Stay Safe and Avoid Scammers

It’s the holiday season and people are shopping online and spending millions. Many are also playing games and for online bingo players the holiday season provides some of the best promotions of the year. Unfortunately cyber criminals see the holiday season as the most lucrative time of the year. Players need to be aware of and avoid scammers, identity thieves and malware distributors. The experience of one online bingo player in Washington State is typical. Tim, a resident of Aberdeen Washington, just wanted to have some fun and play online bingo. It should be noted that Tim suffers from spinal and liver cancer.

While watching Fox news Tim saw an ad for an online bingo site called When Tim visited the site his computer was hijacked by a drive by download. Tim’s friend Sharon told reporters “My friend loves online games. I’m always telling him to be careful. But when you see it advertised on TV, you figure its safe.”  Once Tim went to bigtimebingo he was redirected to malware-alarm dot com which is responsible for several rogue anti spyware programs. According to Quantcast the site receives 31,147 visits per month from the United States.

Malware alarm presents visitors with a legitimate looking dialog box that asks the user for permission to run a virus scan. At the conclusion of the scan the program claims to have found several infections which in reality do not exist. The program then offers to install additional software to ‘fix’ the infections-for a fee of course.  Sunbelt Software, a reputable security company, found no evidence that bigtime bingo was pushing malware. Alex Eckelberry, CEO of bigtimebingo believes that a malicious flash ad was responsible for redirecting Tim to the site serving malware.

Malicious ads have been a concern for security experts for years. Any website can be targeted and even the New York Times website has been infected with malicious ads. A report by search engine giant Google stated “With the increasing use of Ad syndication (which allows an advertiser to sell advertising space to other advertising companies that in turn can yet again syndicate their content to other parties), the chances that insecure content gets inserted somewhere along the chain quickly escalates. Far too often, this can lead to Web pages running advertisements to untrusted content.”

Unfortunately Tim is not a computer expert and paid the fee to free his computer. Sharon contacted the company by email and received the following response “This is not our fault that our product is being installed on the PC over and over again. We work with hundreds of affiliated advertisers. This is possible that one of them uses illegal methods of advertising. We would appreciate your help in finding the criminal.”  To avoid the same experience as Tim’s experts say that if an ad appears out of nowhere saying your computer is infected and ask to perform a scan do not interact with the ad in any way including clicking the ‘X’ in the dialog box.

Most rogue security ads are programmed to install no matter what action the user takes. The best solution is to restart the computer. Again do not interact with the ad in any way. The internet is a wonderful place and it is unfortunate that criminals have found a way to exploit less than sophisticated users.

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