The Norman Transcript

Business

September 15, 2013

Fake Flash Player updates are trashing computers

NORMAN — Not long ago, I was surfing the website of a popular local publication, reading stories and other items that interested me, when a new page suddenly appeared with an official-looking notice that said, “Attention! It is recommended that you download Flash Player to continue. To learn more, click OK.”

“Wait a minute,” I thought. “I already have Flash Player installed. In fact, I have the latest version of Flash Player installed because I make sure it is always kept up to date.”

Just to confirm that my version of Flash Player was indeed the latest one available, I visited the makers of Flash Player, Adobe.com, where the latest versions may be found. I compared the number of the version I had installed with the latest version number shown on their website. Sure enough, I already had the latest version of Flash Player installed.

This led me to believe that what I was seeing was a con designed to trick me into installing a fake update which, in turn, would install computer viruses and other assorted bogus programs. I had heard of such things, but this was the first time I had seen a fake update for myself.

I started looking around the Internet for any information that could confirm my suspicions but didn’t find much because, at the time, this particular fake update was a relatively new phenomenon.

Next, I sent an email to those in charge of the offending website and warned them they were infecting people’s computers with a fake Flash Player update. I then decided to use one of my “test” computers, revisit the website and see what would happen to someone who installed the fake update.

I do things like this on occasion using computers I have set aside for testing purposes. With these computers, it’s OK if they get hacked, trashed, infected and otherwise abused because, if they do, I just erase the hard drives, reinstall Windows and keep going.

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