Malware scams are pervasive and evolving threats in the digital world, exploiting users’ vulnerabilities to infiltrate computer systems, steal sensitive information, and cause substantial harm. These scams involve malicious software designed to damage, disrupt, or gain unauthorized access to computer systems, and they are executed by cybercriminals with various motivations, such as financial gain, data theft, or system disruption.
This article delves into the diverse landscape of malware scams, exploring their multifaceted impacts, the myriad forms they take—including viruses, ransomware, and spyware—and the pivotal preventive measures and solutions to mitigate the associated risks. By understanding the nature and mechanisms of malware scams, users can better protect themselves against these insidious cyber threats and navigate the digital space more securely.
Introduction to Malware Scams
Malware denotes all malicious programs that install themselves on your computer system with the intent to steal passwords and personal data or disrupt business. The malware landscape is an ever-evolving battlefield between security specialists and hackers set on squeezing out a dishonest buck from their unsuspecting fellow internet users.
Due to the nature of malware, those creating these malicious programs are always a step or two ahead of those looking to stop them. Understanding the fundamental nature of malware allows security technicians, would-be victims, and law enforcement agencies to stay abreast of the issue. The task is not easy, however.
According to technopedia.com, in 2023, 300,000 new instances of malware saw the light of day every day. Over 90% of this went out to would-be victims through email. And it took an average of 49 days to discover freshly installed malware.
Over 4.1 million websites are malware-infested and contribute to the growing issue of malware scams, knowingly or unknowingly.
2023 saw another increase in malware attacks, reaching the 5.5 billion mark. Crypto-jacking and malware infecting IoT components were largely responsible for the increase.
The only effective defense against malware is education. Those who know what to avoid online and how to detect malware are less likely to become victims of malware scams.
In this article, we aim to provide an overview of the malware problem and educate our readers about what they can do to prevent it and how they can reach out for help if they become victims of malware scams.
Understanding Malware Scams
Malware scammers install malicious programs on your computer. They use these apps to watch what you do on your device, view your files, and steal sensitive information. There are many malware varieties and scams attached to them.
Unsavory actors and websites can infect your computer with several different types of malware. The same system may often be infected with several types of malicious programs used by different scammers.
Viruses enter computer systems attached to legitimate programs. When you execute the program, the virus infects your computer. Verify the source of the programs you download, and never execute apps downloaded from shady websites.
Spyware collects information on your online activities and relays it to the scammers who infected your system.
Ransomware locks your computer or encrypts your files and demands money in exchange for unlocking/decrypting your assets. Cryptocurrency is the preferred payment method for ransomware scammers.
Trojans masquerade as legitimate programs but contain functionality that allows hackers to steal information, disrupt business, etc.
Keyloggers record keystrokes. Hackers use these programs to steal passwords, credit card information, etc.
Adware shows you unwanted advertisements. Such programs often come bundled with useful apps you download.
Types of Malware Scams in Cryptocurrency Transactions
Malware scammers are creative and relentless. They come up with new scam types and angles all the time. Yet they continue to push some of their older, better-known tricks.
Phishing attacks are among the most widespread types of malware scams involving cryptocurrencies. Criminals send victims emails about a security breach of their wallets. They direct them to a fake page asking them to enter their seed phrases. Other phishing scams targeting crypto assets are more elaborate.
Tech Support Scams
Scammers may pretend to offer people remote tech support. In addition to gaining access to their computers and stealing their information, scammers demand payment for their “services,” often in cryptocurrencies.
Email attachments can contain a variety of malicious programs. When users open attachments out of curiosity, they unleash ransomware on their devices. With their files encrypted, many are ready to pay the attackers to decrypt the files they hold hostage. Criminals require payments in cryptocurrencies as these work online, peer-to-peer, and are fully or semi-anonymous.
Malware can achieve many devious things for the criminals who spread it. Some malware can use the hardware resources of an infected device to mine cryptocurrency without the device owner’s knowledge. The proceeds of the mining go to the criminals.
How Malware Scams Affect Investment Funds and Individual Investors
Malware can cause damage to investors and investment funds in many ways.
It can hold critical data hostage for ransom, forcing investment funds to pay, thus causing financial damage.
Investment funds that fall victim to malware attacks lose reputation in addition to the money and may suffer further blows due to the legal and regulatory fallout such attacks may cause.
The operational disruption of an investment fund may also be costly.
Individual investors may lose money investing in fraudulent schemes. They may fall victim to identity theft, lose their cryptocurrencies to malware fraud, and compromise their overall security. The psychological and emotional impact of malware fraud is also significant among victimized individual investors.
Immediate Steps for Victims of Malware Scams
We all like to think that malware fraud always targets someone else. What happens when you find yourself the victim of a malware scam?
If you have reasons to believe malware has infected your device, take the following steps immediately.
- Disconnect your device from the internet.
- Run a malware scan.
- Change your passwords and enable 2FA on your accounts, where available.
- If you suspect the criminals may have stolen financially sensitive data, contact your bank and other concerned institutions.
- Report the crime to your local authorities.
- If malware has compromised your files, use a backup to restore them.
