It’s the middle of a workday. While researching a project, a random ad pops up on your computer screen alerting you of a virus. The scary-looking, flashing warning tells you to download an “anti-virus software” immediately. Impulsively, you do just that and download either the free or the $9.99 to get the critical download.
But here’s the catch: There’s no virus, no download needed, you’ve lost your money, and worse, you’ve shared your credit card number with a crook. Worse still, your computer screen is now frozen or sluggish as your new download (disguised malware) collects the data housed on your laptop and funnels it to a third party to be used or sold on the dark web.
This scenario is called scareware — a form of malware that scares users into fictitious downloads designed to gain access to your data. Scareware bombards you with flashing warnings to purchase a bogus commercial firewall, computer cleaning software, or anti-virus software. Cybercriminals are smart and package the suggested download in a way that mimics legitimate security software to dupe consumers. Don’t feel bad, a lot of intelligent people fall for scareware every day.