What is scareware?

When it comes to making us fall for their scams, cybercriminals have a number of tricks up their sleeves. One of these tricks is to scare us into thinking that our computers or smartphones have become infected with malware to get us to purchase a fake application. The programs and unethical advertising practices hackers use to frighten users into purchasing rogue applications are called scareware.

In a typical scareware scam, you might see an alarming popup message while browsing the Web that says “Warning: Your computer is infected!” or “You have a virus!” You would typically see these messages if you accidentally clicked on a dangerous banner ad or link, or by visited a compromised website. The cybercriminals are hoping that you click on the link in the popup message to “run a free scan” and then purchase their phony antivirus software to get rid of the nonexistent problems.

Since these scams are based on fear mongering, you could see repeated popup warnings until you finally agree to download the rogue software that they say will fix the issue. But, instead of real antivirus software, you wind up downloading a malicious program. These programs can even disable the legitimate security software on your device, which can make scareware very difficult to remove.

These scams are one of the most persistent threats on the Internet today. They play on our fear of losing data, time, and money and leverage the urgency of popup messages and repeated warnings to get us to act.

Here’s some tips to protect you and your loved ones from scareware:

Only purchase security software from a reputable company via their official website or in a retail store, and keep your security software up-to-date.

Never click on a link in a popup—simply close the message by clicking on “X” in the upper corner and navigate away from the site that generated it.

If you are concerned that your device may be infected, run a scan using the security software you have installed on your device.

If you don’t already have security protection on all your devices, then try out McAfee LiveSafe™ service, which protects all your PCs Macs, tablets, and smartphones from online threats as well as safeguarding your data and identity.

Don’t let the bad guys scare you into taking actions that could do you and your devices harm. Stay safe online.

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked!  Disclosures.

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