Microsoft kicks fake security software off 400,000 PCs

In the second month of a campaign against fake security software, Microsoft has booted the rogue application “Antivirus 2009” from almost 400,000 PCs, the company recently claimed.

December’s version of the Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT), a free utility that Microsoft pushes to Windows users as part of Patch Tuesday, targeted one of the most popular phony security app, Antivirus 2009. According to Microsoft, the MSRT erased the fake from over 394,000 PCs in the first nine days after it released this month’s edition on Dec. 9.

Last month, Microsoft trumpeted a similar cleaning operation against another family of bogus security software that it said had purged nearly a million machines of programs like “Advanced Antivirus,” “Ultimate Antivirus 2008” and “XPert Antivirus.”

December’s campaign targeted a different family — dubbed “W32/FakeXPA” by Microsoft — that includes fake security software going by names such as “Antivirus XP,” “AntivirusXP 2008” and “Antivirus 2009.”

Windows users increasingly have been plagued with worthless security software as criminals bundle the money makers with other malware or seed significant users with waves of spam touting the programs. According to one researcher, cybercrooks can pull in as much as $5 million a year by installing the rogue programs on PCs, then dunning users with infection claims and constant pop-ups until the victims pay $40 or $50 to purchase the useless applications.

Microsoft also aimed the December version of MSRT at an affiliated piece of malware, called “W32/Yektel,” that works alongside W32FakeXPA and is often bundled with the phony security software.

Classified by Microsoft as a Trojan horse, Yektel takes advantage of users’ worries about browser security by inserting false warnings into Internet Explorer. Those warnings, explained Microsoft researcher Hamish O’Dea in a post to the company’s malware protection center blog two weeks ago, appear at random and mimic IE’s own legitimate drop-down alerts.

Newer variations of the Yektel Trojan go a step further, and insert phony warnings into Google search results, said O’Dea. Whenever these even-sneakier versions detect IE rendering a URL that includes “google,” it inserts a fake message that reads “Google has detected unregistered Antivirus 2009 copy on your computer. Google recommends you activate Antivirus 2009 to protect your PC from malicious intrusions from the Internet.”
The links from Yektel’s IE and Google warnings, of course, take users to a Web site where users are urged to pay $50 to register Antivirus 2009.

Windows users can download the MSRT manually from Microsoft’s Web site or via the Windows Update service.

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Strategies for Driving more Business

I have a background in web analytics so I’m interested in articles about increasing web traffic.  Your company website is the cheapest way to inform people about your business.  I have spent many hours working on our new site that will launch in a few weeks.  I can’t wait as I know it will help all of CMIT get more clients.

Two articles from Entrepreneur magazine (October) caught my attention.  “Get Noticed” was the first article which gave 21 low cost marketing moves.  Number one on the list was blogging.  So here I am, blogging.  Blogging is free so why not.  Another tip is to be a contributor for a blog that is already well established.  Some other key moves is to survey your customers to learn more about what they want.  Also, reward referrals.  This is a low cost way to get good business.  Number 17 on the list is to exploit the web and get your company on del.icio.us.com, Digg.com, Squidoo.com and Yelp.com.  I know CMIT has not done this, I haven’t even heard of Squidoo.  Number 20 is to create a customer advisory board.  This is a great idea for CMIT.  I could use this customer advisory board to discuss new product ideas!

The other article was named Strategies.  The section on “Clicks, Stick the Landing Page” was a great reminder for how important first impressions are.  The landing page needs to match the marketing campaign or ad that drove them to your site.  The page should look professional with one call to action.  It is a good idea to give away something like a free report or white paper.  You should create a different landing page for each category of ads you are running.  You can keep the page simple by targeting different segments with unique messaging for each.

The web is not going away so all businesses need to take the time to make sure their site represents the image they want to portray.