Scareware: How It Works and How to Avoid It?
If you have ever been scared into thinking your beloved PC is severely damaged, almost fully erased, or loaded with viruses after an ad promoting an emergency download popped up in your browser, then you came across scareware. It might look like valuable soft or strong antivirus (with a discount on top), promising you the best cyber protection, but what is actually hidden behind the click of your mouse might give you real shivers. So, let’s arm you with advice on ways to prevent scareware from appearing!
What is Scareware?
Defined as malicious computer programs (or malware), scareware is designed specifically to trick users into downloading scam. Once clicked on, it steals data, charges money, damages system files, or triggers some other form of harmful or fraudulent activity. Scareware, among other fraudware, first appeared in 2009 and is still widely used by hackers, who, accordingly, always find new ways to entice internet users into ill-advised downloads.
Scareware usually appears in the form of a pop-up and pretends to detect immediate threats, scan for viruses, and malware on your computer. Since hackers want you to be afraid your OS is collapsing, you are either alerted that you need to protect your computer immediately or just promptly directed to purchase the only solution to the so-called problem. What you download in the end is a scam, another pop-up with an offer to download the full version that “eliminates” the threats, or, if you are lucky, just not working.
How to Recognize Scareware?
Fraudsters come up with pretty clever ways to trick the user into downloading their evil soft. Today scareware is often pitched as a message or an alert. While some clearly are scams with misspellings and troubled appearances, others might look like a real deal. Scareware pops up, notifies you that multiple viruses were found, and suggests a convincing download. After discovering the computer security was breached, the user is considered to be stressed and is easily pushed towards purchasing software to fix the issue.
There are more tactics used by hackers, not to mention spam mail that distributes scareware. You know it, once you open an email from an unknown sender and click on the message window, even on a cancel button or page-close X, you are fooled into getting worthless services and programs or directed to the attacker’s website. This is called click-jacking.
Another variation of fraudware is an offer for a firewall or an OS cleaner. Or, in its shady grace, rogue software that got into your device can pretend to indicate that additional protecting apps are needed.
How to Get Rid of Scareware?
If you find yourself under a scareware attack, like after opening a malicious email or in the middle of your browser window, remember to not click on anything inside the message. Better close your browser instead. Here is how to remove scareware from your screen most safely:
- Press Ctrl-Alt-Delete, go to Task Manager, and close it from there;
- Right-click the window or tab and select “Close”;
- Disconnect your computer from the Internet;
- Restart your WiFi-router;
- Restart the computer in safe mode;
- Open your antivirus and run a scan.
Always be on high alert as downloading unknown fake software might result in:
- False sense of protection
You are sure that your device is protected when really it’s not, it could even be defenseless to viruses. Remember that the newest scareware might not trigger an alert from your actual antivirus because nothing malicious happens.
- Identity theft
Scareware might preinstall a malicious keylogger to your PC or device and start recording everything you type, so your personal information and passwords will flow to hackers’ full access.
- Financial data breach
Once you entered your financial info to buy a fake program, your private data is out there in unsafe hands. Releasing your bank card information anywhere suspicious always opens up the door for fraud.
Ways to Protect Your PC From Scareware
What we can use for protection against scareware is that these scams follow common patterns. Sudden warmings, aggressive promotion, strong persuasive vocabulary, and other scare tactics are never used by reliable antivirus vendors. Whilst hackers are well aware of that, lots of people are not. As a general rule, scareware can not work without the recipient responding with a push of the button. Remember that scareware is highly dependent on a computer user, such as you, that will (or not!) be clicking the “yes” or exit button. Protect your devices by knowing about scareware and its tricky ways to get your data!
Here are some other steps to prevent scareware from appearing on your device:
- Own cybersecurity software and antivirus from a reputable company and update it accordingly;
- Check your OS more often, e.x. installed programs and memory usage;
- Take as a rule to never click on a pop-up or link;
- Navigate unknown places of the Internet only with an ad blocker on;
- Only download and purchase from sites you can trust.
How to Remove Scareware From an Android Phone?
Just like your computer or tablet, your Android phone can also be exposed to scareware. Fighting through pop-up and screen-jacking messages that seem endless can be challenging for any user. If you could not stop the paranormal software activity right away, there are some tricks at hand to remove scareware:
- Restart the device, shutting it down will prevent further damage;
- Click on Reboot to Safe mode;
- Find any malicious software: go to Settings — Apps — App manager;
- Check all the list of your apps;
- Select fraudulent apps and suspicious new software;
- Uninstall / Force quit / Disable unwanted apps;
- Navigate to the Security options and click on the Device Administrator icon;
- Deactivate the scareware’s access, if there is any;
- Reconfigure the settings;
- Get protection software for a safer future.
Scammers use lots of effective tactics to lure you into trouble and rip you off. With the advice given above, you shall feel more protected against cyber fraud and annoying scareware, but it’s important to remember that your best bet is to always be alert online. Scareware downloads in seconds, but recovery can take much longer.