Windows support scammers broaden their horizons, begin targeting Macs

mac users now affected by classic windows support scams screen shot 2015 10 20 at 11 14 55 pm
Since the advent of the Internet, it’s not unlikely that you’ve run into a few eye roll-inducing scams. Unfortunately, these are not at all a joking matter for some less technologically literate folks. And according to a group of researchers at Malwarebytes, it’s about to get worse with the arrival of the classic “calling from Windows” scam on the Mac.

For those not in the know, this scam has been commonplace for years, and usually involves a phone call from a fake tech support representative claiming to be “calling from Windows” to fix viruses on your computer.

And, spoiler alert, those viruses don’t exist.

But to the naive, trusting minds who haven’t wasted the majority of their lives consumed by web culture, the threat is very real.

Then, instead of remotely repairing your computer, the aggressors will typically deploy malware with the ability to lock your PC, in the event that you refuse their lofty repair fees.

The researchers involved in the study at Malwarebytes originally spotted a campaign on the web that swindles Mac and iOS users into, (as with the “calling from Windows” variant) believing their devices are experiencing significant errors.

It starts with a pop-up window disguised as a notification typically dispersed by the OS. “Critical Security Warning!” the message exclaims. “Your Device (iPad, iPod, iPhone) is infected with a malicious adward [sic] attack.” In connection with that grammatically repugnant (and also bogus) security warning, a tech support phone number is given.

The site, ara-apple.com, is designed to trick people into believing its an official Apple subdomain, i.e., https://ara.apple.com/, but don’t be fooled; Apple hires much better web designers. The fake Ara-apple site is riddled with “important links” that you most certainly should not download, as they will give “technicians” remote access to your Mac computer.

Despite a Federal Trade Commission crackdown on these types of calls three years ago, the market is now expanding to new platforms. In fact, Ars Technica reported last year that the “calling from Windows scam” had generated as much as $4 million in annual revenue for just one of the fraudulent organizations involved.

Considering its success on PC, it shouldn’t come as a shock that a similarly dubious “service” would make its way to Mac, as unfortunate as that may be. While there’s little we can do to prevent these scams from occurring, your safest bet is to inform friends and family of the dangers they impose — namely scamming people out of their money.

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