Scareware scares people, threatens them, puts them under emotional pressure. There are even anti-virus programs that are actually scareware. How is that possible and how dangerous is scareware?
What is scareware?
Scareware are malicious programs that frighten the user and try to persuade him to act negligently. For example, when the computer is restarted, a screen would show that the FBI or NSA has blocked the computer because, for example, child pornography was found on it and the FBI or NSA wants to confiscate it if no ransom is paid. Programs that encrypt data on computers without permission and only release it again when the user does certain things (so called ransomware) can also be called scareware.
Who creates scareware and why?
Criminal blackmailers who try to scare people so much that they act in a certain way. Ransom, nude photos, or even the input of confidential data are popular demands of these cyber criminals. Even if these are given in and the user agrees to pay for them, is this no guarantee, that the malicious program will be deleted from the computer, smartphone or tablet by the blackmailers and that access to it will be reinstated. Accordingly, these demands should not be pursued.
How can I detect scareware?
Scareware can be very offensive, as in the examples above, or very subtle. The obvious variant is easy to see, an obvious threat is made and the device seems to have been captured by the blackmailers, the functionality is limited. With more subtle variants, and unfortunately some „free“ antivirus programs are doing this, the user is credibly assured, that there are a lot of viruses on the device and it would be urgently necessary to install the cost-intensive Pro version.
These viruses are not on the computer at all; with the automated warning, manufacturers of these suspect antivirus programs merely try to persuade users to install or buy them – by illegitimate means. Frequently other software is installed that does not have to be directly dangerous for the user, but is often annoying, for example unwanted toolbars, programs that merely simulate a functional use or permanently change the browser’s home page settings. The manufacturers of these supposed antivirus programs then earn money by co-installing them.
How can I avoid scareware and protect myself?
If you are asked to pay anything, if you are accused of a crime or if the report calls you to urgent and quick action without being convinced of the seriousness of the sources, first of all it helps to take your time and check the facts thoroughly. Don’t be influenced by counters that count down or viruses found on the PC that are supposed to be added every second – the blackmailers try to put the users under pressure to act in order to get them to make spontaneous and irrational decisions.
A serious antivirus program can warn you about scareware in some cases. Always keep in mind that a reputable provider does not need to put pressure on potential new customers and, in the case of old customers, will rather take the postal route if it is actually an urgent matter. The police and other institutions will also not blackmail you, but you should report such cases to them.
What can I do if scareware is on my device?
This depends on the scareware. In some cases it is very difficult to remove them from the computer, even with very good antivirus software. Very important, especially with scareware, is to avoid it by critically checking what it requires from the user. If you have nevertheless entered sensitive data, you should block the associated accounts and change passwords, try to retrieve transferred money and try to get rid of the malware using the secure mode and with the help of an IT-savvy person.