New Twist to Online Tech Support Scam and more

This one has been going on for quite a while, but it is definitely spreading like a bad rash. Just to prove it, one of my clients got a call from one of these while I was actually at their home for an appointment to work on their computer. What’s the chance of that happening? It’s certainly never happened before. And they are definitely using some serious social engineering to fool people into allowing them to get into their computers to quote/unquote fix their computers.

Thanks to Windows Secrets and Fred Langa for the link:

Windows Secrets reader Scott Brande was recently on the receiving end of a typical tech-support con. Recognizing it for what it was, he carefully documented the attempted snow job, then sent in his notes as a service to all Windows Secrets readers.

Check out the rest of Fred Langa’s article for the fully documented story.

And from IC3.gov site:

New Twist to Online Tech Support Scam and more – IC3.gov Scam Alerts (Jan 7, 2013)

NEW TWIST TO ONLINE TECH SUPPORT SCAM

The IC3 continues to receive complaints reporting telephone calls from individuals claiming to be with Tech Support from a well-known software company. The callers have very strong accents and use common names such as “Adam” or “Bill.” Callers report the user’s computer is sending error messages, and a virus has been detected. In order to gain access to the user’s computer, the caller claims that only their company can resolve the issue.

The caller convinces the user to grant them the authority to run a program to scan their operating system. Users witness the caller going through their files as the caller claims they are showing how the virus has infected their computer.

Users are told the virus could be removed for a fee and are asked for their credit card details. Those who provide the caller remote access to their computers, whether they paid for the virus to be removed or not, report difficulties with their computer afterwards; either their computers would not turn on or certain programs/files were inaccessible.

Some report taking their computers to local technicians for repair and the technicians confirmed software had been installed. However, no other details were provided.

In a new twist to this scam, it was reported that a user’s computer screen turned blue, and eventually black, prior to receiving the call from Tech Support offering to fix their computer. At this time, it has not been determined if this is related to the telephone call or if the user had been experiencing prior computer problems.

Unbelievable! MICROSOFT DOESN’T DO THAT!

Avoid tech support phone scams

Cybercriminals don’t just send fraudulent email messages and set up fake websites. They might also call you on the telephone and claim to be from Microsoft. They might offer to help solve your computer problems or sell you a software license. Once they have access to your computer, they can do the following:

  • Trick you into installing malicious software that could capture sensitive data, such as online banking user names and passwords. They might also then charge you to remove this software.
  • Take control of your computer remotely and adjust settings to leave your computer vulnerable.
  • Request credit card information so they can bill you for phony services.
  • Direct you to fraudulent websites and ask you to enter credit card and other personal or financial information there.

Neither Microsoft nor our partners make unsolicited phone calls (also known as cold calls) to charge you for computer security or software fixes.

More here at Microsoft’s article: Avoid Phone Scams

Some more interesting things in the IC3 Scam Alerts:

You might also find the rest of the IC3 Scam Alerts interesting; including a list of the most popular passwords out there. If you are using any of them as passwords, you might just want to change it now!

Also some info on Java Exploit that is for sale for 5 digits! :

Miscreants in the cyber underground are selling an exploit for a previously undocumented security hole in Oracle’s Java software that attackers can use to remotely seize control over systems running the program, KrebsOnSecurity has learned.

Might want to check out: How to Unplug Java from the Browser

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New Mac Malware – Is Mac no longer safer?

[tweetmeme source=”franscomputerservices” only_single=false]Update: 5/25/2011 – Updates to this posting from Computerworld and USAToday and Apple themselves in the form of a Support document to help users to remove the malware, and promise to provide a tool that will remove it and notify users if they attempt to download the malware. See details below.

With the equivalent of “Security Center 2011” now having a counterpart for the Mac called “MAC Defender, Mac Security, Mac Protector, or any number of knockoff names“, there is a lot of discussion as to how safe the Mac still is compared with Windows.

I have not seen any Windows variant of this type of malware that is as easy to remove from Windows as it is from the Mac.

Sure, Malwarebytes Antimalware will take care of it easily on Windows, even if you somehow are tricked through social engineering to click on it (it can get a little dicier depending on how far you let it get), but with the Mac, you just go to Applications, find Mac Defender and throw it in the trash and flush. What’s easier than that? Here‘s the full instructions in Bleeping Computer’s full removal instructions.

EDIT 5/25/2011 – IMPORTANT REMOVAL INFO: Apple has also now posted removal instructions including killing the process, removing the program, and stopping it from starting on boot, here. This was noted in Computerworld: Apple admits Mac scareware infections, promises cleaning tool and USAToday: Apple to issue Mac update to halt malware attacks, and Arstechnica: Apple acknowledges Mac Defender malware, promises software update, as well as likely other places on the web today.

The Computerworld article above notes:

Andrew Storms, director of security operations with nCircle Security, was surprised that Apple said it would embed a malware cleaning tool in Mac OS X.

“That’s new ground for Apple,” Storms said, pointing out that the move is a first for the company, which until now has only offered a bare-bones malware detection mechanism in Mac OS X 10.6, aka Snow Leopard, and then only populated it with a handful of signatures.

“Not only is Apple going to help customers remove [Mac Defender], but by doing so, they’re also admitting that there are security problems with Mac OS,” Storms said.

Even though it is very easy to remove, with Mac Defender out there, it does mean that malware, particularly on compromised websites, have begun to include other platforms. And you can bet others will follow. And they may not be as easy to remove.

So, does it mean Mac users should be installing Antivirus and/or Antimalware programs? I have, but according to the Wired.com article below:

Charlie Miller, a security researcher who has repeatedly won the annual Pwn2Own hacking contest by hacking Macs and iPhones, told Wired.com he doesn’t think so.

Ultimately, it’s up to the customer because there’s a trade-off involved. Anti-virus software will help protect your system from being infected, but it’s expensive, uses system memory and reduces battery life.

“Mac malware is still relatively rare, but is getting worse,” Miller said. “At some point soon, the scales will tip to installing antivirus, but at this point, I don’t think it’s worth it yet for most people.”

So how is this happening?

Browser choice and settings The first problem I see for Mac users is Safari and it’s settings. First for the same reason I rarely ever use Internet Explorer in Windows, I rarely use Safari on the Mac. Safari by default allows opening of files automatically after download. Bad move. This caused problems in the past with some ‘rogue’ Widgets a few years ago, but folks realized it was easy to fix this and turned it off under Safari preferences. With Safari open, Click Safari on the Menu bar, then click Preferences, on the first tab (General), at the bottom, untick Open ‘safe’ files after downloading. Personally, I prefer to use a variety of browsers, such as Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera for various things. Firefox and Chrome have some some great addons to help protect you. Opera has some as well.

Keeping programs up to date – Keeping Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, and other addons/plugins, web browsers, and other software that touch the Internet up to date, as well as the operating system itself.

Paying attention The next biggest problem I see are people not paying close enough attention (regardless of their OS), and not familiarizing themselves with their OS as well as they could. This type of malware tries to replicate some sort of a security area on the OS to some degree and scare you into thinking they are finding malware on your system.

This type of malware requires you allow the installation.

On Windows computers, by clicking through the Administrator authentication box, and on the Mac by authenticating with your Admin password.

On Windows, way too many things ask for this kind of authentication (although it is better than it used to be), but on the Mac, which is more like UNIX/Linux in that regard, you are only asked when it could be a potential threat to the system like installing software that wants access to the system, or needs access to system areas. We should always be sure we know what is being installed and why before authenticating with our Admin password. Don’t have a password? Set one up under Accounts in the System Preferences today!

Search results People need to be able to tell the legitimate search results from the bogus ones that have managed to get into the top searches through Black Hat SEO technicques. If you don’t have a way to at least tell whether a site is good, bad or indifferent, it makes it so easy to click on the wrong one. There are programs that can help with this. They are not foolproof, use common sense as well. A free community based one is MyWOT and it works on Windows, Mac, and Linux. There are others that work on Windows as well from antivirus/firewall companies.

Keeping things cleaned up Having and using a temporary files cleaner. I run it after every single browser session, but every day or at worst case once a week would work as long as you don’t notice any issues or weirdness with your OS.

There is a good one for Windows called CCleaner (free and paid versions). For the Mac there are several available. I like MainMenu. It is not free, priced at $15 and a bit more for the Pro version. Main Menu is also available in the MacApp Store. Another favorite is free, OnyX.

You can find out more information about this “Mac Defender” malware in the following articles:

An AppleCare support rep talks: Mac malware is “getting worse” (at Ed Bott Microsoft Report on ZDNet (first article on it)

New Mac Malware Fools Customers, But Threat Still Relatively Small (Wired.com’s Gadget Labs)

Malware on the Mac: is there cause for concern? Ars investigates (Arstechnica)

Modern Mac owners need to ignore the dinosaurs and get protection (Hardware 2.0 at ZDNet)

Microsoft links fake Mac AV to Windows scareware gang (Computerworld)

Don’t Panic Over the Latest Mac Malware Story (SecurityWeek):

Now that we’ve established who benefits from Mac malware predictions — security companies and a certain type of IT professional — the second question is, do we care about the prediction that “serious” malware is coming to Macs? Only a little. It is true that Macs aren’t dusted with some sort of magic unicorn Unix-y pixie powder that makes it less vulnerable to security flaws than Windows. But it is equally true that the Mac remains a less risky platform than Windows because of the fewer strains of malware written for OS X. By “fewer” I mean 99% fewer: a hundred malware samples versus 50 million. The Mac also has a much less evolved malware supply chain. By “less evolved” I mean “nonexistent,” this one example notwithstanding.

