Better Safe Than Scared – Beware of Scareware Scams
You’re happily computing along when out of nowhere a bright red pop-up leaps out: “Warning! Spyware detected on your computer!”
If you’re an experienced, possibly forewarned pro you probably bypass the warning, as realistic as it appears, and use the system tray to shut it down.
But sometimes, even the savviest, most experienced computer user can get sucked in and without realizing it, clicks thru the warning pop-up and voila! You could run head-first into a shockingly bad virus, malware or spyware.
These pop-ups can trick you into buying unneeded software, steal personal data and passwords, and block updates and access to anti-virus Web sites. Welcome to the wonderful world of rogue security software, also known as scareware.
Pop-ups can appear randomly out of legitimate Web sites and are placed there with permission or sometimes through injection attacks. Despite crackdowns on these and other scams, scareware can be advertised even through credible entities such as Google Inc.’s search engine.
Sometimes these pop-ups are designed to look harmless and authentic. But at other times they can look and seem much more serious and urgent…like the ones shown here.
You’re not sure if it’s real or not, so what should you do? The message may seem authentic…and perhaps, in some way, appreciated by you. Thanks for the warning, you might think.
But the key to all of this is that we are all so afraid of having our computers infected, and our identity or data stolen, that when an alert pops up, we think for that second that it has finally and actually happened. A bug has infected our computer. It’s a chilling fear.
And the con artists know it.
“Do something now!”
Several years ago, a well-known security group estimated that 70,000 people were exposed to a scareware message every day! Undoubtedly that number has gone up. Today, there are likely more than 15,000 versions of scareware “packages”—malware loaded behind a pop-up alert or ad.
When the pop-up or alert suddenly appears, it advises the user to take immediate action:
- Install new antivirus software immediately.
- Install recommended updates immediately.
- Remove the detected virus or spyware.
REMEMBER… the entire alert, message and recommended steps are part of the fraud. And there are two ways the scenario will play out: They’ll sell you fake security software and/or steal data from you.
The scary part of scareware
If the con artists just want to take your money, they’ll run a fake “security check” that, of course, identifies viruses on your computer. Their recommended solution? That you purchase instant protection with security add-ons. They trick you into spending money while giving you a false sense of security because you’re buying “vaporware”—a program that doesn’t exist.
By downloading this fake software, you are also handing them your credit card information…which they’ll be glad to use for their own purchases or to sell to someone eager to steal your identity or account.
The scary part of scareware?
- When you click on a pop-up, “rogue software” will be downloaded onto your computer—in other words, a very nasty virus or malware.
- In a worst-case scenario, the hacker can hijack your computer and lock up your personal information. Your computer can then be held for ransom. To get your computer back in operation, you have to pay up.
What should you do?
- If you receive a scareware message, close the entire browser window without clicking on the pop-up at all! The pop-up is designed to load malware if you click anywhere on it. Close the entire page without touching the ad.
- If you see a pop-up ad or receive a message similar to those mentioned above, avoid clicking the “download” button at all costs. One estimate says that 93% of scareware downloads are initiated by innocent (and unaware) computer users.
- Make sure you have Internet security software from a well-known company, which will alert you of and protect you from any malicious program you start to download.
- Rely on antivirus and antispyware products that are well known and respected.
- Always keep your operating system updated and surf the Internet using a firewall.
Most experts recommend that when you see a pop-up with a virus alert, you should close the window using the Windows Task Manager. With a little searching online, you can find a link that shows you how to do it.
Or better yet, talk to the experts at eGuard Tech Services. Fill out our form or give us a call today to take advantage of our FREE Cyber-Security Audit.
This comprehensive audit, conducted by one of our highly-trained technicians, will investigate your network and score your system on more than 15 common security loopholes that cybercriminals use on a regular basis to get around firewalls and anti-virus software (the REAL stuff!) to gain access to your network.