Category: Trojan


Bitcoins, other digital currencies stolen in massive ‘Pony’ botnet attack

Cybercriminals have infected the computers of digital currency holders, using a virus known as “Pony” to make off with account credentials, bitcoins and other digital currencies in one of the largest attacks on the technology, security services firm Trustwave said.

The attack was carried out using the “Pony” botnet, a group of infected computers that take orders from a central command-and-control server to steal private data. A small group of cybercriminals were likely behind the attack, Trustwave said.

Over 700,000 credentials, including website, email and FTP account log-ins, were stolen in the breach. The computers belonging to between 100,000 and 200,000 people were infected with the malware, Trustwave said.

The Pony botnet has been identified as the source of some other recent attacks, including the theft of some 2 million log-ins for sites like Facebook, Google and Twitter. But the latest exploit is unique due to its size and because it also targeted virtual wallets storing bitcoins and other digital currencies like Litecoins and Primecoins.

Eighty-five wallets storing the equivalent of $220,000, as of Monday, were broken into, Trustwave said. That figure is low because of the small number of people using Bitcoin now, the company said, though instances of Pony attacks against Bitcoin are likely to increase as adoption of the technology grows. The attackers behind the Pony botnet were active between last September and mid-January.

“As more people use digital currencies over time, and use digital wallets to store them, it’s likely we’ll see more attacks to capture the wallets,” said Ziv Mador, director of security research at Chicago-based Trustwave.

Most of the wallets that were broken into were unencrypted, he said.

“The motivation for stealing wallets is obviously high—they contain money,” Trustwave said in a blog post describing the attack. Stealing bitcoins might be appealing to criminals because exchanging them for another currency is easier than stealing money from a bank, Trustwave said.

There have been numerous cyberattacks directed at Bitcoin over the last year or so as its popularity grew. Last year, a piece of malware circulating over Skype was identified as running a Bitcoin mining application. Bitcoin mining is a process by which computers monitor the Bitcoin network to validate transactions.

“Like with many new technologies, malware can be an issue,” said a spokesman for the Bitcoin Foundation, a trade group that promotes the use of Bitcoin, via email. Wallet security should improve, the spokesman said, as more security features are introduced, like multisignature transactions, he said.

Digital currency users can go to this Trustwave site to see if their wallets and credentials have been stolen.

Source: PC World

Here Is How Hackers Can Spy On Your MacBook Camera

Just a few months ago, a story broke about how Samsung smart TVs were susceptible to remote spying by users that hack into the built-in camera. Now, new research demonstrates that MacBook webcams are just as susceptible to being hacked and spied-on as televisions.

Researchers at John Hopkins University discovered exactly how the hacking process is possible without signaling for the light adjacent to the camera to turn on, which is usually an indication that the camera is on.

The primary researcher, computer science professor Stephen Checkoway, published a paper in conjunction with graduate student Matthew Brocker entitled “iSeeYou: Disabling the MacBook Webcam Indicator LED” that contains the detailed process of remotely spying on others’ laptops. Although the researchers could only prove their methods worked with MacBooks created before 2008, they suggest that the process could be successfully repeated with newer computers.

The Washington Post recently ran an article detailing the story of Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf, who received nude photographs of herself via email. After an FBI investigation, the authorities discovered that Wolf’s former high school classmate Jared Abrahams had hacked into her computer, as well as the computers of several other women, and had been spying on them via their webcam.

The case of Wolf as well as the new research from John Hopkins raises several issues about privacy and security in the modern world. While Apple’s light was intended as a security feature to alert users when their camera was on, it appears that hackers have found an easily solution to disable that feature. According to The Washington Post, the FBI has been using similar hacking technology for years.

Source: PRPick.com

Sophisticated botnet steals more than $47M by infecting PCs and phones

A new version of the Zeus trojan—a longtime favorite of criminals conducting online financial fraud—has been used in attacks on over 30,000 electronic banking customers in Europe, infecting both their personal computers and smartphones. The sophisticated attack is designed to circumvent banks’ use of two-factor authentication for transactions by intercepting messages sent by the bank to victims’ mobile phones.

