Have you come across an ‘update’ or ‘alert’ pop-up window that calls for you to take some sort of action, such as clicking to install the software, accept or recommend updates or remove unwanted virus or spyware while browsing? Falling prey to such seemingly genuine ‘alerts’ is almost a natural reaction of concern over the maintenance of your computer system. This reaction is what the cybercriminals cash in on. It is the reason behind a staggering $415 million rogueware industry!

Rogueware consists of any kind of fake software solution that tries to milk money out of PC users by posing as a genuine resolution for erasing non-existent threats. This breed of malware is more insidious and treacherous than other threats. Since it is serious business for cyber criminals, they take great pains to design malware that operates smoothly and efficiently. A lot of innovation goes into what platforms it should support and the number of victims it will be able to trap.

Fake antivirus software has evolved as a convenient money-spinning crime on the Internet. When users attempt to eliminate threats with the application, they are asked to purchase a license.

A typical fake antivirus program usually gives the antithesis of protection from threats and has some typical characteristics:

  • A pop-up of warning
  • Launch messages in the task bar
  • They are very similar in design to that of a real antivirus software
  • Usually scan the entire computer system very quickly
  • The ‘infections’ detected often refer to different files on each scan
  • Lock down system functionality to prevent victims from accessing files or websites or from creating new processes, such as Windows Explorer, Task Manager, and a Command Prompt under the false pretense that it is for the victim’s own protection.
  • Some of these programs have hidden backdoor capabilities, allowing other malicious attacks, such as launching distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against adversaries.

According to a 2010 study by Google, close to 11,000 domains were found hosting fake anti-virus software and accounted for 50% of all malware delivered via Internet advertising. Rogueware creators dramatically increased both the number of unique strains of malware designed to install fake anti-virus as well as the frequency with which they deployed hacked or malicious sites set up to force the software on visitors.

With fake antivirus peddlers outmaneuvering legitimate antivirus, here are a few things that you can do to safeguard yourself or avoid extensive damage to your computer and valuable data:

  • You have already clicked on some ‘alert’ and are now in doubt whether it is genuine: the safest way out would be to kill the browser process. Press ‘Ctrl+Alt+Del’ to start the Task Manager and terminate that process.
  • Change your browsing habits: In simple terms, most of these roguewares rely on tiny scripts that try silently to redirect your browser to pull codes from another site. So if you are using IE you should switch to Firefox.
  • Run an antivirus scan: At times, a Trojan is embedded in a rogueware attack that tries to install more malware such as key loggers. Good antivirus software will detect and repair or remove such malware and prevent further infection.

Just let good sense prevail the next time you browse and refrain from clicking on an ‘alert’ or ‘warning’ informing you that your system is affected and needs cleansing! Trust good antivirus software to protect and maintain your PC.