Security experts AVG have released their quarterly threat report today, which illustrates the changing landscape of malware as our digitally connected lives continue to evolve.
As such, we will be producing a series of articles outlining each of the threats consumers are most at risk from at the moment.
As we continue to connect in different ways, cybercriminals are also adapting to the changes.
It’s not enough for many of the big boys to break into your bank account, or steal the odd credit card, these days they leave that to the small fry, the so-called “script kiddies.”
Cybercrooks want more, and they are looking to make big money from countless individuals and the advances in technology give them more varied opportunities to do so all the time.
The most prevalent threat online at the moment is from rogue AV scanners, which account for 29.95% of all threats discovered in the last three months.
These download a program to a victim’s machine, which tells them that they have a virus in a series of annoying pop-ups.
The (sometimes) unsuspecting victim will be directed to a site, where they are asked to pay a fee to clean the virus.
It is of course malicious at best and fraud at worst, whatever the case, what it isn’t is any form of legitimate antivirus or security product.
Whilst this is the biggest danger for PC users, crooks are now targeting other platforms and AVG say that many criminals have now made the switch to focus their efforts on Android devices.
However, another major worry is the activity seen centering on digital currency such as Zynga coin and Bitcoin, with the latter being the most concerning.
Bitcoin does away with the need for banks and can also be used by someone who doesn’t want to disclose their real identity.
The idea behind Bitcoin is that there won’t be any transaction fees charged, as there is no centralised control. It’s also designed to avoid the kind of fraud that other services might become victim to.
Basically, it’s an online alternative to cash. All transactions are stored on a user’s computer in their “wallet”, or hosted on an external website.
The problem is that, just like cash, once it is handed over there is no recourse for getting it back. When a transaction has been approved, that’s it, end of story, the money’s gone.
At the end of August 2011, Bitcoin capital was estimated to be worth $63,336,546.
This June, a compromised computer was blamed for the theft of 25,000 Bitcoins, which is equivalent to just under $500,000.
The attacked used the permissions on the infected computer to login and assign himself a large number of Bitcoins, which drove the market value down for other users too.
Another method for crooks targeting Bitcoin is to infect a remote computer and “mine” – the target computer doesn’t need to have an account themselves for this method.
This sometimes involves a botnet, typically a remote controller will be using a network of machines in order to trawl for currency. This is, however, time consuming and not likely to be utilised by the big players.
They would rather just steal digital wallets, somewhat like a “digital pickpocket”.
This is usually done by luring victims into installing malware through social engineering or some other method.
Once in, the attacker can then simply steal the wallet and once it is deleted from their system, the victim has no recourse and as once the “private keys” associated with that wallet is gone, they have no control over how coins are spent.
It is wise to ensure you have good protection therefore, if you use any form of digital currency. This would include the usual precautions such as AV protection, taking care what you click and adequately securing your digital wallet.