If you’ve spent any time on the internet, you’re likely familiar with the flashing, urgent messages that sometimes appear, alerting you to a virus on your computer. Rather than being a helpful notification from your antivirus software, these are likely fake antivirus (FakveAV) scams.

What Is FakeAV?

FakeAV is a form of scareware that relies on social engineering to trick people into downloading harmful viruses. It tries to convince you to act quickly and without thinking by utilizing several techniques, such as the following:

  • Mimicking real antivirus messages or system notifications
  • Stating that your device is infected and will be damaged unless you act “right now”
  • Offering deals or discounts for services you have to download

Once you’ve downloaded the software, however, a virus starts dismantling your device’s security measures, allowing the virus’s creator access to your system.

While you may be wary of pop-ups from shady websites, FakeAV can also appear on legitimate sites and search engine results. In recent years, hackers and other cyber criminals have sought to optimize their fraudulent links by including popular keywords, which takes advantage of search engine algorithms. This means the fakes appear higher on results pages, potentially among real antivirus offers.

Why Are They Created?

The main drive for the creation and distribution of FakeAV is monetary gain. Once a hacker has access to your system, they can steal information by going through unprotected files or installing keystroke logging software to record passwords, credit card numbers and personally identifiable information (PII) like your social security number.

Stolen PII can be sold to identity thieves or used to rack up debt. Hackers can also sell device access for use in cyberattacks that require multiple sources, such as DDoS attacks.

Another money-making scheme involves using ransomware, which is a type of extortion. Ransomware locks your device, rendering it useless. A hacker then contacts you offering to unlock you system for a price.

To maximize their reach, hackers often set up networks of accomplices and pay them per installation. Individuals working in these illegal networks can make thousands of dollars in a matter of days.

How Can You Protect Yourself?

Your first defense against this type of fraud is to think before you click. If you come across a message urging you to download new software, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does it look like the messages you usually receive from your antivirus?
  • Is it a brand that you currently have running on your device?
  • Is it asking you to buy something?

If it doesn’t look familiar and is asking for your card information, it’s probably a scam.

In the event you do download the infected material, a full suite of legitimate antivirus software is key to keeping your device safe. The real thing can detect FakeAV and keep it from running.

If you’re in need of cyber security, Super Source GmbH offers expertise in IT. Learn more by contacting us online.