Scareware cold-callers are adapting their tactics in order to target users of Mac machines as well as Windows PCs.
Over recent months many prospective victims in the UK and elsewhere have received unexpected calls falsely warning them that malware had been detected on their PC. The scam attempts to hoodwink users into downloading software supposedly needed to remove the infection but which actually spies on victims. Conmen sometimes claim to work for Microsoft Support, though there are variants on this aspect of the scam.
In the process of the con, victims are induced to hand over control of their machine or pass over banking details. Raising awareness of the scam was a major focus of the last edition of the Get Safe Online cyber-security education programme last November.
A variant of the con trick was thrown at Reg reader Stephen earlier this week. Although the script of the basic scam wasn't changed, and the con man thought he was talking to a Windows user, the download site detected the visitor was using a Mac, and offered up an Apple executable instead of a Windows file, as Stephen explains.
"I was called earlier today by one of these scammers," he said. "Out of interest I played along with them.
"In the end they told me to go to www.support.me* and enter a support code. I did but did it from my Mac using OSX.
"The spoof of the LogMeIN site wanted to download a file. I was shocked to find that the download was a .pkg file."
Steve sensibly didn't open the file, instead fobbing the conman off with an excuse that he had to go out and terminating the call. The persistent scammer called back a few minutes later only to receive some choice swear words from Stephen.
A spokesman for net security firm Sophos said it had not seen the cold call support scam directed against Mac users before, although the development is far from wholly unexpected.
"I don't think we have seen them targeting Mac users before," he said. "In the past, telling them you run Mac or Unix has been a good way to get them to hang up the phone.
"However we have predicted that Mac users were likely to become a target as the cold-call scammers adapted their script to target Apple Mac lovers. Their target is your fear, not your operating system."
Sophos has produced an advisory explaining how surfers can stay clear of support call scams here. ®
*Support.me redirects to logmeinrescue.com, a legitimate service that scammers are abusing for their own nefarious purposes.