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OIT warns of anti-virus scam

Caitlyn Kalscheur | Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Computer users beware — the Office of Information Technologies (OIT) has launched a campaign to warn students against fake anti-virus scams that are causing problems on computers across campus.

“Fake anti-virus attacks are when a pop-up from an unknown anti-virus program occurs and tells the user that it has discovered malware and needs to clear your computer of a potential virus,” David Seidl, Information Security Program manager, said.

But the trick is that the anti-virus is actually a virus itself that aims at getting credit card information from unsuspecting users, he said.

“What happens is that the user clicks on the pop-up and allows the virus to install itself on their computer,” Seidl said. “Once the virus is installed, it says it found malware on your computer and that you must pay a certain amount of money to get rid of it. Then, it takes your credit card information.

“These programs prey on a user’s fear they’re infected.”

Seidl said OIT launched to program to benefit students and faculty.

“The first thing is to be aware,” Seidl said. “The pop-up will look like it’s from your anti-virus software, but it’s not. It will often have a name like, ‘Anti-virus 2010′ or something generic.”

Once someone identifies the pop-up as a virus, there is a simple step they can take to work against it, he said.

“The first thing a user should do once they have identified the potential attack is to hit ‘control+alt+delete’ and then kill their browser,” he said. “The entire box is a clickable window, so if the user hits anywhere in the pop-up, the program will open and begin installing.”

Seidl said students can also decrease their chances of being attacked by having a safe anti-virus program, making sure their current browser and operating systems are up-to-date and practicing safe browsing habits.

“OIT provides a free anti-virus program, available on the Web site,” Seidl said. “We have done technical protections, but the best protection is to get users not to click on the fake anti-virus pop-ups.”

Seidl said OIT launched the campaign in response to an increase in Help Desk calls regarding viruses.

“It has definitely been showing up more, and Help Desk calls have gone up recently,” Seidl said. “Every year for the past three years, new versions of this have come out. As we see new versions and increased infections, we want to be sure people deal with it.”

Seidl said his top suggestion for computer safety is to be aware of the threats that exist.

“Knowing the name of your anti-virus software and the risk of the sites you visit is important,” he said.

He also suggested updating the computer regularly and maintaining confidentiality.

“Do all updates,” Seidl said. “Most people I know click ‘ignore’ when the updating windows come up, but more and more attacks are happening on outdated browsers.

“Last, never provide personal information where you shouldn’t. If you don’t provide that information, they can’t get it. For example, the Help Desk would never ask for your password, and no legitimate site should ask for a password unless you’re logging in.”

Seidl encouraged students to visit secure.nd.edu/fakeav for more information on fake anti-virus scams and he advised any students with questions or concerns to go to the OIT Web site or the OIT Help Desk.