Fake Anti-Virus Software: Are You Safe?

September 14, 2009

One of the ever growing threats out in the world is the presence of computer viruses. Computer viruses and other unwanted visitors such as worms, trojans etc, have become more widespread than ever and pose a serious threat to everyone who uses a computer (except us linux users of course). Someone once asked me, “How can my computer be messed up when I have anti-virus software?” I took a look at their laptop and they actually had fake anti-virus software. It looked like real anti-virus software and appeared to function like it, but it did not. It said it was performing system scans and even reported fake logs saying the computer was clean. What’s even worse is that when I tried to remove it, it had such control of the system that any attempt to install real anti-virus software failed, as the fake program would prevent that from happening. I eventually was able to get rid of it by other means, but it was a first (of many) encounters with this type of threat. Fake anti-virus software can be very serious because it allows other malicious software to be installed on your computer and can have its own threats that include items that lead to identity theft, which is another growing concern and something we will discuss in the future.Computer Virus

It is scary to think that one may be using their computer thinking they have anti-virus software that is working. So, how does one acquire fake software? Often times, clicking around on the internet and following all of those banners that talk about “Scan your PC for free!”, “Click here!” or “Download FREE anti-virus software here!”. Those are likely fake versions or are a direct attempt to install spyware on your computer. In fact, the only free version of Anti-Virus that I am familiar with (excluding free 30-day or 3-month trials which can be re-downloaded), is AVG Free, which can be downloaded from http://free.avg.com/. A lot of fake anti-virus software will emulate real software. This makes it tough for a user to know if they have authentic software. If you purchased your software from an electronics store, or directly from a vendors website, then you are okay.

So, what is the best way to make sure you have real anti-virus software? Without having to research on the internet, if you stick to the major brands which are sold at most electronic stores (Eset, Symantic / Norton, McAfee, Trend-Micro etc…) you will be okay. If you downloaded your anti-virus software from the internet, and didn’t pay for it, you might want to check it out. There is a website dedicated to seeking out these malicious decoys which is http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/. You can always google the brand of software you have and see what comes up about it, but this will not always help as often times fake software will emulate real software. As an example, the following are fake anti virus software programs: System Live Protect, Windows Police Pro, MS Anti Virus 2009, Real AntiVirus, Cleanator, Macsweeper, SpySherriff and many, many more.

If you are unsure if your anti-virus software is real, give us a call and we would be happy to help you out.

Update: Just this week the New York Times Website was found to be
inadvertently displaying ads for fake or malicious anti virus
applications.  Take a look at this article from the New York Times website for more information.

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