Friday, May 27, 2011

Trick and No Treat with Scareware - Part 2

How do you recognize scareware?

It may not be as easy as you think. At first Scareware will appear to be a real-time, anti-virus scan of your hard drive. Then a pop-up message appears that your computer is infected with numerous viruses, spyware or other malware. There maybe a bombardment of pop-up warning messages that makes your computer difficult to use, but not in most instances. Keep in mind the scam artists want to fool you into believing the pop-up messages are legitimate. This way they can con you into purchasing the fake protection software, scan your computer for personal identity information, and use your computer to attack other computers.

The Scareware pop-ups will appear in a similar manner and appearance as messages you receive from anti-virus products manufactured by Symantec, McAfee, TrendMicro and other common anti-virus software companies. So, how do you know the difference between your legitimate anti-virus application and scareware? After all, you don't want to ignore a legitimate warning message.

First and foremost, get back to basics...

Know what anti-virus or protection software you have installed on your computer. The scam artists are counting on you not remembering what protection you've installed on your computer. Know the name of the software manufacturer (Symantec, TrendMicro, McAfee, etc.) and know the name of the product (Norton Internet Security, PC-cillin, Total Protection, etc). These products also come with a subscription for updates. Know how to find the subscription information so you can verify when the subscription expires.

Some of the scareware pop-up messages appear to be generated from the Windows Security Center. The Windows Security Center is part of Windows XP. Its purpose is to monitor the status of the presence of an anti-virus application or when the Windows Firewall is turned off. Essentially, the only legitimate messages you will receive from the Windows Security Center are warnings as to the absence of an anti-virus application or warning that your Windows Firewall has been turned off. You can recognize any fake "Windows Security Center" pop-up messages if there is a warning stating that there are infections on the system or if there is an inducement to download or purchase a product.

Unfortunately, if these scareware messages start popping up on your computer it means that your computer is already infected. If you click the pop-up message to purchase the software, a form to collect payment information for the bogus product launches allowing you to download and purchase the fake anti-virus product. But, that is not when your computer gets infected. In most instances, the scareware installed malicious code onto your computer before you saw any pop-up messages... whether you click the warning message, the purchase pop-up form, or not.

Parts three and four will deal with how the scammers get scareware infections on to your computer.


  1. Robin,

    This information is very helpful. I'm clueless when it comes to spyware, viruses, and malware. I am probably a lot like other people who just install anti-virus programs and hope that's enough. Now I have a better idea of what needs to be looked for. - Thanks.
    Carolyn Higgins
    Fortune Marketing Company