Today’s cyber criminals are becoming more creative than ever in their attempts to access and exploit your sensitive information.  One of the emerging trends in scam activity is known as scareware, which sees a hacker tap into one of humankind’s most basic instincts: Fear.

Scareware can take many different forms such as ‘Windows Updates’ and urgent sounding emails. Despite this, the most common platform for scareware is popups.

Pop-ups often look exactly like legitimate operating system messages, such as those you would receive from Windows or antivirus companies.  In most cases these pop-ups announce that they’ve detected problems with your system, urging you to purchase and run software to solve them. In reality, the problems are fictional and you could be downloading harmful malware onto your computer.

How can you avoid scareware?

Take note of the language used: 

More often than not, the language used in scareware is over exaggerated. Be cautious of prompts such as ‘Warning! Your computer is at risk! Download this urgently!’

These kinds of instructions are designed to create panic and trick you into providing credit card details to pay for the service, or downloading the software which can harm your computer.

Think first, click second:

Regardless of how urgent the message may seem, the best thing to do is ignore it. To remove scareware messages, right click on the pop up in the task bar and choose ‘close’. Or do it manually using Ctrl-Alt-Delete

Purchase antivirus software:

In order to avoid scareware altogether, ensure you have antivirus software installed onto your computer. Reputable products such as Norton and AVG include popup blockers, which you can configure to prevent pop-ups from sites you haven’t specifically authorised.

Manage your security protection settings:

Manage your protection settings so that your antivirus software puts an icon next to safe sites in the search results pages and highlights potentially dangerous sites. By doing so, you can avoid clicking on sites that your virus protection software thinks are dodgy.