What is ‘Scareware’, and How to Avoid being Infected
What is ‘Scareware’, and How to Avoid being Infected

Scareware - malicious pop-ups tricking you to buy bogus software, infecting your computer

Computers in the millions across the globe are being invaded by an intrusive and destructive type of malicious spyware. Very misleading and unethical pop up messages are showing up during web browsing, tricking people into thinking there are harmful problems in their computer. This scares them into following the pop up instructions, which in turn takes them to a website which tries to sell bogus software. Unwittingly as a result harmful scripts are loaded into their computer which bypasses their internet security software. In many cases computers quickly become inoperable as a direct result. This type of popup and resulting malware infection has become commonly referred to in the media as ‘Scareware'.

As you are browsing websites, you may notice a pop up window advising there are harmful errors in your system, or that you have viruses, registry errors, trojans or other types of computer problems. This pop up looks to you like it is coming from your Windows or internet security system. It never occurs to you this might be a bogus popup, so you do as the popup instructs you, and click on the OK button. However, you are then taken you to a website which advises you to buy a program to fix your (bogus) problems. By the time you get to this screen, you realise something is amiss, and you close down your browser. Now when you try to browse the internet, you are immediately taken to that same website telling you to fix your computer by buying their software. This website is so intrusive you are unable to do any browsing at all without this site loading into your browser. Other changes may occur, such as your background desktop picture may change to a picture in relation to the scareware infection, sometimes your desktop icons may change in appearance, or you may notice extra icons appear. In some cases your other programs may become unusable. At this stage, unless you are a computer guru you will need to take your computer to your local repair shop.


How To Avoid being Infected

How can you prevent scareware from invading your computer? Well, today you need to be, more than ever, aware of pop up windows. Rather than automatically going to and clicking on the ‘OK' button, as we have all become so accustomed to doing, you need to look and read carefully the content of the popup.

In general, legitimate system pop-ups from the Windows operating system or from your internet security software will carry a small logo and/or the name of the program identifying where the message is coming from. Also, the nature of a Windows system or internet software message is usually an informative type of message (a program has become unstable and must close down, or cookies have been deleted, or updates have completed etc.).
Where as a scareware pop-up will most likely be advising of problems, and to fix click OK, therefore the scareware popup has a curative type of message, to cure a problem .

If you receive a suspicious popup that you are not sure if it legitimate or possible scareware, then the safest thing you can do is to press the ‘Ctl' + ‘Alt" + ‘Del" keys to open task manager and end task on your browser (even though you will lose the web pages you have open).

Further, you may reduce the risk of a scareware attack by using Firefox as your browser. There are several add-ons available for Firefox -- such as noscript, request policy, and adblock plus -- that block scripts and ads by default, and let you decide which sites should be able to load them.


Screen Shot Examples of Scareware Pop-Ups

Scare Ware Example Images


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