The malware and botnet system, dubbed “Eurograbber” by security researchers from Check Point Software and Versafe, was first detected in Italy earlier this year. It has since spread throughout Europe. Eurograbber is responsible for more than $47 million in fraudulent transfers from victims’ bank accounts, stealing amounts from individual victims that range from 500 Euros (about $650) to 25,000 Euros (about $32,000), according to a report published Wednesday.

The malware attack begins when a victim clicks on a malicious link, possibly sent as part of a phishing attack. Clicking on the link directs them to a site that attempts to download one or more trojans: customized versions of Zeus and its SpyEye and CarBerp variants that allow attackers to record Web visits and then inject HTML and JavaScript into the victim’s browser. The next time the victim visits their bank website, the trojans capture their credentials and launch a JavaScript that spoofs a request for a “security upgrade” from the site, offering to protect their mobile device from attack. The JavaScript captures their phone number and their mobile operating system information—which are used in the second level of Eurograbber’s attack.

With the phone number and platform information, the attacker sends a text message to the victim’s phone with a link to a site that downloads what it says is “encryption software” for the device. But it is, in fact, “Zeus in the mobile” (ZITMO) malware—a Trojan crafted for the Android and BlackBerry mobile operating systems that injects itself between the user and the mobile browser and SMS messaging software. With both devices now compromised, the malware waits for the victim to access a bank account, and then immediately transfers a percentage of the victim’s balance to an account set up by the criminals running the botnet.

The malware then intercepts the confirmation text message sent by the bank, forwarding it to the trojan’s command and control server via a relay phone number. The server uses the message to confirm the transaction and withdraw the money. The same process happens every time the victim logs into their bank account, gradually withdrawing money without alerting the user.

Both Checkpoint and Versafe have added signature and behavior detection to their malware protection products that can block Eurograbber. Updating software that is a frequent target for Web “driveby download” exploits—such as Adobe Flash, Java, and Web browsers—can help prevent infection by the malware, as can a healthy amount of paranoia about clicking links in e-mails.

Source: Arstechnica

Latest Java software opens PCs to hackers: experts

Computer security firms are urging PC users to disable Java software in their browsers, saying the widely installed, free software from Oracle Corp opens machines to hacker attacks and there is no way to defend against them.

The warnings, which began emerging over the weekend from Rapid7, AlienVault and other cyber security firms, are likely to unnerve a PC community scrambling to fend off growing security threats from hackers, viruses and malware.

Researchers have identified code that attacks machines by exploiting a newly discovered flaw in the latest version of Java. Once in, a second piece of software called “Poison Ivy” is released that lets hackers gain control of the infected computer, said Jaime Blasco, a research manager with AlienVault Labs.

Several security firms advised users to immediately disable Java software — installed in some form on the vast majority of personal computers around the world — in their Internet browsers. Oracle says that Java sits on 97 percent of enterprise desktops.

“If exploited, the attacker will be able to perform any action the victim can perform on the victim’s machine,” said Tod Beardsley, an engineering manager with Rapid7’s Metasploit division.

Computers can get infected without their users’ knowledge simply by a visit to any website that has been compromised by hackers, said Joshua Drake, a senior research scientist with the security firm Accuvant.

Java is a computer language that enables programmers to write one set of code to run on virtually any type of machine. It is widely used on the Internet so that Web developers can make their sites accessible from multiple browsers running on Microsoft Windows PCs or Macs from Apple Inc.

An Oracle spokeswoman said she could not immediately comment on the matter.

