“Scareware” is a malware technique that uses pop-up alerts containing urgent security-related propaganda, designed to scare or intimidate you into following thru on a suggested action. This social engineering scam has proven an effective way for the bad actors to trick you into purchasing fake software disguised as real cybersecurity protection in order to steal credit cards and personal information and/or gain access to your computer.
HOW TO IDENTIFY SCAREWARE
Scareware is not just used on computers. With the increase of iOS and Android scareware, it is important to stay alert across all platforms and operating systems.
As you begin to start seeing the first signs of scareware with a flood of phony pop-up notifications or banners suddenly warning you that a security breach has taken place, or you have dangerous files (or even porn) found on your computer. Malware will also typically begin reducing the performance of your device. A device infected with malware will typically slow down, crash, or freeze, making sure you can’t do anything about it and have no choice but to click the pop-ups offering an easy remedy to your issue.
These alerts are specifically designed to cause panic and often look like genuine, legitimate application alerts and can frequently be accompanied by flashing images, “Scanning” progress bars, loud beeps, or voice recordings. The messages are also always urgent with “Act Now” messages or threatening legal repercussions. These pop-ups will also continue until you click on the buttons they are promoting, or you click the links and register and pay for whatever service they are pushing to clean your computer or keep you “safe”.
It is sometimes hard to distinguish between genuine notifications or product offerings, the counterfeits will mimic logos of legitimate antivirus programs and use similar-sounding names and even if you’re sure the pop-up is authentic, you should always verify new software with a quick web search before downloading it. Legitimate cybersecurity companies will never use invasive fear-mongering methods to advertise their products. In fact, the more intense and relentless the pop-up alerts are, the more likely they are scareware.
6 TIPS TO KEEP SAFE FROM SCAREWARE
- DO NOT CLICK ANYTHING ON THE POP-UP/AD! The pop-up is designed to load its malware if you click anywhere on the pop-up message (no matter what it says). Close the entire page without touching the ad or use Ctrl + Alt + Delete to open the Task Manager. Then, find the program under the Applications tab and click End Task.
- Keep your browser up to date. Enable automatic updates to ensure you are always using the latest version of your browser. This will help protect against scareware pop-ups and fake virus scams.
- Use cybersecurity tools + enable pop-up blockers. Ad blockers, URL filters, and firewalls help cut scareware off at the source and prevent bogus malware warning pop-ups from reaching your screen.
- Verify new software before you download it. An internet search can help you distinguish between genuine software and counterfeit software. Never provide personal information, credit card info, or download anything from a company whose name you don’t recognize.
- Always use genuine antivirus software. Using up-to-date antivirus protection from a trusted security provider is the best defense against scareware because it will alert you to potential threats and swiftly quarantine and remove any malware that does make it onto your device.
- If you happen to accidentally fall victim or have identified scareware on your device, you need to act immediately. Every minute you wait exposes you to further vulnerabilities and increases the risk of a data breach or identity theft.
If you’re looking to implement a proactive cybersecurity strategy to protect your business’s critical systems, give our professionals a call today. We’ll assess your needs and recommend the best, most effective solutions to address them. Contact us today!