Security Market Segment LS
Friday, 10 July 2009 12:58

Beware of

Just because sounds like an authentic Microsoft subdomain, that doesn't mean it is safe to visit.

PC Tools' Threatfire research team has warned of active malware that among other things displays fake alerts aimed at persuading people to buy a bogus anti-malware package.

One way that Preald.A preys on its victims is by creating a hosts file to associate the domain with an IP address that has nothing to do with Microsoft.

Usually, a computer gets any required domain name to IP address mappings from a domain name server associated with an ISP or one that is internal to the organisation.

But a hosts file takes precedence (eg, to allow a purely internal resource to be accessed by name rather than address), so if a piece of malware can create or edit this file, any name can be associated with any IP address.

According to ThreatFire, Preald.A creates false entries for, and in the hosts file, associating them all with a server hosting information about a fake package called Antivirus System Pro. It also installs other malware, including a downloader to fetch additional nasties.

It is a fairly common trick to generate a false warning that a system is infected with a virus or other malware, and then present a link to a site offering fake software.

The hosts file trick could make it easier to fool victims - after all, everyone trusts Microsoft, don't they?

Bona fide security software should detect Preaid.A, though other vendors may use different names for it.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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