Information Security Advisory - Deceptive Downloads Pose a Rapidly Growing Threat

This notice is archived content and this information may no longer be accurate.
The good news, according to a new Microsoft security report, is that software-industry practices have improved enough so that hackers have a hard time creating new traditional attacks, such as Trojans and classic viruses.

The bad news is that the attackers have simply shifted tactics, relying more on malware dubbed deceptive downloads. These downloads accomplish their goals by fooling users; typically, they appear to download a helpful software plug-in or program while actually infecting the victim’s PC.

Massive growth
How troubling is the increase in deceptive downloads? Well, researchers say that when they added just two such programs to their malware list, the number of problems they detected rose an astonishing 300%. That was the largest quarterly increase ever noted by this group.

One deceptive download program singled out by experts is Rotbrow, also known as Browser Protector. It claims to protect a user's system from browser add-ons, but instead it installs unwanted software.

Another, dubbed Brantall, installs both legitimate advertising programs and other, malicious programs.

Low profile dangers
Here’s how these sneaky programs fly under the radar: Experts say that Browser Protector first hit the scene in 2011, but at first it exhibited no malicious behavior. Because of that, many security software vendors never configured their products to block or remove it.

Browser Protector’s malicious behavior crept in later, by which time it was too late for millions of users.

The lesson for you? For starters, make sure your PC has excellent security software, and that you keep that software updated with the latest definitions. And be very skeptical of any downloads, even those that seem harmless—you never know what may be lurking.

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