Know How to Spot Malicious Scareware
A growing threat on the internet today is that of the rogue anti-virus infection, also known as “scareware”. This classification is used for any program that pretends to be an anti-virus utility, but is actually just a very noisy adware infection. It is often also accompanied by one or more Trojan infections, widely known for opening computer security holes and allowing all sorts of other undesirables in. XP Antivirus 2010 (shown below) is one such fraud.
To make things worse, these programs are always designed to look very close to a legitimate antivirus program, or else part of Microsoft Windows itself. These threats tend to slip right by automated protection tools such as firewalls and virus scanners, and then sit on your hard drive entirely un-accosted by nearly all legitimate virus scanners on the market. (In the meanwhile spamming you with annoying ads, all of which try and convince you to hand over credit card information. –Don’t do it!) The pressing question is of course, how can I know when an anti-virus is one of these frauds, and not a legitimate software?
Top 3 Signs You have a Malicious Fake Anti-Virus
In my experience, there are three main signs to look for. First off, the way it got onto your computer. This kind of program often appears of its own accord without you installing it, or is downloaded and installed to your computer after claiming “You are infected!” on an otherwise-unrelated-to-security website. Often times you may encounter a popup ad pretending to be a Windows file folder, and it has an animation “scanning for threats”. It will come up with a number of bogus entries, and then tell you to install their software and fix the problems you don’t actually have. Example advertisement pictured below.
Secondly, fraudulent anti-virus programs are VERY LOUD and have a frantic sense of immediacy intended to incite panic. They will tell you that you are critically, extremely, computer-about-to-explode infected, and that it is urgent, URGENT you give them your credit card information right away so that they can save you. There will be popups, that when closed result in additional popups, sometimes 2 or 3 times. These popups will return every minute or so, and interrupt whatever you are doing to demand your attention –often filling the whole screen and appearing on top of all other windows. A legitimate anti-virus by comparison, will pop up just one notification, nowhere near as frequently, and will also give you a “stop telling me about this” sort of option.
Third and last, the threats found by fraudulent anti-virus programs are entirely fabrications –none of the threats problems by these infections actually exist on your computer. If you have another scanner you know to be legitimate installed, and it isn’t finding anything, chances are the noisy, pushy program shouting that you have 100 infections is a fraud.
There are hundreds of these fake programs on the market now, but some of the more common ones I’ve seen as of lately include Antispyware 2010, Spyware Protect 2009, Total Security, and XP Antivirus 2010.
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