Hackers Target Teens and Young Surfers

Friday, September 10, 2010

Dan Dieterle


Recently I put four Windows 7 systems, fully patched & updated, with current anti-virus, through the most difficult security test that I could imagine:

I unleashed seven teenagers upon them.

The teens were given no restrictions, or pre-security warnings, just to surf as they normally would. Two hours later, each computer was full of viruses.

The viruses included everything from nuisance adware to spyware and more seriously, backdoor trojans.

Each machine was infected numerous times, even though anti-virus and anti-spyware was installed and up to date.

When the searching history on each PC was examined, I found that the majority of the teen’s searches were for these types of sites:

  • Free online games
  • MusicTwilight
  • and last but not least, Taylor Lautner

The majority of the infections came from these innocent looking sites. Most were installed along with the “free games” that were installed. Some came from malicious “video updates” needed to watch the videos.

And lastly, some actually tripped the anti-spyware. But when asked do you want to block this site? The answer was, of course “no”, because I want to see Taylor Lautner…

It appears from these results that hackers are specifically targeting teens and young surfers. Those who do not understand the security risks, have not been taught about the risks or simply don’t care.

So, what can you do if you have young surfers? Set rules up for surfing. We have found sites that we have checked and are safe & virus free for what the kids want to do. For example, when our kids look for videos they are allowed to use “You Tube”.  

We no longer allow the kids to download any “free” online games. The majority of these sites had viruses, and finally we just banned them all.

Also, we have shown the children what a fake anti-virus warning looks like and what the real one looks like. And, what to do when the spyware warnings pop up. This has worked very well and kept the machines virus free.

Possibly Related Articles:
Viruses & Malware
Antispyware malware
Post Rating I Like this!
Susan V. James Wouldn't it be safer (and easier to manage) if we just gave our teenagers a Linux notebook? Or ChromeOS, when that's available?
Katie Weaver-Johnson Dan,

Great article and this definitely validates the need for increased security awareness and education for young online users.

Children and young adults must understand the risks that exist online, how to avoid them, what to do if they encounter them, and how to report an incident once it occurs. It is also critical for young people to understand the consequences of allowing these viruses, trojans, etc. to infect the systems. By sharing real-world examples and case studies of the time consuming and expensive efforts that are needed to remove viruses and protect systems, children may be more likely to practive safe online surfing.

Below is a link to an article that provides several resources for schools and parents hoping to educate their children on online safety:
Fred Williams I haven't used OpenDNS but I have heard great things about the content filtering piece of it. That may be worth a look.
Dan Dieterle Susan, I think you are right!

I really like Ubuntu, it seems to be the easiest to switch to from Windows.
Dan Dieterle Katie,

Thank you, I think that you are dead on.

Many schools here in Upstate NY have a "technology" class that students must take. It would be good if they did a chapter on online safety.

Thanks for the link, I will check it out and pass it along!
Susan V. James Of course, if you did switch the kiddos to ChromeOS or Linux, then they wouldn't be able to use the notebook to play WoW, Starcraft, LoL, etc... I can hear the whining already.
Dan Dieterle Thanks Fred, I will look into that.

Someone also noted on my website that Faronics Deep Freeze was a good choice.
Dan Dieterle I hear you Susan, but maybe, just maybe, if they couldn't play their games we would be able to use the computers again! :)

Mike Himley Dan: Interesting. Which Anti-Virus system was running during your test, and which AV system did you use afterwards to actually catch the infections?
Terry Perkins Great article and great experiment.
Mourad Ben Lakhoua Hello Dan,

Very nice post, I wanted to ask about if the network is secure or not?
As the operating system/ antivirus is up to date. We cannot find more secure environment than Windows operating system.

Many Thanks
Dan Dieterle Terry, Thank You!

I was actually shocked at first at the outcome. I also think it was a good lesson to the teens, as I was able to share some safe surfing tips with them.
Susan V. James You know, this actually might have a big impact if you were to take it on the road and present at schools. Present it in the auditorium. Just pick random kids out of the audience to do their normal surfing (anonymously of course, in case some of them go somewhere *embarrassing*) and show them what happens. You could tie in a few tips and trick re social networking exploits, and social engineering tactics.
Dan Dieterle Mike,

Excellent questions. One PC was protected by an internet security suite from one of the "Big Two" anti-virus companies.

Two were protected by a top award winning anti-virus/ spyware program (not one of the big two).

And the last was protected by what I would consider an average (but name brand) anti-virus/anti-spyware program.

Honestly, from this test, the results seemed pretty much the same across the board.

I used PCTools Spyware Doctor (My personal favorite) in combination with SuperAntiSpyware to remove the infections.

I also checked machines manually, but the combination did a very good job of cleaning them up.
Dan Dieterle Mourad,

Excellent question. They were 4 typical Windows 7 machines running through a firewall router. No proxy server, or IDS/ IPS systems.

Very similar to what a typical home or very small business would run.

Have you seen David Kennedy's work with the Social Engineering Toolkit (SET)?

The Advanced Persistant Threat has shown that anti-virus protection (and IDS/IPS systems) can be easily by-passed.

It depends more on what you click on and allow to run, than signature based detection that can be deceived.

David Kennedy's work provides a working model of this for penetration testers. I have a tutorial for using SET on my website.


Also, I think David is releasing a new version of SET next week!
Dan Dieterle Susan,

Excellent idea! I run the tech section for our cities website. I might run it by a few there and see what can be done.

Jeff Threlfall Dan, I personally use (& sell to my clients) Trend Micro Internet Security & configure the Parental Controls relevant to the child's age. Most teenagers think they are "bulletproof". The same applies for their attitude when driving a car. That's why so many have accidents. On computers, they don't bother reading e.g. error messages, they just click OK, Next, Allow or whatever. BTW, HJT, TrojanRemover & Malwarebytes are my main favourites.
Peter Abatan A few years ago you could buy an Apple computer and could be safe from trojans, viruses and spyware. With the increase in popularity of Apple computers, so is the increase of trojans, viruses and spyware targeted at Apple.
Dan Dieterle Exactly Peter. Once organized crime found out they could make money with malware, every manufacturer seems to be fair game for them.
The views expressed in this post are the opinions of the Infosec Island member that posted this content. Infosec Island is not responsible for the content or messaging of this post.

Unauthorized reproduction of this article (in part or in whole) is prohibited without the express written permission of Infosec Island and the Infosec Island member that posted this content--this includes using our RSS feed for any purpose other than personal use.