Scareware refers to a type of malware designed to trick users into believing that their computer is infected with a virus, malware, or some other virtual threat that does not actually exist. These types of malware are intended to scare users into taking some form of action, such as purchasing an anti-virus software or providing sensitive information, ultimately leading to financial gain for the attacker. Scareware has been around since the 1990s, and although they are not as prevalent as they once were, they can still be dangerous if not dealt with properly. In this article, we will delve into the world of scareware and explore how it works, as well as what you can do to protect yourself from these malicious attacks.

## How does Scareware work?

Scareware typically infects a user's computer through a deceptive pop-up advertisement or email appearing to be from a trusted source. Such pop-ups can be very convincing, sometimes appearing in the form of a fake system alert or security warning from antivirus software. This pop-up may prompt users to run a scan to check for viruses or malware, after which a fake report is generated indicating that the system is infected with numerous threats, and that the users' financial/personal information is at risk.

As users become increasingly stressed and concerned, the pop-up advertisement will then suggest that the only way to protect themselves is to purchase an overpriced antivirus program or to provide sensitive information to the cybercriminal. These programs generally appear authentic, but are poorly made and will not protect the user's computer.

Once the user falls for the scam and purchase the scareware, they find out that they have been scammed. Most likely, their system will have sustained further damage, rendering the system more susceptible to further cyber attacks.

## Examples of how Scareware Works

**Example 1:**

Mary, a busy software engineer, is working on her computer when a pop-up appears on her screen. It reads, "Your computer is infected with a virus! Click here to run a scan." Mary clicks on the button, hoping to get rid of the virus. Soon, a fake scanning report pop-up appears, which shows that her computer is infected with numerous threats, including malware and viruses. The pop-up advises that she must purchase an antivirus program for $49.99 to get rid of the issues.

Scared and unsure, Mary decides to purchase the program. Once she downloads the program, she realises that the program is not working, and it does not detect the alleged virus. To make things worse, her bank account is $49.99 lighter. Mary has fallen victim to a scareware scam.

**Example 2:**

John is browsing the internet when his computer suddenly freezes. John quickly realises that his computer is infected with a virus. A window pops up, and it reads: "Your computer has been compromised! Your data is not safe. You must purchase 'Antivirus Pro' to protect your PC from viruses and malware." John decides to download the software, and once he has, the software surprisingly detects a lot of malware and viruses on his system. John is relieved but ecstatic that he purchased the software that could protect him from such threats. However, John later finds that the software he purchased is ineffective when it comes to detecting and removing malware. Furthermore, the scareware has infected his computer, making it even more susceptible to cyber attacks in the future.

## Protecting Against Scareware

To protect yourself from Scareware attacks, a few precautions must be taken:

1. Use trusted antivirus software and keep them up to date regularly.

2. Never click on pop-ups that suggest that your computer has been compromised or infected with any virus. These pop-ups are designed to lead you to websites that further spread scareware/malware.

3. Be wary of any offers that seem too good to be true. Research the product before making any purchase.

4. Keep your computer up to date by installing all security and software updates promptly.

5. Be cautious when opening emails or visiting websites that appear suspicious.

6. Be suspicious of any pop-up advertisements that call for immediate action or that pressure the user to buy or download a program.

## Conclusion

Scareware is a prevalent type of cyber-attack that is designed to lure unsuspecting victims. The malware targets unsuspecting users with the promise of protection at a manageable cost when, in reality, it acts as a gateway for additional malicious software. Always be attentive and cautious when browsing the internet and always remember to keep your computer's antivirus up to date. Scareware may be challenging to detect, but prevention is always the best course of action.

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