Fake anti-virus programs or “scareware” is one of the leading causes of virus infections for PCs. The best defense against this type of infection is to educate yourself and your employees about how to identify and prevent the installation of fake anti-virus programs.
What is Scareware?
Scareware is a program that poses as a legitimate anti-virus program or other utility that promises to fix detected infections or other problems with your computer. The software usually tries to infect users when browsing an infected website. The user will be presented with a legitimate looking popup claiming that a virus has been detected and is directed to click a link to install software to remove the infection or will lead to a form to collect payment for purchasing the software.
The software itself, however, is often a virus or other malicious program that will infect the PC with a virus, trojan or other malicious software.
How to Recognize Scareware
Scammers have become quite good at designing their pop-ups to look like authentic anti-virus programs. Many pop-ups will even have official-looking logos from reputable anti-virus software vendors to entice users to click their links.
Often, users are so accustomed to clicking pop-ups to close them that they don’t pay attention to what they are clicking. When you see a popup for a program that you do not recognize, pay close attention to the name of the program and what it’s asking you to do.
Malicious pop-ups often will be hard to close or prevent you from closing them altogether. Often the “X” or “Close” buttons are non-functional.
If all of these conditions are present, there’s a good chance you are seeing fake anti-virus software. DO NOT INSTALL IT!
What to do when you Encounter a Fake Anti-Virus Program
The first impulse when a fake anti-virus program appears on your screen is to click the “X” or “Close” button. Unfortunately, the scammers know this and will often design the pop-up to look like you’re closing the program, but in reality, you’re activating the software.
When you see a fake anti-virus, do not click anywhere in the popup and take the following steps:
- If you’re not comfortable performing any of the following steps, shut down your computer and restart to clear the program.
- Try to close the pop-up with Alt-F4 in Windows or Command-W or Command-Q in Mac OS X.
- If the pop-up is still open, open Task Manager (Crtl-Alt-Del, Start Task Manager in Windows 7), select the pop-up in the task list and select End Task.
Once the program is successfully closed, update and run your anti-virus program and spyware removal programs. I recommend the following:
- Microsoft Security Essentials
- AVG Anti-Virus
- Microsoft Safety Scanner – a one-time scanner to identify and remove viruses, spyware and other malicious software
How to Prevent Fake Anti-Virus Programs
Resist the urge to automatically click pop-ups you see when browsing the internet. Use Alt-F4 or other methods to close them.
Never agree to download, install or purchase a program that claims to remove a virus that it claims to have detected.
Install an anti-virus program and keep it updated. Many will recognize when you browse to a website with infected software, but it’s often a premium feature and is not included with free anti-virus programs.
Install and regularly run an anti-spyware program. Again, most free anti-spyware applications will remove spyware after the fact, but will not prevent you from installing the malicious code in the first place. Invest in the premium version of the software for additional protection.
With safe browsing, learning how to recognize threats and a reliable anti-virus program, you can keep your computer clean and running smoothly.