May 22, 2010

New Danger Lurks At The Internet Cafe

Canadian researchers warned on Friday of a new strain of advertising software that can infiltrate laptop computers linked to wireless networks in Internet cafes.

University of Calgary computer science researchers have dubbed the potentially infectious ad software "Typhoid adware" for its ability to spread publicly through unsuspecting laptop users. The adware works in similar fashion to Typhoid Mary, the first identified healthy carrier of typhoid fever who spread the disease to dozens of people in the New York area in the early 1900s.

"We're looking at a different variant of adware which we haven't seen out there yet but we believe could be a threat soon," said associate professor John Aycock, who co-authored the research paper.

Adware is software usually sneaked onto people's computers when they download infected files such as screen savers or browser tool bars. Once on a machine, the programs bombard users with pop-up ads.

"Typhoid adware is designed for public places where people bring their laptops. It's far more covert, displaying advertisements on computers that don't have the adware installed, not the ones that do," Said Aycock.

According to the researchers, a main Typhoid infected laptop, which is the "carrier", inserts ads in videos or Web pages on other computers using hotspots.

"Not only are ads annoying but they can also advertise rogue antivirus software that's harmful to your computer, so ads are in some sense the tip of the iceberg," Aycock told AFP.

Rogue antivirus software is used to con people into paying to fix computer problems that do not exist. The rogue software steals identity information and infects machines with malicious programs.

Internet caf© Web users can protect themselves by adjusting their computer settings to be more wary of contact from other computers. They can also protect themselves by making sure online videos being watched are from the original source, researchers said.


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