What is Scareware

In our last post we gave you an overview of what the different types of malware are and an example of each one. From this point on, we are going to dedicate one post for each type of malware. What it is, how you get it, and how to get rid of it. This time, we are going to talk about “Scareware”. Scareware is a term used to describe the type of malware whose purpose is to scare you into thinking there is something wrong with your computer but there really isn’t.

The most popular versions of this are when you are on the internet and all of a sudden your computer locks up and you get a pop up on the screen that says something along the lines of “There is something wrong with your computer. Call this number and we will fix it for you.” Whatever you do, don’t call the number. There is absolutely nothing wrong with your computer. It may look like there is, but let me assure you there is NOTHING wrong that you can’t fix yourself in 5 seconds.

Before I tell you how to fix it, let me first explain how you got it. You didn’t do anything wrong, most likely you were looking at a site you normally look at all the time. Sites like Juno, and Yahoo for email, or even Facebook sometimes cause this issue. Again, it’s not even them. What technically is happening is a piece of malware on a remote site linked to the site you looked at.

If you take a look at website and notice there are advertisements for other sites on them, those ads in some cases are not really there. It’s a piece of code that tells the browser to go to a particular website, grab an image, and display that image in that particular spot. The website hosting that image is the one that is infected with malware, and when the website you are on, pulls that image over, it also pulls the malware. Again, there is nothing you did wrong, and nothing you can do about it. It just happens.

Now, you may go to the website 50 times and nothing happens. That’s because the malicious code is written in a way that says after so much time, activate this malware and infect the next person that goes to that site. If you happen to be the unlucky person who this happens to, it may look like you have no choice but to call the number. On the other end of that line if you call will be a man or woman from India claiming they can help, but they need access to your computer. Once you give them access the first thing they do is password protect your computer. This is in case you don’t pay them, you can’t get your data back. Then they tell you they see a lot of things wrong with your computer and it will cost you 150.00 to fix it. After some time, they will tell you it’s worse than they thought, and it will cost you another 75.00. This keeps going until you just hang up on them. But remember, they password protected your computer. The next time you turn it off and try to turn it back on, the system will ask you for a password you don’t know. Only they know it. Unless you call them back and give them everything they ask for, you are stuck. Everything you have on that computer is lost forever. But wait there is still hope.

Remember, in the beginning I said, there was nothing wrong with your computer to begin with. So long as you don’t call them and give them access to your computer you are fine. Here’s what you do to fix the issue yourself.

  1.       Hold down the CTRL, and the ALT keys
  2.       While holding down these keys press and release the DELETE key
  3.       Now let go of the CTRL and the ALT keys (this is called doing a “Control – Alt – Delete”)
  4.       The next screen that comes up will have a list of things to click on
  5.       Click on “Task Manager” it should be at the bottom of the list.
  6.       On your desktop in the “Task Manager” window locate your browser and click once to highlight it.
  7.       At the bottom of the task manager window click “End Task”
  8.       This should have just closed your browser and the annoying pop up along with it.
  9.       Now reopen your browser, making sure NOT to click on “Restore Last session”.
  10.   If you didn’t click yes to “restore last session” you should be good to go. Malware removed.

Yes it’s that simple.

Another form of this “Scareware” is via the phone. People from another country will call up claiming to represent “Windows”, and they see someone is trying to hack into your computer. If you give them access they can fix it for you. This too is a scam. Let me tell you some reasons why.

  1.       If someone calls you they represent a company (in this case Microsoft) not a product (in this case Windows).
  2.       If they see someone is trying to hack into your computer, why do they need access to fix it? The only people who can see what’s going on with your computer are people whom you have already given access to.
  3.       NOBODY! I mean nobody will ever call you out of the blue and tell you there is something wrong with your computer. Unless it’s a company like Husky Logic that you have contracted to monitor your computer, no one can see what’s going on with it, and thus would ever call you to tell you. Anyone who calls you out of the blue is a scammer.

Just hang up on these people. Don’t even talk to them.

There is no way to prevent these sorts of attacks from happening. Even if you have the best anti malware in the world installed on your computer, it doesn’t block 100% of the malware out there. If someone tells you it does, they are lying. You can protect yourself from any harm but following the instructions in this article. Don’t give these people access to your computer when they ask, and don’t give them your credit card information. Better yet, don’t even talk to them. In case you do find yourself in this situation, you can also protect yourself by having a backup of all your files. This way, if you do get locked out of your computer, you don’t lose anything.  Next time we will be talking about a similar piece of malware going around these days called “Ransomware”. See you then.


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