's quite a jump, and I think a flawed one."

"If the 30 million infections is true, how do they know it's not the same people being infected over-and-over again? How do they know three per cent of people end up paying for the bogus security software?"

Panda's general warning and valid and timely even though its figures are open to question. Questions about the financial impact of malware naturally arise but pining down reliable figures is a notorious tricky business, a problem we've seen before - and will undoubtedly see again. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Ice cream headache as black hat hacks sack Dairy Queen
I scream, you scream, we all scream 'DATA BREACH'!
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
JLaw, Kate Upton exposed in celeb nude pics hack
100 women victimised as Apple iCloud accounts reportedly popped
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Researchers camouflage haxxor traps with fake application traffic
Honeypots sweetened to resemble actual workloads, complete with 'secure' logins
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
New Snowden leak: How NSA shared 850-billion-plus metadata records
'Federated search' spaffed info all over Five Eyes chums
Three quarters of South Korea popped in online gaming raids
Records used to plunder game items, sold off to low lifes
Oz fed police in PDF redaction SNAFU
Give us your metadata, we'll publish your data
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.