Fake anti-virus, anti-spyware programs

by techtiptom

Originally posted on wibc.com on 08/13/2012

Not long ago, a colleague was conducting an Internet research when — pop! — a yellow triangle appeared on his screen, warning that his computer had been infected by dangerous spyware. The alert looked real. He thought it was “issued” by his security software maker. Still, he was skeptical. Using his mouse, he closed the alert by pressing the “x” in the window’s upper right-hand corner.

That was his first — and last — mistake!

Pop-up ads began sprouting everywhere, his screen froze, and none of his programs were accessible — even after rebooting. Basically, his computer was disabled, and he spent hours on the phone with tech support to correct the problems.

Welcome to the world of fake anti-virus, anti-spyware programs.

Despite what happened to our friend, it’s not that common to encounter hackers who simply want to harm your computer with fake anti-virus programs. In most cases, you’ll confront scammers who want to scare you into buying “rogue” security software by making you think your computer is infected. (“Rogue” means software of unknown or questionable origin, or doubtful value.)

In fact, fake “virus alerts” often mimic ones displayed by brand-name products. For example: “Your Computer Has Been Infected!” That’s what some pop-ups and phony alerts will say, hoping you’ll download fake anti-virus software. Don’t be fooled!

Meanwhile, ID thieves will use the fake software to gather your personal and financial information — for their own ID theft scams or for sale to others.

Fake Virus Scam Tactics

Fake virus alerts are usually generated by a Trojan — a program that takes control of your computer — after you open an email attachment, click on a pop-up advertisement or visit a particular website. (Adult sites are special favorites.)

If you run programs that provide file-sharing information — including some instant messenger (IM) applications — your computer might be remotely accessed by scammers, hackers and identity thieves.

Sometimes, the Trojan creates “false positive” readings, making you think viruses and spyware have infected your computer, even though nothing has. In other cases, scam software actually implants malicious code into your computer, especially if you request a “free virus scan.”

In other words, some peddlers of fake anti-virus software actually design the viruses, spyware and malware that their software is supposed to detect!

More next time…….

Write me with your questions, at techtiptom@wibc.com