According to experts at Kaspersky Lab, the number of users being attacked with fake system cleaners has increased by two-fold. These fraudulent programs are designed to trick users into paying for alleged serious computer issues to be fixed.
A slow-working or poorly performing computer is not uncommon among PC users, and there are many legitimate tools available to solve such issues. However, alongside genuine system cleaners, there are fake ones developed by fraudsters. These lead users into believing that their computer is in critical danger, for example, of memory overload, and needs immediate cleaning. The attackers then offer to provide such a service in return for payment.
Upon receiving user permission and payment, the fraudsters either do nothing or install adware – an array of unwanted advertising – on the computer. Increasingly, however, the cybercriminals are using the installation of hoax cleaners to download or disguise malware such as Trojans or ransomware.
The countries most affected by attacks with hoax cleaners in the first half of 2019 show how geographically widespread the threat is; leading the list is Japan with 12 per cent of affected users, followed by Germany, Belarus and Italy all with 10 per cent and Brazil sitting at 9 per cent.
“We’ve been watching how the phenomenon of hoax cleaners has been growing for the last couple of years, and it is a curious threat. On the one hand, many samples that we have seen are spreading more widely and becoming more dangerous, evolving from a simple ‘fraudulent’ scheme into fully functioning and dangerous malware. On the other hand, they are so widespread and seemingly innocent, that it is much easier for them to trick users into paying for a service, rather than frightening them with screen blockers and other unpleasant malware. However, these two ways end up with the same results — users losing their money,” says Artemiy Ovchinnikov, a security researcher at Kaspersky.
To avoid falling victim to hoax threats, Kaspersky researchers advise users to:
- Always check that the PC services that you are about to adopt are legitimate and easy to understand. If it sounds confusing, use a search engine to find out more about the service as there may be a more detailed explanation available
- Use a reliable security solution for comprehensive protection with a clean-up function for a wide range of threats and PC cleansing
- If you are purposely looking for a PC cleaner, use reliable, IT-targeted sources of information for recommendations, with a long-built reputation and software reviews.
Edited by Jenna Cook
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