Scareware is a type of malware that can trick you into purchasing and downloading useless and potentially dangerous software. If caught right away, scareware is generally easy to remove. Read below to learn what it is, and methods to help prevent it.
What does scareware look like?
Scareware generates bogus pop-ups that look like legitimate warnings from antivirus or antispyware software, firewall applications, or registry cleaners. Typically, scareware messages say that a large number of problems — such as infected files — have been found on the computer, and the user is prompted to purchase software to fix the problems. (See illustration.)
In reality, no problems were detected and the suggested software purchase may actually contain real malware. The message window may even have a “clickjacking” feature that takes you to the attacker’s web site or initiates a malware download if the user clicks “Cancel” or the “X” to close the window.
What if my computer is infected?
- DO NOT click anywhere on the scareware message window!
- Press <Ctrl>-<Alt>-<Delete> (all at the same time) to bring up the Task Manager.
- Click on the name of the scareware program (under Applications) to highlight it and then click “End Task.”
- Save all your documents, and backup to an external source (such storage or an external hard drive).
- Call the ProDesk at (610) 896-1480 or email email@example.com for more help
While it may be possible to continue working on your PC, there may still be malicious processes running in the background. It is best to shut down your computer until you can get further assistance.
How do I prevent scareware?
Nothing is 100 percent safe, but the best way to protect against scareware is to keep your computer updated and to employ safe web surfing practices. Because scareware exploits vulnerabilities in code, you can get it simply by going to a web site (even a legitimate one, like The New York Times), or viewing a PDF.
What are safe web surfing practices?
- Don’t automatically click and download when prompted
- Use FireFox, Safari, or Chrome browser instead of Internet Explorer.
- When using social networking sites (ie. Facebook), don’t open any links, messages, or attachments from a friend without checking first. Even then, be wary of where the link leads.
How do I keep my computer updated?
To minimize your risks, it is important to keep the following software applications up-to-date: Java, Flash Player, Adobe Reader, and Windows. You must be have administrator privileges on your PC to install these updates. The Computing Center will update the computers of those who do not have such access priviliges on their office computers. Everyone needs to keep their home systems up to date.
- Java – a scripting language used to create web pages. Get the latest version.
- Flash Player – a browser plug-in for videos, games, and advertisements. Get the latest version.
- Adobe Reader – an application or browser plug-in for viewing PDFs. Get the latest version.
- Windows – In the Control Panel, make sure Windows Update is set to automatically download and install updates.