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What Does Scareware Mean?

Scareware is a deceptive process designed to trick Web users into downloading and/or purchasing malicious software (malware) by generating user disruption, anxiety or panic. Scareware formats include malware, adware, spyware, Trojans and viruses.


Scareware is also known as SmitFraud, crimeware, fake anti-virus, rogue anti-virus, rogue security and rogueware.

Techopedia Explains Scareware

Scareware generates pop-ups that look like Microsoft Windows system warnings and alerts for anti-virus/anti-spyware software, registry cleaners or firewalls. These deceptive pop-ups create a user call to action to purchase scareware and repair alleged errors.

Scareware may include a clickjacking feature to redirect a user to an attacker’s website or initiate a malware download if a user tries to close the pop-up. Scareware also coerces users into uninstalling legitimate anti-virus software. If a suspicious pop-up appears, the user is advised to right click on the taskbar item and select close, or exit the browser by selecting Ctrl-Alt-Del to terminate the browser process.

Scareware infects users and their computers via any of the following methods:

  • Email scams masked as breaking news alerts or greeting cards
  • Ads providing free scans or system clean-ups and displaying a long list of unknown threats to generate user fear
  • Affected websites retrofitted to take advantage of software vulnerabilities

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