Security experts recommended that users not enable Java for universal use on their browsers. Instead, they said it was safest to allow use of Java browser plug-ins on a case-by-case basis when prompted for permission by trusted programs such as GoToMeeting, a Web-based collaboration tool from Citrix Systems Inc

Rapid7 has set up a web page that tells users whether their browser has a Java plug-in installed that is vulnerable to attack: www.isjavaexploitable.com

Source: Reuters

Ryan says: I would recommend updating to the latest version of Java.  The latest version of Java Runtime Environment JRE-64-bit is here. For users with older computers, try downloading the latest version in 32-bit.

Researchers Say They Took Down World’s Third-Largest Botnet

On Wednesday, computer security experts took down Grum, the world’s third-largest botnet, a cluster of infected computers used by cybercriminals to send spam to millions of people. Grum, computer security experts say, was responsible for roughly 18 percent of global spam, or 18 billion spam messages a day.

Computer security experts blocked the botnet’s command and control servers in the Netherlands and Panama on Tuesday. But later that day, Grum’s architects had already set up seven new command and control centers in Russia and Ukraine. FireEye, a computer security company based in Milpitas, Calif., said it worked with its counterparts in Russia and with SpamHaus, a British organization that tracks and blocks spam, to take down those command and control centers Wednesday morning.

The researchers said they were able to vanquish the botnet by tracing Grum back to its servers and alerting Internet service providers to shut those computers down.

Technologists have taken the lead in combating digital crime rather than waiting for law enforcement authorities to act. Earlier this year, Microsoft employees assisted federal marshals in a raid on botnet servers in Pennsylvania and Illinois. Those servers were used by criminals to run Zeus, a botnet that siphoned people’s personal information, like online bank account passwords and credit card numbers, from infected computers. Almost simultaneously, a separate group of cybersecurity researchers in San Francisco were busy eliminating another botnet, called Kelihos.b, which was used to send spam.

While computer security companies are quick to publicize botnet takedowns, their gains tend to be temporary. The blocking of Kelihos.b lasted less than a week before a modified version of the botnet started infecting computers. Microsoft’s takedown of Waledac, another spam botnet in 2010, lasted only as long as the time it took its creators to modify its architecture slightly and create a new botnet.

So what’s to say Grum’s creators will not just run their botnet from a new command and control center tomorrow?

“It’s not about creating a new server. They’d have to start an entirely new campaign and infect hundreds of thousands of new machines to get something like Grum started again,” said Atif Mushtaq, a computer security specialist at FireEye.”They’d have to build from scratch. Because of how the malware was written for Grum, when the master server is dead, the infected machines can no longer send spam or communicate with a new server.”

Source: New York Times

Symantec says hackers stole source code in 2006

Symantec Corp said a 2006 breach led to the theft of the source code to its flagship Norton security software, reversing its previous position that it had not been hacked.

The world’s biggest maker of security software had previously said that hackers stole the code from a third party, but corrected that statement on Tuesday after an investigation found that Symantec’s own networks had been infiltrated.

The unknown hackers obtained the source code, or blueprint for its software, to Norton Antivirus Corporate Edition, Norton Internet Security, Norton Utilities, Norton GoBack and pcAnywhere, Symantec spokesman Cris Paden said.

Last week, the hackers released the code to a 2006 version of Norton Utilities and have said they planned to release code to its antivirus software on Tuesday. It was not clear why the source code was being released six years after the theft.

Source code includes instructions written in computer programming languages as well as comments that engineers share to explain the design of their software. For example, a file released last week from the source code of a 2006 version of Norton Utilities included a comment that said “Make all changes in local entry, so we don’t screw up the real entry if we back up early.”

Companies typically heavily guard their source code, which is considered the crown jewels of most software makers. At some companies access is granted on an as-needed basis, with programmers allowed to view code only if it is related to the tasks they are assigned.

The reason for all the secrecy is that companies fear rivals could use the code to figure out the “secret sauce” behind their technology and that hackers could use it to plan attacks.

Paden said that the 2006 attack presented no threat to customers using the most recent versions of Symantec’s software.

