What Exactly Is Scareware?

what is scareware?

The term ‘Scareware’ is often applied to software that is in some way deceptive.

(Scareware can also be known as fraudware and includes rogue scanners)

A future article will look at how scareware has evolved into ‘ransomware’.


What Is The Point Of Scareware?

The aim of scareware is quite simply to frighten people into buying something that they otherwise wouldn’t want.

In many respects scareware acts like a Trojan, deceiving recipients into installing an unwanted program.

Whilst scareware can refer to many different types of products it is typically associated with antivirus scams in which the tactic is to suggest that your computer is either at risk or already infected.

Naturally, the scareware then offers the solution – a highly overpriced piece of software which offers to right all the wrongs that have been identified on your system.

In fact, only today, I read an interesting article on the BBC website which claims up to 40 million people have fallen victim to such scams in the last year!

Its no surprise then that scareware scams are a growth industry – too many internet users have insufficient knowledge to protect themselves and are easily duped by such schemes, spending their money on fake antivirus products that either do not work or, in some cases, actually install Trojans and viruses themselves.

How Does Scareware Work?

There are 3 main ways in which scareware will trick you somehow –

  1. Getting you to pay up – You buy the fake antivirus product, which is bad enough, but then the scammers take your credit card details too!
  2. Zombie time – Many scareware programs will ensnare the victim machines into a botnet which can then be used for sending spam or engaging in DDoS attacks.
  3. Identity theft – Scareware can install keystroke loggers and Trojans which will record what you do online and search your files for anything containing your private or financial information.

How Do I Protect Myself Against Scareware?
Avoiding scams isn’t so hard – common sense and inquisitiveness go a long way.

If a popup window appears on your computer then you should question it and never, ever buy online unless you yourself have taken your browser to the page you wish to buy from.

Here are 3 more tips for avoiding scareware and fake antivirus scams –

  1. Only use antivirus programs that have come from a legitimate security vendor – here are the best 10 free ones.
  2. Always read your email in plain text – this looks horrible but will display links as they really are, rather than disguised by fancy pictures.
  3. Be wary of email attachments – unless you completely trust the sender then do not open them and never be tempted by email offers of free antivirus programs from companies you’ve never heard of.

Once again, only buy or download security software from trusted sources – here are 10 more that I trust – and stay safe.

About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.


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