Scammers who try to trick victims into downloading fake antivirus software can strike almost anywhere, and on Sunday they hit the website of Kaspersky Lab, a well-known antivirus vendor.
Someone took advantage of a bug in a web program used by the Kasperskyusa.com website and reprogrammed it to try and trick visitors into downloading a fake product, Kaspersky confirmed on Tuesday. Kaspersky didn't identify the flaw, but said it was in a "third-party application" used by the website.
"As a result of the attack, users trying to download Kaspersky Lab's consumer products were redirected to a malicious website," the antivirus vendor said. The website caused a pop-up window to appear that simulated a virus scan of the user's PC, and offered to install an antivirus program that was in fact bogus.
This is a typical trick for fake-antivirus scammers, who are constantly looking for new ways to trick victims into buying their products. In the past they've been known to pose as legitimate online advertisers and then suddenly switch their ad inventory from legitimate-looking ads to these fake pop-up messages.
Security experts say the safest thing to do when one of these fake antivirus messages pops up is to simply kill the web browser. On Windows, this can be done by hitting ctrl-alt-delete and ending the browser process in the Task Manager.
According to Kaspersky, its website was redirecting users to the rogue antivirus site for about three-and-a-half hours Sunday. The company did a complete audit of its websites afterwards "to ensure they're running fully updated code".
In discussion forums, users complained that the site was trying to download fake antivirus software called Security Tools.
This isn't the first time Kaspersky has had to audit its websites after an incident. In February 2009 a hacker was able to break into the company's US support site after discovering a web programming flaw. That flaw could have given the hacker access to customer email addresses and product activation codes via a common attack technique called SQL injection.
Nobody's information was compromised in Sunday's attack, Kaspersky said. "However, Kaspersky Lab takes any attempt to compromise its security seriously," the company said. "Our researchers are currently working on identifying any possible consequences of the attack for affected users, and are available to provide help to remove the fake antivirus software."