- Keep your eyes on your accounts to detect any potential changes in time.
- Educate yourself about malware scams to avoid falling victim to them in the future.
- If you need help removing malware, seek outside assistance.
Where Can You Report Malware Scams?
Regardless of where you are in the world, you can report malware crime to your local authorities.
- Contact your local law enforcement (police) first.
- You can report malware scams in the US to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Internet Crime Complaint Center, the FBI, and the National White Collar Crime Center.
- If you live elsewhere, contact your country’s cybercrime reporting agency.
- The Anti-phishing Working Group targets online crime involving phishing.
- Also, report the crime to your financial institution so it can take steps to protect your assets.
- Contact the platform administrators if scammers use social media to target you with malware.
- Some nonprofit cybersecurity organizations can assist and help others educate themselves about the dangers of malware scams.
- Sometimes you may also want to report the crime to your internet service provider.
By reporting the crimes to the appropriate authorities, you set the stage for immediate action and acquire the necessary records to recover your stolen assets.
Legal Aspects for Victims
Malware scams, like other forms of cybercrime, are borderless. The perpetrators can be anywhere, as can the victims. Due to their borderless nature, malware scams raise several legal challenges for victims when they attempt to recover their stolen assets.
- The law enforcement process may meet jurisdictional hurdles.
- The pseudonymity or anonymity of cryptocurrencies makes it challenging to track the funds and identify the perpetrators.
- Cyber crimes can be costly to investigate.
- The laws concerning cyber crimes may differ from one country to another.
- Even when law enforcement identifies the criminals, extradition can be a lengthy and complicated process.
- Even when they find the criminals, law enforcement agents may be unable to recover the stolen assets.
To successfully pursue asset recovery, you need to find a law firm. You can search online, pore through legal directories, contact bar associations, seek referrals, and contact various professional organizations.
Or you can seek assistance from a cryptocurrency tracing firm like CNC Intelligence Inc with experience in the matter.
How Professionals Can Help
To recover your assets, you need professional help.
Local law enforcement can take receipt of your report/complaint. The authorities can then collect evidence, including malware samples, statements, server logs, emails, transaction records, and traffic logs.
Professionals can provide network analysis and digital forensics services. They can also interview the victims to establish the crime’s circumstances and draw conclusions.
Professional digital asset trackers can help victims of malware scams cooperate with private entities and local and international agencies.
Specialists can analyze the malware code, provide expert witness services as the legal proceedings progress, and help the victims obtain the subpoenas and warrants they need to track and recover the stolen assets.
Only law enforcement officers can detain suspects and perpetrators. And only they can proceed to seize and recover the assets victims want to recover.
The problem with asset recovery is that there are never any guarantees experts can recover the assets.
In addition to dismantling scams, law enforcement professionals can also issue alerts and warnings that may save other potential victims.
Expert Advice and Support
Expert support and advice cover such unusual areas of expertise as expert witness testimony. Testimonies by expert witnesses can strengthen a victim’s case, often being key elements of asset recovery. CNC Intelligence Inc. provides expert witness testimonies, helping victims of malware scams by:
- Providing technical expertise and valuable details about how the scam unfolded and the extent of the damage it caused
- Adding credibility to the victim’s claims
- Analyzing and interpreting the available evidence
- Helping victims rebut the claims of the defense
- Assessing damage and establishing causation
- Testifying at trials and providing expert reports whenever needed
- Positively influencing settlement negotiations
- Expertly handling cross-examination
In addition to expert witness testimonies, asset tracing firms like CNC Intelligence Inc. can offer their clients litigation support and investigative services.
Litigation support services assist the legal teams of victims throughout the trial by:
- Collecting, preserving, and discovering key electronic evidence
- Recovering data
- Reviewing documents to find further evidence supporting the case of the victim
- Investigating on- and off-chain financial transactions
- Preparing witnesses and documents for the trial and providing assistance during the trial
Investigative services focus on digital forensics, covering many possible angles like:
- Asset tracing
- Open-source intelligence
- In-depth cybercrime investigations
Malware Scams – Conclusion
Malware can be sneaky. Everyone who goes online exposes him or herself to malware attacks to some degree. However, there are steps you can take that reduce your likelihood of becoming a malware scam victim.
- Enable the protection your device affords, like firewalls, anti-malware software, etc.
- Enable 2FA on your accounts.
- Update your operating system.
- Use strong passwords.
- Be aware of what websites you visit and the dangers they may entail.
- Be extremely cautious with emails and downloads.
- Update the firmware of your router.
- Use data backups.
- Treat unsolicited contacts with the utmost caution.
- Do not share your personal information online.
- Ensure that your WiFi network is secure and no one can access it.
- Only make online transactions through secure (https) websites.
If you find yourself a victim of malware scams, do not hesitate to contact the relevant authorities and entities like CNC Intelligence Inc., which can help you minimize the damage and perhaps recover the assets you lose to crime. Law enforcement should be open to collaborating with legal firms and digital forensics companies to help victims of malware scams better.
We offer complimentary consultations to determine if our Asset Tracing, Recovery Assistance, and Intelligence Services suit your case.