“They are protected against any type of cyber attack that might materialize as a result of this code,” he said.

Yet Laura DiDio, an analyst with ITIC who helps companies evaluate security software, said that Symantec’s customers should be concerned about the potential for hackers to use the stolen source code to figure out how to defeat some of the protections in Symantec’s software.

“What we are seeing from Symantec is ‘Let’s put the best public face on this,'” she said. “Unless Symantec wrote all new code from scratch, there are going to be elements of source code in there that are still relevant today.”

Symantec said earlier this month that its own network had not been breached when the source code was taken. But Paden said on Tuesday that an investigation into the matter had revealed that the company’s networks had indeed been compromised.

“We really had to dig way back to find out that this was actually part of a source code theft,” he said. “We are still investigating exactly how it was stolen.”

Paden also said that customers of pcAnywhere, a program that facilitates remote access of PCs, may face “a slightly increased security risk” as a result of the exposure.

“Symantec is currently in the process of reaching out to our pcAnywhere customers to make them aware of the situation and to provide remediation steps to maintain the protection of their devices and information.”

Ryan: This is one of the reasons I had been telling people for years not to use Symantec programs. I knew they had been hacked because Viruses had been disabling out Norton on machines I had been fixing and I was seeing a big trend with this.

Source: Reuters / Yahoo! News

Smartphone scams: Owners warned over malware apps

Get Safe Online says that there has been an increase in smartphone malware as the market has grown.

Criminals are typically creating Trojan copies of reputable apps and tricking users into installing them.

Once on the phone, the app can secretly generate cash for criminals through premium rate text messages.

Get Safe Online, a joint initiative between the government, police and industry, said it was concerned that users of smartphones, such as Android devices, were not taking steps to protect their devices.

Get Safe Online said fraudsters are designing apps which generate cash secretly in the background without the owner realising until their monthly bill.

A typical scam involves an app designed to send texts to premium rate services without the user knowing.

Apps can appear to be bona fide software or sometimes masquerade as stripped down free versions of well-known games.

Rik Ferguson, a hacking researcher with internet security firm Trend Micro, said: “This type of malware is capable of sending a steady stream of text messages to premium rate numbers – in some instances we’ve seen one being sent every minute.

“With costs of up to £6 per message, this can be extremely lucrative. The user won’t know this is taking place, even if they happen to be using the device at the same time, as the activity takes place within the device’s back-end infrastructure.”

Online banking

Another major security firm, Symantec, recently warned in its annual threat assessment that Android phones were at risk and that it had found at least six varieties of malicious software.

Minister for Cyber Security Francis Maude said: “More and more people are using their smartphone to transmit personal and financial information over the internet, whether it’s for online banking, shopping or social networking.

“Research from Get Safe Online shows that 17% of smartphone users now use their phone for money matters and this doesn’t escape the notice of criminals.”

Tony Neate, head of Get Safe Online, urged people to check their phone’s security.

“Mobile phones are very personal. I have talked to people who are never more than a yard away from their mobile phone. Because of that attachment, they start to think that they are in a way invincible.

“It’s the end user that picks up the tab – it’s your phone that incurs the costs. Whether you have pay-as-you-go or a monthly account, that money is going to come from the account and go to the criminal.”

Source: BBC News

Researcher Says That 8% of Android Apps Are Leaking Private Information

Android has had its fair share of malware problems. Whenever malware are detected, Google reacts swiftly and remove them. However, according to security researcher Neil Daswani, around 8% of the apps on the Android market are leaking private user data.

Neil Daswani, who is also the CTO of security firm Dasient, says that they have studied around 10,000 Android apps and have found that 800 of them are leaking private information of the user to an unauthorized server. Neil Daswani is scheduled to present the full findings at the Black Hat Conference in Las Vegas which starts on July 30th.

The Dasient researchers also found out that 11 of the apps they have examined are sending unwanted SMS messages.

