When an unexpected alert appears on screen, warning that your system needs repair and that paying a small fee will fix it, chances are high it’s malware.
Here’s a true story of how one such infection hit an experienced PC user (and the steps needed to remove it) — and how we all can stay vigilant in preventing such attacks.
Putting a new face on a common malware ploy
My dad lives just down the street from me, so we see each other often. Because I write about PC security, he keeps me up to date on the most recent computer scams and attacks he’s encountered. His age group, unfortunately, is a favorite target for scams of all sorts.
Dad is no computing neophyte. To date, he’s had four unexpected callers who informed him that his computer needed fixing, had a virus, or was slow and could be made to run better. Rather than ask how they could possibly know the status of his PC, he simply informed them that he “has a girl that helps me with my computer.”
(Many unsolicited “repair” calls suggest that the warnings come from Microsoft. The problem is so widespread, the company built a website specifically to warn PC users about tech-support scams.)
Dad has been sent any number of bogus e-mails urging him to download tools to make his computer run faster. He’s also received those chain-letter e-mails from friends with the usual: “If you don’t forward this e-mail to 10 of your closest friends, you’ll miss out on the prize!” He ignored them all.
Dad has also dodged the “THIS IS THE WORST VIRUS EVER” alerts sent by friends. In these cases, he either checked with me or consulted the postings on Snopes.com. (Although I’m a fan of Snopes, the massive numbers of pop-unders on the site are nearly as annoying as receiving bogus scam alerts.)