“Greyware” threat to PC users

While several forms of malicious software — most notably viruses and phishing e-mail fraud— have gained worldwide attention, fewer computer users are aware of greyware, says Trend Micro.

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By  Angela Prasad Published  February 27, 2005

The PC industry is facing a growing threat from a new strain of programs distributed over the internet, warns Trend Micro. The popularity of the internet and its rising penetration into schools, homes and businesses in the Middle East has meant that more and more people feel comfortable downloading material and surfing the net. A rise in “greyware”— software that downloads onto a system without causing any obvious immediate effect is one of the unfortunate side effects of this growth. While several forms of malicious software — most notably viruses and phishing e-mail fraud— have gained worldwide attention, fewer computer users are aware of greyware programs or their potential threat to the integrity of business networks and individual end-users’ systems if left unchecked. According to Justin Doo, managing director, Trend Micro Middle East, the probability is that many computers in the region are already infected by greyware. “We are seeing a growth in greyware infections circulating through the web, and this is a major security issue for home users as well as businesses,” Doo says. “Sensitive data — credit card numbers, passwords, and even a user’s identity — can be recorded through these programs, and this could be used for financial or marketing gain. These attacks don’t damage systems in the traditional way a virus would, but they can expose a company or individual to information leaks.” Among the types of greyware on the rise in the region are Adware programs embedded in freeware applications which are used to load pop-up browser advertisements; “Trojan horses” that sit upon systems and can change settings; and dialer applications used to make long distance calls or call premium numbers to generate revenue. “Greyware for financial benefit has no boundaries. Almost 50% of e-mails carry personal data, which can be recorded by greyware sitting on a desktop. Companies need to look at this threat seriously, and ensure that they are protecting their clients as well as themselves,” says Samir Kirouani, technical manager at Trend Micro Middle East. “There are a number of steps that computer users can take to ensure system integrity. You can be filtering email traffic at the internet gateway and monitoring where web browser requests are being routed to,” he adds.

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