The cybercrime landscape is continuously evolving and posing great threats to individuals, organizations, and global businesses.
According to a survey, a whopping 86.2% of surveyed organizations were victims of a successful cybercriminal attack.
This shows the growing trends of cyberattacks with advanced tools and technologies that make organizations pay big time.
One such cybercrime or malware attack is scareware.
If you’re recently getting too many security warnings or pop-up ads on your computer, it could indicate that your PC is falling victim to the scareware attack.
Worry not; in this article, we’ll see what a scareware attack is and how to prevent and remove it from your computer.
What Is a Scareware Attack?
Scareware is a malware cyberattack that uses social engineering tactics to manipulate and trick users into downloading potentially malware-infected software and systems disguised as legitimate and real software.
Thus, scareware threats users to sell fake anti-virus software systems to access sensitive and confidential business information.
Scareware attacks affected more than 60 countries, tricking them into purchasing scareware software worth more than $100 million.
As the name suggests, scareware scares and threatens users with consistent pop-ups and warnings, convincing them to take immediate action against downloading fake software.
Once users take this action, it compromises their security, leading to identity theft and financial loss.
Thus, if you fall into the trick of visiting malicious websites, clicking unsafe links, or paying for scammy software, it can infect your computer systems with malware, making it vulnerable to more potential cybersecurity threats, including spyware.
How Does Scareware Work?
Scareware attacks usually follow a specific pattern, where the fraudster typically steals the victim’s identity, sensitive details, and money.
Here’s how a typical scareware works and what the victim experiences:
The victim visits a website, and sudden pop-ups start appearing on the victim’s computer, stating the presence of a virus on their device and that they detected dangerous files.
These pop-ups typically mimic genuine and legitimate software ads, convincing users to click or perform the specified action. They continue appearing on the victim’s device, creating urgency and prompting them to take quick action.
The user typically acts or closes the pop-up, sometimes triggering the malware to download on the device via fake buttons.
Scareware uses social engineering, threatening users to download malicious software on mobile or desktop platforms.
This convinces users to purchase and pay money, leading to malicious malware installation on the device.
From here, the scammer can compromise the victim and their device in numerous ways, including harvesting sensitive details, like the victim’s credit card details, pressuring them to navigate to more malicious websites or download malicious software, or spamming their device with more constant ads.
In this way, scareware works by using social engineering, creating a sense of fear and urgency within users to download malicious software. The scareware then stays on the victim’s device longer, analyzing the user’s activities and behavior.
Types of Scareware
Here are the different types of scareware and how they work.
#1. Rogue Anti-virus Programs
The rogue anti-virus programs claim and promise to scan your device for viruses and remove them. However, in reality, they are not legitimate software but malware disguised as anti-virus.
Once you install these rogue anti-virus programs, they will spam your device with fake pop-ups and warnings with viruses that don’t even exist on your computer, asking you to pay for the complete amount to remove the viruses.
#2. Rogue Registry Cleaners
These programs claim to fix and debug errors in your Windows registry, improving your system’s performance and overall stability.
#3. Rogue System Optimizers
Rogue system optimizers claim to improve your system’s performance by removing and cleaning out junk files and optimizing system settings.
But in reality, they are just malware that slows down your device, causing other unnecessary problems. Like rogue anti-virus software, these system optimizers ask you to pay the “full version” amount to fix the device errors and issues.
#4. Tech Support Scams
These scams often involve scareware messages or pop-ups claiming that your device is infected or has technical issues and problems.
This prompts the user to contact fake technical support teams, making it easier for scammers to access the computer and steal confidential information.
Scareware Detection Tips
It is important to identify scareware signs to detect its presence to avoid falling prey to this malware attack.
If you haven’t been looking for anti-virus software and yet receive ads and pop-ups to download one out of the blue, you must stop right there.
Here are some potential signs of scareware to detect their presence on your Windows and macOS devices.
Pop-up messages: Authentic and legitimate anti-virus software don’t send messages or pop-ups via web browsers. Thus, if you see a warning pop-up out of the blue, it’s more likely to be spam and not a legitimate notification.
Malvertising:If the notifications that pop up induce fear and require immediate attention and action from your end, it’s a sign of malvertising. Genuine anti-virus software doesn’t promote fear-based alerts; the scarier and fear-inducing the messages appear, the more likely they are to be fake.
Software upgrades request: If the software program manipulates or convinces you to upgrade the software to a paid or more superior version, then that’s a sign of a scareware attack.
It gets nearly impossible to close the pop-up: Typically, scareware software is designed to make it difficult for users to find the pop-up’s close button. And even if you manage to press or click the cross button, it triggers unwanted downloads. Thus, in such cases, it’s better to close the browser window or the browser altogether.
Reduced system performance: Malicious malware software like scareware slows down the computer system’s performance, resulting in device crashes, freezing, and sluggishness.
Inability to access files or systems: One common sign of scareware is the inability to access genuine and legitimate anti-virus websites. Or in some cases, users see error messages or restricted paths when opening a genuine anti-virus software. If this happens, it’s more likely to be a scareware.
Altered settings: If you notice altered settings of your computer device, like a change in the computer wallpaper, it’s a sign of scareware presence.
So, if you detect these signs on your device, let’s look at how you can remove malicious scareware from your computer and avoid device security compromise.
How to Remove Scareware?
Once you detect the signs mentioned above, removing scareware from your device is crucial to avoid further damage.
