Adult sites blackmailing users


5 Dec 2007

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Visitors to adult websites may risk falling into the trap of ‘consented blackmail’ when signing up for trial usage of certain sites, warns US research firm TrendLabs.

Certain adult sites that offer a three-day trial of their services require the visitor to download a file in order to gain temporary access.

TrendLabs, which has analysed the files, found that it is in fact a Trojan virus, or malicious software, in disguise.

Using Micro Bill Systems (MBS), a payment and debt management service provider, the adult site has the power to disable the operating system (OS) of the user after the three-day trial has expired requesting the user to continue paying a ‘membership fee’ in exchange for not disabling their OS.

If payment requests are ignored, continued pop-ups appear on screen, effectively rendering the computer unusable.

TrendLabs, which is the research division of TrendMicro, says this form of blackmail is actually outlined and hidden inside the terms and conditions (T&Cs) for using the site, which the user has most likely unknowingly consented to.

The T&Cs say: “If you choose to ignore the payment reminders and do not pay the membership fee, you hereby understand and acknowledge that the prompt reminders may become more frequent and that you may lose the ability to use your computer until you have submitted payment. The payment reminders will be active while your computer is online or offline.”

“To say the least, this is social engineering on a completely new playing field,” said Rik Ferguson, network architect at TrendMicro.

“Users should be aware of installing any files on their computer, even if the site may seem legitimate. Reading the terms and conditions on any website before downloading content should be seen a No 1 priority.”

By Marie Boran