If you’re browsing the web one day and you suddenly see a warning out of nowhere that you have a computer virus on your system, you may indeed have a virus but not the kind you expect. Your operating system may have just been infected by a fake antivirus (or FakeAV).
FakeAV is a specific kind of malware that’s built to fool you into thinking that it’s an antivirus software package rather than a virus. In that way it’s like when a criminal dresses up a cop: it’s disguises itself as the exact opposite of what it really is.
Fake Antivirus is built to scare you. It will show images and messages to make you think your system is in immediate danger and that you need to do something right now to protect it. It’s the old scammer’s trick of trying to pressure you to buy something without thinking about it.
FakeAV will tell you that to clean or protect your computer system right now, you need to pay for this antivirus software package. In some cases, FakeAV will even be a form of Ransomware and actually lock up your data until you pay for it.
Running a full security suite can help protect you from FakeAV in two ways. The first is that it can detect Fake Antivirus malware and keep it from running. But the other way it can protect you is by helping you to spot the fraud. If you are familiar with your security software and you see something that’s not your security software claiming to have found a virus, you can use that knowledge to recognize FakeAV for what it is: a fake.
FakeAV underscores the importance of not only having modern security suites on your computers and devices but also of being familiar with them. That can help you better spot a fake when you see one.