Fighting Back Against Malware

In last week’s advisory, I brought the DarkHotel hacking scam to your attention.

This week, I want to talk a bit about fighting back against malware (malicious software) if it does get planted on your computer.

After all, that’s the intent behind most computer scams – computer criminals want to secretly plant software on your computer so that they can steal personal and financial information or use your computer to gain access to other computer systems as part of a botnet.

But before I call attention to another prolific computer-related scam as a bridge to discussing an easy and free way to combat malware, I want to let you know that the November edition of the Self-Reliance Institute Newsletter is now available. Just click HERE for your free copy.

OK. Let’s talk about fighting malware by using the example of the tech support scams I recently discussed in a Privacy and Security Alert.

In that alert, I mentioned that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently had some success in going after and prosecuting some of the scam artists involved in conducting tech support scams.

And I used this information from the FTC’s recent announcement,“FTC Obtains Court Orders Temporarily Shutting Down Massive Tech Support Scams,” to illustrate what the scam is, the size of the scam, and how it is conducted.

At the request of the Federal Trade Commission and the State of Florida, a federal court has temporarily shut down two massive telemarketing operations that conned tens of thousands of consumers out of more than $120 million by deceptively marketing computer software and tech support services. The orders also temporarily freeze the defendants’ assets and place the businesses under the control of a court-appointed receiver.

According to complaints filed by the FTC, since at least 2012, the defendants have used software designed to trick consumers into thinking there are problems with their computers, then subjected those consumers to high-pressure deceptive sales pitches for tech support products and services to fix their non-existent computer problems.

These operations prey on consumers’ lack of technical knowledge with deceptive pitches and high-pressure tactics to sell useless software and services to the tune of millions of dollars,’ said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. …

According to the FTC’s complaints, each scam starts with computer software that purports to enhance the security or performance of consumers’ computers. Typically, consumers download a free trial version of software that runs a computer system scan. The defendants’ software scan always identifies numerous errors on consumers’ computers, regardless of whether the computer has any performance problems.

The software then tells consumers that, in order to fix the identified errors, they will have to purchase the paid version of the software. In reality, the FTC alleges, the defendants pitching the software designed these highly deceptive scans to identify hundreds or even thousands of “errors” that have nothing to do with a computer’s performance or security. After consumers purchase the “full” version of the software at a cost of $29 to $49, the software directs them to call a toll-free number to “activate” the software.

When consumers call the activation number, however, they are connected to telemarketers who try to sell computer repair services and computer software using deceptive scare tactics to deceive consumers into paying for unneeded computer support services.

According to the FTC, the telemarketers tell consumers that, in order to activate the software they have just purchased, they must provide the telemarketers with remote access to their computers. The telemarketers then launch into a scripted sales pitch that includes showing consumers various screens on their computers, such as the Windows Event Viewer, and falsely claiming that these screens show signs that consumers’ computers have significant damage. After convincing consumers that their computers need immediate help, the telemarketers then pitch security software and tech support services that cost as much as $500.” [Emphasis added]

So that’s how the scam operates.

But what do you do if you think you or a loved one have been victimized by this scam or, equally as important, you just want to check your computer to see if malware from another source has been surreptitiously installed.

Well, there are many different and reputable malware detection products available. Some cost a little and some cost a lot.

The one I use and prefer is free.

It’s called Malwarebytes Anti-Malware and it’s available fromMalwarebytes.

On the home page you’ll see a link for the Free Version Download. That’s what I use and it has done an excellent job for me over the years. (I do not get paid to recommend this product)

Remember, I said there are many different and reputable malware detection products available. So, if you have one installed and are happy with it, that’s great!

I’m just letting you know what I use in case you don’t have a malware detection program or – and I do recommend this to all of my private clients – you want to run a second program to see if it catches anything your primary program didn’t.

As the saying goes, two heads – or, in this case, malware detection programs – are better than one.

OK, I hope that’s helpful. And please, use the free version. Don’t feel you need to purchase anything while at Malwarebytes.

Please write me with any questions or comments.

Have you or a loved one had someone call with a Tech Support Scam? What other scams are you seeing or hearing about?

Let me know at [email protected]

Thank you for your time today.

Be safe, secure and free!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Rob Douglas – Former Washington DC Private Detective

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