By Jesse McCabe
Social media sparked a revolution in how we communicate. From best friends to business owners, more of us every day are using a social networking site to connect with people. Facebook welcomes 700,000 new members daily, and an estimated 4-5 million people are now reading tweets on Twitter.
And cybercriminals are having a field day exploiting the vulnerabilities social networks have exposed in our Internet security practices.
By and large, Internet security at the network level has recently consisted of on-premise URL filtering mechanisms used by organizations to enforce company Internet use policies and improve employee productivity. These solutions also offered protection by blocking access to sites classified as containing malware. For a while, this approached appeared to work.
Welcome, readers. I’m a member of the Threat Research team at Webroot, and I’ve been asked to contribute to Webroot’s new Threat Blog. I’d like to take a moment to introduce myself, tell you a little about what we do, and explain how we plan to use the blog to keep you informed.
Webroot’s threat experts are responsible for defining new malware, and variants of existing malware, that are being introduced every day. We spend the bulk of our time, to summarize in a massively oversimplified manner, breaking PCs by infecting them with Trojan Horse applications, virii, worms, rootkits, password stealers, and other malicious and undesirable software, then figuring out how to fix them again. We infect our PCs, over and over and over again, so you don’t have to; then we make sure Webroot’s products will protect against or remove the infections.
As you can imagine, our perspective on the front lines of Internet security gives us significant insight into the workings of these unwelcome software pests. And we’re now seeing an unprecedented volume of infected PCs and networks, and greater sophistication employed by those doing the infecting. We were compelled to create a vehicle to share that insight with the rest of the world.
My role is to serve as an information conduit between our malware, spam, and Web security experts and you, the reader. I and others will post details about the most dangerous and difficult security threats we encounter, and how to avoid them. We’ll also be sharing trending data we collect about spyware, computer viruses and other infections, and the origins of the infectious agents that propagate them. Our goal is to provide useful information that will, hopefully, help you protect yourselves from what seem — to us, anyway — like wave after wave of increasingly hostile, damaging, and obnoxious malware.
So, thanks for stopping by. We look forward to chronicling the threat landscape for you. Please add us to your RSS feed using the link that looks like a little billboard at the top of the page. And feel free to let us know what you think by sending your comments, questions, or requests to the address on the right side of the page.
Last year, we at Webroot (as well as many other people) saw a huge spike in two specific types of malware: Rogue antispyware products — the ineffective, deceptive kind — and the various tricks the companies that sell rogues use to trick you into downloading (and eventually buying) their bogus products, something we refer to, generally, as Fakealerts.
Here’s usually how the trick works: First, you’re fooled into browsing to a Web site which employs any of a number of tricks to install the Fakealert code onto your PC. The Fakealert then begins popping up messages warning you about some sort of infection in the System Tray, or in dialog boxes, and/or by opening browser windows to pages that look uncannily similar to control panels or dialog boxes used by Windows XP and/or Vista. Later, after you’ve been provided a smoke-and-mirrors “free scan” of your system (which, of course, reports all kinds of salacious and undesirable “detections”), you’re directed to a page where, for just $59 you can be rid of your spyware problems forever.
The tricks these guys employ get more creative with every new iteration. We’ve seen them drop hundreds of junk files on a hard drive, which are then “detected” as infections; install screensavers that look just like your computer is going through Blue Screen of Death convulsions; and run every dirty trick and cheap gimmick to get a sale.
So it came as no surprise when we encountered yet another Fakealert — we decided to call it Adware-Loserbar — that leads, eventually, to a rogue product. What set this one apart was its sheer gall — and a few new tricks we hadn’t seen before.