I would recommend that absolutely everyone who ever connects a computer to the internet should have some level of security running.
The basics of a firewall and anti-virus program should be considered a minimum requirement of surfing the web these days in order to thwart those would part you from your money.
Unfortunately, the internet is awash with criminals who spend their time looking to steal money or even people’s entire lives.
THE FAKE ANTI-VIRUS SCAM
Scammer and identity thieves are, generally, highly organised individuals or units.
They are exceptionally good at identifying new opportunities and one area that they have been dabbling in recently is the anti-virus and anti-spyware market.
There are many such criminals who are now selling, or even giving away, software that would appear to offer essential protection to those who surf the net.
In reality, however, many of the programs do not function at all, or are designed to infect and spread the malicious codes they were supposed to protect against.
FAKE ANTI-VIRUS POP-UPS
Have you ever visited a website and then been greeted with one of those annoying pop-up boxes?
I’m pretty sure you have as they are still far too common.
One of the ones I see on a regular basis is the one that has the yellow or red triangle, along with a warning that my computer is infected with a virus, or is bogged down with spyware.
If you are not particularly web savvy then you could be forgiven for thinking that the pop-up is telling you the truth.
After all, they often claim to have just scanned your computer.
Your immediate reaction may be to buy the solution that the pop-up offers, or to close the window by clicking on the ‘X’ in the top right corner if you are wise to such scams.
Either way.. they’ve got you!
If you buy the ‘solution’ that is being offered then you may well be opening yourself up to a whole lot of trouble, as described a little later.
If you close the pop-up then expect to see more pop-up ads multiplying like rabbits, regardless of what you are doing on your computer.
Other unexpected consequences could include a computer that now constantly locks up and/or programs that fail to work.
Basically, closing the pop-up will have left you with a computer system that is much slower at best and completely compromised at worst.
WHO IS BEHIND THESE FAKE ANTI-VIRUS SCAMS?
Fake virus scams are typically run by 3 distinct types of cyber-criminals – the scammer, the hacker and the identity thief.
The scammer will be looking to trick unsuspecting web surfers into buying their anti-virus products, whether they work or not.
Often these products are fake and will cause a whole lot more problems than they cure.
The hacker may just be looking to gain entry into your system for various purposes which may include stealing data, setting your computer up as a ‘zombie’, or purely for some malicious fun.
The identity thief, as you may imagine, will be looking for personal data, either to steal your identity themselves or to sell on to others.
HOW DO THE FAKE ANTI-VIRUS SCAMS WORK?
Fake virus alerts are typically triggered by a trojan which has found it’s way onto your system.
Trojans are often installed without your knowledge when you open an email attachment, download torrents or other files from peer-2-peer networks, visit malicious websites or click on a pop-up advert.
It is also possible for hackers to access your computer remotely, or through internet messaging services.
Often, these fake anti-virus pop-ups will lead you to believe that your system has been infected with spyware or a virus, even though it hasn’t.
In some instances, malicious software will actually install viruses and spyware onto your system in the first place, most commonly after you have requested a free online scan.
HOW DO YOU IDENTIFY FAKE ANTI-VIRUS PROGRAMS?
- Fake anti-virus software will often find more suspicious activity on your computer than those programs that are made by legitimate companies.
- The number of pop-ups you see will increase drastically, even when you are not connected to the internet.
- After installing the fake anti-virus program you may notice that your computer slows down drastically due to the amount of junk that has been installed onto your system.
- You may also find that your default homepage has been changed and now points to the scammer’s ‘official-looking’ site.
- Words on websites are now underlined and now hyperlink to undesirable locations, such as adult sites.
1. I would always recommend using Firefox as your browser rather than Internet Explorer because as it would appear to be considerably more secure.
2. Keep your computer system secure by always having a firewall in place, working in conjunction with a good anti-virus program from a reputable vendor.
3. Never click on pop-up adverts. Ever.
4. Only open email attachments if you can verify the sender and trust them. Always scan email attachments with your anti-virus program if it doesn’t do so automatically as the messages are downloaded.
5. If you are running Windows then leave your security setting on medium as an absolute minimum.
6. If you land on a website and see a warning from Google about it’s content then pay attention to it and leave.
7. Only buy anti-virus and anti-spyware products from reputable companies. Remember that the scam artists will often use names that make their sites or products appear to be from such vendors.
As internet users become more aware of some of the dangers and risks posed by the net, they are learning the importance of internet security.
However, there are cyber-criminals who will take advantage of these willing purchasers by offering poor or fake products.
If you follow the tips above you are much less likely to fall prey to their cons.