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Millions tricked into installing scam cleaners

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The number of users being targeted by fake system cleaners is on the rise, according to new figures from Kaspersky. The cybersecurity company’s researchers are claiming the number has risen two-fold, hitting 1,456,219 in the first half of 2019, roughly double compared to 747,322 users that were attacked this time last year.

In the meantime, however, some of the attacks grew in danger and sophistication, it was said.

Kaspersky says that many people have a computer that has slowed down over the years, or is performing poorly. There is plenty of good tools out there that can really help breathe new wind into your PC’s sails, but they are also fake ones, which trick users into believing their computer is in critical danger.

If the user bites the bait, they’ll pay for an extra service that promises to rid them of this critical danger (which could be something like memory overload or whatnot).

Kaspersky defines and detects such programs as ‘hoax system cleaners’.

If the victim decides to pay, what they’ll end up getting is even worse – hoax programs that promise to clean the PC, but instead install adware, ransomware or Trojans.  

Japan is the most targeted country, followed by Germany, Belarus, Italy and Brazil.

“We’ve been watching how the phenomenon of hoax cleaners has been growing for the last couple of years, and it is a curious threat. On the one hand, many samples that we have seen are spreading more widely and becoming more dangerous, evolving from a simple ‘fraudulent’ scheme into fully functioning and dangerous malware. On the other hand, they are so widespread and seemingly innocent, that it is much easier for them to trick users into paying for a service, rather than frightening them with screen blockers and other unpleasant malware. However, these two ways end up the same results with users losing their money,” says Artemiy Ovchinnikov, security researcher at Kaspersky.

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Sead Fadilpašić is a freelance tech writer and journalist with more than 17 years experience writing technology-focussed news, blogs, whitepapers, reviews, and ebooks. And his work has featured in online media outlets from all over the world, including Al Jazeera Balkans (where he was a Multimedia Journalist), Crypto News, TechRadar Pro, and IT Pro Portal, where he has written news and features for over five years. Sead's experience also includes writing for inbound marketing, where he creates technology-based content for clients from London to Singapore. Sead is a HubSpot-certified content creator.