"Your Computer Is Infected" - Fake Alert Message from Rogue Programs

By: Ms Mindy Matter

In the early days of the internet, pop-up ads were seen as a revolutionary new way to advertise products to those who would not otherwise be interested. By literally popping up, these ads were far more noticeable, and irritating. Filters to block these messages became commonplace, and our exposure to pop-ups decreased markedly. When you do see an increase in pop-ups, then, it may indicate the presence of a rogue program in your system.

What is a Fake Alert Message?

Fake alert messages are exactly what they sound like: messages that warn you of security threats to your system. These “threats” are nonexistent and are designed to persuade computer users to click on the ad, which promises to provide software to resolve the risks. The software, known as rogue antivirus programs or rogue anti-spyware, is fraudulent. Many people opt to purchase this software because the ads look authentic. It is an understandable reaction to want to protect your computer. However, opting to purchase rogue antivirus programs will result in a loss of money and may cause some issues with your system’s performance. There are many variations of the fake message alert and a host of rogue programs that distribute them. Some common ones include Antivirus 2007, 2008 and 2009, XP Antivirus, Antivirus System Pro, Win32/InternetAntivirus, Home Antivirus 2009, Spyware Detect, and WinPC Defender, among others.

Fake Alert Messages on Your Computer

How do you recognize legitimate warning messages and distinguish them from fake alerts? It is important to know that Windows does not send security warnings; real warnings come from the antivirus program you have installed on you system. Knowing what program you have for protection will help you avoid fake alert messages. When you see a warning message pop-up, make sure to read the name of the program very carefully. If you do not recognize it, do not click on the ad. To find out which antivirus programs are installed on your computer, go to the Control Panel and look under Security.

You can also become familiar with the language of fake alert messages so you are able to recognize them should they pop-up on your screen. They tend to be very generic. An example:

Malware Cleaner: Trojan detected! A piece of malicious code was found in your system that can replicate itself if no action is taken. Click here to have your system cleaned by Malware Cleaner.

Ads that target privacy issues are especially effective because no one wants their private or financial information accessed by unauthorized parties. Here is another example, this too from Malware Cleaner:

Privacy is at risk! Attention, keylogging and intercepting scripts were detected. Your private data may be disclosed to third parties. Click here and Malware Cleaner will remove the infection.

Knowing that you do not have Malware Cleaner, for example, as your legitimate antivirus protection helps you avoid the natural instinct to click on these ads. Also common among these fake alert messages is improper grammar or syntax, such as “It is recommended to use special antispyware tools to prevent data loss.” Fake alert messages vary in quality: some lend themselves credibility by listing files that have been corrupted or specific viruses that have been found in your system. The corrupted files or viruses found are either nonexistent or are real programs necessary to your system’s function.

Effects of Fake Alert Messages on Your Computer

The most obvious difference in your system is the presence of these pop-up ads or false web pages indicating that you have unresolved security risks. If you do experience an increase in these fake alert messages, do not click on them. Close them with the Task Manager because even hitting Cancel or the X in the corner can launch yet another message or direct you to a rogue site. Depending on the program, you may be offered software to resolve the supposed security threats or that software may automatically install itself.

The software that advertises itself as an antivirus program may invite in other forms of malware. Again, the consequences depend on the particular program, but malware can cause more pop-ups, changes in your web browser or internet settings, and create a backdoor for yet more trojans to enter.

One of the changes that you are likely to notice is a slowdown in the overall performance of your computer, even offline programs. This is because rogue antivirus programs are stored in the virtual memory of your system. It takes up space and diverts resources from other programs in order to run itself. This is a key indicator that a rogue program may be in your system.

What causes the increase in pop-ups and other issues associated with rogue antivirus programs? Despite differences among the various programs, they typically enter your system in the same manner. A big source is freeware or shareware. When you download these files, especially videos, they often come with trojans that carry malware. A common one is Zlob, which is hidden in videos and disguised as a codec. In this way, rogue programs are unintentionally brought into your system. Trojans are also common on sites featuring adult content, including gaming sites. Simply visiting the site may be enough to cause the rogue program to install itself.

Dealing with Fake Alert Messages

Know what is in your computer. If you know which programs you have installed to protect you against threats, then you will be able to distinguish real from fraudulent warnings. Check for CPU usage occasionally to see if your computer is using the appropriate capacity. This way, you’ll be able to spot if memory is being used for a rogue program. It is also very important to be cautious when downloading free or shareware and use reputable sites.

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By Mindy Matter for www.free-web-browsers.com - Here you'll learn about online privacy: www.free-web-browsers.com/your-computer-is-infected.shtml - Please link to this site when using this article.

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