Research: 40 Percent Of Fake Antivirus Strains Created In 2010

PandaLabs, the antimalware laboratory at Panda Security, reported recently that 40 percent of all fake antivirus (also known as 'rogueware') strains ever produced were created in the past year.

In the four years since rogueware was first reported, 5,651,786 unique strains have been detected, of which 2,285,629 appeared between January and October. 

When comparing the number of rogueware specimens to the total number of malware specimens included in PandaLabs' cloud-based Collective Intelligence database (the company's automated detection, analysis, and classification system for new threats), 11.6 percent of all specimens are rogueware. With PandaLabs' database containing every malware specimen detected in the company's 21-year history, the percentage of fake antiviruses is staggering, particularly considering that rogueware first appeared only four years ago. 

The sophistication and social engineering techniques used in creating rogueware are the basis of its success, as illustrated by the increasing number of victims of these scams. So far in 2010, 46.8 percent of all computers worldwide have been infected with some strain of malware, almost 10 percent of which were rogueware infections.

Even though there are many different rogueware variants, the majority of attacks are perpetrated by just a few.

Hackers make money by selling fake antiviruses and then selling the credit card data acquired through those transactions on the black market, or using those credit card numbers to make online purchases. According to a study conducted by PandaLabs, "The Business of Rogueware," fake antivirus authors profit to the tune of millions of dollars from these scams. 

Even though rogueware first emerged in 2006, it was not until 2008 that this type of malicious code really started to proliferate. Users can become infected simply by browsing the Web, downloading fake codecs for media players or clicking links in fraudulent emails. Once they have infected a system, these applications try to pass themselves off as antivirus solutions that have detected hundreds of threats on the user's computer.

When the user attempts to remove the threats using the fake antivirus solution, they are asked to purchase the 'full' product license. Unfortunately, many people panic when they see this message and fall for the bait. Once they "buy the license", they will of course never hear from the 'seller' again, and the fake antivirus is still on their computer.

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