Cybercriminals are always looking for different ways to manipulate their victims into giving them access to sensitive data. The best way to avoid cyberattacks is to remain vigilant and aware of the different ways that these hackers operate. But sometimes, cyberattacks can take the form of seemingly beneficial software programs, and one common way unsuspecting users are attacked is through fake antivirus.
So what exactly is a fake antivirus? A fake antivirus is a program that tricks users into thinking that their computer is infected with a virus or spyware. It shows several falsely detected viruses on the computer and asks users to click on the “fix” or “repair” option. Doing this allows the hacker to ask for a payment, lock the device, or install other malware into the computer.
Fake Antivirus: What It Is and How It Works
Fake antiviruses are rampant all over the different parts of the internet. Almost everyone has already encountered this type of malware at least once. While fake antiviruses are only a nuisance for most people, they can also put others at risk of malware and data breaches.
This type of cybersecurity risk poses a huge (and expensive) threat to many organizations worldwide. According to a report by the Ponemon Institute and IBM, cybersecurity breaches cost companies around $8,640,000.
But aside from having secure cybersecurity systems, it’s also important for organizations to familiarize themselves with the many types of cyber risks. If you’re concerned about fake antiviruses possibly infecting the company’s network, here’s everything to know about them:
What’s a Fake Antivirus?
Fake antivirus software is a useless and potentially harmful program that falsely detects and eliminates viruses and other malware. These fake virus alerts are found all over the internet and are used by scammers to demand money under the pretense of removing non-existent threats on the device. Fake antivirus is also known as fake antispyware, rogue antivirus, or a smitfraud.
Fake antiviruses often come in two different types: legitimate antivirus software that’s modified with malware like viruses, adware, or spyware in them, or fake software built from scratch by a sketchy company. The names of these programs are not the usual ones we see, like Bitdefender, Norton, or McAfee.
Fake antiviruses work by notifying the user about infections and malware in the device. It shows a pop-up message that seems urgent and asks the user to click on the “fix” or “repair” button. If you don’t consider yourself tech-savvy, then you’re likely to fall victim to this scam. Especially if you can’t distinguish real notifications from fake ones, you can get easily tricked into getting fake antivirus for your computer..
Why is it Dangerous?
Fake antiviruses were designed to look like legitimate antivirus software. Having one in the device puts the user at risk of getting more serious cyber threats. If you’re lucky, it might only ask you to buy useless software. But in some cases, a fake antivirus opens a device and its network to cybercriminals who will steal the user’s identity or extort them.
Unfortunately, these malicious programs were designed to be difficult to remove from the computer without the help of an IT professional or powerful antivirus software.
How Can I Spot a Fake Antivirus?
If there’s no antivirus software on the computer, then essentially every virus alert you encounter is fake. Real alerts only show in a window displayed by the legitimate antivirus software – browser and web page pop-ups are always fake.
Another important thing to remember is that these malicious programs tend to overcompensate their uselessness by “finding” more issues than normal. It may also ask users to spend more money to fix the non-existent “issues.”
Here are other signs that might indicate the presence of a fake antivirus in the device:
- Hijacked browser homepage
- Suspicious toolbars on the browser
- Numerous junk pop-up ads
- Rogue programs opening and running
- Frequent slow-downs and lock-ups
4 Ways to Avoid a Fake Antivirus
Preventing a fake antivirus from being installed in the device is much easier than trying to solve the problem when it’s already there. Here are 4 effective ways to avoid fake antiviruses from taking over the computer or network:
1) Learn More About What You Download
Always make sure to research the reputability of the company that sells the antivirus software – or any type of program – before buying and downloading it. Just because they have a user-friendly interface doesn’t always make them trustworthy.
Clicking on a link or ad might lead users to a malicious site and allow malware to be automatically downloaded on the device. It always helps to pull up a quick search about the software before taking action.
2) Turn On Basic Security Settings
After installing trusted antivirus software on the device, make sure to take advantage of its many security features. Here are a few ways to enhance the computer’s security measures using the basic settings of the operating system and the antivirus:
- Enable the firewall. This ensures that the device is secure when using the internet or other local networks.
- Turn on the option for automatic system updates. Updates are necessary because they improve the past errors that were overlooked before. It also enhances the features that come with the OS or the antivirus program.
- Use the anti-spam and anti-phishing settings to minimize encounters with fake antiviruses. Some programs also come with the option to have exclusion rules. This allows users to easily navigate through trusted sites and sources.
- There’s no need for a second antivirus software if the first one is already doing its job well. Avoid downloading new programs from unknown brands and sources.
3) Beware of Different Signs of Malware and Fake Antivirus
Even if there’s already a reliable antivirus on the computer, it’s still important to do your part in keeping the device and all other sensitive information safe. The first step is to learn more about how the antivirus works. Familiarize yourself with how a legitimate notification from them looks like so it’s easier to recognize suspicious alerts.
Some of the most common signs of a fake message from malware or fake antivirus are the lack of a logo or a request for credit card information. A trusted antivirus that’s already in the device won’t repeatedly ask for credit card information when performing updates or other basic actions.
4) Read More About Different Scams
The best way to avoid falling into the latest scams is to be familiar with what they are and how they work. Make sure to read about the different kinds of scams and update yourself with the latest attacks. Do your research thoroughly so you don’t get tricked easily.
If there’s a suspected fake antivirus attack on the device but there isn’t proper software installed, try looking for reputable companies that offer free trials of virus scans or removal tools.
What To Do When Your Computer is Infected
If you’ve already clicked the link from the fake antivirus alert, there’s a huge chance that it’s already downloaded on the device. But don’t panic just yet – there are still a few ways to prevent the fake software from causing further harm to the computer.
Use a legitimate antivirus tool to scan the device. If there’s one on the computer, there are a few good ones online that are free and from a reputable company. Some of them even offer free trials to remove the fake antivirus and other types of malware.
Another way to remove the fake antivirus is to format the hard drive, reinstall the OS, and re-download all the programs from scratch. This method can be quite a hassle because there are too many steps to follow, and it requires users to have a backup of all the important files on the computer. However, doing this leaves no traces of the infection behind. It can even improve how smoothly your device runs since it goes back to a clean slate.
The best way to go about this is to seek the help of cybersecurity experts like Abacus to ensure that your system is 100% malware-free and to prevent cyberattacks from happening to your computer again.
Protect Yourself from Malware and Cyberattacks with Abacus
At Abacus, we protect our clients and their interests using comprehensive cybersecurity solutions. Our team of IT experts uses advanced endpoint protection and other methods to minimize the threat of different cyber risks.
From system monitoring and vulnerability assessments to strategic planning for the organization, count on Abacus to provide the latest cybersecurity measures and technologies that your company needs. It’s time to boost and upgrade your IT security. Get in touch with our experts and support personnel now by calling us at (856) 505 – 6860.
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