As stock markets fall, rogue anti-virus software rises

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As stock markets fall, rogue anti-virus software rises

A combination of the consolidating financial services space and fear over the stock market plunge has prompted malware writers to shift their tactics.

The amount of rogue anti-virus malware infecting machines worldwide directly correlates with the free-falling stock market, new research from Panda Security concludes.

Malware activity, particularly rogue programs that try to persuade users their computers are infected with viruses so they pay for a fake fix, significantly rose as the markets declined, said Ryan Sherstobitoff, Panda's chief corporate evangelist.

In a study of the U.S. stock market between Sept. 1 and Oct. 15, Panda determined that daily malware threats dramatically rose as the major indexes fell by anywhere from three and seven percent. For example, daily threats jumped from 8,276 on Sept. 14 to 31,404 on Sept. 16, as the stock markets simultaneously fell 5.5 percent during that two-day stretch.

Cybercrime groups had to find another source of income -- and fast -- in light of the accelerating banking consolidation, Sherstobitoff said. They became increasingly worried that traditional trojan attacks and phishing scams would not net the same rewards they once did.

As a result, they shifted more attention to adware, namely rogue anti-virus installations, he said. These can be successful because they prey on individuals' fears of identity theft and computer infections, particularly effective during a financial crisis.

"People are more likely to buy something out of fear," Sherstobitoff said.

Panda estimates that attackers have about a 3.4 percent success rate with rogue anti-virus infections, resulting in US$14 million-a-month revenue for cybercrooks.

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