Latest Tech Support Scam Freezes Web Browser

John Lister's picture

Scammers have found a new trick that "locks up" a user's browser in an attempt to panic them into paying a bogus fee. Fortunately there's a simple way to get around the problem.

The technique is the latest variant on a well-established scam in which compromised websites show bogus error messages claiming the computer has been infected with a virus. The user is encouraged to call a "tech support hotline," (usually in India) then tricked into making a credit card payment to the scammers to supposedly fix the problem. In some cases, scammers demand remote access to the computer and then either infect it for real or steal personal data.

To make the bogus virus claim seem more credible, the scammers often try to freeze up the web browser so that the user can't simply close the pop-up message, web page or the browser itself. Common tactics involve setting pages up so that attempting to close a window simply opens up another page underneath.

Flurry Of Downloads Causes Chaos

The new technique works on the Chrome browser and in simple terms involves the page forcing the browser to download a file, then immediately starts a new download, then a new one, and so on indefinitely. Within seconds, the browser is attempting to download thousands of files. (Source: malwarebytes.com)

From a technical perspective, it's doubly effective. Firstly, the browser is so caught up in the loop of starting fresh downloads that it's unable to respond to any attempts the user makes to close windows. Secondly, each fresh download attempt eats up a tiny bit of the computer's resources, which can add up to the computer itself slowing down.

Task Manager Offers Escape

The simplest way to counter such problems is to close down the entire Chrome browser rather than individual web pages or windows. This is done through the Task Manager function in Windows which is accessible by pressing CTRL + ALT + DEL on the keyboard. Another way to access Task Manager is to right click an empty space on the taskbar - the same bar that has the Start menu. (Source: arstechnica.com)

What's Your Opinion?

Have you come across this problem? Should Google do more to warn Chrome users of such attacks? Can such tactics ever be effectively stopped?

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Comments

Dennis Faas's picture

Google should be able to detect this sort of thing happening in the Chrome browser and stop it in its tracks, or at least limit the number of bogus download requests before the processor is overwhelmed to the point of locking up the machine. Another good idea is to have Chrome record where this behavior is coming from, relay that information to Google servers, then have web browsers block the site automatically. The latter idea may be trickier to pull off but I don't see why this wouldn't be possible.

dkingsbo_10494's picture

Regarding the story "->>> Latest Tech Support Scam Freezes Web Browser":
I clicked on one of the sponsored page links, and guess what!
I could exit the browser, no way for me to include the screen shot

thought you'd love it

Slick's picture

Another way to get there is to simultaneously press <CTRL> <SHIFT> <ESC>.