Detecting and Avoiding Fake Anti-Virus Software

Your Computer Is Infected with Malware!

Click here to purchase recommended anti-virus software! 

By John

You may be familiar with this or similar messages appearing on a website, urging you to take action purportedly designed to clean your allegedly infected computer.  Unfortunately, these messages are often scams that attempt to install malicious software (malware) onto your computer.  Such software is referred to as rogue (fake) anti-virus malware, and the incidents are increasing.  Last year, the FBI reported an estimated loss to victims in excess of $150 million from this type of scam. 

How can my system get infected?

These types of scams can be perpetrated in a number of ways, including via website pop-up messages, web banner advertisements, spam and posting on social networking sites. Scams are also appearing via the use of “tweeting.” The rogue software scam generally uses social engineering to make the user believe his or her computer is infected and that by taking action (clicking on the link provided) the machine will be cleaned.  If you click on the malicious link, you may be downloading malware onto your machine. The names of the fake programs sound legitimate, and often, in a further attempt to make the malware appear legitimate, the programs may prompt you to pay for an annual subscription to the service. Some varieties of rogue anti-virus programs will also get installed on your computer without any interaction by you: your computer could be compromised just by you visiting a website with a malicious ad or code and you wouldn’t know.

What is the impact from rogue anti-virus software?

Rogue anti-virus software might perform many activities, including installing files to monitor your computer use, steal credentials, install backdoor programs, and add your computer to a botnet.  The installation of malware could result in a high-jacked browser (i.e., the browser navigates to sites you did not intend), the appearance of new or unexpected toolbars or icons and sluggish system performance.  Additionally, another concern related to rogue anti-virus software is the false sense of security you may have, erroneously believing your computer is protected by anti-virus software when in fact it is not.

Applying recommended computer security best practices can and will help protect your computer and minimize any potential impacts.

  1. Don’t click on pop-up ads that advertise anti-virus or anti-spyware programs. If you are interested in a security product, don’t try to access it through a pop-up ad contact the retailer directly through its homepage, retail outlet or other legitimate contact methods.
  2. Don’t download software from unknown sources. Some free software applications may come bundled with other programs, including malware.
  3. Use and regularly update firewalls, anti-virus, and anti-spyware programs. Keep these programs updated regularly.
  4. Patch operating systems, browsers, and other software programs. Keep your system and programs updated and patched so that your computer will not be exposed to known vulnerabilities and attacks.
  5. Regularly scan and clean your computer. Scan your computer with your anti-spyware once a week.
  6. Backup your critical files. In the event that your computer becomes infected, having backups of your important files will facilitate recovery.

Many organizations (including our library system) have formal processes that update and patch appropriate software, scan computers and perform file back-ups.  In these cases, no end user action may be necessary but PLEASE notify IT Services if and when it happens to a staff or public computer.

Here’s some excellent related reading material available at your finger tips,

“How to stop e-mail spam, spyware, malware, computer viruses, and hackers from ruining your computer or network: the complete guide for your home and work” by Bruce Brown from our Jackson County Public Library.

“Is it safe? : protecting your computer, your business, and yourself online” by Michael Miller from our Macon County Public Library.

“Network security : a beginner’s guide” by Eric Maiwald from our Macon County Public Library.  

…some links on more related information,

Partial Listing of Rogue Security Software:



…and a link to several computer security vendors offering free computer security checks for your computer,

Free Security checks:


One thought on “Detecting and Avoiding Fake Anti-Virus Software

  1. thanks for the explanation and advice. there are all sorts of virus, spyware, malware and etc that will put your system at risk. scan the system often and use only trusted sites.


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