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What are Scareware Attacks? Are You at Risk?

Scareware, Scareware Attacks, What Are Scareware Attacks
By Keren P.
3 years ago

Scareware Attacks and How to Protect Personal Data from Scareware Scammers

Scammers and hackers keep coming up with innovative ways to get access to people's information, and scareware attacks are one of their strongest weapons. In what seems like a legitimate warning notice, scammers use scare tactics to get their victims to rake several "precautionary" measures that end up hurting them. To avoid scareware attacks, you need to know what they are, and how you can protect yourself from these scams.

What are Scareware Attacks?

Scareware attacks are attacks that intend to get access to your personal information through your computer. A scareware attack will give scammers access to your email, account information, photos, and other data that is stored on your computer – both online and offline.

Once they have your personal data, scammers can use it to open accounts in your name, steal your money, and even steal your identity. How are scareware attacks performed? They begin with a standard message, alerting you that there is a security issue with your computer. It will usually be a pop-up screen or another alarming format that is intended to get you to click on the message or go to a certain link.

While these messages may seem real, they are fake, and once you do what the message asks you to do, the scammers will have access to your computer and personal data. Unfortunately, these messages are rigged so that no matter where you click, you will be led to where the scammer wants you to go. So, clicking on that little "x" that is supposed to close the window will not protect you from a dangerous link.

The Process of Scareware Attacks

The following is how a scareware attack progresses in most cases:

1. You are alerted that your system is infected (the alert is usually sent with a pop-up message)

2. You are asked to follow the steps provided by the ad to scan your system and detect the "infection"

3. The program that you clicked on reveals that you have numerous "infections" on your system. To fix the issues, you are asked to purchase a complete and "licensed" version of the ware that guarantees to resolve the issues

4. Upon purchasing the software, you provide payment information and personal information

5. The "licensed" program removes the infections

6. Your computer is now truly infected by the scareware, and the scammers have your personal and financial information

Scareware Attacks
How Do I Know I Am Exposed to Scareware?

When you see a pop-up message or another alert that notifies you of possible infections in your system, do not do anything. The following are scareware attack signs that will help you detect scareware:

1. Grammatical errors: Infectious pop-up ads contain grammatical and punctuation errors that are a big sign that they are false.

2. The ad provides a phone number; usually, legitimate software and protection companies provide services that help users combat system threats. These companies do not send out pop-up ads or other ads that contain a phone number. So, when you see an alert message with a phone number, it is a scareware attack.

3. The scan is very fast: it takes time to scan systems for threats, and no legitimate company will scan your computer in mere seconds. Scareware wares, however, will quickly scan your system and immediately alert you of "infections".

4. You are required to pay in unusual methods: this is not just a scareware attack tactic, but a way for many scammers to get paid in whatever way they can. A scareware message will tell you that you can pay with a wire transfer, a gift card, and other methods other than a credit card; be careful – it's a scam.

What Are Scareware Attacks
How Can I Protect Myself from Scareware Attacks?

Now that you know how to identify scareware attacks, it is time to find out how to protect yourself and your personal data from such attacks:

  • Firsts things first: do not click on anything: as we mentioned before, scareware ads are rigged so that every click leads to a potentially harmful link. To avoid getting into a "danger zone", do not click on anything you see in the ad, even exit buttons. Instead, close the ad/browser by right-clicking the window in the taskbar and choosing the "close" option.
  • Disconnect the internet: disconnect your router or modem to cut off internet access to the scammers.
  • Install a pop-up blocker: to prevent pesky pop-up ads and scareware ads from appearing on your screen, install a recommended and reputable pop-up blocker.
  • Install up-to-date antivirus software: install the latest version of your antivirus software, and get to know its functions. Make sure your know what your service provider's logo looks like, how their pop-up alerts look, read the terms of use, and learn how it works to tell it apart from scareware wares.
  • Do not open files/attachments from strangers: if you receive an offer to install protective software, do not click on a file or an attachment that comes with the message. Also, if your friends suddenly send you links to your email, text, and ask them if the file/link truly came from them. Scammers send such messages from what seems to be your friends' email addresses, so you should be careful.

Scareware attacks are an elaborate way for scammers and hackers to get access to personal and financial information. To prevent yourself from falling victim to such scams, you must first learn what they are and apply the tips mentioned in this article to protect yourself from scareware attacks.

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