Special Report: Scareware attacks on the rise - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Special Report: Scareware attacks on the rise

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A warning for everyone with a computer: the Better Business Bureau says "scare-ware" attacks are on the rise.  

Scare-ware is yet another technique used by hackers to steal personal information and spread viruses online. What makes these scareware attacks so effective is that they pop up on the newspaper and search engines sites you visit every day and they look like messages from your computer.

These days there aren't too many people who don't spend some time in front of a computer: doing research, reading your favorite paper, chatting up your friends. It's at those moments, when your guard is down, that hackers are trying to trip you up.

"Bad guys are getting into your computer through pop-ups," Tom Gallagher of the Richmond Better Business Bureau.    

The Better Business Bureau is warning you to be on the lookout for scareware. It's essentially a pop up window seemingly generated by your computer. It usually convinces you that a virus has infected your computer and that you need to download and pay for antivirus software. That pop-up is actually a ploy to get you to give personal information, or to infest your computer.

"This has happened with the New York Times. It happens with Google. It happens with the most respected of website," said Gallagher.

The New York Times reported a scareware pop-up was generated by an unauthorized ad after it sold ad space to hackers posing as Vonage. It's tactic that's catching on. An international watch group says scareware attacks increased more than 500 percent from 2008 in the first half of this year.

"What they're doing is A) taking money and B) infecting your computer," Gallagher said.

Gallagher says protecting yourself is as simple as not clicking on these pop-ups and actively making sure your virus protection is up to date.

"Make sure that we're dealing with people that we know we want to deal with. Make sure that we're buying off the shelf or that we're buying it directly from the company," he said.

Microsoft has filed lawsuits against five companies, accusing them of being the source of scareware attacks. If you clicked on one of these ads and actually bought the software, you'll likely need professional help to avoid any problems.  

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