As many of you probably know, rogue antivirus programs have been causing a lot of people headaches lately. I can’t even count how many computers we’ve worked on since January removing this junk! It has really been a problem for a lot of people because of the nature of how it gets onto your computers, but hopefully we can shed some light on what you can do to help protect your computers.

How rogue antivirus programs infect your computer:

The number one question we receive when dealing with this type of malware is…

Why isn’t my antivirus program catching this crap?

The reason is that this type of malware uses scare tactics to trick a user into installing their software which then disables most local antivirus and antispyware programs in the process. When clicked on, it will usually install a trojan onto your computer in the form of something that seems benign. These could be anything such as:

  • Antivirus or malware protection
  • Browser toolbars
  • Screensavers or wallpapers
  • Special video players
  • Registry cleaners

Even with the best antivirus and antimalware protection out there, no single program will catch every threat there is on the Internet, especially when users mistakenly tell something like this to install. The #1 best protection you can have when surfing the Internet is common sense.

How to spot common scareware and phishing popups:

Think of your computer like you would your automobile. If you dropped off your car at a garage for an oil change and the mechanic tried to say that you had a bad transmission, you probably wouldn’t believe him. This is the same method that scareware and phishing tactics use to try to infect your system. As a rule of thumb, never give your credit card number or personal information online unless you know for certain what you are purchasing and where you’re purchasing from (such as a book from Amazon.com).

An example of a common rogue antivirus screen is this:

Fake Antivirus 2010 Screen

Now some of you may say, “Well Justin, how do we know that isn’t what our antivirus program looks like?” While this screen may appear similar to a normal antivirus or Microsoft security window, there are several things to look for when faced with something like this. As with your automobile, you should ask yourself some basic questions when dealing with third parties that want to try to sell you stuff.

  • What antivirus program do I currently have?
  • Are my antivirus definitions currently up-to-date?
  • Have I had any problems with my computer before now?
  • Did I just visit a website that I haven’t been to before?

If you ask yourself these simple questions, you can usually tell whether or not a popup screen like the one above is valid.

Another good way to spot a fake antivirus alert is to be aware if the window is inside of your browser or not. If you ever see a screen like our fake antivirus example above inside of your web browser, then you know that it is just a web page trying to scare you into clicking on something to install their malware, like the following:

Fake AV Browser Example

How to protect yourself and your computer:

If you ever run into a situation where you’re unsure of whether or not a virus notification is legitimate or not, there are a few things you can do to help keep safe.

  1. Be aware of your current antivirus and antimalware protection and keep it up-to-date!
  2. Run regular virus and spyware scans on your computer! We recommend at least once a week.
  3. Only visit legitimate websites that you know and trust when browsing the Internet!
  4. Use a safer web browser with security add-ons, such as Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome with AdBlock Plus (for Firefox) or AdBlock (for Chrome)!
  5. If you’re unsure if a notification is inside of your browser or not, close your browser with your Task Manager, or by using ALT+F4 on your keyboard. If the notification disappears, the window you saw was within your browser and can be ignored if not clicked on.

You can also find some good antivirus and antispyware programs that we suggest on our helpful software page. Remember to always keep your computer up-to-date, protected, and use common sense when browsing the Internet!