Adware Report: Fake Microsoft Security Trojan on the Loose!

Moral of the Story: Be very suspicious of any email that asks you to visit a website to update your computer, account information, or anything else...

Paul Roberts, IDG News Service

A new campaign by malicious hackers uses a Web site designed to look like Microsoft's Windows Update page to trick unwitting Internet users into infecting their computers with a Trojan horse remote access program, according to antivirus experts at Sophos.

The scam uses e-mail messages that appear to come from Microsoft to get recipients to visit a Web page that uploads the malicious program. Using the promise of Windows software patches to distribute malicious code isn't new. However, the latest attacks show that scammers are adopting strategies used by phishers to evade detection by gateway and desktop antivirus programs, says Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.

The attack was first detected on Thursday in Sophos's Vancouver, Canada, lab after it was distributed in a spam campaign. The messages have subject lines like "Update your windows machine" or "Urgent Windows Update," Cluley says.

What Happens

A link in the body of the e-mail message appears to take users to the Microsoft Windows Update Web site, but would actually forward them to a Web site operated by the attackers and install a Trojan horse program called DSNX-05, according to Sophos.

The Web site run by the hackers was registered to an Internet service provider in Toronto, but it has since been shut down. The site looked very much like the actual Microsoft Windows Update page and displayed Microsoft's corporate logo. One clue that something was amiss: The URL displayed in the Web browser address bar showed only the IP (Internet Protocol) address of the site, instead of the Windows Update address, Cluley says. Sophos does not know how many Internet users may have fallen for the ruse, he adds.

The method of attack is similar to the phishing identity theft attacks that have become common in the last year. As with many phishing attacks, gateway antivirus software does not detect the scam, because there is no malicious code in the e-mail. Desktop antivirus software with spam detection could spot the e-mail, but only if an antispam definition for the attack had been created and the user had updated the antispam definitions for their product, according to Cluley.

Real Update Coming April 12

Those behind the attack may have been trying to capitalize on anticipation of Microsoft's upcoming software security patch release next Tuesday, Cluley suggests. On Thursday, the Redmond, Washington, company said it intends to put out a number of security patches for its software.

"It's such a shame that, just as we're beginning to teach people more about security updates, cybercriminals are exploiting that," Cluley laments.

Sophos points out that Microsoft does not issue security warnings in the manner used by this attack. E-mail users should be on guard when receiving an unsolicited e-mail that contains an attachment or asks the reader to click a link to a Web page, Cluley says.

Although the Web page used in the latest attack has been disabled, those behind the scam could post the content in a new location and restart the attack, he warns, adding, "It's hard being an average Internet user. You just can't trust anyone."

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