Google needs to take charge

This malware problem on Android has become too much. One of the main reason that we see malicious apps in the market is because of the lack of regulation in the apps that get into the Android Market.

Sure, the lack of regulation can be good. It means that developers can make their apps without worrying if Google will accept their apps or not. It fits into the pre-existing application distribution model where anyone can develop and publish their own apps.

However, this comes at a price – the malware problem. Yes, most of the problems with these malicious apps can be avoided if only users read the permission requirements of the apps. But, what percentage of the users actually read the permission requirements of all the apps they download?

I think that it is time that Google make approval of the apps a requirement before it gets into the Market. They do not need to do it like Apple, but a basic security check before an app gets on the market will be nice.

If nothing is done about and this problem is allowed to grow, it will end up killing the platform.

Ryan:  I’ve been using Lookout Mobile Security on Android OS for awhile now and it appears to be working great. You can find it here.

Source: Digitizor

 

Where Have All the Spambots Gone?

First, the good news:  The past year has witnessed the decimation of spam volume, the arrests of several key hackers, and the high-profile takedowns of some of the Web’s most notorious botnets. The bad news? The crooks behind these huge crime machines are fighting back — devising new approaches designed to resist even the most energetic takedown efforts.

The volume of junk email flooding inboxes each day is way down from a year ago, as much as a 90 percent decrease according to some estimates. Symantec reports that spam volumes hit their high mark in July 2010, when junk email purveyors were blasting in excess of 225 billion spam messages per day. The company says daily spam volumes now hover between 25 and 50 billion missives daily. Anti-spam experts from Cisco Systems are tracking a similarly precipitous decline, from 300 billion per day in June 2010 to just 40 billion in June 2011.

There may be many reasons for the drop in junk email volumes, but it would be a mistake to downplay efforts by law enforcement officials and security experts.  In the past year, authorities have taken down some of the biggest botnets and apprehended several top botmasters. Most recently, the FBI worked with dozens of ISPs to kneecap the Coreflood botnet. In April, Microsoft launched an apparently successful sneak attack against Rustock, a botnet once responsible for sending 40 percent of all junk email.

In December 2010, the FBI arrested a Russian accused of running the Mega-D botnet. In October 2010, authorities in the Netherlands arrested the alleged creator of the Bredolab botnet and dismantled huge chunks of the botnet. A month earlier, Spamit.com, one of the biggest spammer affiliate programs ever created, was shut down when its creator, Igor Gusev, was named the world’s number one spammer and went into hiding. In August 2010, researchers clobbered the Pushdo botnet, causing spam from that botnet to slow to a trickle.

But botmasters are not idly standing by while their industry is dismantled. Analysts from Kaspersky Lab this week published research on a new version of the TDSS malware (a.k.a. TDL), a sophisticated malicious code family that includes a powerful rootkit component that compromises PCs below the operating system level, making it extremely challenging to detect and remove. The latest version of TDSS — dubbed TDL-4 has already infected 4.5 million PCs; it uses a custom encryption scheme that makes it difficult for security experts to analyze traffic between hijacked PCs and botnet controllers. TDL-4 control networks also send out instructions to infected PCs using a peer-to-peer network that includes multiple failsafe mechanisms.

Getting infected with TDL-4 may not be such a raw deal if your computer is already heavily infected with other malware: According to Kaspersky, the bot will remove threats like the ZeuS Trojan and 20 other malicious bot programs from host PCs.  “TDSS scans the registry, searches for specific file names, blacklists the addresses of the command and control centers of other botnets and prevents victim machines from contacting them,” wrote Kaspersky analysts Sergey Golovanov and Igor Soumenkov.

The evolution of the TLd-4 bot is part of the cat-and-mouse game played by miscreants and those who seek to thwart their efforts. But law enforcement agencies and security experts also are evolving by sharing more information and working in concert, said Alex Lanstein, a senior security researcher at FireEye, a company that has played a key role in several coordinated botnet takedowns in the past two years.

