What Is Scareware?

Scareware is a malware that performs its attack by using social engineering wherein it provides scare and fear tactics that tricks the unsuspecting victims into buying and downloading dangerous, malicious, and unwanted software. Scareware attack has been rampant during 2009.

Scareware is one of the known malware that gets millions of dollars from unsuspecting victims all over the world that falls prey to the online scams every year. The hackers and cybercriminals prey on the unsuspecting users who lack technical skills and knowledge and trick them into purchasing fake programs or software by displaying a fake screenshot of the computer with the virus or malware attack.

Scareware attacks in different ways, such as: stealing the identity of the victim or user. It is done by attack the unsuspecting user and recording personal information and use it for different cybercrimes. Steal the victim’s credit card information, by tricking the victim to buy a fake antivirus program. The hackers will be able to take control of the computer or device once given an access when the user unknowingly clicks to download the fake software or program.

What Causes Scareware?

Scareware occurs when an unsuspecting victim is browsing the internet and then suddenly a pop-up ad appears. It usually shows a screenshot of the computer files and mentions that there is a virus present in the system. It will then show a program that will scan and remove the virus from the system with a specific amount of price that needs to be purchased. When the user does not download the software, the computer or device usually starts acting bugged with pop-ups being bombarded to the browser nonstop. The software or program is usually linked to a customer service representative; it can be the hacker or cybercriminal. By clicking the link, the user then unknowingly gives the access to the cybercriminal. Once the access is allowed, the hacker or cybercriminal will then steal all the information, data or even the identity of the user.

Scareware usually occurs when a pop up appears and it looks like a browser page. In the page, a message will inform the user about the computer he is using is currently infected by different viruses or malware. It also may contain a message that a security software is now expired and needs to be updated or a link will be provided where the unsuspecting victim will be given the option to download a suspicious program that will either update the security of the computer or a new software that will be used to remove the virus or malware that was found. The program or software involved is usually never heard of by the user. This software is part of the scam and is not real, instead, these programs or software are malware that will be used to infect or invade the device or computer.

During October 2008, Microsoft and the Washington Attorney General have sued Alpha Red and Branch Software, two businesses based in Texas. The said companies were the ones responsible for a product named, Registry Cleaner XP, and it is a known scareware program that affected a lot of unsuspecting users. While in December 2008, a restraining order was given to Innovative Marketing Inc. and ByteHosting Internet Services, the said companies were caught producing a different number of scareware programs that were able to affect different users.

How to Prevent and Remove Scareware

Scareware usually tricks users who lack technical knowledge, as this type of scam includes different processes like a normal software purchase usually includes. Scareware attacks can be prevented by keeping the browsers updated and updating the security patch of the software or programs. The pop-up blockers and the firewall must always be turned on whenever using the internet. If a pop-up occurs, completely shut down the browser and disconnect the computer from the internet. Shutting down pop-ups can be difficult so the user must proceed with caution. Never click any button from the pop-up as it may give access to the hacker to the computer or device. Make sure to use an updated top-notch antivirus program to keep the device or computer protected from malware or viruses.

When browsing different sites, the user must always remember to not click any links that give a warning about a specific virus infecting the computer. Close the pop-ups and always perform a full scan for viruses or malware. Never give out personal information in any pop-ups nor click any links to download suspicious or malicious software. To stay protected from scareware attacks, one must make sure to use top-notch anti-virus software. This will not just prevent malware or virus attacks but as well as protect the user from the scareware attacks that have been prevalent nowadays. Scareware is any type of software that gives fear and causes panic by providing false information regarding a specific virus or malware found inside the computer system. Always be aware and use common sense, read and do research about different ways a malware may be used to prey against unsuspecting users. Never download anything that is suspicious and do not trust pop-ups or links that offers different downloads of unknown programs or software.

Once a scareware is detected the user must shut down the browser being used. Unplug the modem or router to disconnect from the internet. Never log-in personal details using online banking, as some hackers may track keystrokes and will use this to commit a cybercrime. Perform a complete virus scan on the computer. Also, check the quarantine folders of the antivirus program. If with an anti-malware program, scan the whole computer including all system files. Restart the computer, if it seems slower than usual the malware infection is still present and active. Call the customer service of the company or bank in charge of finances and inform them about the possible scareware attack. If still not able to remove the malware or viruses, get help from an IT expert or security personnel.

One of the best ways to stay away from scareware attacks is by being skeptical with any pop-up offers that usually informs about a virus or malware infection and suggests purchasing and installing a suspicious program to remove it.