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How to Identify and Remove Rogue Antivirus Programs in 2016

p19_0000Rogue security software, also known as rogue antivirus, fake antivirus, and in some cases fake tech support, may not be classified as the biggest online threat but, if successfully installed, it has consequences. Consequences that vary, depending on the specific malicious campaign the rogue antivirus has been part of. Yes, rogue AV software doesn’t only flood you with fake pop-up warnings.

For example, December 2015 witnessed several aggressive campaigns featuring fake tech support pages, exploit kits and… CryptoWall. Thousands of users in Canada, the UK and the US were hit, and, hopefully, next time the very same victims will know better not to click on suspicious pop-ups prompting them to visit unknown websites. If you’re wondering, fake tech support scams and fake AV programs have a lot in common. Both of the online scams try to take money from you, may harvest and abuse your personal and banking information, and may infect you with other forms of malware.

Since education is the best precaution, let us tell you about rogue antivirus in 2016. Things we will clarify in this article:

  • How to be sure you’ve been infected by a rogue AV program;
  • How rogue AV programs are propagated across the Web;
  • How to tell the difference between a real and a rogue security program;
  • How to clean your system after it has been ‘cleaned’ by a rogue AV product.

Rogue Security Software: The Signs

Unfortunately, there are way too many rogue AV programs trying to extort users for money. Yes, you read correctly. In many ways, fake AV programs resemble ransomware – they will manipulate you into purchasing the full version of a (rogue) product. But first, you will be flooded with fake warnings. In that sense, rogue AV programs are also considered scareware.

There are several things to look for and keep in mind, like:

  • GUI (graphical user interface) that resembles legitimate AV programs but is in fact created by cyber crooks. Once the program is activated on your system, it will launch the GUI and will start “scanning” your system.
  • Shortly after that, the annoying scareware pop-ups will enter your screen. Often, these pop-ups imitate Windows security alerts;
  • The final stage is where you will be prompted to type in your banking information to pay for the full version of the program. Needless to say, the second you share your credit card number, you become vulnerable to cyber fraud of all kinds.

Also, keep in mind that a fake AV program may also act like a browser hijacker and take over your browsers. If you notice that your browser’s homepage has been replaced with the ‘official’ page of a suspicious security product, be sure that you have rogue AV and (quite possibly) other malware draining your system.

But how did that fake AV program sneak into your computer in the first place?

Like most forms of cyber fraud, rogue security software has evolved quite a lot. For instance, the well-known SpySheriff (depicted below) dates back to 2007. SpySheriff was ‘advertised’ as an anti-spyware program while in fact it was the spyware itself.

SpySheriff-control-panel-rogue-AV-program-stforum

Image Source: Microsoft

This has been the case with many other fake security products, then and now. In other words, you could have downloaded the program yourself, believing it was a useful and truthful one.

The distribution methods deployed by cyber crooks to propagate their rogue products aren’t that different from the ways malware is spread across the Web (both on desktop and mobile devices):

  • Web navigation. In such a case, you will be displayed a fake pop-up alert claiming that your machine is infected. Then, you will be prompted to purchase and download whatever rogue AV program you landed on. This is the scareware tactics we already described. Often, fake pop-up warnings say that you need to download system updates or missing drivers, or that you need to remove the malware ‘found’ by the rogue. Once you are tricked into clicking on the pop-up, you will have a rogue AV.
  • SEO poisoning. Have you heard of it? It’s a common method used by fraudsters and malicious coders. SEO poisoning would push ahead bad links on top of the search results on search engines. If you don’t pay much attention to the links in your results, you may easily be fooled, especially when corrupted links are situated among legitimate security vendors. Next time, just be extra cautious whenever you do a search using keywords such as ‘free antivirus scan’.
  • Email, phishing, spam. The three often come together. Think twice before opening a suspicious and unexpected email. If you’ve already opened such an email, don’t click on any links. However, it may be too late. Malware may have already entered your system, the second you opened the email.
  • Drive-by downloads. Like any other malware, rogue AV programs can be propagated via drive-by downloads that don’t acquire user interaction. Such downloads usually exploit known vulnerabilities in software. That’s why it’s crucial to keep all of your programs up-to-date. Your operating system included.
  • Online video streaming websites. Be careful, if you watch videos on random websites. You will be likely prompted to download a supposedly missing codec to play that video. Instead, you may download a rogue program or some other form of adware or worse, malware.
  • Fake updates. Rogue security programs may be masqueraded as (fake) updates, mostly Java or Flash. If you’re viewing fake pop-ups while browsing, be aware that your system has become a target of online fraudsters.
  • Peer-to-peer communities. And torrents. Don’t download anything from untrusted p2p pages, be it free or cracked software products, movies, or music. Or whatever you’re seeking to download for free.
  • Botnets. Botnets, consisting of thousands of bot-infected PCs, are mostly used to send out spam in various malicious campaigns. However, researchers at SecureWorks warn that botnets are also deployed to download rogue AV programs onto users’ machines. According to researchers, it’s a proven method to monetize a certain botnet.