“Takedowns can have an effect of temporarily providing relief from general badness, be it click fraud, spam, or credential theft, but lasting takedowns can only be achieved by putting criminals in silver bracelets,” Lanstein said. “The Mega-D takedown, for example, was accomplished through trust relationships with registrars, but the lasting takedown was accomplished by arresting the alleged author, who is awaiting trial. In the interim, security companies are getting better and better about working with law enforcement, which is what happened with Rustock.”

Attacking the botnet infrastructure and pursuing botmasters are crucial components of any anti-cybercrime strategy: TDSS, for example, is believed to be tied to affiliate programs that pay hackers to distribute malware.

Unfortunately, not many security experts or law enforcement agencies say they are focusing attention on another major weapon in battling e-crime: Targeting the financial instruments used by these criminal organizations.

Some of the best research on the financial side of the cybercrime underworld is coming from academia, and there are signs that researchers are beginning to share information about individuals and financial institutions that are facilitating the frauds. Recent studies of the pay-per-install, rogue anti-virus and online pharmacy industries reveal a broad overlap of banks and processors that have staked a claim in the market for handling these high-risk transactions. Earlier this week I published data suggesting that the market for rogue pharmaceuticals could be squashed if banks and credit card companies paid closer attention to transactions destined for a handful of credit and debit card processors. Next week, I will publish the first in a series of blog posts that look at the connections between the financial instruments used by rogue Internet pharmacies and those of the affiliate networks that push rogue anti-virus or “scareware.”

Source: Krebs on Security

Fake Anti-Virus Software Targets Firefox Users

One of the most malicious types of Malware out there is the Fake Anti-Virus. These malware programs get onto your machine, post as anti-virus software, warn you that your computer is full of viruses and needs to be cleaned. Of course, it’s cleaned by entering your credit card number to buy the “anti-virus program.” Most people aren’t fooled by these programs, but they’re nasty anyway since they often make it difficult to access your real anti-malware programs.

Well, if you use Firefox on a Windows PC to surf the web, be warned. There’s a new species of Fake Anti-Virus malware targeting Firefox users. Sophos reports that it directs you to a screen that looks exactly like Windows Update — except that when you click the button to update your computer, you get a nice, tasty dose of malware instead.

The page is nearly an exact replica of the real Microsoft Update page with one major exception… It only comes up when surfing from Firefox on Windows. The real Microsoft Update requires Internet Explorer.

The same site was also hosting the traditional Windows XP explorer scanner we have seen for years, as well as a new Windows 7 scanner.

Similar to spam messages that have corrected their grammar and use correct imagery and CSS, the attackers selling fake anti-virus are getting more professional.

They use high quality graphics and are using information from our UserAgent strings that are sent by the browser to customize your malware experience.

As always when surfing the web, if something pops up, always be leery. And always verify what site you’re downloading any file from. Especially if you didn’t initiate the download.

Source: Forbes

Fake security software takes aim at Mac users

Scammers are distributing fake security software aimed at the Mac by taking advantage of the news that al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden has been killed by U.S. forces, a security researcher said today.

A security firm that specializes in Mac software called the move “a very big step forward” for malware makers targeting Apple’s users.

Phony antivirus software, dubbed “rogueware” by security experts, has long plagued people running Microsoft Windows, but this is the first time scammers have targeted the Mac with a sophisticated, professional-looking security application, said Peter James, a spokesman for Intego, a Mac-only antivirus company headquartered in France.

“This is indeed a very big step forward for Mac malware,” said James.

The program, dubbed MAC Defender, is similar to existing “rogueware,” the term for bogus security software that claims a personal computer is heavily infected with malware. Once installed, such software nags users with pervasive pop-ups and fake alerts until they fork over a fee to purchase the worthless program.

Until now, rogueware has been exclusively targeting Windows PCs.

