Tag: Web Scams

Is Your Genuine Antivirus Protecting Your Computer from All Online Threats?

A person may be using a genuine operating system, applications and of course a world class antivirus software – all of them purchased for few thousands of rupees or hundreds of dollars and nothing for free. But still he is not 100% safe in the wild west of Internet today. Because it is not just virus, trojan or any such malware – it is social engineering.

With the robust and genuine software and hardware security applications the cost of computing is going too high. The vendors are no more struck in pleasing their consumers with just the usability features. They have tightened the technology and even releasing numerous updates though they seem overwhelming to their customers. In this kind of situation, finding out new vulnerabilities in software and them trying to exploit them with viruses and trojans are not viable for the hackers. It is here where they figured a new strategy – exploiting the weakest link of a sturdy technical security system. Guess who? The human of course… It can be the administrator of the PC or a corporate network. Even luring a small employee of a corporate network into downloading something infects the network.

Kevin Metnick, a security consultant, mentions in his CSEPS Course Workbook that it is much easier to trick someone into giving a password for a system than to spend the effort to crack into the system.

Social engineering explained
The concept of Social Engineering is to directly trick the user of the computer to download malware or to reveal sensitive information under the auspice that they are doing something perfectly innocent. The task is too simple and many fall out for it for the lack of awareness on the scams being played on.

With a world class antivirus that gets 1st rank in all AV-tests and a best team releasing realtime AV definitions everyday or a robust firewall from the industry leader, is simply not helping the administrator of the computer. Because it is himself who is infecting the PC. The job of the attacker is to simply lure him to do it. However, it may not be downloading malware that the attacker wants every time. He may just lure the user into giving away some sensitive information. It ranges from SSN to credit card number.

The hacker hijacks a genuine domain or creates a genuine-looking one by himself. It is a part of website spoofing. Once the user enters the domain they are either lured into providing their personal details or download something. Selling scareware is also a part of social engineering. In fact Google reported that 90% of all domains involved in distributing fake antivirus software used social engineering techniques.

Why your antivirus can’t keep up?
Each hacker holds a number of domains under him. If one is identified and taken down, the other goes up. The malware mutation used here is also rapid. Though you have the latest version of antivirus called Internet security suite, it may be too late before the vendor identifies and releases a fresh virus definition. Microsoft has gathered information about few billions of downloads over the past two years, and roughly 1 out of every 14 program downloads are later identified as malware. In few cases, just clicking on the background of the malicious site will initiate a download.

Anti social engineering: Should it be from your computer and AV or You?
You computer security is only as robust as your security awareness. Any computer, be it running on Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7, the software will not allow any data to enter your system unless you permit it by initiating its download. And if somebody tries upload any corruptive data to your system, it wouldn’t work because you never initiated it in the first place.

The popular browsers today are designed not to download blindly anything, even if it is initiated by the user himself. The browser does its job perfectly by alerting the user with details of the initiated download. (You might remember the classic pop up of the browser with a OK and Cancel options on it.)

But the hacker is clever enough to give a set of instructions including a message saying “You will receive a warning about this control. Ignore the warning and click OK”. The user unaware of the situation clicks OK and downloads the malware. The PC is now infected under the full authorization of its administrator.

In other situation, the user might get an email saying its from his bank (email spoofing from the hacker) informing that he has withdrew a huge amount from his account and a link to site what looks like his banking website. The scared user is now tricked into typing his account details and the password. In the next few hours, the account gets emptied by the hacker.

Most of the social engineering techniques run in the same way. Agreed that genuine antivirus is required to protect your PC, but it is not designed to tackle situations like this.

Here are few tips that help you help from preventing social engineering to some extent:

  • The awareness of the user is the key here. Keep yourself updated on the online scams.
  • Avoid using administrator privileged account for PC, unless for updating the security patches.
  • Beware of unknown websites and emails that prompt you for personal information.

