Fake anti-virus software that
infects PCs with malicious code is a growing threat, according to a study by
Its analysis of 240 million web
pages over 13 months showed that fake anti-virus programs accounted for 15 per
cent of all malicious software.
Scammers trick people into
downloading programs by convincing them that their PC is infected with a virus.
Once installed, the software may
steal data or force people to make a payment to register the fake product.
“Surprisingly, many users fall
victim to these attacks and pay to register the fake [anti-virus software],”
the study said.
“To add insult to injury, Fake
anti-viruses often are bundled with other malware, which remains on a victim’s
computer regardless of whether a payment is made.”
The study analysed websites between
January 2009 and February 2010.
It discovered more than 11,000 web
domains involved in its distribution of fake anti-virus.
More than half of the fake software
was delivered via adverts, Google said.
Graham Cluley of security firm
Sophos, who was not involved in the study, said that one of the key ways that
hackers spread fake anti-virus was so-called black hat search engine
“The hackers track trending
news stories – such as the death of Michael Jackson,” he said.
“They then create websites
stuffed with content, which in many cases can appear on the first page of
Anyone clicking on the link, he
said, would be confronted with a pop-up with a link to fake anti-virus
Google uses tools to filter out
booby-trapped websites, but the firm said that hackers were managing to avoid
detection by moving between domains quickly.