We have all been there. You are browsing peacefully, surfing the internet researching for something, reading an article or visiting an e-commerce site & suddenly a window out of nowhere pops up telling you that your device is infected with some very dangerous viruses.
These notifications are used as tactics by both hackers & advertisers to scare you into pressing that red button that promises to provide you with a viable solution as soon as you click on it. This type of malware is known as scareware. In today’s article of “cybersecurity what is it”, we’ll discuss it further in-detail and learn how to handle it.
So, what exactly is scareware?
As discussed above, scareware is an advanced (and more horrifyingly sophisticated) type of malware that scares you into buying or installing a product (mostly a software)
This comes in forms of banners, pop-ups or notification bars that tell you that your device has been infected with hundreds of viruses & if you don’t act fast, your privacy & personal data can be compromised. Of course, it’s just a scam & they want you to install their software so that they can spy on you, track you & steal your information. Mainly, they use scamware to:
- Ruin your privacy: They start recording your data, your online behavior & every information that you share online. Once they have enough data on you, they sell it to other agencies or use it to scam you into buying other products as well.
- Steal your financial information: From your credit card information to your medical, banking & other transaction details. They steal your information & you know how it ends.
How do you know when it’s scareware?
If you have been surfing the internet for long, you can pretty much identify scareware when you see it. However, people who are new to the internet and cybersecurity often fell to these scams. Those who don’t have much technical information also are susceptible to falling in the trap of this scareware.
The hackers are becoming more sophisticated in their tactics
Also, these hackers are getting more & more sophisticated in their designs and they keep working on making this scareware look more authentic. That is why it is altogether more important for you to learn about cybersecurity. Once you click on the scareware, they advise you to install some antivirus, or cleaner or another software & as soon as you do what they say, your information is compromised. Here are some common characteristics of how these scamware ads look:
- Repeated popups: The most common identification of scareware is that it keeps popping up no matter what website you’re visiting. Websites that are more authentic & secured with SSL security are less prone to these ads, however many advertisers especially use Google ads to show these kinds of notifications to you.
- Close to authentic names: These hackers want you to believe that their products are authentic ones & used by millions of others. That is why they offer you names that are almost identical to some very authentic software tools. For example, instead of avast antivirus, they might target you with awast antivirus. At first look, it seems the same.
- Bad performance: Once you download this software, your device will start to behave differently. Your device may be stuck or hang more often & you can sure that it’s the software at work.
- Not easy to remove: These kinds of software tools aren’t easy to remove. They often don’t appear in the general uninstall program category. You’ll need to figure out where the actual setup is lying & uninstall it from there.
So, how can you protect yourself from scareware?
While it is not convenient to remove these kinds of software, you can protect yourself from them by being more attentive & careful in the first place. Here’re some useful tips:
Be more careful: Even if some ad tells you that it has scanned your device & found 109,990 viruses; don’t just believe it. Search on the internet about that problem & see if it’s authentic or not.
Use the force: In case, you accidentally hit on that download button and realized it wasn’t the right software, immediately close the browser. Often, your browser will become unresponsive until the software is ready, so you might have to force quit the browser.
Use ad-blockers: Pay for reliable ad-blocker so it can detect the malware & block it from appearing.
Always keep your device updated: As long as your device is updated, there will be fewer chances of any malware getting easily installed.
Use an authentic anti-virus: When you’re using an authentic anti-virus, you’re sure that your computer or any other device is protected, this way you won’t believe what any pop-up is telling you.
While scareware may seem scary, you can easily get rid of it by being more attentive & careful towards it. I’ll even suggest using a VPN & TOR browser. This will help you identify the malware & protect yourself from it. But even if you don’t use one, you can simply follow the tips discussed above to protect yourself from it. Keep coming back for more “cybersecurity what is it” articles.