Most of the people fall victim for social engineering tactics either out of stupidity or greed. And unfortunately, we don’t have patches or hot-fixes for either of them. The person should also have a proper mindset to deal with social engineering tactics. A mature person is less likely to get enticed and fall for online scams.


Web Chicanery followed by Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster

Immediately after the massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan, experts noticed many Internet fraudsters exploiting the situation through black hat SEO techniques.

The experts said that the criminals immediately started customizing their malicious websites, including keywords related to tsunami and earthquake, to get on top of the search results using black hat seo methods. It has been found out that they were trying to deploy malware, scareware or fake antivirus programs into the visitors computers through these sites.

Apart from scareware deployments, there can also be fake/spoofed sites posing themselves to be Tsunami relief organizations and ask for donations. Sources say that this happens every time a disaster occurs. So be sure while visiting sites related to Tsunami and even donating funds online for the victims. The less tricky thing will be to donate through the sites suggested by Google in this list.

Beware of Spoofed Websites Online

Website spoofing is one of the deceptive snare used by cyber criminals for phishing. Internet is still a highly vulnerable place for transactions. Cyber-criminals keep finding different ways to exploit a user online. The only way to survive them is through conventional awareness and credible preventive measures.

What are Spoofed Websites?
A spoofed website is usually a replica of a legitimate website. Almost all the features of this site replicate the existing legitimate site including logos, fonts, colors, structure, etc. In few cases, even the URL of the spoofed site is almost close to the URL of the legitimate site so that it is easier for them to trick its visitor.

Techniques used in spoofing:

  • URL Redirection: URL redirection is possible through web programming to refer a URL to another URL. Many big companies like Google, Microsoft, etc., use them for legitimate business purposes. However, this has become a phishing tool for cyber criminals.They use a legitimate looking URL (www.domain.com, for example). However, when a visitor tries to visit the site, it actually redirects him to a spoofed site (www.phisher.com). It is possible for the user to identify redirecting URLs by monitoring location bar of his browser.
  • URL Cloaking: A legitimate looking URL is used to mask the URL of a spoofed site, by using ‘@’ symbol. Using @ symbol was originally intended as a way to include a username and password in the URL. When a user tries to open the legitimate looking URL, www.bank-domain.com@phisher.com, for example, it actually redirects him to the phishing site www.phisher.com, rather than www.bank-domain.com.
  • URL Masking: A illegitmate / phishing site is concealed behind the text of URL of a legitimate site. Web programming has enough attributes to support masking of a URL easily.A user gets an email from phisher containing a link to a legitimate site (www.domain.com, for example). However, the link is the mask of a spoofed site (www.phisher.com). The deception actually happens in the status bar of the browser. When you hover mouse over a link the status bar should show where the link will guide you to. The deceptive link is so well hidden that the user cannot find it even in the status bar on hovering mouse over the link. This is generally done using javascript.
  • Typo Scamming: Typos are inevitable when you are typing out on your keyboard. Cyber criminals use this as an advantage and register web addresses that resemble the name of a popular and legitimate site. These URLs are slightly differentiated by adding, excluding, or rearranging letters.For example, web address of a legitimate site www.bankm.com is differentiated as
    • www.banmk.com
    • www.bakm.com
    • www.bankm-online.com

Why beware of spoofed sites?
Spoofed websites are actual sources of phishing. The main job of the phisher is to convince the visitor that his spoofed site is legitimate. From then on it is the visitor who will be submitting his information to the phisher, unknowingly though. It can be his bank username and password, or any such information that is of economical value.

Cyber criminals also use spoofed websites to deploy malware into the visitors PC thus making it as a part of their botnet.

Precautions to take to avoid being a victim of spoofed sites

  • Avoid using sites that do not have SSL/TLS certificate while you are banking, buying, selling, transferring money or using credit/debit cards online.
  • Make it a habit of checking the SSL/TLS validity every time you visit a site before making financial transactions, by clicking on the lock icon.
  • Never click a hyperlink to get to a website for financial transaction unless you are CERTAIN that it is a legitimate link.
  • Just type out the URL yourself, use credible search engine results or copy paste it from your records.
  • Do not use same username / password for all your online logins.


