Earlier this year, Microsoft discovered a virus threat scareware inadvertently put on computers through email spam, websites and social media messaging.
Signs your computer may be infected with the scareware include slower-than-normal operation, redirecting web searches from real antivirus sites to fraudulent sites, and popup windows that warn of virus software on your computer.
The scareware might fail to report any real virus threats when your computer is infected. But sometimes, when you download rogue security software, it will install a virus or other malicious software so the antivirus software has something to detect.
While scareware or rogue security software causes your computer to run slower, the follow-up tactics are what Tim Rains, a director in Microsofts Trustworthy Computing group, is concerned about.
Criminals are turning to this tactic to scare people, Rains said in a phone interview last week. It scares you into taking action against something thats not going on.
If launched, a signal is sent back to the scammers computer and calls are made stating, You have a virus, we need remote access to your computer, Rains says.
The phone scammers often pose as Microsoft employees from a variety of departments, including Windows Helpdesk, Windows Service Center, Microsoft Tech Support, Windows Technical Department Support Group and Microsoft Research and Development Team.
The software is well designed, Rains says. The popups, warnings and calls are professionally created and well made.
If (your computer) is telling you that you need to upgrade software or buy an updated product, its scamming you, he says. The end result is to steal your credit card, identity or the key to software you have purchased.
The software key a series of numbers on the software packages is targeted since it can be resold, or used, in software piracy.
Updates from legitimate antivirus software Norton, Symantec, McAfee and others are installed regularly. A good software system blocks an attack and determines if scareware is being downloaded. It then stops the download.
Antivirus software and firewalls will actually go a long way to help protect you from scareware, Rains says. The firewall is like locks on your doors and windows.
To avoid being a victim, BBB advises you to not buy software or services from a telephone solicitor. Never give control of your computer to a third party. Never give personal, credit card or financial information over the phone.
Rains says, Anyone who receives an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft should hang up. We can assure you, Microsoft does not make these kinds of calls.
A free online Microsoft scanning tool to discover problems with your computer is available at http://bit.ly/fwz3Ib.
Robb Hicken, 208-947-2115