How to improve your protection against rogue AVs?

Firstly, when you land on a page that tries too hard to persuade you to download a certain product, inspect it closely.

Is the website written in perfect English (or whatever language it is written in)? Typos, wrong letter capitalization and spelling mistakes serve as an indication not only of poor grammar but also of rogue intentions. If the software developers were truly dedicated to their product and its promotion, they wouldn’t have made all those mistakes.

Here’s an example:

antivirus-security-360-rogue-software

Image Source: MakeUseOf.com

As visible, those phrases don’t make any sense. Downloading the product won’t make any, either.

Finally, here’s how to remove the rogue AV program

If it’s too late and you already have a rogue AV program constantly scanning your system and flooding you with annoying pop-up alerts, refer to the steps below.

Delete rogue antivirus programs from Windows and Your Browser

1.Remove or Uninstall rogue antivirus programs in Windows

Remove or Uninstall rogue antivirus programs in Windows.

Step 1: Remove/Uninstall rogue antivirus programs in Windows

Here is a method in few easy steps to remove that program. No matter if you are using Windows 8, 7, Vista or XP, those steps will get the job done. Dragging the program or its folder to the recycle bin can be a very bad decision. If you do that, bits and pieces of the program get left behind, and that can lead to unstable work of your PC, mistakes with the file type associations and other unpleasant activities. The proper way to get a program off your computer is to Uninstall it. To do that:

  • Hold the Windows Logo Button and “R” on your keyboard. A Pop-up window will appear (fig.1).
  • uninstall-virus-fig1

  • In the field type in “appwiz.cpl” and press ENTER (fig.2).
  • uninstall-virus-fig2

  • This will open a window with all the programs installed on the PC.
    Select the program that you want to remove, and press “Uninstall” (fig.3).
  • uninstall-virus-fig3

    Follow the instructions above and you will successfully uninstall rogue antivirus programs.

    2.Remove rogue antivirus programs from Your Browser

    Remove rogue antivirus programs from Your Browser.

    Remove a toolbar from Mozilla FirefoxRemove a toolbar from Google Chrome Remove a toolbar from Internet Explorer Remove a toolbar from Safari
    Start Mozilla Firefox Open the menu window

    uninstall-fig4

    Select the “Add-ons” icon from the menu

    uninstall-fig5

    Select rogue antivirus programs and click “Remove

    uninstall-fig6

    After rogue antivirus programs is removed, restart Mozilla Firefox by closing it from the red “X” in the top right corner and start it again.

    Start Google Chrome and Open the drop menu

    uninstall-fig7

  • Move the cursor over “Tools” and then from the extended menu choose “Extensions
  • uninstall-fig8

  • From the opened “Extensions” menu locate rogue antivirus programs and click on the garbage bin icon on the right of it.
  • uninstall-fig9

  • After rogue antivirus programs is removed, restart Google Chrome by closing it from the red “X” in the top right corner and start it again.
  • Start Internet Explorer:

  • Click “‘Tools’ to open the drop menu and select ‘Manage Add-ons’
  • uninstall-fig10

  • In the ‘Manage Add-ons’ window, make sure that in the first window ‘Add-on Types’, the drop menu ‘Show’ is on ‘All add-ons’
  • uninstall-fig11

    Select rogue antivirus programs to remove, and then click ‘Disable’. A pop-up window will appear to inform you that you are about to disable the selected toolbar, and some additional toolbars might be disabled as well. Leave all the boxes checked, and click ‘Disable’.

    uninstall-fig12

    After rogue antivirus programs has been removed, restart Internet Explorer by closing it from the red ‘X’ in the top right corner and start it again.

    Start Safari

    Open the drop menu by clicking on the sprocket icon in the top right corner.
    uninstall-fig13

    From the drop menu select ‘Preferences’
    In the new window select ‘Extensions’
    Click once on rogue antivirus programs
    Click ‘Uninstall’

    uninstall-fig14

    A pop-up window will appear asking for confirmation to uninstall rogue antivirus programs. Select ‘Uninstall’ again, and the rogue antivirus programs will be removed.

    Remove rogue antivirus programs automatically by downloading an advanced anti-malware program.

