A fake antivirus is a type of software that is designed to mimic the functions of a legitimate antivirus software program. However, fake antiviruses are actually fraudulent programs that are designed to steal your personal information, damage your computer, or ask for payment to give back your data.
Characteristics of a fake antivirus
Although there are different types of fake antiviruses, most have several characteristics in common. Some of the main characteristics of a fake antivirus software include:
A fake antivirus will often pop up in your computer without your consent. The popup will often be very convincing, and may even include a fake scan of your computer. If it’s not your main antivirus program you use, avoid downloading any data from it. You can uninstall it and all of the unwanted popup messages will also disappear.
Bright colors with warning signs:
A rogue antivirus program wants to instill fear or urgency in you so you hurry to download their software. If you see bright colors with warning signs on your computer, it’s likely a fake antivirus and you should delete it. A lot of these antiviruses are unknowingly downloaded when you visit a malicious site on the internet.
Often unrecognized brand:
A fake antivirus is typically one that you don’t recognize. When you use an antivirus, you’re typically aware of it because you’re paying for it. Any other random programs scanning your computer are likely fake antivirus programs. Most people recognize the major antivirus programs like Norton, McAfee, etc. If you don’t recognize the brand name, it’s probably best to avoid and uninstall it from your computer.
How can you spot a fake antivirus?
Some fake antiviruses are very sophisticated and can be difficult to distinguish from a real antivirus. However, some telltale signs can help you identify a fake antivirus. A fake antivirus may:
Ask for payment to remove viruses or “protect” your computer:
Your antivirus program will rarely if ever ask you to pay to remove viruses. You are likely already paying for the antivirus and this will not show up on your computer. A fake antivirus will often try to scare you into thinking that your computer is infected and needs payment to be “protected”. Do not share your payment information like your credit card under any circumstance.
Display fake or exaggerated scan results:
The vast majority of internet users have seen antivirus scans that display the cybersecurity of your computer. With fake antiviruses, the results will often be very exaggerated and it will prompt you to take action like downloading files. If you see a scan with messages demanding you to do something, don’t do it.
Prevent you from opening legitimate antivirus or security programs:
Some advanced fake antivirus programs will actually try to disable your real antivirus program so they can take over your computer. If you can’t open your regular antivirus program, this can be a sign that a fake antivirus is installed in your computer.
Examples of a fake antivirus
Antivirus 10 is a fake antivirus that was created to look like a real antivirus program. It is often downloaded through a marketing method called bundling. This refers to stealth installing the fake antivirus with regular software. After it’s downloaded, Antivirus 10 starts a fake scan process and tells users that they have several security risks that they need to fix.
To remove the risks, users will have to purchase a fake protection plan to supposedly make their computer safe. Antivirus 10 is an example of a fake antivirus that is difficult to detect. It has all of the characteristics of fake antiviruses and even uses the name “antivirus” in its name.
Security Scan 2009
Security Scan 2009 is another example of a fake antivirus. It’s anti-spyware and it’s generally downloaded through fake ads on malicious sites. Once installed, Security Scan 2009 will start a fake scan of your computer and windows programs. The fake scan will find fake risks and once again, to remove the risks, you will have to purchase the fake internet security software.
This fake antivirus is very easy to detect because it doesn’t have a professional appearance. The fake scan results are also very exaggerated and will often show a high number of risks even if there are none.
How can you protect yourself from a fake antivirus
Avoid downloading any unsolicited programs from the internet:
A common way that fake antiviruses are downloaded is using shady and unsecured sites on the internet. These sites typically offer pirated content like sports broadcasts, movies, etc. When you click on these sites, some of them will open additional browsers and download files like fake antiviruses. It’s best to avoid these sites totally and avoid downloading malicious software and files on your devices.
Use a firewall:
A firewall is a great layer of defense for your operating system against fake antiviruses. Typically, a firewall will block fake antivirus popups from appearing on your computer and prevent malware from being downloaded on your computer. If you have multiple computers at home or you’re running a business, a firewall is a great option to prevent fake antiviruses.
Educate your employees/family:
The best defense against fake antiviruses is education. Teach your employees and family about fake antiviruses and what to look for is the best way to avoid falling victim to them. By taking a couple of minutes to explain or sending a short email to your team, you can avoid the vast majority of fake antivirus attacks on your home or business.