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What is Scareware and How to Identify and Prevent It?

What is Scareware

Nobody likes pop-ups, and everybody knows the risks associated with clicking on one of those pop-ups. But some pop-ups look so legitimate and real that you end up clicking on them for the sake of the protection of your device. What happens next is that the same virus is installed in your computer that the pop-up was ultimately claiming to remove from your system.

The term we’re pointing at is scareware! While scareware isn’t new, the number of scareware is increasing more than ever with the rise of the remote working trend. According to a study, more than one in four organizations detected malvertising or scareware attempts during the first half of 2021.

Because of the increasing trend of scareware, we have decided to keep you aware of what is scareware along with ways to identify and prevent it.

What is Scareware?

According to Scareware definition, it is a term used for fake software applications and scam tactics used by cybercriminals to incite feelings of fear and panic, forcing people to make irrational split-second decisions. Some of the examples of scareware are:

  • Buying worthless software
  • Downloading various types of malicious software
  • Visiting websites that auto-download and install malicious software on your devices.

Since people care about their security now more than ever, scammers use the scareware attack to throw a pop-up security alert claiming to protect your device from viruses and malware. Users irrationally click on the ad and download the fake antivirus software. This malicious software can install malware or viruses on your system or even steal confidential information like credit cards, passwords, and more!

What to do during a Scareware Attack?

The only way to protect yourself from a scareware attack is by avoiding it at all costs. There are certain ways that you can use to protect yourself against scareware attacks, some of which are mentioned below:

Take a Deep Breath

Keep in mind that the assailant attempts to influence your emotions into a rapid reaction. The more time you think about the situation, the more likely you will notice something is problematic.

Regarding emotions, we’re animals, but we’re also clever. Slowing down permits our reasoning brain to conquer our emotions.

Think About What You’re Reading

The more time you give yourself for reasonable thought, the better off you will be in detecting the attacker’s ploy. Look for unusual word combinations or misspellings. Look for visual cues, such as off-brand graphics (if it comes from someplace like your bank or a store you frequent).

You’re smarter than you give yourself credit for. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably is.

Shut Down Your Browser

After you encounter a scareware attack or simply a suspicious pop-up window, shut down your browser. You can easily do that by right-clicking on the “x” icon at the top of your browser window or pressing Ctrl+Alt+Delete on your keyboard.

Cut off Internet Access

Unplug your router or modem or turn off the WiFi on your mobile device to instantly cut internet access upon coming across a suspicious pop-up window.

Avoid Logging into Your Online Banking Website

Some trojans and scareware attacks contain keystroke loggers that can easily capture all the information you enter on your device’s keyboard. To protect your confidentiality from getting sold to third parties, we recommend avoiding logging into your online banking app or website if you think your device is infected with malware.

Run a Full Antivirus Software

Download a credible antivirus software like Avast and run a full virus scan to protect your computer.

Subscribe to a VPN

Scareware attacks come unannounced, we can’t prevent them, but we can always take certain measures to defend ourselves. One of the ways to protect yourself from scareware attacks is by downloading a reliable and fast VPN like Ivacy VPN that can help block pop-ups and prevent your confidential information from getting stolen by hackers and scammers.


Scareware vs. Ransomware



Scareware acts as a tool to fix your system, but when the software is downloaded and installed on your device, it infects your computer or destroys it completely. Ransomware is a malware designed to restrict your system’s access unless you pay a ransom fee.
Objective The major objective of scareware is to frighten people into installing or purchasing the software. Ransomware’s main objective is to make money by gaining access to your system.
System Safety Since scareware is a scam, your system stays safe. Ransomware is unsafe with various degrees of seriousness.
Action The user’s first action in scareware should be to close the browser immediately. In the case of ransomware, users need to restore their PC to gain access.
Displays It displays windows style pop-ups. It displays software.
Examples WinAntivirus, DriveCleaner, ErrorSafe, XP Antivirus, and WinFixer are some Scareware examples. Wanna Cry, Cryoti, Locker, and Cerber are some Ransomware examples.

Scareware Examples to be Wary Of

Assume that when surfing your computer, a window states, “Virus scan! Your computer is infected.” The message essentially requests that you install software that claims to address your problems. In actuality, the message is a fake that attempts to trick you into downloading harmful malware by clicking on the provided link or CTA. In such cases, end customers become afraid and respond to the pop-up by downloading the program. Once downloaded, the program infects and destroys your machine in various ways, including stealing personal data and encouraging additional infections such as ransomware. This is referred to as a Scareware assault.

The virus scan is only advertising masquerading as a legitimate operation. Here are some scareware examples we discovered on the Internet.

What is Scareware – Example # 1:

What is Scareware

This scareware example message impersonates a Microsoft message. Sometimes the pop-ups have a clickjacking feature like this one. If a user closes the scareware window by clicking cancel, close, or the X button, they will be sent to an infected website.

What is Scareware – Example # 2:

What is Scareware

What is Scareware – Example # 3:

What is Scareware

What is Scareware – Example # 4:

What is Scareware

What is Scareware – Example # 5:

What is Scareware

What is Scareware – Example # 6:

What is Scareware

What is Scareware – Example # 7:

What is Scareware

What is Scareware -Example # 8:

What is Scareware

How does Scareware Work?

If you have ever received a pop-up message informing you that your computer has been infected with a virus and offering you a free scan, you should close and re-open your browser. The pop-up generally invites you to click on it to install phoney software that claims to erase the infection from your computer.

Although the pop-up seems authentic, it was most likely developed by a fraudster to infect your computer with malware. This dishonest method is called “scareware,” It is intended to terrify you into believing your computer has a virus and encourage you to click to delete it.