    1. Remove rogue antivirus programs with SpyHunter Anti-Malware Tool

    Remove rogue antivirus programs with SpyHunter Anti-Malware Tool

    1. Install SpyHunter to scan for and remove rogue antivirus programs.2. Scan with SpyHunter to Detect and Remove rogue antivirus programs.
    Step 1: Click here to go to SpyHunter’s download instruction page.
    Step 2: Guide yourself by the download instructions provided for each browser.
    Step 3: After you have installed SpyHunter, wait for it to automatically update.

    pets-by-myway-ads-virus

    Step1: After the update process has finished, click on the ‘Scan Computer Now’ button.
    pets-by-myway-ads-virus
    Step2: After SpyHunter has finished scanning your PC for any rogue antivirus programs files, click on the ‘Fix Threats’ button to remove them automatically and permanently.
    pets-by-myway-ads-virus
    Step3: Once the intrusions on your PC have been removed, it is highly recommended to restart it.

    2. Back up your data to secure it against attacks related to rogue antivirus programs in the future

    Back up your data to secure it against attacks in the future

    IMPORTANT! Before reading the Windows backup instructions, we highly recommend to back up your data automatically with cloud backup and insure it against any type of data loss on your device, even the most severe. We recommend reading more about and downloading SOS Online Backup .

    1. For Windows 7 and earlier 1. For Windows 8, 8.1 and 10 1. Enabling the Windows Defense Feature (Previous Versions)

    1-Click on Windows Start Menu
    backup-1
    2-Type Backup And Restore
    3-Open it and click on Set Up Backup
    w7-backup3
    4-A window will appear asking you where to set up backup. You should have a flash drive or an external hard drive. Mark it by clicking on it with your mouse then click on Next.
    backup-3
    5-On the next window, the system will ask you what do you want to backup. Choose the ‘Let Me Choose’ option and then click on Next.
    backup-4
    6-Click on ‘Save settings and run backup’ on the next window in order to protect your files from possible attacks by rogue antivirus programs.
    backup-5

    1-Press Windows button + R
    filehistory-1
    2-In the window type ‘filehistory’ and press Enter
    filehistory-2
    3-A File History window will appear. Click on ‘Configure file history settings’
    filehistory-3
    4-The configuration menu for File History will appear. Click on ‘Turn On’. After its on, click on Select Drive in order to select the backup drive. It is recommended to choose an external HDD, SSD or a USB stick whose memory capacity is corresponding to the size of the files you want to backup.
    filehistory-4
    5-Select the drive then click on ‘Ok’ in order to set up file backup and protect yourself from rogue antivirus programs.

    1- Press Windows button + R keys.
    sysdm
    2- A run windows should appear. In it type ‘sysdm.cpl’ and then click on Run.
    windows-defense2
    3- A System Properties windows should appear. In it choose System Protection.
    windows-defense3
    5- Click on Turn on system protection and select the size on the hard disk you want to utilize for system protection.
    6- Click on Ok and you should see an indication in Protection settings that the protection from rogue antivirus programs is on.
    windows-defense1
    Restoring a file via Windows Defense feature:
    1-Right-click on the encrypted file, then choose Properties.
    file-restore1
    2-Click on the Previous Versions tab and then mark the last version of the file.
    file-restore2
    3-Click on Apply and Ok and the file encrypted by rogue antivirus programs should be restored.

    Optional: Using Alternative Anti-Malware Tools

    Remove rogue antivirus programs Using Other Alternative Tools

    STOPZilla Anti Malware
    1. Download and Install STOPZilla Anti-malware to Scan for And Remove rogue antivirus programs.
    Step 1: Download STOPZilla by clicking here.
    Step 2: A pop-up window will appear. Click on the ‘Save File’ button. If it does not, click on the Download button and save it afterwards.
    pets-by-myway-ads-virus
    Step 3: After you have downloaded the setup, simply open it.
    Step 4: The installer should appear. Click on the ‘Next’ button.
    pets-by-myway-ads-virus
    Step 5: Check the ‘I accept the agreement’ check circle if not checked if you accept it and click the ‘Next’ button once again.
    pets-by-myway-ads-virus
    Step 6: Review and click on the ‘Install’ button.
    pets-by-myway-ads-virus
    Step 7: After the installation process has completed click on the ‘Finish’ button.

    2. Scan your PC with STOPZilla Anti Malware to remove all rogue antivirus programs associated files completely.
    Step 1: Launch STOPZilla if you haven’t launched it after install.
    Step 2: Wait for the software to automatically scan and then click on the ‘Repair Now’ button. If it does not scan automatically, click on the ‘Scan Now’ button.
    pets-by-myway-ads-virus
    Step 3: After the removal of all threats and associated objects, you should Restart your PC.

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    Milena Dimitrova

    An inspired writer and content manager who has been with SensorsTechForum for 4 years. Enjoys ‘Mr. Robot’ and fears ‘1984’. Focused on user privacy and malware development, she strongly believes in a world where cybersecurity plays a central role. If common sense makes no sense, she will be there to take notes. Those notes may later turn into articles! Follow Milena @Milenyim

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