Computer viruses and malware have been around for a long time, and cybercriminals have always tried to package their malevolent doings under a veil of deception. One method that has been in place for a while now is called scareware. Often disguised as something that appears to want to help your computer, scareware will scam users into paying for a service that isn’t beneficial.
Scareware is a multimillion dollar scam industry that tricks thousands of users every month into paying for a completely fake product. Here’s an example of how it works:
Once the computer is infected, it will display a fake screen that looks very similar to modern antivirus software. It will appear to run a scan that detects multiple threats. The infection will lock down the computer and make it difficult to surf and use, often blocking applications from opening and/or preventing the user from surfing the Internet. They are designed to be frightening and annoying with pop up messages that continuously alert the user of threats like data loss or private data being stolen. The scans are absolutely fake, although the infection itself could potentially be doing the harm that it claims it wants to protect you from.
Once this routine is ran through, scareware will often offer a resolution to clean up your computer for a fee. This is where people get fooled; they don’t realize they are being tricked, and quickly oblige and pull their credit cards out and pay money. Sometimes that will make the scareware go away, but not every time. Either way, users are getting tricked and forced into purchasing something useless (and likely harmful).
How do you prevent being scammed?
You’ll want to be sure you have good, up-to-date antivirus installed, and take network security especially seriously to prevent malware attacks. Even on secure networks it is possible for these fake antivirus scams to slip through the cracks, so your next line of defense is education. Make sure you and your staff know what antivirus solution you use, and what, if any, security notifications might be seen. If something pops up saying ‘Win 7 Antivirus 2012 has detected viruses on your system’ but you know you use a whole different antivirus application, know something is up and contact technical support.
At PACE Technical Services, we see these scams all the time, and they tend to be pretty tricky to fix, especially since they even trick your web browser into providing bogus search results when trying to Google a solution to remove the scam. Our techs are familiar with a wide spectrum of malware issues and when there is something new they have the resources to find the right solution.
Scareware has been finding its way onto mobile devices as well, so users are asked to be cautious of unfamiliar warnings and alerts.
If you suspect your computer is infected with scareware, viruses, or any type of malware, contact us immediately at 905.763.7896. Don’t wait; issues like this can quickly escalate as it opens up your system for other attacks.