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Liar, Liar

You are looking something up online when you suddenly receive a pop-up window on your PC saying that your PC is infected with viruses.  Ack!  Panic time!  Or is it?Liar-liar

While a virus infected PC is a very serious matter, not all "Your PC is infected" pop up messages are legitimate.  Phony antivirus ads are increasing in number and even major legitimate websites have been know to suffer from these pesky pop-ups.  A recent search returned nearly 62 million hits on Google, and that's just for one of the versions.

There are a number of variants of the scam software by different names but they all claim to do the same thing: clean viruses/trojans/spyware infections off of your PC.  So what do these malign malware in sheep's clothing actually do?  The most benign just constantly bother you with fake "we found viruses!!" messages asking you to register and pay for the sham software.  On the other end of the scale, they can install viruses, spyware and/or keylogging software that attempts to steal your passwords and turn your PC into a "zombie" they can use for their own nefarious purposes.

So what do you do if you get a virus warning?  Well, you can't just assume it's a deception and ignore it.  It could actually be a legitimate warning from your antivirus software and not a fraudulent browser pop-up window.  How do you tell?  The most basic check is if the virus warning window does not say it's from the antivirus software you already have installed on your PC, it's most likely a fraud.  If the window says Internet Explorer or Firefox at the top, it's almost certainly a fraud.

How do you get rid of these pop-ups?  First off, never click on anything in those ads.  The Cancel button and the X button in the upper right hand corner are usually fakes so clicking on those buttons, or anywhere else in the pop-up window for that matter, will cause the software to start to install.  The best way to get rid of a poisonous pop-up is to close out of your browser window by either doing Alt-F4, right clicking  on the browser box(es) on the taskbar and choosing Close or by doing Ctrl-Alt-Delete, clicking on Task Manager, finding the browser in the Applications tab, highlighting it and clicking on End Task.

What if it's too late?  If you or someone else did install the fake antivirus, please contact the appropriate staff immediately.  If you are trying to download a removal tool for any of these fake antivirus products, make sure you get it from a reputable source, one of the major antivirus firms would be a good choice.  Some of the "removal" tools you can find online are actually more counterfeit tools by the same people who made the original.

Stay tuned for more tips on safer browsing!

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