Magala, the trojan horse that scams SMBs

This is a botnet capable of generating fake advertising clicks: victims pay for a non-existent service and hackers earn money without any effort

There are computer infections that do not need to encrypt machines and ask for ransom payments in exchange to extort money from victims. A company, especially small and medium-sized businesses, can be scammed by hackers in very simple and less devious ways.

Kaspersky Lab, a well-known cybersecurity expert company, has discovered a botnet that ensures huge earnings to cyber criminals by generating fake clicks on advertisements. As it is well known, for companies that do not have great economic resources, the Internet represents a great chance to make themselves known. Unfortunately, however, it can also happen that they buy space from dishonest advertisers whose only goal is to cheat the unfortunate. In the case uncovered by Kaspersky Lab, the network of zombie computers, called Magala, in fact, does nothing but simulate users' clicks on web pages, creating a high number of impressions on advertisements.

Magala, the botnet of advertisements

To "enlist" a computer to the Magala botnet, hackers install an adware, a malware that spies on victims' online behavior and displays ads or directs web traffic to advertising pages. The Trojan horse spreads suspiciously to the victims' machines through sites compromised by the hackers.

The botnet mimics clicks, as if users had actually opened an ad. Companies pay for advertising space based on the number of clicks recorded by the banner. It is clear, then, that by generating fake clicks, the hackers are scamming the companies, embezzling money from ads that no one has actually seen.

For a company, the damage is enormous. Not only do they pay for a bogus service, but they don't even reach their intended target: their customers. According to Kaspersky Lab, the botnet would earn hackers about $350 per infected computer.

How to Protect Yourself

The easiest way to protect yourself from Magala is prevention. In fact, a company should only buy advertising space from reliable companies, avoiding going after cheap solutions. It is very important, then, to secure the computers as well. As seen, hackers need to install malware on the machines to make the botnet. In these cases, therefore, it is essential to update antivirus and operating systems and not open unknown links.