Facing Down the Trojans

“Get a free iPad” read my friend’s post on Facebook. Since I doubt Apple is giving away free iPads, and since I believe they sell enough they don’t need to give free ones away on Facebook, I knew this was a scam.

I googled “free iPad” and found multiple sites offering the tablet for free. Since I would really like a tablet larger than my original Kindle Fire, the lure of a free iPad is indeed tempting. I would even consider “testing” an iPad in order to keep it.

All these offers are fake, of course. And worse most of them are scams. Some may just want your information or to be able to post information on your friends’ timelines, but others are much more serious.  A Facebook ad from 2010 reportedly linked to a fake page that slammed users with an expensive mobile phone service.

RFC 4949 the Internet Security Glossary Version 2 defines a Trojan Horse as “A computer program that appears to have a useful function, but also has a hidden and potentially malicious function…” These scams loosely fit that definition of a Trojan horse.

What I cannot figure out is why these scams are so popular. Seriously, if there were iPads or iPhones or Starbucks gift cards free for the asking, don’t you think we’d all be doing that? How could a company make money like that? But Trojans are on the rise and they can do far more than just increase a phone bill.

Trojans can infect a computer with malware. Users are tricked into clicking on a link or opening a page promising something for free. The link or page then sends malware to the user’s computer. If the computer’s security settings aren’t strong and if the anti-malware tools don’t catch it, the computer could be seriously compromised. This is often how backdoors are installed or how computers become part of a botnet.

Most of the readers of this blog know the risks and wouldn’t click on these enticing links. But others you know might. It’s important to share these and other risks with family, friends and co-workers.  Some good, otherwise-knowledgeable friends have succumbed to the temptations of these scams.

Tom Antion, ‏@ScamBrigade on Twitter has begun tweeting about scams of various forms including Internet scams. He has a lot of information about various scams so if you are interested in this topic you might check him out.

My dad always said that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Today he might say there’s no such thing as a free iPad. While there are legitimate contests and give-aways (e.g. a free tablet when you take a course), there are surely a lot of scams. These scams can cost you money, take your time, or compromise your computer or network. If you’ve been scammed – or even come close – let us know in the comments below. Join me at Learning Tree’s Course 468 for more information on Trojans, botnets and other issues of cybersecurity.

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