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New scam freezes Chrome to panic users

Con artists have created a new method of deceiving Chrome users by freezing their browsers and displaying a security notification with bogus tech-support contact details. Their ultimate goal is to scare potential victims and trick them into dialing the fake hotline number on the screen.

The End Game

The scam works by displaying an error message indicating a bogus security breach incident that renders a browser unusable. These scammers capitalize on the fact that a serious crash can’t be solved by simply closing the site, thereby sending the users into a panic. This encourages them to dial the number listed on the warning message.

On the other end of the line, the scammers would pose as Microsoft or Apple representatives to convince users into surrendering their credit card details to repair a non-existing security issue. The scams are generally carried out through legitimate sites or malicious ads that have been hacked.

The Ingenious Process

This new scam operates against Chrome by corrupting the window.navigator.msSaveOrOpenBlob programming interface, which basically uses it as a form of distraction. The hackers manipulate the browser and force it to save a random document on a disk repeatedly at super fast intervals that are impossible to notice. After five to 10 seconds, Chrome will be completely unresponsive.

The Easy Fix

To recover, Windows users simply have to open Windows Task Manager (press ctrl + shift + esc keys) and stop the process there. On the other hand, macOS users just need to wait until a system message prompts them to close the unresponsive Chrome tab. Typically, the latter is a more appealing option since users would have the freedom to close only the corrupted page. Manually closing the whole browser means possibly losing unsaved files in any open Windows.

When faced with IT-related issues, you need to determine how you can approach them calmly. The threats in the digital world may be terrifying and intimidating, but causing a panic in your workplace isn’t the answer. Call us as soon as any problems arise, and we’ll help you as soon as we can. We can even hook you up with other security measures to beef up your network security.

Beware of the Meltdown and Spectre patches

Installing security patches is usually such a humdrum task that even the most inexperienced users handle it. Unfortunately, that has not been the case with the Spectre and Meltdown fixes. This time around, we recommend you skip installing the update and let an IT professional handle it for you.

Unsecured data storage

Spectre and Meltdown are the names given to two hardware flaws that allow hackers to see any piece of information stored on your computer. Although slightly different in execution, both take advantage of a hardware feature that computer chips use to access and store private information. For the last 20 years, security experts believed this information could not be stolen or spied on by malicious software, but that assumption was proven false on January 3, 2018.

Now that the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities are public information, hackers can use them to create programs that steal passwords, social security numbers, credit card numbers, and anything else you type into your computer.

Because these problems are hardware-based, none of the updates will be able to secure the vulnerable storage; they’ll simply prevent your computer from storing anything in it. Currently, there are patches for:

  • Operating systems (Windows, macOS, and Linux)
  • Web browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge, and IE)
  • Chip firmware (low-level programs installed on the processor itself)

If you’re using an Apple computer, these updates are relatively easy to install. If you’re using a Windows or Linux-based computer, these patches may cause your machine to freeze, reboot unexpectedly, or significantly slow down.

Why should I wait to install the updates?

Intel, one of the chipmakers responsible for the Spectre and Meltdown flaws, has provided contradictory recommendations on more than one occasion. As recently as January 18, Intel recommended waiting for an updated patch, but in the same announcement also recommended “consumers to keep systems up-to-date.”

Experts believe detecting an attack that is based on one of these flaws will be relatively easy and represent an alternative to installing updates that could render your computer unusable.

What should I do?

IT support experts will be able to quickly and easily assess what is the best option for your computers. For example, our team can determine whether or not your hardware will conflict with the current patches, and either install them or set up a detection strategy that will help you mitigate the risks without ruining your computer.

If you need expert IT support for quick responses and ironclad security — give us a call today.