Bypassing Bogus Security Software
While surfing the web, a pop-up appears, warning you that your computer is infected, and demanding that you clean up your PC. Supposedly, all you must do to fix the problem is buy a certain security program.
Sound familiar? You may have been one of the many that have downloaded an anti-spyware or anti-virus program, only to find out later that you have been duped. As malware writers inundate the web with rogue programs, this kind of trickery is becoming more and more common.
Today, there are many genuine anti-spyware and anti-virus programs to choose from, but users must be cautious to avoid the ‘rogue’ programs that exploit and prey on the insecurities and lack of education among computer users.
Rogue security software comes in different varieties. Some products defined as “rogue” simply fail to provide the reliable protection that a consumer paid for. Others are far more sinister, masquerading as legitimate security software, and using deceptive tactics to con users into buying their products. The application may mimic trusted products like Ad-Aware, scare the user with false scan results, or even infect the user’s computer with spyware and adware.
As cyber scammers make money from unsuspecting PC users, they continue to sell their bogus applications. There has been a sharp rise in the number of malware infections caused by rogue security software. Industry experts have reported a five-fold year-on-year increase in the use of these programs.
Another related trick that online surfers need to be on the lookout for is rogue websites – sites that are intended to look legitimate in order to spread online scams. In mid October, researchers at McAfee broke the news of a fake Microsoft “anti-spyware center” website, promoting a rogue anti-spyware program called AntiSpyStorm. Along with that, there are also dozens of rogue websites that are popping up with pirated software, bundling it together and selling it as legitimate.
How can you keep from downloading bogus security software? Below are practical tips from Lavasoft to make sure you rely on products with proven track records and reliability.
By the Numbers
Percentage of consumer PCs in the U.S. that are not protected (defined as having up-to-date anti-virus, anti-spyware, and a correctly configured firewall)
Percentage of PC users who believe they are protected
Source: National Cyber Security Alliance and McAfee Inc. study
Term of the Month
Rogue security software masquerades as a helpful security program, but uses malware or malicious tools to advertise or compel users to pay for the removal of non-existent spyware. Rogue software makers often use social engineering to trick consumers into buying their fraudulent anti-spyware or anti-virus products.
You have anti-spyware, anti-virus, and a firewall, so your computer must be secure, right? Wrong. Unless this software is enabled, updated, and properly configured, you are not protected from online threats. According to a recent industry survey, consumers overestimate PC safety – see our "By the Numbers" section for the stats. Make sure to maintain your security software; check that your security applications are both enabled and configured correctly. Keep in mind, the security software that was included with your PC when you purchased it may be a trial version that will expire if you fail to buy a subscription.
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