It's ironic when you can put yourself at risk by responding to a message in your browser that warns you that you are at risk. If you ever see a message telling you about a potential malware threat while visiting a Web page, that message may be an attempt to get you to install a rogue security program that that can harm your home or business computer.
You might know the terms malware and spyware, but scareware may be a new one. Modern cybercriminals now attack victims by scaring them using a variety of methods. One reason that attackers succeed is that many tech-savvy computer users understand how important it is to respond to security warning messages. Microsoft's Window Defender program, for example, issues an alert when malevolent software attempts to infiltrate your system. Similarly -- but fraudulently -- scareware issues a fake warning message that alerts you to a threat that does not exist.
A typical scareware attack begins when a pop-up window opens and displays a message such as "Warning: Your PC Is at Risk of Virus & Malware Attack." The text of the message may vary, but its intent is the same -- to get you to take some action. These pop-up windows often look legitimate and may even display a fake Flash or animated GIF animation of a scanner scanning your computer. People who believe the message may download and install the rogue "security program" that the message recommends.
A rogue security program doesn't always infect computers with viruses. It might simply cause you to purchase software that provides limited or no security protection. Rogue security programs can cause other problems as well. For example, one might prevent you from installing other anti-virus programs while another could steal personal information and prevent Windows from installing automatic updates. In worst-case scenarios, victims may wind up with a computer infected with malware and never know that it.
Install a legitimate anti-virus program and ensure that it operates continuously on all your computers. A good anti-virus program warns you when a rouge security program attempts to install itself. Firewalls, such as the one that comes with Windows, can also help protect you from malware threats. If you already installed a rouge security program, use your regular anti-virus program to run a complete scan so that it can identify and remove the threat. A complete scan -- that is, not a quick scan -- make take a while to run depending on your security program, so be patient as it cleans your system.