Combating Halloween malware threats

GFI Software released tips for spotting and combating malware attacks and threats in the run up to Halloween. Halloween has now become firmly established as a family event in the UK as it has for so long in the US, with practices such as Trick-or-Treating, costumes and spooky decorations.

In line with its increased popularity, Halloween has also marked a significant increase in malware detection.

Scammers and malware writers take advantage of this period to trick unsuspecting members of the public with rogue apps, attachments, search engine poisoning and ad scams that divert those clicking on search results towards sites infected with malware or peddling fake apps that will compromise a PC.

“Major holidays always present a big challenge for the public and security software companies, but Halloween has become a particular flashpoint in the calendar. The combination of things that people will search for online at this time of year presents multiple opportunities for scammers to try to compromise personal data and corrupt computers,” said Jovi Umawing, communications and research analyst at GFI Software.

“It is paramount that people are vigilant and approach anything with a Halloween theme with caution, so that genuine emails and websites can be enjoyed, and the tricks, don’t undermine the online treats.”

Every year we see a number of classic scams and pieces of malware reappear in a bid to trick the general public. Unfortunately, these scams are all trick and no treat:

Shopping scams – the Halloween gift card offer has appeared via email in each of the last three years, offering free £250 Halloween gift cards when users sign up for a new credit card, often from a high interest rate card issuer. This is in fact a scam to harvest your personal and financial information for criminal use at a later date. The data doesn’t even go to the legitimate credit card issuer referenced.

The Dancing Skeleton – Joke emails and comedy animations are regularly circulated by unsuspecting users before and during Halloween. The biggest classic is the Dancing Skeleton, an email encouraging users to visit a website, where they can download a desktop widget that will place a comedy dancing skeleton on their desktop. Whilst the app is real, it often comes infected with malware such as the Storm Trojan. The Halloween.exe is part of a malicious botnet that allows remote attackers to access and control infected computers, accessing personal information and sending yet more infected spam.

The fake party invite – with Halloween parties growing in popularity in the UK, party invites by email do not appear out of place initially. However, the fake Halloween party invite is a regularly exploited scam used by criminals to launch a malware attack or deploy a botnet Trojan. Even if you receive an invite from known individual, approach with caution and check all links before clicking on them.

Users also need to be very careful of links distributed via social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The growing problem with accounts being compromised, as well as the ease and speed with which these services allow unknown parties to share links with millions of people, raises concerns as often these services are not always blocked by web filtering solutions.

Also, as many scammers disguise the true destination of a web address using URL shortening services such as bit.ly and Twitter’s own URL shortener, it is often unclear where a link will take you.

The key is to check links before clicking on them, especially when not coming from trusted contacts and from accounts that you are not convinced have not been hacked. If in doubt, never click on a link, it is always best to be safe than sorry.

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Combating Halloween malware threats