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Understanding Scareware and Ransomware

scareware ransomware

Something new to worry about!

Just what is Scareware and Ransomware? While most internet users are at least basically familiar with viruses and malware, there are new ‘wares’ being adapted by cyber criminals: so-called ‘scareware’ and/or ‘ransomware’. So what are these and how can we avoid them?

We’ve all seen pop-up ads, and those seemingly unending offers to upgrade our virus protection software. However, some of these pop-ups may be using new tactics of scareware.

A message pops up (which you can’t easily close with the ‘close’ or ‘X’ option)… it tells you that your computer is infected with multiple viruses… and you can purchase software that purportedly will remove these viruses… the collect payment option appears… you get scared that your computer is infected and purchase scareware. Some of these scareware ads will even go so far as to show icons or links to reputable legitimate software companies; the links to the legitimate websites won’t work though. In reality, you may be paying scammers for a bogus service, and in the process most likely infecting your computer and making it more vulnerable.

Ransomware is similar, but is used for extortion scams. When ransomware is installed on a user’s computer, typically the computer freezes and a message pops up. This time, the message is claiming that the government or police where you live have been monitoring your computer use… you’ve violated such-and-such law… your IP address (and it may be shown in the message) was identified as visiting a child pornography or other illegal website… you will have to pay a fine… you can’t access your computer until the fine is paid… here’s how to pay. Some may even claim that if you do not pay within a certain time frame, then you will be subject to prosecution. You pay and the scammers get their money, and most likely your computer is left vulnerable by the software as well. Legitimate law enforcement and governments do not assess fines or penalties for internet crimes in this way. It’s just another case of cyber criminals attempting to extort money through their malicious software.

In the case of scareware or ransomware, even after the ‘scare’ or ‘ransom’ is over, the malicious software may still be present on your computer. You may be open to online banking and credit card fraud.

So what can be done to avoid these ‘wares’? Use common sense and pay attention when clicking on pop-up ads. Keep your anti-virus software up to date. If you think your computer may be infected with viruses, then research and find a reputable legitimate software to use. When you purchase it, legitimate anti-virus software will always have a secure payment option. Also, remember that the police can’t lock your computer unless they come to your house!