Image Stealing Malware Poses New Threats

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Most of the time, when you hear about a new malware or spyware variant that's making the rounds it either uses your computer to send spam to others or tries to steal passwords or other typed information from your computer.  There's a new malware threat that's making the rounds that focuses on something different, however: its goal is to steal your pictures.

At first that might not seem as bad as some other malware variants, but stop and think for a moment about what pictures are on your computer.  Have you ever scanned a copy of your birth certificate, Social Security card, driver's license or other vital records to ensure you have a backup of the information in case of fire or theft?  What about your tax returns?  Do you have any pictures that you'd rather no one else was able to see, either because they're embarrassing or intimate?  What about your family photos or pictures of your children... would you feel comfortable with others having access to all of your private family pictures to do with as they wish?

The malware, identified as Pixsteal-A-Trojan, operates by scanning your files for image extensions such as .jpg and .jpeg as well as .dmp memory dump files created when programs crash.  Any files found that meet the malware's criteria are uploaded to a remote server where they can be sorted through for personal information, incriminating photographs or pictures that can be used for blackmail or sold to websites.  It's not necessarily a new idea since there have been similar malware programs written to steal design files created by computer-aided drafting software, but those programs were aimed more at industrial espionage than mining data from the public at large.

Similar programs could also become a threat on mobile devices. Researchers have already produced an app that takes pictures using a smartphone's camera every 2 seconds, turning off the shutter sound and reducing image resolution to preserve battery life and preventing the app's actions from being discovered right away. If a mobile malware similar to Pixsteal incorporated a feature like this then it would not only be able to steal pictures from a phone or tablet but could also be used by thieves to determine where potential victims lived and when they were away from home.

There are a few different ways that you can become infected with Pixsteal malware. Untrustworthy websites can trick you into downloading the malware by claiming that it's something else, or links posted by spambots on forums or other websites can lead to the malware installer.

f you become infected with other forms of malware, they may download or install the program without your knowledge as well.  This latter form of infection can be especially troublesome since you'll have to deal with the effects of the original malware in addition to Pixsteal.

Given the potential harm that could be done by others getting ahold of your private pictures it's more important than ever to make sure that you have up-to-date antivirus and antimalware software installed on your computer and mobile devices.

Even more important is making sure that your antivirus and antimalware software is set up to scan your computer or mobile devices on a regular basis: you should do quick scans every day during idle hours, and at least one in-depth scan per week to find those programs that manage to hide from the quick scanners.

Make sure that active detection is also set up so that the software can detect threats as soon as they are downloaded or attempt to run. It's important that you take the necessary steps to secure all of your online devices, before someone else does!

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