Don’t Get Pranked by a Malware Attack

Sue Marquette Poremba
Slide Show

Seven Steps to Hinder Hackers: Antivirus Just Isn't Enough

It seems like anything with a power switch is subject to being attacked by malware. WatchGuard Security put out a warning today of a new executable known as ByteMarx that is affecting a wide range of devices, from computers and smartphones to microwaves and electric toothbrushes. According to the WatchGuard Security blog:

ByteMarx is a fast spreading computer and electronic device virus that seems to spread via email, instant messager (IM), and social network messages that contain links to a malicious file. Our security experts have discovered that once a device is infected with ByteMarx, response time slows significantly and the device hunts for other victim devices anywhere within range. Electronics afflicted with ByteMarx devour the information stored on hard drives, motherboards and circuitry of nearby devices. Rather than shutting down or malfunctioning, the victim device starts to display the traits of the malicious device and begins an insatiable, relentless hunt for other devices to attack. This process is known as “zombification.”I knew that a zombie invasion was coming, but I didn’t think it would take over our computers and electronic devices.

And, oh yeah, April Fools'!

With more and more devices and appliances being controlled by computers, this prank from WatchGuard Security could have easily been a real piece of malware (until you start talking about zombies, that is). It’s easy to be fooled on the Internet – more than a few people were taken by Google’s Smell Search Engine, for example. It’s also a good day to get pranked into downloading malware onto your computer, simply because it is so difficult to tell what is real and what isn’t.

Internet April Fools' pranks are as old as the Internet itself, and the folks at Kaspersky Labs shared some of their favorite oldies but goodies with me, with examples of how those pranks can make it easy for a bad guy to spread malware.

My favorite was the Internet Spring Cleaning from 1997. An email message said the Internet would be shut down for 24 hours to “clean out” dead emails and old ftp files and to fix search engines. I remember getting this email and a number of my co-workers being concerned that it was real. Several people I knew began printing out old emails and saving things to floppy disks. Spread that prank today, the Kaspersky experts warned, and it opens the door for the bad guys to push ransomware and Fake AV.

Today, I wouldn’t be surprised if cyber crooks try to take advantage of the Google Smell Search Engine or the “announcement” that YouTube is being shut down, now that the best video ever has been determined. If you get an email that tells you this is the winner of YouTube’s best video contest, don’t believe it. It could be an April Fools' joke that could cause a lot of damage.

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