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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Beware of Fake Anti-Virus Software

When we talk about the end of one year and the beginning of the next, we often make resolutions about things we want to accomplish in the upcoming year. I know one thing we would also like to see decrease is the number of viruses and the volume of spam. Yesterday I ran across something that would cause both to increase and I wanted to write and warn you about it.

I was visiting a business Web site. Really, this wasn't a "bad" neighborhood. Out of the blue I got a message that my computer was about to be infected with something really bad. Sounds scary, right? Just don't fall for it! The giveaway that it is completely bogus is that the message is in your browser window. Of course the next step was an animation of a virus/spyware scan that showed my computer was badly infected. Before I did anything, I launched ZoneAlarm (my real anti-virus software) and had it do a full scan. Of course it found no infections at all.

When I tried to close the fake warning message, it tried to download an EXE file that was supposedly the virus software being promoted by the scam. I canceled it. When I tried to navigate away from the page, it tried to download again. Again I canceled. Once more it tried to download and I canceled. Finally I got back to a page that wasn't infected. The files it was trying to download were not anti-virus software, they were the virus itself!

I think I know how the Web site I was visiting was spewing out these fake messages. I revisited the Web site while writing this post so I could get screenshots and the problem was gone. If my guess is correct, most any site could be spewing out these messages even though the site itself is not the problem. All I can do it caution you to pay very, very close attention if you see messages about being infected.

I also strongly urge you to have legitimate, up-to-date anti-virus software. As mentioned earlier, my favorite is ZoneAlarm and there is a really nice sale on it right now (50% off). Make sure you double-check that your software is being updated regularly. If you got some anti-virus software included on your computer, it is quite possible the subscription has ended and you aren't as safe as you think you might be.

Just a few days ago I heard from a friend who had fallen for the exact scam I described earlier. Their computer is severely messed up and will require some serious geek love to get it back to its normal working condition. Not only are they unable to use their computer for a period of time, there will be a cost involved to fix the computer.

So I urge you to please be careful about where you click when surfing the Web. I don't want your computer to be infected because that probably means I get more spam. Of course I really don't want you to have to deal with getting the computer fixed. If you are really good about surfing safely, forward this blog post to all of your friends and family who don't surf safely. Let's all do our part to fight back against the criminals who want to make our online lives miserable!

I just found out that I had several very well off relatives in Nigeria who died recently and left me quite a fortune. I better get in touch with their lawyers immediately so I can receive the monies due to me! Please don't take this last paragraph seriously either. I'm sure you get plenty of similar messages and the best thing you can do is delete them!

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