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Fake antivirus software can present a critical threat to your device. While it’s important to have security software to keep yourself safe, fake antivirus programs, which are really malware, can expose you to a world of dangers.
In this guide, we’ll explain how to spot and remove fake antivirus software so you can protect yourself and keep your devices safe.
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Many victims are convinced to download fake antivirus programs – also known as rogue antiviruses and smitfraud – by scareware ads made to look like virus alerts running in website banners and pop-up ads. If malware has already been downloaded onto your system, you may see pop-ups generated by other apps.
The main aim of fake antivirus alerts is to get you to make payments or install malicious software – which might harvest your data, track your keystrokes, or lock your files. Of course, if you have a fake antivirus running, you’re also unprotected against all the real threats that exist online.
These flashy fake antivirus messages may scare you into clicking on links and paying for software. Some tools go further by mimicking system crashes and blue screens to encourage you to act.
Once running on your device, fake antiviruses will generally disable legitimate antivirus software, leaving your system vulnerable to malware infections, privacy and security breaches, and ransomware attacks.
Virus eraser scams may also change your browser homepage, redirect you to fake websites, hijack your processing power and internet bandwidth, and download additional malware. Malware may also be able to access your financial and personal information, exposing you to fraud and identity theft.
Most fake antivirus software products have names that sound like those of reputable packages to instill trust in users. They’ll also often use generic names like “Antivirus XP” or “MS Antivirus.” Here are some examples of fake antivirus software.
Other examples of dubious antivirus programs include Mac Defender, Personal Antivirus, AVLab Internet Security, AntiVirus Pro 2017, A-Secure 2015, and Internet Defender 2011.
Fake antivirus developers use various tactics to distribute their products. Here are some of the most common rogue antivirus attack vectors.
Malicious Websites — When searching for security solutions online, be careful which sites you visit – and cybercriminals are adept at using SEO to attract users. Untrustworthy sites can potentially install malware into your device without you even knowing.
Phishing emails — Crooks running phishing scams send emails purporting to be from reputable providers, asking you to contact their customer service teams or click a link. These messages often include warnings about breaches, stressing their urgency to encourage you to follow their instructions.
Scareware — You may see pop-up ads or banners that claim something is wrong with your system, encouraging you to click. However, no one can diagnose issues with your system just by loading an ad.
Bundled Software — When you download software, you may end up installing other bundled programs, which could contain malicious browser extensions, toolbars, or fake antivirus products. For example, if you download a free app, a fake antivirus might come bundled with it – and it might be silently downloaded in the background.
Fake Alerts — Malware can install itself on your system and generate fake security alerts informing you that your system is infected. These can direct you to install additional software, such as fake antivirus tools, to scan and resolve these imaginary threats.
Phone calls — Scammers may even contact individuals by phone using social engineering and masquerading as tech support to trick their victims into downloading fake antivirus programs.
Practicing good cyber hygiene is the key to protecting yourself from fake antiviruses.
Knowing how to identify and avoid fake antivirus software can help you protect your computer and yourself.
Fake antivirus tools can be very convincing, so it’s important to be aware of some tell-tale signs to identify them. And trust your instincts – if it seems suspicious, it probably is.
Here are some ways to identify a fake antivirus:
If you’ve spotted a fake antivirus running on your computer or smartphone, it’s important to address the issue quickly. Here’s how to remove fake antivirus software from your system.
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Here’s a table covering the best antivirus solutions for all your devices to ensure you don’t fall prey to fake antivirus scams and to help you tackle infections.
Now that we’ve explored fake antiviruses, here are some comprehensive guides from our network that’ll help you select a genuine, high-quality antivirus solution.
Fake antivirus software can be very convincing. The best way to protect yourself is to avoid potentially untrustworthy sites and only download antivirus software from reputable providers from their official websites.
Regularly running malware scans is also wise, as is avoiding links and pop-up alerts that pressure you to make immediate payments. With the right security measures in place and an awareness of common threats, you can keep yourself safe from attacks.
A fake antivirus program is malware that runs fake security scans and tricks you into believing your computer is infected. They often have convincing interfaces resembling legitimate antivirus software and will flood your system with pop-up notifications and urgent security alerts requesting payments. Once downloaded, they may install viruses and spyware to steal your personal and financial data.
Fake antivirus scams often use scare techniques such as urgent security alerts to prompt you to download software. They will run scans without your permission, disable real software, bombard you with alerts, and make requests for payment – and they may appear on your device without you downloading them.
The first step is downloading reputable antivirus software and running regular scans. For added protection, consider using an ad blocker or a VPN. In addition, stay away from any untrustworthy websites and don’t download software from unofficial or unknown providers.
You can check an antivirus’s reliability by visiting the provider’s website. Explore the software’s features and the customer support offered. Fraudsters may also create fakes of legitimate software – but the features and layout likely won’t match the real deal under scrutiny. In addition, genuine software won’t flood your system with virus alerts or rush you to pay for services.
You can stop antivirus pop-ups by installing an ad blocker. Ad blockers stop ads and pop-ups from loading on your browser – and this will include fake antivirus pop-ups. Popular antivirus tools such as Nord also come with built-in ad blockers, while browsers like Google Chrome will block some intrusive ads automatically.
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Krishi Chowdhary has half a decade of experience writing buying guides and product reviews for numerous leading technology websites. He spent two years writing for Business2Community.com before joining Techopedia.com. He has a degree in Commerce and extensive experience in the technology industry. He's also the key driver behind TechReport.com's news content, delivering expertise insight into the latest tech and cybersecurity news daily.
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