Virus Alert: Fake Anti-Virus and Celebrity Scams
Recently I got a popup warning me that a virus had infected my computer, and I needed to download some antivirus program to get rid of it. I did so, and later discovered it was a very slick FAKE security tool that really messed things up. How can I avoid fake antivirus programs in the future?
Beware of Fake Antivirus Programs
People tend not to be skeptical of what they want to believe in. So it is no surprise that cyber crooks are offering false protection against dangerous viruses, and luring people to unsafe sites with pop culture come-ons. Yes, that free antivirus program you installed so eagerly may be a virus in disguise! And what about that Facebook link you just got, promising naughty celebrity pics? Con men have always known that the easiest way to deceive a mark is to offer what he or she wants most.
You may be surfing the Web when suddenly a yellow "hazard" triangle pops up and alarming words cry, "Your computer is infected by a virus! Download this antivirus program right now!" or words to that effect. A sudden injection of fear is a very useful tool for getting people to do what you want. And a lot of people do so without an instant's hesitation. Then they're in trouble.
These rogue antivirus programs look busy running reports, and tell you they've deleted viruses. But in reality, they may have sniffed out your bank account data, passwords to sensitive sites, Social Security Number, and other things used for identity theft. Sometimes fake antivirus programs secretly install "bot" software, enslaving your computer to a remote mastermind who will use it while you're away to distribute spam or malware to other unsuspecting marks.
This covert activity sounds bad enough, but some rogue security programs will even try to hold you hostage, demanding a ransom. They'll proclaim that you have a terrible virus, which cannot be removed until you pay $49 to "unlock" the software. Others display p**n images on your screen, trying to embarass you until you pay the price they demand.
Sex, Lies and Video
Another common ruse involves celebrity gossip. Rumors spread like wildfire on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook that a popular celebrity has died, had a wardrobe malfunction, or that an embarassing photo or sex tape has been discovered. In almost every case, following these links will result in a nasty virus infection, which may not even be apparent at first.
If you get an email, tweet or wall posting that involves a celebrity -- and it promises juicy gossip or salacious content -- resist the urge to click. Keep in mind that the story behind the scam may in fact be true. Some recent examples include Nancy Grace on "Dancing With the Stars", claims that Lady Gaga was found dead in a hotel room, and rumors of a Miley Cyrus sex video. The celebrity/virus link problem has grown to the extent that security vendor McAfee now publishes an annual list of the Most Dangerous Celebrities.
Avoiding Fake Antivirus and Drive-by Virus Infections
By far the biggest driver of the drive-by virus problem is p**n, or the promise thereof. Avoiding "adult" content online, and steering your browser away from trendy celebrity gossip will go a long way toward keeping your computer safe on the Web.
As for the fake antivirus trap, watch out for well-known rogue products with names such as XP Antispyware 2011, Personal Shield Pro and Antivirus 360. But unfortunately, those are just the tip of the iceberg. So aside from the names, how can you recognize fake antivirus programs before it's too late? There are several tell-tale signs:
- High levels of alarm: those yellow triangles, jittering popup windows, lots of exclamation points, the word "alert" repeated six times per second -- all these things are done to induce alarm and cause you to act without thinking first.
- A phony free virus scan performed without your permission is another tipoff. Real antivirus vendors ask if you want them to scan your computer, fake ones often tell you they have done so and found malware the instant you land on their site. A full virus scan takes many minutes, not seconds.
- "Buy it right now" pitches. Every legitimate antivirus program lets you download a trial version before you buy.
- No links to reviews of the product in recognized publications. Don't be fooled by "testimonials" that were written by the malware maker himself.
There has been a significant drop in fake antivirus distribution activity this summer, due to some good police work and the busting of several high-profile criminal gangs. But you can bet that others will spring up and try to grab what they see as easy money being left on the table.
If you encounter a popup window alerting you that your computer is infected, DON'T close the popup window with a click of your mouse! That often triggers the secret downloading of a malware program onto your computer. Instead, close your browser with Task Manager. (Press Ctrl-Shift-Esc and kill the running task.) If you suspect that your computer is infected, run a malware scan immediately, with MBAM or your security tool of choice.
Perhaps the best way to avoid drive-by downloads and fake antivirus software is to have REAL security protection in place. And fortunately, there are some excellent and free internet security tools, which you can read about in my Free Anti-Virus Software article. These tools will not only scan your hard drive for existing malware, but they'll also block it from being downloaded in the future.
Have you been a victim of a fake antivirus program? Do you have tips for dealing with rogue security tools? Post your question or comment below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 28 Sep 2011
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Virus Alert: Fake Anti-Virus and Celebrity Scams (Posted: 28 Sep 2011)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved