Tuesday, September 7th, 2010
In the latest scam from global cyber criminals, home and small business Internet users are having their computers attacked and infected via targeted attacks. It starts when they receive unsolicited phone calls or emails offering technical assistance. This degree of sophistication is taking the threat to your computer security, as well as personal and financial information, to a new level.

In reports from across Australia, these social engineering or ‘trust’ scams are taking two different approaches.

1. Scammers contact their victims by phone (typically in the early evening), convincing them of real or non-existent faults in their computers and offering deals on anti-virus and security software plus malware removal services.

2. Users receive emails with a warning their computer is compromised and offers of anti-virus protection. By clicking on web links or attachments they open their PC to malware attack.

The scammers have also begun to exploit the latest booming support technology – remote access software. They instruct the victim to purchase and download the remote access software the scammer recommends so as to allow their ‘expert’ in to solve a problem with the victim’s computer.

Leading consumer software security company, AVG (AU/NZ) Pty Ltd, says stop and check before you click through and pay.

These “trust scams” attempt to con people into a service and extract their financial details. The local AVG (AU/NZ) support desk alone is getting several calls a day from people saying they’ve been contacted by supposed call centres regarding issues with their computer and recommending they download software to fix the problem.

The cyber criminals are very adept and sound legitimate. Callers pose as technical experts from organisations with names very similar to high profile IT companies. Some of the names being used include: Tech Optimizers, Techisonline, Support on Click, The Repair Zone, Online PC Doctors, Microsoft Certified Engineers, Windows, Bigpond and AVG Security.

Scammers notify the user of viruses on their computers or that their security software has expired and then recommend the user downloads remote access software, including the popular LogMeIn and TeamView, so that they can help to user to fix the problem. They also ask users to pay upwards of $400 for their services by directing users to a Web site to pay, or by taking their credit card details over the phone.

As an example, John reported to AVG (AU/NZ) that he was called by someone from ‘Microsoft Support,’ who took him through the Windows event viewer and used unrelated errors to make John believe he had a virus. He eventually called their bluff and rang the AVG (AU/NZ) support technicians in Melbourne, Australia to ensure his computer was protected.

But sadly, there are also stories such as Mark’s. He received a call, claiming to be AVG, advising that his PC needed checking as several computers in the area were crashing. The scammers who called told him that there were multiple viruses on his computer and that it was about to crash.

Mark was convinced to work through a process that resulted in him ‘purchasing’ a three-year security service. When he eventually contacted the AVG (AU/NZ) customer service centre, they checked the AVG licence number used during the scam. It was a legitimate licence for the AVG Anti-Virus product, to protect 10 PCs, and was purchased from AVG in India in rupees. Mark has subsequently managed to get a refund from his bank. Many others have not been as fortunate.

AVG (AU/NZ) advises to always be wary about any contact which you have not specifically requested. AVG (AU/NZ) will never cold-call a customer and request access to their computer system. Nor will it direct its resellers or third-party companies to do so. Indeed, it’s highly unlikely any legitimate IT company would ever do this.

Be very cautious about what you give people permission to do on your computer and to whom you give your credit card number. And only install software directly from a trusted vendor’s site, never from unsolicited email or telephone instructions.

No one knows how the scammers obtain your phone contact details, but this latest scam highlights the importance of establishing a relationship with a trusted IT vendor. It’s better to stop and check than click through and be sorry.

Preventing Cyber Blackmail

AVG (AU/NZ) offers this advice to help prevent your exposure to Cyber Blackmail:
• Never click on links in emails when you do not know the sender.
• Always have active Internet Security software protection against viruses and spyware, particularly software that can scan Web links such as the free AVG LinkScanner® safe search and surf product.
• Always have your firewall turned on.
• Use spam filtering software to help limit both the amount of unwanted email and the associated risk.
• Call a computer professional if you are experiencing a decline in your system performance, before you lose important information or your system crashes.
• If you get a mysterious call offering to remove software, or a pop-up message offering to sell you software to remove spyware, it is likely you are already infected so call a local computer professional or your security software vendor.
• When dealing with a computer professional, make sure that you know their background and brand reputation. Beware of cash deals and cheap software.

Government Help Available
Home and small business operators can also add to their browser’s favourites list the Australian government SCAMwatch and Stay Smart Online Web sites, and visit them regularly to view or report the latest scams and online attacks.

SCAMwatch — www.scamwatch.gov.au
SCAMwatch is a resource to help you recognise, report and protect yourself from scams. Explore SCAMwatch to find out more about the scams that target you or your small business. It is provided by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and is also the campaign portal for the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce.

Stay Smart Online — staysmartonline.gov.au
This site is hosted by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy with advice for home and small business users for staying safe online. The Stay Smart Online Alert Service is a free subscription-based service that provides information on the latest computer network threats and vulnerabilities in simple, non-technical, easy to understand language. It also provides solutions to help manage these risks.

Anyone wishing to report a fraud matter or provide information to police is asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

AVG (AU/NZ) has a comprehensive range of security tips for home and business users on its Web site at www.avg.com.au/resources/security-tips/.

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AVG, cyber crime, anti-virus, Internet security

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