Crooks target SA Windows users

Cape Town - Microsoft has warned that scammers are targeting people using Windows in order to steal personal information as well as cash.

The software giant told South Africans that criminals scoured phone directories in an effort to convince consumers to trust them when calling.

"In addition, these callers also claim to be from Windows Helpdesk, Windows Service Centre, Microsoft Tech Support, Microsoft Support, Windows Technical Department Support Group or even Microsoft’s Research and Development Team," Microsoft SA said.

The scam involves someone calling to say they are checking on a Windows computer problem or virus infection and require a fee to resolve the issue.

"In reality, the scammer only tricked unsuspecting consumers into believing that there is a problem and that paying a fee would be the best way to sort the issues out. Often they will also push clients to purchase a one year computer maintenance subscription," said Ashleigh Fenwick, PR and communications manager for Microsoft South Africa.

Best practice

The company insists that it, nor its affiliated brands, does not make unsolicited calls to customers.

In addition to trying to secure payment through a software maintenance scam, the criminals also trick customers into installing malware on to computers.

The malicious software may be capable of recording online banking keystrokes or take control of the machine to be used as part of a botnet.

Hacker groups typically use botnets to launch attacks against large company servers in order to extort money.

It is best practice to avoid purchasing products and services over the phone and you should never give out your credit card number without verifying the caller's identity.

Criminals will also typically point you to a website that they have set up as a copy of a legitimate company site. The site is often designed to record credit card information when buying bogus software.

Given that there are several computers in SA that are not connected to the internet all the time, criminals have been exploiting flash drives as a means to disseminate malware.

Security company Kaspersky Lab said that the most common method of infecting computers in the country was a worm that spread via flash drives.

"The Worm.Win32.Mabezat, a file infecting worm which spreads to new computers when accessing an infected drive (including USB thumbs) or file share from a computer that supports the auto-run feature," Mohammad-Amin Hasbini, GreAt expert at Kaspersky Lab told News24.

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