Scams that hijack the world’s most popular browser, Google Chrome, are making the rounds again.
It starts with a fake error message. For computer users the underlying malicious code locks up the browser. “The bug that it triggers is more than just an annoyance in the sense that it will render your Chrome browser unresponsive,” Jerome Segura, Lead Intelligence Analyst at Malwarebytes.
After the malicious code locks the browser, the fake warning tries to trick a user into calling a number. Then, a person posing as a company representative – from, for example, a well-known American technology company – asks for sensitive personal or financial information to fix the bogus issue.
“That’s where it does become a serious issue for the individual,” Inga Goddijn, executive vice president at Risk Based Security, said. “These messages are purposely designed to cause fear and provoke users into turning over sensitive information or in some cases even control of their computer. From there, the scammers really are in the driver’s seat.”
There are other variants of the scam too. For example, one that also locks up the browser offers fake deals, such as a gift card.
Other browsers can be affected too, but since Chrome is the most widely used web browser – outpacing Microsoft Edge, Safari and Firefox – it has been the place where many users come across the problem.
There are fixes to the issue, but they vary depending on the scam.
In Windows, you can use the Task Manager to “end task” and terminate the browser. In macOS, users “force quit” a process, such as a browser. In some cases, however, users have to reset their browser so it won’t open to the last opened page. Otherwise the fake message will keep returning and locking up the browser.
No legitimate company will lock up your browser
Finally, it’s important to remember that no legitimate company would ever intentionally freeze a browser and force a user to reveal sensitive personal information.
Large tech companies do not send unsolicited messages or make unsolicited phone calls in order to obtain personal or financial information. Therefore, it’s important not to provide any personal information in the case of unsolicited requests.
Since most of these browser lockers are distributed via malvertising, an effective mitigation method is to use an ad-blocker, such as OpenDNS and Webroot which our customers have installed along with their Monitoring and Maintenance package.
If you come across this issue – steps to take:
- Don’t panic and do not call the number
- Close out tab or browser (if possible)
- If not – on PC – Open Task Manager (Control+Alt_Delete – select task manager) – right mouse-click on Browser App and select End Task
- Mac – Use Force Quit function – Choose Force Quit from the Apple () menu, or press Command-Option-Esc. This is similar to pressing Control-Alt-Delete on a PC. – Select the app in the Force Quit window, then click Force Quit.
Additional Information about this threat: