What is Scareware?

By Jonathan Poole
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As its name implies, scareware is a form of malware that thrives on frightening people into using it. Usually backed by extremely shady and highly unethical marketing practices, scareware attempts to convince consumers that something terrible will happen unless they begin to use whichever product the person behind the scareware is peddling. The ironic thing is that the scareware is usually the very thing it’s pretending to warn you about.

For example, imagine that an ad about a certain social networking site warns that your personal information could be at risk, or that it will possibly be at risk in the future. If you buy Product X, however, you won’t have to worry about it – probably. You see, whether the threat is real or imagined doesn’t matter. The whole point of scareware is to create the illusion of insecurity while simultaneously supplying a devious solution to the alleged problem.

How Does Scareware Work?

Many scareware programs work by attempting to convince you that your computer is at risk or is already infected with some kind of virus or other problem. It produces pop-up messages that tend to mimic the design and language of pop-ups generated by actual antivirus software to confuse people. In fact, some scareware even attempts to trick people into installing it and may double as forms of spyware or Trojan horses. Instead of providing the protection that the scareware claims you need, by following the pop-up prompts, you’ll actually installed harmful files on your machine, and possibly even give criminals access to your credit card information. That’s how harmful scareware can be.

How Do I Avoid Scareware?

The key to making sure that rogue scareware doesn’t take you to the cleaners is to be educated and know what you’re up against. Paying to keep scareware purveyors in business for selling malware masquerading as antivirus software is painfully ironic. The first thing to do is be very careful when you're surfing the web and downloading software. Use only websites you trust. Don’t open sketchy emails. Set up a firewall. Use adequate antivirus software.

If you don’t know which internet security protection to use, visit TopTenREVIEWS to check out our in-depth reviews and analyses of the best antivirus software. By comparing and contrasting a wide range of security software applications, we’ve been able to determine which products will work best for your needs.

Of course, these are all basic steps you should be taking anyway. Odds are good that something obvious isn’t going to trip you up, although something subtle might. So what should you look for? Well, one huge red flag is if an application you never installed warns you about a security risk. If the warnings about your computer's security are coming from a company you’ve never heard of before, it's probably scareware. Any alleged antivirus software that performs a lightning fast virus scan is likely bogus because it hasn't actually scanned any files on your computer is – Scareware!

By being cautious and avoiding suspicious websites and software, you’ll have nothing to fear but fear itself – and, you know, probably spiders and heights too.

At TopTenREVIEWS We Do the Research So You Don’t Have To.™

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