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Reliance and You

Social Engineering - Scareware

Scareware, such as ransomware and fake antivirus software, frequently use social engineering by making popup boxes look like messages from your computer.  These messages try to look official and say things like "System Warning!" and "Threats Found!" or "Your computer is infected. Click OK to remove the virus."  They hope you'll click on the message, which allows the malware to be downloaded on to your computer.  Often clicking anywhere on the message allows the malware to be downloaded, so instead hit the back button or on a Windows computer, use the Task Manager to close the popup window.

As if scareware wasn't bad enough, some versions of scareware use the scary warning messages to convince you to buy the malware.  Fake antivirus malware most commonly uses this technique.  Fake antivirus is malware that pretends to be real antivirus software.  The criminals who sell the fake antivirus have professional-looking websites, call centers where you can ask for help, and even different payment levels.  After you buy and install the fake antivirus, it will infect your computer with malware instead of cleaning it, and the malicious actors have your money!

How can you minimize your risk?

  • Only open an email attachment or click on a link if you're expecting it and know what it contains.  Do not open email attachments or click on the links from unknown or untrusted sources.
  • Be wary of pop ups that claim you have malware and ask you to call to get it removed.
  • If something looks suspicious in an email from a trusted source, call and verify the email is legitimate.
  • Use up-to-date antivirus protection and apply recommended patches/updates to your device.
  • Only install third-party applications and software that you really need.  Make sure it is from the vendor or the Android, Apple or Windows Store. Since the app stores allow third-parties to post and sell apps, make sure the app is from a trustworthy source.
  • Use discretion when posting personal information on social media. This information is a treasure-trove to scammers who will use it to feign trustworthiness.