What is Scareware?

What is Scareware?

What is Scareware?

Scareware Definition

Scareware is a type of malicious software (malware) that uses social engineering techniques to “scare” users into performing an action that they may not be aware of or want to do. This includes things like clicking on a fake advertisement or downloading malicious files. Scareware can also refer to legitimate software that displays warnings about potential threats on your computer, in an attempt to scare you into buying the full version of the program.

Scareware is sometimes used to manipulate users into giving away personal information, such as credit card numbers or login credentials. In other cases, scareware may be used to lock users out of their computers or devices until a ransom is paid. These types of attacks are known as ransomware.

Listen to our audio to learn what scareware is and how to protect yourself:

Examples of Scareware

Today, scareware is not as common as it once was. However, there are still a few examples of it being used:

  • Fake Anti-Virus Programs: Many fake anti-virus programs claim to find viruses and malware on your computer. These programs may then prompt you to pay for the full version of the software to remove the “threats.”
  • Fake System Updates: Some websites may display a fake system update notification, prompting you to download and install a malicious file.
  • Malicious Advertisements: You may see an advertisement that looks legitimate, but when you click on it, you’re redirected to a website that tries to install scareware or ransomware on your computer.

One famous scareware incident started in 2008, where the Koobface gang targeted Facebook users with invitations to watch a funny or sexy video. Users that clicked the link got a message to update their computer’s Flash software, which started the download of the Koobface malware.

Victims’ computers were drafted into a “botnet,” or network of infected PCs, and were sent official-looking advertisements of fake antivirus software. Their Web searches were also hijacked and the clicks were delivered to unscrupulous marketers. The group made money from people who bought the bogus software and from unsuspecting advertisers.

How to Prevent Scareware

There are a few things you can do to protect yourself from scareware:

  • Don’t click on links or download files from unknown sources. If you’re not sure whether a website or email is legitimate, don’t click on any links or download any attachments.
  • Keep your anti-virus software up to date. Having an up-to-date anti-virus program installed on your computer can help to protect you from many types of malware, including scareware.
  • Be cautious of popup windows. Many scareware programs display fake popup windows that look like system warnings or error messages. If you see a popup window that you’re not expecting, don’t click on it.
  • Don’t enter personal information into websites unless you’re sure the website is legitimate. Many scareware programs try to trick users into entering their personal information, such as credit card numbers or login credentials. Only enter your personal information into websites that you trust.

If you think you may have been a victim of scareware, it’s important to take action right away. Run a security scan on your computer with your anti-virus software to see if any malicious files have been installed. If you find any, delete them immediately. You should also change any passwords that you may have entered into fake websites.