Scareware

User’s awareness of online danger is, of course, a positive thing. We treat the question of protection more responsibly, investing in antiviruses, coming up with strong passwords and mindfully analyze the permissions, received by software and websites.

What Is Scareware?

However, when this awareness turns into hasty fear, hackers can easily capitalize on this. In fact, there is a special type of malware, dedicated to abusing our fear of online threats, and it’s called scare.

Scareware is often synonymous with rogue security software – malicious tools that persuade us into installing antiviruses and security updates that are, in fact, hiding viruses. By installing a fake antivirus, users provide the application with all necessary security permissions, leaving an open door for people with evil intents.

How to Spot Scareware?

Let’s start with a curious case in point. Several years ago, a popular antivirus for Android – AntiVirus for Android™ became a Google Play sensation. Users liked the functionality and interface and downloaded the program for more than a million times. It was surely a good thing – users were finally aware of the importance of mobile security.

Turns out, the application was actually a hacker’s trap. A fake antivirus was actually infiltrating people’s phones and stealing their personal data. Eventually, the fraud was discovered but the data of hundreds of thousands ended up compromised.

Scareware Uses Emotional Responses and Fear

That’s the first sign of a malicious application or security update. The objective of the scareware is giving a user an uneasy feeling, nurtured by loud words and descriptive threats. Scareware often uses phrases like ‘Your safety has been severely compromised’ or ‘A serious privacy threat was detected on your device’.

The easiest way to protect yourself from this fraud is to download only safe applications – for instance, you can download avast antivirus from RocketFiles. Since even Google Play apps are not safe, it’s better to go an extra mile and select a secure software catalog. The thing is, on such websites entries are often added manually or, at least, thoroughly reviewed by moderators whereas on Google Play, due to its popularity, tracking malware is much harder.

However, you Don’t Always have a Choice

It’s one thing if scareware requires your conscious choice and consent. In those cases, you have time to think and then act. However, most often scareware has to make you act quickly. That’s why it usually is shown as a pop-up notification, email, or file attachment.

The scareware can even be hidden in a Trojan horse. By infiltrating into a legitimate software or secure website, the threat gains more trust. If a user does not question the source of the message, the message itself would hardly seem suspicious.

With modern methods of malicious Search Engine Optimization and personalized targeting, scareware doesn’t just infiltrate into any page. Usually, these are file download catalogs, the platforms on software development and security or online services. The page can even get to the top of Google’s search result which gains additional trust.

How to Protect your PC Against Scareware?

Make sure that your antivirus has a running firewall that protects your device from being attacked by a third-party network. Also, enable constant real-time scanning. Your antivirus should be running all the time, not only when you perform a targeted check-up.

Also, be sure to carefully update your operating system. Whenever Windows sends you annoying official notifications about new packages and releases, do not click on that ‘Remind me later’ button. Instead, do a break from work and let your PC install the updates. With each new release, Microsoft adds new security protection methods, and regular updating is the easiest way to prepare your device for various attacks.

To find deeply hidden threats, adjust the sensitivity settings of your antivirus. The higher is the sensitivity, the more careful will the tool be about approving of an app or file. However, keep in mind that this will prolong the duration of the scan. Therefore, keeping high sensitivity on a daily basis is highly uncomfortable. Instead, perform sensitive scans each week or month, depending on how many threats you usually encounter.

Conclusions

  • Being aware of the dangers of scareware is already the first step to secure yourself. Now you will be more careful about installing a security tool or clicking on a scary pop-up that reminds you of a ‘rare’ viral threat.
  • Download antiviruses that have an established reputation and are developed by well-known companies. Check user reviews and general ratings.
  • If you don’t have an antivirus tool installed yet, turn on a built-in Windows firewall.
  • Enable constant scanning and adjust the level of sensitivity to increase the detection precision.
  • Regularly install Windows updates since they often contain valuable security components.

Most importantly, remember that scareware preys on hasty emotional responses. Even if you see a scary alert about potentially grave damage, calm down and think rationally. In most cases, this notification is a false attempt to convince you to download an antivirus. To assure that there is no danger, it’s enough to run a deep security check with a trusted antivirus, even if it requires some time. After all, haste makes waste – and it’s especially true for scareware.

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