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General News ‘Fireball’ adware infects over 250 million PCs globally,India most widely hit: Report
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As per a report by security firm Check Point, a new adware called æFireball’ spread by Chinese hackers has affected over 250 million PCs worldwide. Unlike traditional attacks which hit US systems first, the magnitude of the latest adware is felt more in India and Brazil with over 25 million systems affected in each region. The malware can luckily be detected and removed by the user themselves if the adequate steps are taken in time.

What is the adware all about?
Unlike a traditional malware that spreads through files in emails to infect systems, the adware works directly through browsers and search engines. Fireball hijacks browsers to change their default search engine settings, and directs web searches and results to Chinese digital marketing firm Rafotech. Rafotech can infect systems and also steal sensitive information. The adware can remotely run any code, download infected files or perform random tasks on the infected system. It basically creates a backdoor for Chinese hackers into the system that can be completely exploited.

How does the hack spread?
Initially, as the adware is a browser based malware, free ‘bundled’ software were used to spread the infection. The software are often bundled with other important programs and are installed without user permission, running in the background, making them difficult to track. This had led to the adware affecting even corporate networks and nearly 20 percent of all corporate networks are affected. Further, as they operate through browsers, they re-direct the victims to fake sites downloading malware and then further spreading it through infected files.

Can I know if I am infected?
In order to understand if a user is affected, there are multiple checks to be performed. The user needs to be able to access and tweak the original home page. Additionally, if there are unauthorized browser extensions, then chances are the system is affected. Some of the top search engines used by Rafotech are: trotux.com, forestbrowser.om, luckysearch123.com, and others.

As mentioned before, the adware has far reaching effects. As per data on Rafotech’s site, they have over 300 million users – which hints at the wide spread effect of the adware and the number of infected systems. Additionally, though there has been no breach reported, the wide back door can be exploited by the Chinese firm to gain access and abuse data from millions of users worldwide.

As per the Check Point report, the spread of the adware is not illegal as most of the programs come with legitimate digital certificates. As the blog explains, “Rafotech carefully walks along the edge of legitimacy, knowing that adware distribution is not considered a crime like malware distribution is. How is that? Many companies provide software or services for free, and make their profits by harvesting data or presenting advertisements. Once a client agrees to the installment of extra features or software to his/her computer, it is hard to claim malicious intent on behalf of the provider.”

Rafotech is not the only company known to create and spread malicious adware. There are multiple such organizations that function similarly. However, owning to the sensitive nature of the legality, often the onus of keeping their systems clean and checking for the adware lays with the users – who remain blissfully unaware of the magnitude of the threat, leading to hackers exploiting data and causing further spread of the malware.

Source:
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Airtel Digital HD Recorder / Kerala Vision Digital TV
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