Malware Lurks Within Pirated Versions of Popular Movie Downloads

Now-a-days cyber criminals are using popular events, current developments and even movie premieres to attract people who seek free or pirated content and exploiting.

A recent online scam which promises viewers to download the recent “Twilight – New Moon” movie is found to install malware in PCs.

The entire process of this scam is as follows…

  • Viewers are lured with the text websites, chat rooms and blogs that read: “Watch New Moon Full Movie.” Comment posts with related keywords are also used simultaneously to attract more search engines.
  • Search results for the movie then link users to stolen images from the movie itself, convincing the fan that the movie is only one click away.
  • When they click on the “movie player” they are told to install a “streamviewer”.
  • The streamviewer, however, installs malware on the user’s computer.

Don’t get enticed by such scams to get downloads without verifying if the sources are genuine or not. It can turn up to be more hectic not only in terms of cost but also in terms of toil and time. And the entire accountability will fall upon none other than you.

Courtesy: PCTools.com

Yet Another Email Scam – Beware

As we are aware of the recent issue with a few thousands of emails, lets see how some of these scammers have used the emails they hacked into.

The following email was sent to a small business support’s email id for financial gain from a@gmail.com – an email id belonging to their client.

“I’m sorry for this odd request because it might get to you too urgent but it’s because of the situation of things right now, i’m stuck in New York City with family right now, we came down here on vacation , we were robbed, worse of it is that bags, cash and cards and my cell phone was stolen at GUN POINT, it’s such and crazy here in london , i need help flying back home, the authorities are not being 100% supportive but the good thing is we still have our passport but dont have enough money to get on flight ticket back home, please i need you to loan me some money till im back home to pay back , i will refund you as soon as i’m back home, i promise , all we need is $800”

The issue looked genuine. The only odd thing was that it was sent as ‘BCC’ (undisclosed recipients). However, the email was from the client’s id.

The following reply was sent to the email id of the client.

“Not a problem. Please let us know what we need to do.”

Then this person got suspicious and sent this message immediately.

Is there a number we can reach you?

Within 10 minutes there was a reply from the email id as follows…

“Well I’ll can’t access any cell right here , all i need is $800 more to complete my ticket fee right now , I can get it back to you as soon as im back home , You can wire me the money via western union , You only need my name and the country name here , I still have my passport ID to pick up the money here

Name : First Lastname
Country Name : New York, United State of America

Thats all you need , You got it right ?”

This is a tricky situation as you don’t want to be seen as unsupportive when a client is in genuine trouble. Thus, the business was willing to send the money. However, they called the client’s mobile in the U.S and he answered – making it clear that the email was not sent by him. If it wasn’t answered they were all set to send the money, since, they were not aware of anyone being fooled in this way before. The business wanted to widely circulate this to prevent people from being fooled this way.

Beware of eMail from US VISA Lottery

An email pretending to offer even to pay the flight ticket to US along with VISA and accomodation, is very rare to find. The new VISA lottery scam email interestingly has all these features. This scam email offers you a single visa for about 980 USD and a family visa for 1520 USD. A flight ticket along with accommodation in US! Very enticing, isn’t it?

But, “We advise everybody not to fall for such things because you will be very disappointed,”says Sorin Mustaca of Avira.

According to what he wrote in Avira’s blog

“And now, as usual, comes the funny part, as in any scam attempt we’ve seen.

  • Despite the fact that it is mentioned in the picture the “Asia-Pacific agent” for the VISA processing, the contact email addresses are in … Europe. They belong to a free web mail system in the Czech Republic.
  • The text is very hard to read because it is full of grammatical mistakes and sentences which don’t make too much sense.”

The image of this scam email is attached below.

Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge

Courtesy: Avira Blog.