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Monday, November 30, 2009

Combating Scareware: Be Not Afraid

By Ritchie Smythe Over the years, there have been countless innovations when it comes to the Internet so that it certainly has become a medium of boundless possibilities. Without question, these advancements pose immense value to Internet users the world over; however, the World Wide Web has also become a platform for cybercriminals to wreak havoc in. The latest form of cybercrime that proliferates on the Web is scareware, an even more malicious form of software designed to deceive users into downloading these so-called “solutions” only to find their computers compromised. What is It? Simply put, scareware is fake anti-virus software. It is also referred to as rogueware and in some cases may appear as helpful computer applications such as a firewall system or registry cleaner. Cybercriminals who use this scam to generate profit use scare tactics to trick users into purchasing the software. Typically, you will be notified that your computer has been infected with viruses and along with the notification, you will be encouraged to download the scareware that will supposedly get rid of the problem. Prevention Clearly, scareware presents grave dangers to users because not only does it compromise your privacy and security, but cybercriminals have become so sophisticated that the removal of such malicious software can be extremely difficult and in many cases, costly. They usually appear in the form of pop-up ads even in websites that are legitimate. Sometimes you are taken to the scareware website directly and clicking on the X button on the window actually activates the malicious program. However, there are many measures that you can take to ensure you aren’t victimized by these scams. As in many situations, prevention is often the most effective measure against the threat of scareware. There are many good quality pop-up blockers that you can make use of and some of them are offered free. A good pop-up blocker will be one that targets not only advertisements but also spam as well as spyware. It is also a good idea to install a pop-up blocker that actively looks for and then destroys tracking cookies. Social networking sites are a favorite target of cybercriminals simply because they are so popular and people do have a tendency to be negligent when they are on these sites. If you are a frequent social network user, choose a strong password and change it often. Beware of applications that you find on the sites such as games and other entertainment applications. In some cases, launching the application means you are allowing the third-party website to access information contained in your personal page. Other Measures Scareware websites appear legitimate with layouts that are very well-designed so you wouldn’t think of suspecting these attackers. Know that these scammers change the appearance of their websites often so as to reduce the possibility that they will be recognized by Internet users. Even if the site claims to be affiliated with legitimate companies, be wary of these claims, especially if there is no link that will take you directly to the authority site. Keep a list of trusted anti-virus software and check any new names against this list always.

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