Fake Anti-Spyware Programs
Browsing the web for free anti-spyware programs can get you into more trouble than an accidental spyware infection. Bad guys are actually disguising their malware as beneficial anti-malware utilities, and inducing the gullible to not only install their malware, but even pay them for it! Here's how to tell the difference...
Beware Of Fake Anti-Spyware Programs
The scam usually starts with your search for "best spyware removal program" or something similar. Search results, or paid ads on search results pages, may lead the unwary to a site which promises a free scan to detect spyware on your computer. Click a button to start the free scan and, almost instantly, up pops a lurid warning: "YOUR SYSTEM IS INFECTED! DOWNLOAD THE CURE NOW!"
Often, you are required to pay a fee before you can download the purported "cure." That's a big clue that the cure probably doesn't work. Nearly every legitimate anti-spyware developer offers a free trial or even a "free for personal use" version of its software. If you feel pressured to pay immediately, you may very well be downloading the opposite of what you hope to get.
Some fake anti-spyware programs report that they are scanning, finding infections, and removing threats. But in fact, behind the scenes they are sniffing your computer for sensitive data and transmitting it to their masters. Such treacherous malware posing as its own cure is a form of "Trojan horse" software - malware disguised as something beneficial.
Fake anti-spyware is not the only type of Trojan horse malware. Some Trojans pose as "PC tune-up" software, pretending to optimize your system while actually infecting your machine with viruses, keyloggers, spyware, rootkits, and other forms of malware. In most cases, the "hook" that gets you to download the Trojan is the offer of a "free scan" that reports fake problems.
Avoiding the Rogues
Some fake anti-malware programs include "Windows Debug System," "Windows Efficiency Manager," "Vista Internet Security 2011," "Windows Performance Manager," and "Windows Trouble Analyzer." Unfortunately, there is no comprehensive list of fake anti-malware programs because new ones and variants are cropping up all the time. Many are exactly the same programs passing under new names, as the old names are exposed as Trojans.
The best way to avoid downloading a fake anti-malware program is to stick with well-known brand names reviewed by respected magazines and websites. Anti-malware vendors you can trust include, but are not limited to, AVG, Avast!, Kaspersky, Malwarebytes, Microsoft, Trend Micro, Panda, Symantec, and McAfee.
You can also use the wisdom of the crowd to find out if a purported spyware scanner is the real deal. Just search for the name of the program on Google or Bing, and see what people are saying about it. If most of the top results are about "how to remove" the software in question, that's an immediate big red flag.
Make sure you download anti-malware programs directly from the vendor's website and not from some unknown "library" of copies that may very well be fake anti-malware programs. Trusted software libraries like Tucows and Cnet's Download.com are safe alternatives.
Above all, be suspicious of any "free scan" that tries to alarm you with jittering Dayglo-colored "alert" windows and urgent urgings to whip out your credit card to save your computer from a dreadful "infection." The hard sell is your best tip that you are facing a fake.
Do you have experience with a fake anti-spyware program? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 7 Mar 2011
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Fake Anti-Spyware Programs (Posted: 7 Mar 2011)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved