Scareware: Alert! Your Computer is (Not) Infected!
Have you ever seen messages like this pop-up on your computer screen? Maybe there were lots of pop-ups that suddenly appeared, windows you weren’t able to close. Or maybe loud beeps and a voice accompanied the message, warning you that you have a virus and need to call the number on the screen. These unsettling messages may frighten you into following the instructions because that’s exactly what scareware is designed to do.
Scareware (a blend of the words “scare” and “software”) is a form of malware (malicious software) designed to scare and trick users into downloading useless or harmful programs on their computers. Worse yet, scareware may prompt users to call a number where a “technician” remotes into the computer and “fixes” the problems, ultimately charging large amounts of money to do so. The problem is that these companies are the source of the scareware. They generate the pop-ups to scare you into calling them so they can charge you for their “services.” They may or may not remove the malware, but you can be sure they will call you again warning of more viruses, try to sell you software you don’t need, and, at worst, may try to harvest information from your computer.
One immediate indicator that these are not legitimate is if they include a support number to call, as major companies like Microsoft and Norton never make their support numbers easily accessible, since they need to regulate their call volume. Be wary, as some of these scammers use logos and terminology of genuine companies. See examples of such screens throughout this post.
If you see scareware alerts, they could be a part of a virus that is already on your computer. Sometimes these warnings come with malware you downloaded, as part of unnecessary computer tune-up tools. If they pop up even before you open the Internet, then you likely have potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) in your system. In that case, you can try running and removing threats with your antivirus software, but if unsuccessful, take the computer to a professional.
Other very common forms of scareware are HTML pages, webpages that are totally bogus in their “infected” warnings. If it is only a webpage, you should be able to close the window by exiting your browser, but if not or it reappears, simply shut down your computer. When you restart and open the Internet browser again, be sure not to resume the previous session, but to start with a new one (most browsers will default to a new session). If you continue to be redirected to these kinds of pages, your browser may have been hijacked or contain malicious plug-ins, in which case you might need to seek technical support from a trustworthy, local computer services company.
PC Ninja performs virus/malware removal and tune-ups to get your computer running normally after infection or unknown companies taking remote control of the system.