While you are focused on removing the infection, the evil individual who generated the scareware pop-up is slipping spyware onto your computer to steal your passwords, identification, and bank account details, to mention a few things.

How to identify Scareware?

The pop-up looks to be from your antivirus application, but it is transmitted over the Internet by a fraudster. A legal antivirus application will automatically execute regular scans and alert you that the virus has been quarantined and eliminated, depending on your antivirus program.

However, the scammer’s pop-up is meant to seem like the actual thing, and it is quite simple to be tricked if you do not pay close attention. Scammers are well aware of this, which is why they develop malicious software.

How to eliminate Scareware?

Now let’s focus on ways to remove scareware on Android, Mac, or your PC. If you already have an antivirus installed on your system, you can skip the first few steps, and all you need to do to open your antivirus program and run the scan on your system.

Remove Scareware on Windows

  • Download a well-known Antivirus software on your computer like Avast.
  • Click save the file on the prompt that pops up.
  • Now, go to the downloads on your web browser and double-click on the file to start the installation. You can also directly open the downloads folder and click on the file to install it.
  • Now, click install.
  • Finally, run a full scan on your Windows device.

Remove Scareware on Android

  • Reboot your phone to safe mode.
  • Uninstall all suspicious apps on your phone.
  • Get rid of redirects and pop-up ads from your browser.
  • Clear your downloads and cache.
  • Finally, install an anti-malware app on your phone.

Remove Scareware on iOS

  • Restart your phone
  • Delete apps downloaded from unknown parties.
  • Delete suspicious apps.
  • Check app permissions on your device.
  • Clear your browsing history
  • Clear your data until the previous backup.
  • Update your iOS version.
  • Reset to factory settings.
  • Install iOS security software or antivirus software.

For added protection, subscribe to a reliable and fast VPN service like Ivacy VPN to protect your device from future scareware attacks.

How to prevent a Scareware attack?

A few good online habits may save you a lot of trouble. To protect yourself from scareware, do the following:

  • Never click on any advertisement pop-ups.
  • Never give your personal or financial information to websites you don’t know.
  • Be cautious while closing advertising. Close the browser instead of the ad. If it doesn’t work, press Ctrl + Shift + Esc to open Task Manager.
  • Use a private and secure browser.
  • Maintain an up-to-date browser.
  • Make use of pop-up blockers, URL filters, VPNs, and firewalls.
  • Make use of virus and malware cleanup software.

If you see a scareware pop-up on your screen, relax and take a deep breath; all you need to do is protect your system with an antivirus paired with a VPN. Get a proven effective VPN against most cyberattacks to keep your confidential information safe while browsing the web.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is scareware a Trojan?

No, scareware is a dangerous malware that can damage your system. Android scareware can also remove all data from your device.

Is scareware the same as ransomware?

No, scareware is a type of malicious software that includes rogue security software, which tricks users into believing their computer has a virus and then suggests they download fake antivirus software to remove it, whereas ransomware is an attack in which the scammer’s ultimate goal is to obtain a ransom from users for them to regain access to their system.

Who invented scareware?

The world heard about the first scareware in the year 1990. It was never intended to steal data or money from users. It was merely intended to frighten people in the term’s literal meaning. Patrick Evans created NightMare, a software meant to target Amiga systems. Every five minutes, the screen would display a picture of a skull with a bullet hole and blood streaming.

What are Scareware and Ransomware?

Scareware is a ransomware attack in which cybercriminals aim to get users to download ransomware software. In contrast, ransomware software is malware that denies access to the user’s confidential data and system and asks for payment or ransom to give back access.

How do I get rid of Scareware?

This article has covered in detail the ways to get rid of Scareware on your system. Just scroll above, and you’ll be able to read that.

How to identify if I have a fake virus?

There are certain things that privacy-conscious users will have to take into consideration when trying to differentiate a fake virus from a real one:

  • If a pop-up window warns you of a virus and requests payment to remove it, you’re dealing with fraud. When dealing with threats, real security software never charges on a case-by-case basis.
  • The ‘Get full-time protection’ option is offered as a virus-removal solution. However, clicking on this risks downloading malware to your computer.
  • 540 threats discovered? That is an intentionally large number. It’s meant to attract your attention and make you react by clicking on the message.
  • The list of scanned files appears legitimate, but the list of threats discovered is nothing like what a true security suite would provide. Threats aren’t labeled as ‘Viruses,’ ‘Worms,’ or ‘Trojans.’ They are identified by precise names depending on databases that the security software keeps up to date.
  • Occasionally, the warning messages can appear unprofessional, with flashing colors you would not ordinarily see on your PC. However, they might appear as genuine Windows warning messages in the worst circumstances.

Is Scareware a type of Trojan?

No, Scareware is rather a type of malware that includes installing rogue security software, ransomware, and other scam software on your system.

How does Scareware Spread?

Scareware spreads in emails or pop-up ads encouraging users to address an allegedly privacy or security problem, most commonly a virus, by pretending to be messages from an antivirus suite only to install malware and Trojan on your system.

Are pop-ups saying you have a virus real?

Most of the time, the pop-ups that claim you have a virus are not real and are merely an attempt to hack into your system are known as Scareware. The scanned files shown by Scareware look authentic, but the list of threats found is nothing that a genuine antivirus would display. Antivirus never displays threats such as “Viruses,” “Worm,” or “Trojans.

What do fake virus alerts look like?

The fake virus alerts usually look amateur, having flashing colors like orange and red that you would not normally see on your computer. In the worst-case scenario, these fake virus alerts look similar to actual window warning messages but in lower resolutions.

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