Feeds

Booming scareware biz raking in $34m a month

Panda dissects rogue security software market

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

Fraudsters are making approximately $34m per month through scareware attacks, designed to trick surfers into purchasing rogue security packages supposedly needed to deal with non-existent threats.

A new study, The Business of Rogueware, by Panda Security researchers Luis Corrons and Sean-Paul Correll, found that scareware distributors are successfully infecting 35 million machines a month.

Social engineering attacks, often featuring social networking sites, that attempt to trick computer users into sites hosting scareware software have become a frequently used technique for distributing scareware. Tactics include manipulating the search engine rank of pages hosting scareware.

Panda reckons that there are 200 different families of rogueware, with more new variants coming on stream all the time.

"Rogueware is so popular among cybercriminals primarily because they do not need to steal users' personal information like passwords or account numbers in order to profit from their victims," explained Luis Corrons, PandaLabs' technical director. "By taking advantage of the fear in malware attacks, they prey upon willing buyers of their fake anti-virus software, and are finding more and more ways to get to their victims, especially as popular social networking sites and tools like Facebook and Twitter have become mainstream."

In Q2 2009, four times more new strains were created than in the whole of 2008, primarily in a bid to avoid signature-based detection by genuine security packages. Behaviour-based detection, an approach that works well with Trojans and worms, is limited when applied against scareware packages. Apart from displaying bogus warnings about security risks, scareware packages don't do anything malicious, in most cases. However Panda has begun detecting scareware variants that incorporate rootkit features.

Scareware business model

Panda identified two major groups of players in the scareware business: program writers and distributors. The writers create the rogue applications, establish distribution platforms, payment gateways, and other back office services. Meanwhile affiliates are tasked with the job of distributing scareware to as many victims as possible in the fastest possible time.

Many of these affiliates are Eastern Europeans recruited in underground hacking forums, Panda's research has revealed. Each install of trial scareware software earns a small amount but the real money comes from completed sales, which earns scareware distributors a commission of between 50-90 per cent. Panda reports that scareware distributors and authors meet together at conferences not unlike corporate sales events. ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
NEW, SINISTER web tracking tech fingerprints your computer by making it draw
Have you been on YouPorn lately, perhaps? White House website?
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Black Hat anti-Tor talk smashed by lawyers' wrecking ball
Unmasking hidden users is too hot for Carnegie-Mellon
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Own a Cisco modem or wireless gateway? It might be owned by someone else, too
Remote code exec in HTTP server hands kit to bad guys
British data cops: We need greater powers and more money
You want data butt kicking, we need bigger boots - ICO
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.