It’s one of the oldest cons in the book: convincing a mark that they’re sick and then selling them a handy cure for the low, low price of “You just got ripped off.” Despite this sort of scam being perpetrated on the internet for years now, it’s still bamboozling lots of people, according to a recent court case brought by the FTC against a US-based company that has tricked computer users into purchasing millions in fake technical support to “fix” their computers. The scammers find their “marks” via fake pop-ups warning users that their computers are infected or performing poorly and provide a prominent phone number to call to receive tech support from a “certified” Microsoft or Apple partner (of which they are most definitely not). Once the victim calls, they are essentially tricked into believing they actually need support through carefully crafted application of legitimate tools and deceitful interpretation of events and warnings that are commonplace and not necessarily indicative of an actual problem. Once the scammers get your credit card or bank account info and get paid, they will deliver the service in the form of tech support “theatrics” which is more than likely just a script that looks impressive, but doesn’t actually do anything or might even damage your computer further. It’s also highly likely your payment info gets sold on the black market for additional profit.
Spread the word:
Clients of C2 Technology are typically savvy enough to spot this con a mile away, or at a minimum, have developed a healthy sense of skepticism to pick up the phone and call for a second opinion from someone they know and trust. It may not occur to you that, as a tech-savvy professional, you might actually be that trusted advisor for your family, friends and colleagues. Even if you don’t feel like a tech expert, you know enough to warn the people around you about these sort of scams, and you definitely know an expert who is always willing to take their call. At minimum, you should foster a healthy skepticism in the more naive or gullible loved ones, especially the ones that always seem to fall for the most obvious scams. This isn’t just for their benefit, it serves you as well. The more people around you who stay safe, the less likely you are to get infected. Thanksgiving dinners are a lot more enjoyable when you don’t have an family-spread malware infection on the table.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Password storage utility LastPass reported earlier this week that they discovered suspicious activity on their servers and as a result, some of their users’ data has probably been compromised: account emails, password reminders and some of the decryption hashes and salts. According to LastPass, user password vaults were not compromised, nor does it appear that any user accounts were accessed. As a precautionary measure, LastPass has turned on a secondary email authentication confirmations for all LastPass logins from new IP addresses, and they are recommending enabling multifactor authentication – a good security practice for any sensitive account (like your email).
What this means for you:
LastPass uses a very strong encryption method to secure your data, and it would take some significant computing resources to crack their encryption from a brute-force perspective. However, if your LastPass master password was easily guessable, in theory they could use the stolen hash and salt to confirm that password, and attempt to gain access to your LastPass account. In short: change your LastPass master password, and if you used that password anywhere else, change it there as well.
About a year ago, I shared an article from Ars Technica detailing a chilling and degrading hacker activity called “ratting” wherein your computer could be hacked into covertly spying on you. This disturbing trend now appears to be spreading to Android smart phones; for a short while before it was detected and removed, a seemingly legitimate app was available on the Google Play store that was purportedly for parents to keep an eye on what their children were doing on their smart phones. Unfortunately for the 50 or so people who actually downloaded the program, the real purpose of the app was to install a remote access trojan platform on the device which would enable someone to illicitly use the phones cameras and mics to spy on the user, as well as control other aspects of the phone like sending texts, making calls and sending emails.
What this means for you:
The app was built on a software development platform that is being marketed specifically to hackers, and one of the key selling points is this kit’s ability to build apps that can “hide” from Google’s security scans that usually prevent malware from being uploaded to the Play store. Translation: you can expect more apps like the one mentioned above to appear on the Google Play store. Where before you could, with maybe 99% effectiveness, depend on Google to protect you from harmful apps, you can no longer take for granted that if an app appears on the Google Play store that it is 100% legitimate. To protect yourself as an Android user, you should:
- Make sure to have a reputable Anti-malware app installed (I like Webroot’s Security & Antivirus).
- Read carefully the access permissions each app is asking for before installing.
- Pay attention to user reviews and install count. If the app only has a small number of reviews and installs, give it a few days and check back to see the app survives internet scrutiny.
Fortunately, Google has a means to automatically reach out to any Android phone and purge apps that it has found to be harmful, but it’s much safer and less stressful to avoid being victimized in the first place.