Malware is everywhere so watch out for the fake healers

May 13, 2014 by Andrew Smith, The Conversation
You could hire an army to protect yourself. Or just do your research. Credit: Michael Li, CC BY-NC

There is nothing worse than having a fake healer offer a cure that does absolutely nothing. History is full of tales of frauds and quacks offering a cure for all, which eventually turn out to be nothing more than a bitter tasting facsimile of the real thing.

Google has recently removed an Android fake anti-malware application called Virus Shield, fearing that it did the exact opposite. Based on the reports, this app was fortunately benign and did not appear to infect the smartphones or tablets of its users. But it could have been worse, potentially opening up their devices to many undesirable exploits.

The problem is widespread and has been for some time. Cybercrime isn't just about exploiting technology, some of the most successful scams are those that exploit your trust.

Malware is a term used to cover a wide range of attacks. A virus is one amongst many styles of attack, as it is the oldest and best understood by the majority of computer users. Others include Trojans, where an application you download has hidden code designed to reach out to a remote party; worms, which spread via email or insecure networks; and zombies, which are used by cybercriminals to exploit your computers resources.

There is a chance that you could fall for pop ups and operating system windows that look like the real deal or download a fake anti-malware application, which itself turns out to be malware.

Popular anti-malware like AVG and Sophos are mimicked when you visit websites. These look like applications that could help you but are fakes. The riskiest sites are those associated with illegal software downloads, pirate copies of movies and pornography. Cybercriminals trade on the notion that you are unlikely to admit to what you were doing at the time you made the mistake of clicking on the pop-up and had their download compromise your system.

Or, as is often the case, they trade on our desire for a good deal. If a deal seems too good to be true, it often is. This is no different with anti-malware applications. The price is often right, you like the promises made and the name of the application may even sound genuine. Checking the source of an application is equally as important as checking if it is the right product.

Discovering a fake app in its store is embarrassing for Google. But the reality is that it is your responsibility to double check the credibility of anything you download. In the case of anti-malware applications, checking to see if the creators are well-known is essential. There are many credible anti-malware software houses around the world.

New start-ups are welcomed by the industry but if you are unsure, then you are best advised to do some research before installation, such as by looking at different review sites.

Cyber-criminals do understand human nature even if considerable efforts are made by developers to secure systems. The weakest link is always the human part of the chain, this is known as social engineering. For you and I, it pays to be vigilant, and we have to be cautious when being offered a good deal to secure our device.

Explore further: Which phone is most vulnerable to malware?

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manojobber
not rated yet May 13, 2014
First of all I just want to say that all AV is essentially a kernel mode rootkit. Second, let's just go ahead and get it out there that blacklisting is completely and utterly useless. Most AV products introduce more security implicit bugs than they could ever mitigate. And in this age (corporate)state-sponsored hacking, NSA, blah blah blah, enjoy you backdoor.. because AV makes the perfect place to put such a backdoor. Additionally, even if the AV doesn't have a state-sponsored backdoor in it.. like I said in the previous point most AV introduces memory corruption bugs which can lead to arbitrary remote code execution. So enjoy all that stuff. I'll be over here in the land where application, user mode and kernel mode attacks are so typical they are downright boring. So now you can enjoy attacks on your firmware, like BIOS and UEFI. Then you might want to a take peek into your CPU microcode updates while you're at it.
mmstick
not rated yet May 14, 2014
Malware is mainly only the concern of those who run Windows. Install a Linux distribution and malware suddenly becomes an irrelevant topic. Anything that you don't have the source code to is a possible vector for attack and unreliable from a security perspective. As far as 'fake apps' go for mobile devices, both Apple and Google suffer that problem due to loose policies. Even if it's not fake, since practically none of the installable software is open source, even a legitimate app could be doing something nefarious with you knowing, or open doors to security issues that may never get fixed.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet May 14, 2014
some of the most successful scams are those that exploit your trust.

Well, it's no coincidence that the 'con' in 'con artists' stands for 'confidence'. Abusing trust is the oldest trick in the...erm...even long before books.