Microsoft used AI to crack down on global tech-support scams

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tech-support scams

Microsoft depend on AI to help it fights the global tech-support scams. Users who are increasingly using the web to automate the fraud with pop-up ads that lock browsers to a bogus but seemingly legitimate security warning.

The browser lockers aim to frighten victims into calling a support center at a number listed on the pop-up. Victims who call are bullied into buying software to fix non-existent problems.

The tactics work often enough for some of the larger operations to generate millions in revenue. Microsoft’s US operations received 120,000 complaints about such scams between May 2014 and October 2016. Some 20,000 victims in the US that it knows about paying the scammers.

Federal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission announced an official crackdown on computer vision, and image- and text-recognition scams with Operation Tech Trap in May 2017.

Microsoft researchers used by its Digital Crimes Unit to hunt for clues on the web. Microsoft explains, few victims capture screenshots of the original pop-up ads that scammed them. While, operators of the fraud often use temporary numbers and short-lived IP addresses.

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The tricks scammers use to give the impression of a locked browser pop-up is using ads that refresh in microseconds.

Microsoft principal researcher Chris White created a model that targeted this signal, which the Digital Crimes Unit used to scan the web. Once captured these sites, computer vision pull out phone numbers and other clues pointing to the attack’s origin.

Microsoft also used data-visualization tools to offer government officials an easy way to view the scale of the problem and the states that were being hit hardest.

The attack on Internet Explorer is using “mouse events” to load the pop-up each time the user mouses over a certain area of a page. However, the same attack for Chrome on Windows is by far the most disruptive.

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