At least once a day, a customer walks into our store with a problem related to fake anti-virus scams. In the past 18 months, the prevalence of these disruptive invaders has skyrocketed.
Starting with Anti-Virus 2008, Anti-Virus 2009, and Anti-Virus 360, there have been a large collection of viruses that masquerade as anti-virus programs available to protect your computer. Instead of protecting, they attach themselves to the registries of your computer and may lure users into purchasing their fraudulent product. Many times after a user clicks on “No Thanks” or the exit “X,” the virus will remain. It may cause problems in the background or may continue with annoying pop-ups that seem to take over the computer screen.
Scam anti-viruses we have seen include Cyber Security, Windows PolicePro, AntiVirus Pro 2010, PC AntiSpyware 2010, Malware Doctor, and WinPC Defender. Unfortunately, once you see one of these pop-ups on your screen, it is almost too late to defend against it. A legitimate anti-virus is always highly recommended. We recommend AVG Pro, but even the best anti-virus cannot ward off all threats.
It should go without saying that you should never give a credit card number to an anti-virus offer that comes to you unsolicited. Many of these offers use logos that are virtually identical to the logos of legitimate security companies. We have seen viral attacks that look like Windows Security, AVG, Norton, and others. Many knowledgeable computer users have fallen prey to these hackers.
One reaction to the appearance of one of these scams is to immediately power-down your computer. This is a risky action as it can cause damage to hardware or system software. There is a chance that shutting down with the power button might keep the virus from entering your system. At the next power-up, the computer will no longer be logged-in on the Internet and your connection with the virus may be severed. If the virus had time to download itself onto your computer, it may be able to activate itself to “do its thing” at your next power-on.
If your computer is affected by an anti-virus scam and is unable to operate normally, the best response is to scrub it off your computer or possibly reload the operating system. On the Internet there are applications available that help remove specific viruses. Unfortunately, it is easy to run into malicious applications that cause additional trouble. When selecting a computer technician, look for trained and certified individuals who are willing to stand behind their work. Costs will vary for service at your site or at a shop.
Patty Harshbarger, owner of Computer Renaissance in Bradenton, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.