Here are some foolproof ways to remove scareware from your systems and devices.
#1. Cut Your Internet Connection
The first and foremost step to prevent scareware from spreading and further attacking your computer device is immediately cutting down your internet or WiFi connection.
Switching off the router or disabling your WiFi connection can stop the scareware malware from sharing sensitive data with the perpetrators. However, don’t use sharp objects like scissors to disable the WiFi connection.
#2. Shut Your Computer Down and Consult a Professional
Another way to remove the scareware malware is to shut down your computer when you detect the sign of scareware malware.
And then, take your computer to the technical professionals who will connect your computer hard drive to another machine and scan it for the presence of malware without starting your device’s operating system. This removes the chances and likeliness of malicious malware from running and causing further damage to your computer device.
#3. Enter Your Computer’s Safe Mode and Run a Full Device Scan
If you’re an expert and possess technical skills, you can make your computer enter the safe mode, where it will run on the necessary and bare minimum services, hoping that the malware isn’t one of the services.
You can immediately remove the scareware threat if your anti-virus software isn’t disabled on your device. If that doesn’t work, run your device applications individually and remove suspicious apps by uninstalling them.
#4. Log Into Your Web and Banking Accounts From Any Other Device
The moment you detect signs of scareware malware, you must immediately log into all your web and banking accounts and change the passwords to avoid data breaches and loss.
This will help you prevent the chances of stolen credentials or getting sensitive details like credit card information from being compromised.
These steps will help you secure your computer device and critical data from malicious malware.
How to Remove Scareware From a PC?
You can easily remove scareware from your PC by following these simple steps:
Step 1: In your Windows Search bar, type ‘control panel’ and select the Control Panel option from the prompted results.
Step 2: Once you click on the Control Panel, click ‘Uninstall a Program’ under the Programs option.
Step 3: Once you detect and locate the scareware, select it and click ‘Uninstall.’ At the same time, click OK, if a confirmation box appears on the screen.
This will remove scareware from your computer. As a preventative measure, install trusted and reliable anti-virus software to protect your device against malicious malware and scareware attacks.
How to Prevent Scareware?
Scareware malware uses fear-mongering social engineering tactics to trick you into their malicious traps.
Here are the measures to prevent the scareware malware from attacking and hampering your device and data security.
Keep your web browser updated: Updating your web browser helps secure your device against scareware pop-ups altogether. The automatic updates ensure that your browser is always updated with the latest version, preventing risks of scareware. As a much more robust security measure, using a private and secure browser like Avast secure browser that prevents harmful downloads, phishing attacks, and web tracking for free is recommended.
Don’t click on malware notifications: If you ever see a pop-up window or a banner warning you to download software with a fake claim that your device’s infected with malware, you must not click on the link or the notification, as it’s most likely a scam.
Avoid accidental downloads: Scareware disguises the notifications or pop-ups’ close mark as links, triggering the downloads, even when you click the cross button to close the notification. Hence, it’s always a best practice to close the web browser directly instead of trying to close the pop-up notification.
Use the complete range of necessary network tools: Using necessary tools, like URL filters, ad blockers, and firewalls, helps eliminate and remove scareware from the root source, preventing scareware pop-ups from even prompting on your computer screen.
Use reliable and genuine anti-virus software: Using genuine and updated anti-virus protection software is the best defense against scareware threats, like malvertising, alerting you of potential threats and making it easier to purge malware attacks.
Software to Keep Your PC Secure
If you want to opt for reliable and secure anti-virus software to help you prevent scareware, let’s look at the two most crucial software you can use.
Kaspersky Premium is a leading cybersecurity solution that offers complete privacy and security for your device and identity, protecting your device against online malicious threats like malware and scareware.
Besides ensuring identity protection, Kaspersky offers 24/7 remote IT support, making resolving security issues and vulnerabilities easier.
Other privacy features that Kaspersky offers are:
Prevents online tracking, unauthorized connections, and ads by ensuring private and uninterrupted online browsing.
Ensures complete online freedom and privacy with a fast and unlimited VPN.
Protects personal and sensitive information by guarding your banking applications, protecting your device from crypto scams, and identifying data and password leaks.
So, if you need an anti-virus, anti-ransomware, and anti-hacking solution, Kaspersky should be our go-to option, offering comprehensive online security for your data and device.
#2. Avast One
Avast One is an all-in-one online security solution that provides privacy and performance tools, like device cleanup and VPN, to ensure your device’s secure and optimal working.
It blocks malware and viruses, secures your WiFi and internet connections with limited VPNs, identifies compromised and leaked passwords, improves our device and data privacy on popular websites and applications, and more.
Over 400 million users trust Avast One, one of the most trusted and award-winning anti-virus engines, providing comprehensive cybersecurity solutions for your devices.
Educating yourself about malicious threats like scareware and being aware of their tactics is essential to prevent yourself from being compromised and falling prey to this dangerous attack.
In this article, we discussed what scareware is and the common signs that signify the presence of scareware on your device. You can use this article to detect, prevent, and remove scareware from your device and ensure the utmost device and data security.
At the same time, it’s critical to keep your device updated and install the necessary anti-virus software like Avast One and Kaspersky to ensure the utmost device and data protection.
Tejal is an experienced B2B SaaS content writer for eCommerce and marketing, specializing in web hosting, AI & ML, cloud and cybersecurity, SEO, and digital marketing. She holds a B.E degree in Electronics & Telecommunications… read more