By Officer Larry Jacobs

“Scareware,” according to SpywareRemove.com, is malware – malicious software – that you download, usually embedded in search results.

Malicious activity like this spikes during holidays or around major events when searches for information increases.

Scareware, also known as, “fake antispyware” tricks people into believing their computers are infected with a virus and that they need to pay to have it removed. SpywareRemove.com lists these as the top of the scareware category:

1) Security Shield. The makers of this very sly program post bogus reviews on Twitter and Facebook praising their application. Not only does the program not work as advertised, according to SpywareRemove.com, the program will claim to find more viruses each time a victim pays to have infections removed.

2) System Check. This application claims to be a disk “defragmenter” that cleans up your computer to improve performance. Instead, it posts fake alerts and errors to get you to continue to pay to have the problems fixed.

3) Smart Protection 2012. This nasty program blocks your PC from installing legitimate malware-removal programs. It will also hijack your browser and point it in the direction of pornographic websites as a way to get people to pay to have the application removed.

4) PC Clean. A fake file–cleaning utility that pretends to scan your computer for unneeded files, then sells a “pro” version to remove them. The program claims to find files that threaten your privacy. Researchers have found that PC Clean Pro can and will actually install other malware.

5) Internet Security. This program pretends to protect your PC from spyware and other threats while having no ability to remove them. Instead, the software launches itself whenever someone opens an executable file in order to keep the application from being removed with some legitimate anti-malware program.

Many, if not all, of these programs can damage your computer and cost you big bucks. So, beware and only use legitimate programs.

Officer Larry Jacobs is a crime prevention specialist with Crime Prevention Unit of the Sandy Springs Police Department. He can be reached at ljacobs@sandyspringsga.gov.

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