That’s changed, according to Kurt Baumgartner, a senior malware researcher with Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab, who today said that one group distributing MAC Defender has also been actively spreading Windows rogueware.

“They have been revving up for this for months,” said Baumgartner of the work to prep MAC Defender.

Last month, Baumgartner had reported that “.co.cc” domains — which are often used to spread malware and host attack code-infected Web sites — had begun to host fake security sites and deliver the “Best AntiVirus 2011” rogueware.

During his early-April sweep through the .co.cc domains, Baumgartner found a URL explicitly aimed at Macs: “antispyware-macbook(dot)co(dot)cc”.

“It is very odd that this group is marketing ‘Fast Windows Antivirus 2011’ from ‘macbook’ domains,” Baumgartner said at the time in a blog post.

Today, Baumgartner said that a group using .co.cc domains was serving up fake security software for Macs as part of a broader campaign to trick Windows users into downloading and installing phony programs.

That campaign is currently exploiting the hot news topic of Bin Laden’s death to get people to click on links that redirect their browsers to the rogueware downloads. The scammers have used “black hat” SEO (search engine optimization) tactics to push links to rogueware higher on Google Images’ search results.

But that’s not the only way Mac owners have been duped into installing MAC Defender.

On Saturday — the day before President Obama announced the killing of Bin Laden — messages from infected users began appearing on Apple’s support forums.

“What is macdefender and why is it trying to install itself on my computer?” asked someone identified as “wamabahama” on April 30.

“FYI, my daughter said the program started after clicking on a ‘hair style photo,'” added “Mr. Fix It Home Services” on the same support thread. Others reported stumbling upon MAC Defender after searching for images of prom tuxedos or for pictures of a character in the movie “Princess Bride.”

On Monday, Intego published a detailed advisory about MAC Defender, noting that that it was “very well designed, and looks professional.”

Intego spotted MAC Defender and acquired samples on Saturday, said James, who pointed out that users must enter their administrative password to install the program. “So there’s still a social engineering angle here,” he said.

In fact, users see a generic Windows-oriented page when they first click a link to the rogueware. “They’re not even getting a Mac-specific page,” James said.

But unless users have Safari set not to automatically open files after downloading, MAC Defender’s installation screen opens without any user action. That’s been enough to con some into approving the install by typing their administrative password.

The program also relies on an unusual technique to make users pay up.

“Every few minutes, it opens a porn page in the browser,” said James of MAC Defender. “We think they’re doing this because most people will assume that that means they’ve got a virus on their Mac, and they need to get rid of it by paying for the program.”

MAC Defender demands $60-$80, depending on whether users select a one-year, two-year or lifetime “license.”

Ironically, there are only eight to 10 serial numbers that MAC Defender accepts, said James, and those are tucked into the binary file — unencrypted — where advanced users may be able to root them out.

James also called out the MAC Defender’s look and feel as an indicator that the criminals are serious about reaping profits from Mac users. “This was done by a very sophisticated Mac interface developer,” James said. “It’s an obvious sign that [scammers] are starting to target Macs. Earlier [scams], such as 2008’s MacSweeper just didn’t bother trying to look professional.”

Intego spotted MacSweeper, a fake Macintosh system cleaning program, in January 2008.

MAC Defender has also created some collateral damage: The rogueware uses the same name as a legitimate German company that develops Mac software.

“A new malware application named MAC Defender (MacDefender.app) for OS X surfaced a few days ago,” warned the MacDefender site. “If you see an application/installer named like this DO NOT DOWNLOAD/INSTALL it. I would never release an application named like this.”

The rogueware’s name choice was probably a twist on “PC Defender” and “Windows Defender,” phrases used in the titles of numerous Windows-based fake AV programs, said James.

Mac users running Safari can prevent MAC Defender from automatically opening after it downloads by unchecking the box marked “Open ‘safe’ files after downloading” at the bottom of the General tab in the browser’s Preferences screen.

Source: ComputerWorld