Feeds

Booming scareware biz raking in $34m a month

Panda dissects rogue security software market

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

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. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
Chinese hackers spied on investigators of Flight MH370 - report
Classified data on flight's disappearance pinched
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
Think crypto hides you from spooks on Facebook? THINK AGAIN
Traffic fingerprints reveal all, say boffins
prev story

Whitepapers

A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?
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.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.