Scammers Use The Public's Fear Of Copyright Culture To Trick People Into Installing Malware

from the look-what-you've-done dept

It isn't some novel revelation that scammers and malware purveyors have used the public's fear and lack of knowledge about copyright laws and processes to pull off their nefarious deeds. For more than a decade, bad actors have looked at the shady methods of copyright trolls and noticed that those tactics are perfectly suited to convince the public to download malware or fraudulently extract money from people's wallets. None of this is new or surprising. What should be surprising, however, is that absolutely nothing has been done about any of this. Never has a hard look been taken as to why copyright enforcement so resembles these illegal activities, nor has any serious consideration been given to what this culture of permission and fear has done to so well prepare the public to be susceptible to these scams.

As a result, these bad acts continue to the present. TorrentFreak has a post about how scammers are currently using fake notices sent to the public, made to look like copyright threats or warnings, all in an effort to get them to click links and download malware.

Just a few weeks ago, we reported how pirates are lured into downloading malware and trojans. However, people who want to avoid copyright troubles are facing similar risks. As it turns out, fake copyright warnings and takedown notices are commonly used by scammers as well.

These scammers cleverly use the threat that copyright infringement claims pose to recipients. Many website operators fear legal repercussions and are eager to resolve these matters swiftly. Social media users, who risk losing their accounts, are equally concerned.

This happens in a variety of ways. Those hosting or running websites get notices that their sites will be taken down if they don't click the links and respond to a general accusation of copyright infringement. But the scammers are also going after random social media accounts as well, with the same push via threats of account termination to click links. Those links are typically used to steal account credentials, just like a typical phishing email scam. Some, however, actually deploy a payload of malware instead.

Careful readers will notice that there are several mistakes in the notice. However, in their panic, some people may simply read over these errors. Instead, they will click on the Google link where they can download a “Copyright Infringement Evidence” package.

Needless to say, downloading and running these files will infect people’s computers with all kinds of nastiness. Google takes these links down when they are reported and we couldn’t find a live one. However, Techlicious linked one package to a Ransomware trojan.

Why does this work so well? Well, as I mentioned above, it starts to get really tough to tell apart the notices coming from copyright trolls and the scammers. While the end goal is somewhat different, the overall tactic is the same: use threatening language about copyright infringement to scare the shit out of the target in order to get them to hastily do what you want. In the case of copyright trolls, that means so-called "settlement" payments. For the other scammers, this can also mean handing over money, or clicking a link to steal credentials or deliver malware.

It used to be said that only pirates had to worry about copyright culture creating security risks for those infringing copyright. Now, thanks to the expansion of that copyright culture, unsuspecting and innocent members of the public are at risk as well.

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Filed Under: copyright, malware, phishing

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  1. icon
    PaulT (profile), 19 May 2021 @ 10:59pm

    Re: Re: Techdirt gets these every few days...

    The problem isn't just the amount spent on enforcement. New works build all the time on the public domain and on homages to older works. If this is prevented by robbing the public domain of works that should be there, or by creating a chilling effect where people can't risk putting work into something that could be found infringing, then we don't know what we're missing out on because it's never created.

    As a random example - Night Of The Living Dead famously entered the public domain earlier than it technically should have done due to a clerical error. Its public domain status led to it being shown regularly on TV, which has led to generations of fans creating their own imitations (anything using the modern zombie myth is directly descended from NOTLD as it originated the tropes). This led first to George Romero being able to make sequels, which decades later allowed Zack Snyder to make his directorial debut with its remake (with James Gunn on writing duties). Gunn and Snyder have been a major part of different blockbuster comic book universes, while this week Netflix have a new $90 million zombie action movie from Snyder.

    Why is this significant? Well, if NOTLD had been "correctly" licensed according to the maximalists, most of this wouldn't exist. Not just the hugely lucrative zombie genre that's made an unknown (but clearly huge) amount of money off the back of the public domain nature of that film, but the careers of people handling multi-billion dollar franchises may not have got off the ground. Yet, nobody in the alternate reality where NOTLD remains copyrighted and thus remained less seen and less influential could ever guess what they lost as a result of over-enforcement.

    So, the problem isn't the money we can see being wasted, the problem is how many lucrative projects never exist as a result. We will never know.

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