Stay in CTRL: Computer Crash (Not) Immanent!
“Do not turn off your computer or you will lose everything!” “Call this number now to reach tech support.” Have you seen or heard alerts like these, warning that a computer crash is immanent or that you have thousands of errors? They’re called scareware, a type of malware that attempts to frighten you into calling a number where a technician will “fix” your computer—for a price. These are scams. We’ll show you how to take control of this scary situation by using Ctrl + Alt + Del.
When You See an Alert Screen: Take CTRL
- Remain calm. Ignore what the errors are saying and the threats on the screen. Do NOT call the fake text support number.
- Press Ctrl, Alt, Delete. This is a process to use anytime a program freezes or gets taken hostage. These are three buttons on your keyboard. You must hold them down at the same time.
- Pressing Ctrl + Alt + Delete will bring up a screen with several options. Select “Task Manager” (might say “Start Task Manager”).
- Task Manager will open. It shows you what processes are currently running on your computer, which would be a list of open programs.
- Select the browser you are using where the alert screens appeared (i.e. Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, or Microsoft Edge).
- Click “End Task” to force quit the selected program. This will close all open windows associated with that program.
- When you relaunch your browser, DO NOT restore your previous session/tabs. Doing so will just cause all of the windows from before, including the alert screens, to reappear.
For Browsers that Auto-Restore: Beyond CTRL
- If your browser automatically restores the previous session (Microsoft Edge usually does), then before relaunching the browser, disconnect your computer from the Internet. For wireless connections, simply click the wifi icon, and click “disconnect” under the name of your network. For a wired connection, just remove the Ethernet cord.
- Once you have disconnected, open the browser. It will say that there’s no Internet connection, which means that the pages from the last session cannot load. That is good. Use this opportunity to close the extra windows and tabs, so that there’s only one webpage in your browser window.
- In that browser window, type the name of a safe website (be sure to type correctly), or select one of your bookmarks, (such as google.com, youtube.com, or facebook.com). At this point you don’t have an Internet connection, so the page will not display, but it will get you off of the scareware webpage and prepare your browser with a safe webpage to reload when you restore an Internet connection.
- After you have a safe URL (web address) in the browser, you can reconnect to the Internet by going to your wifi icon and clicking “connect” under your network name, or plugging in the Ethernet cord again. With the connection reestablished, reload the safe webpage, and it should display normally.
Power Off: Last Resort in Your CTRL
If all else fails, and Ctrl + Alt + Delete didn’t work, you can try turning off your computer. If you are still able to access the Start Menu, turn your computer off properly by going to the Power Options and selecting “shut down”. When you restart the computer and relaunch your browser, again, do not restore the previous session. Should your browser automatically restore, do the extra steps to first disconnect from the Internet.
If you are unable to go the power options to properly shut down the computer, you can do a hard shut down by holding down the power button on your laptop or desktop for about 7-10 seconds. You will hear the computer click off, the fan stop running. Make sure you hold it down long enough to fully shut down. If you have your power button set to put the computer to sleep, it may still power off entirely if you hold the button long enough. BEWARE, however, that performing a hard shut down can cause damage to your computer, either corrupting system files or even physical damage to the hard drive. Use this only as a last resort.
The next time you see this kind of scareware screen, you’ll be able to quash it yourself with Ctrl + Alt + Del. Take note of what webpage you were on right before these screens came up. It may be that the website you were on or trying to get to is compromised and generated this scareware. Malware of various kinds is often tied to “typosquatting” sites. They are website names that are common misspellings of popular sites, so be sure to enter the URL correctly so as not to end up on a fake site.
Out of Your Ctrl
If you find that scareware or other pop-ups continually appear, there may be a deeper problem. Your computer may already be infected with viruses. If running your antivirus program doesn’t clear up the issue, take your computer to a professional for complete virus removal or a tune up.