What is scareware?
Scareware is a malware strategy that is designed to trick victims into installing or purchasing possibly malware-infested software. Scammers and hackers employ scareware assaults to deceive customers into believing they must purchase malware masquerading as legitimate cybersecurity software.
Scareware, also known as deception software, rogue scanner software, or fraudware, may appear as pop-ups. These look to be official antivirus software company warnings, claiming that your computer's data has been contaminated. They are so well-executed that customers are scared into paying a price to rapidly obtain software that would solve the alleged problem. They wind up installing phony antivirus software that is actually malware designed to steal the victim's personal information.
How does scareware work?
Scareware tends to follow a pattern. Pop-ups appear unexpectedly and alert you that harmful files or porn have been discovered on your computer. They will continue to appear until you click on " remove all threats" buttons or register for antivirus software. Pop-up scams are meant to resemble legitimate warning notifications. Scareware frequently uses social engineering strategies to crop up:
- Mimic logos of legitimate antivirus programs and use similar-sounding names
- Show a screenshot of “infected” files on your computer
- Display a progress bar that shows your computer being "scanned"
- Contains flashing red images
- Use CAPS and exclamation points, with warnings to act fast or act now
These strategies are intended to elicit sensations of panic and terror. They do this to deceive people into making irrational split-second judgments and to persuade them to:
- Buying worthless software
- Downloading different types of malicious software, or
- Visiting websites that automatically download and install malicious software onto their devices
How to know if you have a fake virus
If you suspect you have been a victim of a phony virus scam, look out for the following signs:
- A plethora of notifications or banners show on your screen. Fake antivirus pop-ups, which frequently include all-caps text and exclamation marks, are intended to generate fear by informing you of critical security breaches.
- Reduced performance. Malware-infected computers generally slow down, crash, and freeze. Malware is meant to prevent you from taking action.
- Random appearance of programs and features. You may see a new icon on your desktop for an application you are unfamiliar with, or your browser may display new toolbars along with a new homepage. These can lead to the installation of even more fake programs.
- Inability to access applications or files. You might come across strange error messages or restricted pathways, for example. You recently clicked on an online advertisement. Some banners may be malvertising or harmful advertising. These are advertisements that include embedded code that allows hazardous programs to be downloaded onto your computer. Instead of clicking on unknown web adverts, always seek and verify product names.
Examples of common scareware include:
- Scareware websites or pop-ups posing as viruses. This is one of the most common types of scareware, and it is frequently found on scareware websites pushed on social media networks such as Facebook. An ad pop-up masquerades as an antivirus program alert, fooling consumers into believing malware is on their computer or smartphone. The goal is to persuade the user to click a link to download a "solution" to the problem. In truth, the link is a Trojan horse— rather than antivirus software, it contains a malware application that will inflict harm.
- Emails containing scareware. An attacker may send a "urgent" email requesting immediate action from the receiver. The email will frequently employ a fake sender address or email domain to appear to be from a reputable source. The scareware email may instruct the recipient to click on a download link to obtain antivirus software to remove a specific threat or to disclose their access information in order for " technical support" to troubleshoot an issue.
- Calls to Scareware tech support. Because no dangerous software is involved, these are not scareware. However, these calls rely on frightening the recipient into disclosing valuable information or granting the attacker access to important systems. Typically, the attacker calls the victim while pretending to be a tech support representative or a member of police enforcement, claiming that " suspicious activity has been traced to your computer." The attacker next attempts to persuade the victim to grant them remote access to their computer or user account. After duping the victim, the attacker exploits their access to commit additional fraud.
How to remove scareware and minimize damage
Turn off your computer and contact an IT professional:
Someone who is knowledgeable about IT can connect your hard drive to another machine and scan it for malware without launching your operating systems. This stops the harmful software from executing and causing further issues.
Turn off your internet connection:
Turning off your Wi-Fi or router will assist prevent malware from transferring your data to the culprits.
As soon as possible, change your passwords:
Begin with your primary email account, which is linked to all other services. Your banking accounts should be a top priority as well, especially if you suspect your credit card information has been hacked.
How to prevent scareware – seven tips:
With the spread of iOS and Android scareware, it's essential to stay alert across platforms and operating systems. Practicing cyber hygiene is the best way to prevent scareware, pop-up scams, and Google virus scams. Some of the steps you can take include:
- Avoid clicking on malware notifications. If you see a pop-up, banner, or window warning you that your computer is infected and prompting you to download a software solution, it’s likely to be a scam. Don’t click on it.
- Avoid accidental downloads. To get rid of scareware pop-ups and scam pop-ups, close the browser window instead of clicking the "Close" or "X" buttons. On Windows, use Ctrl + Alt + Delete to open the Task Manager. Then, find the program under the Applications tab and click End Task.
- Keep your browser up to date. This helps protect against scareware pop-ups and fake virus scams. Enable automatic updates to ensure you are always using the latest version of your browser.
- Enable pop-up blockers. If you can prevent pop-ups, your screen won’t be filled with advertisements for fake security programs.
- Verify new software before you buy it. Never download anything from or provide credit card information or other personal information to a company whose name you don’t recognize. An internet search can help you distinguish between genuine software and fake software.
- Use the full range of cybersecurity tools. These include ad blockers, URL filters, and firewalls to help cut scareware off at the source and prevent fake malware warning pop-ups from reaching your screen.
- Always use genuine antivirus software. Using up-to-date antivirus protection from a trusted security provider is the best defense against scareware because it will alert you to potential threats and swiftly quarantine and remove any malware that does make it onto your device.
Your security matters to us. By staying informed and adopting safe browsing practices, you can safeguard your devices against scareware and other online threats.
If you have any concerns or require further assistance, please do not hesitate to reach out to our dedicated IT support team at +44 (0)20 3371 7354.