After quite a few months of trying to raise public awareness of the problem of fake support cold-calling both here [and elsewhere, it's good to see other vendors also starting to publicize the issue. I've previously cited an article by Symantec's Orla Cox that describes one exchange of civilities with one of the scammers, and Sophos' Paul Ducklin has also recently taken up the cudgels. I have a paper on the topic under review at the moment, and I'll announce it here when it's generally available, but in the meantime, my colleague Josep Albors has also been looking at the topic, and while we haven't yet seen reports of Spanish language scam calls, he plans to go deeper into it. In the meantime, here's a rough translation of his recent blog.
FAKE PRODUCT SUPPORT CALLS
The techniques used by malware authors to disseminate their creations know no limits. One familiar proof of this is fake antivirus, where applications are passed off as security solutions but in reality are more likely to infect users and steal credit card data if they are ill-advised enough to buy into a rogue solution. This type of malware is one of the most common nowadays, and there are many users who fall into this trap.
Recently, it seems that this strategy has evolved beyond cyberspace, and for some time now,, we have been seeing reports of phonecalls made offering fake technical support. This service is advertised as if it were a legitimate concern, misusing the brands of authentic companies such as Microsoft, Adobe, or even ESET and other anti-virus publishers. If the scammer wins the confidence of the computer user who receives the call, it is very likely that he will accept the service and provide credit card data and/or install some malicious or at least dubious software, as guided instructed by the telephone operator.
David Harley, ESET Senior Research Fellow, has spoken at length about this sort of deception, and even reports receiving a call from one of the scammers. As he says, this social engineering technique takes advantage of the growing need for novice users for technical support when faced with computer mishaps. Nowadays, the majority of people use a computer for one purpose or another relatively frequently, but unfortunately, not all have the skills to deal with all the different problems as they arise, malware removal and driver installation being particularly common and potentially vexatious examples.
If anything good can be learned from this new type of deception, it is that fraudsters have moved to offering fake antivirus and fake support services because they recognize that the general awareness of the need to secure systems is now a lot higher than it was a few years ago. From the laboratory of ESET at Ontinet.com, we encourage all those who wish to increase their knowledge about security to stay informed with blogs like this and to take steps to ensure that they use only legitimate security solutions to protect their systems.
David Harley CITP FBCS CISSP
ESET Senior Research Fellow