And with that, I will close this topic for the time being…

EDIT added Bleeping Computer article on removal of Mac Defender and the last article from Hardware 2.0 at ZDNet and Microsoft links face Mac AV to Windows Scareware Gang at Computerworld and Don’t Panic Over the Latest Mac Malware Story at SecurityWeek.

Lizamoon and Epsilon breach

[tweetmeme source=”franscomputerservices” only_single=false]There are two major things that users need to be aware of right now, as if there weren’t enough already. 😉

One affects email and the other affects browsing/surfing the Internet. Both bad news, and we all need to be very aware of what has happened and why we have to be very vigilant in making sure we don’t click on links in email, open attachments sent in email, or respond to potential unexpected boxes and requests while surfing the Internet.

Financial and payment services are the biggest areas being hit right now, and will continue to be so much more effective and dangerous due to the current economy while people scramble to survive around the world.

Targeted Sectors Q2 2010 - Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG)

Targeted Sectors Q2 2010 - Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG)

Lizamoon/LizaMoon drive-by rogue malware infection

Lizamoon is a drive-by rouge antimalware or antivirus download infection. Thankfully you generally have to take some action to allow it to install as noted by Fred Langa in the comp copy of WindowsSecrets.com newsletter in his article entitled, “LizaMoon infection: a blow-by-blow account“. Must read!

The most important takeaway is that Fred said he had to take action on four separate occasions before the infection took place:

On the other hand, deliberate choices and actions by a user can defeat any software. LizaMoon required my active, voluntary involvement four different times before the infection took hold.

LizaMoon wasn’t even subtle: I had plenty of warnings and opportunities to abort the process, the malware itself provided abundant clues to its own bogus nature (such as an inability to keep its aliases straight).

Much more in the article. A must read for all who surf the Internet to be able to identify this rogue drive-by infection when it happens/if it happens.

The biggest takeaway:We can prevent these types of things by being aware and not clicking on things just because they are presented to us while surfing the Internet.

Epsilon breach – Spear Phishing attacks

Epsilon is an outsourcing marketing company for many big companies/banks. They have a huge database of people’s email addresses, names and the company or bank associated with each email address. This makes the spear phishing, generally a very effective social engineering technique and can make their attacks via email so much more effective…mainly because they know the email addresses are real, and more importantly they can link the real name and the actual company/bank connected the email address.

Computerworld reports, “Security experts today warned users to be on the watch for targeted email attacks after a breach at a major marketing firm that may have put millions of addresses in the hands of hackers and scammers.”

Brian Krebs (KrebsOnSecurity) and Heise Online Security report,

Epsilon has now confirmed that approximately 2 per cent of its total clients were affected. According to a blog post by security blogger Brian Krebs, financial services company Visa and American Express (Amex) say that they were not impacted by the Epsilon breach. However, the following banks, service providers and online retailers are said to have been affected:

1-800-FLOWERS
AbeBooks
Air Miles (Canada)
Ameriprise Financial
Barclay’s Bank of Delaware
Beach Body
Bebe Stores
Best Buy
Benefit Cosmetics
Brookstone
Capital One
Chase
Citigroup
City Market
College Board
Dillons
Disney Destinations
Eddie Bauer
Eileen Fisher
Ethan Allen
Euro Sport (Soccer.com)
Food 4 Less
Fred Meyer
Fry’s Electronics
Hilton Honors Program
Home Depot Credit Card (Citibank Editor)
Home Shopping Network
JPMorgan Chase
Kroger
Marks and Spencer
Marriott
McKinsey Quarterly
MoneyGram
New York & Co.
QFC
Ralph’s
Red Roof Inns
Ritz-Carlton
Robert Half International
Smith Brands
Target
TD Ameritrade
TiVo
U.S. Bank
Walgreen’s

Much more in these articles, must read, as well as others on the web including WashingtonPost, eWeek, BBC, and others.

The biggest takeaway: Don’t believe everything you see in email. Don’t trust links or downloads in email. Check with the person who sends it before opening any downloads and don’t give out information from your bank, and other sites, etc. unless you can confirm it definitely came from them. You can always go to the site directly from your own bookmarks/favorites and login to ensure you get to the right place. Don’t use their links in email unless you can verify it’s really from the company. In fact, one can get into trouble and get further compromised by clicking on links in email.

Side note: this is why I do not view email as HTML. So much can be hidden behind all the pretty pictures and code.

And be prepared. Keep your antivirus software and antimalware program as well, clear your Internet cache frequently. If you suspect you have been hit with one of these rogue antivirus/antimalware attacks, unplug the Internet/network cable from your computer to prevent further harm and take appropriate action by running Malwarebytes Antimalware, CCleaner (or other temporary Internet cleaner program you use), and then a scan with your antivirus software and take whatever recommended action they call for. Links to these programs provided on our Resources page.

If you make sure both of these are updated before you surf for the day, you will be in a much better situation should you somehow get hit with something.

And do your backups, and have an image of your OS to restore from if it becomes necessary. Windows 7 makes this very easy to do with their built-in image creator and backups, and system repair disk.