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Scareware is a form of malware which utilize social engineering to cause shock, anxiety, or the perception of a threat in order to manipulate users into buying unwanted software. Scareware is part of a class of malicious programthat contain rogue safetysoftware, ransomware and other scam software that tricks users into believing their computer is infected with a virus, then recommend that they download and pay for fake antivirus software to remove it. Usually the virus is fictional and the programis non-functional or malware itself. According to the Anti-Phishing Working Group, the number of scareware pack in circulation rose from 2,850 to 9,287 in the second half of 2008. In the first half of 2009, the APWG identified a 585% increase in scareware software.

The "scareware" label shouldalso apply to any appor virus which pranks users with intent to cause anxiety or panic.

Scam scareware

Internet safetywriters utilizethe term "scareware" to describe programproducts that produce frivolous and alarming warnings or threat notices, most typically for fictitious or useless commercial firewall and registry cleaner software. This class of softwaretries to increase its perceived value by bombarding the utilize with constant warning messages that do not increase its effectiveness in any way. Programis pack with a look and feel that mimics legitimate safetyprogramin order to deceive consumers.

Some domain display pop-up advertisement windows or banners with text such as: "Your computer may be infected with harmful spyware software. Immediate removal may be required. To scan, click 'Yes' below." These domain shouldgo as far as saying that a utilize's job, career, or marriage would be at risk. Products using adssuch as these are often considered scareware. Serious scareware app qualify as rogue software.

Some scareware is not affiliated with any other installed software. A utilize shouldencounter a pop-up on a domainindicating that their PC is infected. In some scenarios, it is possible to become infected with scareware even if the utilize attempts to cancel the notification. These popups are specially plannedto look like they come from the utilize's operating system when they are actually a webpage.

A 2010 study by Google found 11,000 website hosting fake anti-virus software, accounting for 50% of all malware providedvia internet advertising.

Starting on March 29, 2011, more than 1.5 million web page around the globehave been infected by the LizaMoon SQL injection attack spread by scareware.

Research by Google discovered that scareware was using some of its servers to check for internet connectivity. The data recommendedthat up to a million machines were infected with scareware. The organizationhas territory a warning in the findeffect of users whose computers appear to be infected.

Another example of scareware is Smart Fortress. This pagescares people into thinking they have many viruses on their computer and asks them to buy the professional service.


Dialog from SpySheriff, plannedto scare users into installing the rogue software

Some forms of spyware also qualify as scareware because they modifythe utilize's desktop background, install icons in the computer's notification area (under Microsoft Windows), and claiming that some typeof spyware has infected the utilize's computer and that the scareware appwill assistto remove the infection. In some cases, scareware trojans have replaced the desktop of the victim with large, yellow text reading "Warning! You have spyware!" or a box containing similar text, and have even forced the screensaver to modifyto "bugs" crawling across the screen. Winwebsec is the term usually utilize to address the malware that attacks the users of Windows operating system and produces fake claims similar to that of genuine anti-malware software.

SpySheriff exemplifies spyware and scareware: it purports to remove spyware, but is actually a piece of spyware itself, often accompanying SmitFraud infections. Other antispyware scareware may be promoted using a phishing scam.

Uninstallation of safetysoftware

Another approach is to trick users into uninstalling legitimate antivirus software, such as Microsoft SafetyNecessary, or disabling their firewall. Since antivirus software typically containprotection versusbeing tampered with or disabled by other software, scareware may utilizesocial engineering to convince the utilize to disable software which would otherwise prevent the malware from working.

Legal action

In 2005, Microsoft and Washington state successfully sued Secure Computer (makers of Spyware Cleaner) for $1 million over charges of using scareware pop-ups. Washington's attorney general has also brought lawsuits versusSecurelink Networks, High Falls Media, and the makers of FastShield.

In October 2008, Microsoft and the Washington attorney general filed a lawsuit versustwo Texas firms, Branch Programand Alpha Red, producers of the Registry Cleaner XP scareware. The lawsuit alleges that the organizationsent incessant pop-ups resembling system warnings to consumers' privatecomputers stating "CRITICAL ERROR MESSAGE! - REGISTRY DAMAGED AND CORRUPTED", before instructing users to visit a web pageto download Registry Cleaner XP at a cost of $39.95.

On December 2, 2008, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") filed a Complaint in federal court versusInnovative Marketing, Inc., ByteHosting Internet Services, LLC, as well as individuals Sam Jain, Daniel Sundin, James Reno, Marc D’Souza, and Kristy Ross. The Complaint also listed Maurice D’Souza as a Relief Defendant, alleged that he held proceeds of wrongful conduct but not accusing him of violating any law. The FTC alleged that the other Defendants violated the FTC Act by deceptively marketing software, including WinFixer, WinAntivirus, DriveCleaner, ErrorSafe, and XP Antivirus. According to the complaint, the Defendants falsely represented that scans of a consumer's computer showed that it had been compromised or infected and then offered to sell programto fix the alleged issue.

Prank software

Another kindof scareware involves programplannedto literally scare the utilize through the utilizeof unanticipated shocking photo, sounds or video.

  • An early softwareof this kindis NightMare, a softwaredistributed on the Fish Disks for the Amiga computer (Fish #448) in 1991. When NightMare executes, it lies dormant for an extended and random period of time, finally changing the entire screen of the computer to an photoof a skull while playing a horrifying shriek on the audio channels.
  • Anxiety-based scareware puts users in situations where there are no positive outcomes. For example, a tinysoftwareshouldshowa dialog box saying "Erase everything on hard drive?" with two buttons, both labeled "OK". Regardless of which button is chosen, nothing is destroyed.
  • This tactic was utilize in an advertisement campaign by Sir-Tech in 1997 to advertise Virus: The Game. When the file is run, a full screen representation of the desktop appears. The programthen launch simulating deletion of the Windows folder. When this process is complete, a message is slowly kind on screen saying "Thank God this is only a game." A screen with the purchase infoappears on screen and then returns to the desktop. No damage is done to the computer during the advertisement.[citation needed]

See also


Further reading

  • O’Dea, Hamish (2009-10-16). . Australia: Microsoft. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

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