Using P2P file-sharing software such as BitTorrent and uTorrent? Beware of malware infection, police warn

The police have cautioned the public on the dangers of downloading content from unknown sources using Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file sharing software that may result in malware infection in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) devices.

These include BitTorrent, µTorrent and Tixati software clients, said the police in an advisory on Tuesday (Mar 8).

The police said they recently observed cases where users’ ICT devices were infected with a type of malware known as 'ProxyGate'.

Once installed, ProxyGate would cause unwanted pop-up advertisements, infiltrate the system of ICT devices without the users' consent and gather information on the user's internet browsing activities.

This malware may also result in further malware infections on the users' ICT devices.

Malware may infect ICT devices through various means, such as the downloading of free software from unknown sources, opening of unknown email attachments and visiting malicious websites.

One common cause of malware infection is the downloading of files such as software installers, movies, music and games from unknown sources using P2P file sharing software clients.

In many cases, the malware is bundled with software installers downloaded from P2P file sharing.

When the downloaded installer is executed, the malware may automatically be installed without your knowledge and expose you to the following risks:

  • Decline in devices' performance and unauthorised access to the devices’ systems;

  • Stealing of personal data stored in devices such as details of bank accounts, credit cards, social media accounts, private photos and/or videos. Hackers can use such data to access users' financial and social media accounts to steal money and impersonate users when committing credit card fraud, scams and extortion using the private photos and videos obtained; and

  • Allowing hackers to remotely control devices, resulting in the loss of data and control over devices.

Members of the public are advised to follow these steps to ensure that your devices are adequately protected against malware:

  • Download files directly from official and verified sources as this ensures that the downloaded files are free from malware or viruses;

  • Avoid clicking on pop-up ads or opening files or email attachments from unknown senders;

  • Ensure that your mobile phones, computers and other ICT devices are installed with updated anti-virus software and malware removal tools to detect and remove malware;

  • Ensure that your ICT devices' operating systems and applications are updated regularly to be protected by the latest security patches and vulnerabilities; and

  • Always select 'Custom' or 'Advanced' installation settings during the process of software installation. This allows users to uncheck boxes for the installation of any unwanted hidden files or programs bundled in the software installer program which may contain malware. Refer to the image for more details.