In our last lesson, we looked at the most common scamming trick perpetrated on students and parents – Free WiFi connections. In this article, we look at some of the newer types of cybercrime affecting us today as we prepare to go back to school – Online Textbook Malware.
Online textbook malware
One of the most substantial expenses that students face at the beginning of the semester is the purchase of textbooks. In fact, most students, once they enter the University level, can expect to spend more than $1,000 per semester on just books and course materials.
So what is online textbook malware?
With such a considerable expense each and every semester, many students look for an alternative solution to buying expensive textbooks, and that is to download them for free.
From quantum physics to How to speak Cantonese, thousands of textbooks have been copied and uploaded onto the Internet just waiting for you to take them for free.
Now before you do, think twice, besides the possible Copywrite infringements, you may also be unknowing downloading malware onto your computer.
How does the online textbook scam work?
Let’s face it websites that allow you to download copywritten material like textbooks are sketchy, to begin with. Most are utilitarian in design and function with little or no security.
Cybercriminals know this and exploit the inherent framework, server, and security vulnerabilities within these types of sites and hijack these “legitimate” sites in order to distribute malware. Because security is not a priority, hackers can quickly gain access to a site, plant a backdoor for future access, make modifications to the site’s code, and embed malware code in the background without the website owners knowledge. In addition to the security flaws in the CMS, hackers can also gain access to these sites through vulnerabilities in outdated themes and plugins.
Effects of online textbook malware
If you do download an online textbook, you are leaving yourself open to a variety of malware that can be detrimental to your system, including:
- Installing keyloggers
- Generating pop-ups
- Making the system a “Mule” to distribute malware to other systems
- Stealing data
- Locking the system for ransom
- Creating a backdoor to install additional malware
Best practices to prevent online textbook malware
Do not download online textbooks from unreliable sources
- A quick Google search can help you check whether the textbook is in the public domain.
- Verify if your school offers the textbook online
- Look for second-hand copies
Keep Your Systems OS Updated
- Whenever a new software release, patch or OS update is made available, make sure you have your system automatically install it right away.
Manage Your Applications
- Old out of date applications and OS are vulnerable, waiting to be exploited by cybercriminals.
- Perform a semi-annual review of all applications. If you no longer use it, then delete it.
Make Sure You Have An Updated Antivirus Solution Installed
- While it will not prevent you from inadvertently landing on a hijacked website, the right antivirus solution like Adaware will detect and destroy any malware that may infect your computer.
- Always make sure your antivirus software is up to date at all times.
- Run a complete scan of your computer at least once a week, more often if you browse the Internet frequently. A scan can be set up to run automatically at a time that is not obtrusive to you.
Install A Good Antimalware Solution
- An antimalware solution like Web Companion is designed to alert you before you land on a hijacked website. If you are unable to land on a hijacked site, your system will not be able to become infected with malware.
Install An Ad Blocker
- By using an ad blocker that is part of an antimalware solution like Web Companion or on its own will help make your system safer, as well as helping to reduce your potential exposure to these types of attacks.
In lesson three, we will look into some social media scams perpetrated on students.