Real or Fake? 6 Ways to Spot the Difference

Scareware, fake anti-virus; whatever you want to call it, it’s annoying.

For those of you unfamiliar with this trend, fake anti-virus disguises itself as your real anti-virus. You get infected from accidentally clicking a link which will download the malware into your computer. It scans the infected computer and produces fake alerts and convinces you that your computer is in danger. It then urges you to purchase a useless copy of the fake antivirus.

Spotting the difference between real and fake anti-virus can be challenging. Here are 6 ways to help you spot the difference:

  1. It’s displaying an anti-virus that isn’t YOUR anti-virus. Remember the name of the program and what the application windows and interface look like. You will therefore be able recognize when a hacked site is attempting to lure you into a trap using scare tactics.
  2. The page pretends to scan your computer, but the scan completes in less than 5 seconds. Real virus scanners take much longer to complete.
  3. The error message is full of spelling mistakes. Most fake AV programs are full of spelling/grammar mistakes. I’m guessing cyber criminals never read Hooked on Phonics.
  4. Windows Update appears without warning. If you didn’t go to the Windows Update website, it’s not going to display while looking at something else.
  5. It reports a different operating system than the one you are really running. If you are running Windows 7, and the fake page says you are running Windows XP, it’s probably fake.
  6. The fake virus scanner looks nothing like your real virus scanner. Always be familiar with what your current AV solution looks like.

The good news is the fake anti-virus/scareware trend appears to be declining. Although that leaves me wondering, if cyber criminals aren’t creating scareware, what are they creating?

To learn the five things your anti-virus won’t stop, attend a webinar tomorrow, December 6th!

Kelly Batke

Kelly is the self-confessed technology laggard who works in technology. The good news is she is slowly reaching late adopter status. Kelly enjoys learning and writing about the psychology behind technology—as in why do we buy what we buy, and how does that impact our environment?