What Is Rogue Antivirus Software?
Rogue antivirus 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, we’ve witnessed several aggressive campaigns featuring fake tech support pages, exploit kits and ransomware as the final payload. Thousands of users in countries worldwide have been hit. 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.
Rogue Antivirus Software Details
|Name||Rogue Antivirus Software|
|Type||Rogue Antivirus Software / Fake Tech Support / Rogue Software / PUP|
|Short Description||Types of programs that appear useful at first but can heavily damage the computer.|
|Symptoms||Fake system scans and results, pop-up errors, additional downloads of unwanted programs, etc..|
|Distribution Method||Bundled downloads. Web pages which may advertise it.|
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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: What Are the Signs of infection?
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.
How Do Fake AV Programs Sneak into Your Computer?
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.
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:
As visible, those phrases don’t make any sense. Downloading the product won’t make any, either.
How to Remove Rogue Antivirus Software
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.
rogue antivirus programs-FAQ
What Is rogue antivirus programs?
The rogue antivirus programs threat is adware or browser redirect virus.
It may slow your computer down significantly and display advertisements. The main idea is for your information to likely get stolen or more ads to appear on your device.
The creators of such unwanted apps work with pay-per-click schemes to get your computer to visit risky or different types of websites that may generate them funds. This is why they do not even care what types of websites show up on the ads. This makes their unwanted software indirectly risky for your OS.
What Are the Symptoms of rogue antivirus programs?
There are several symptoms to look for when this particular threat and also unwanted apps in general are active:
Symptom #1: Your computer may become slow and have poor performance in general.
Symptom #2: You have toolbars, add-ons or extensions on your web browsers that you don't remember adding.
Symptom #3: You see all types of ads, like ad-supported search results, pop-ups and redirects to randomly appear.
Symptom #4: You see installed apps on your Mac running automatically and you do not remember installing them.
Symptom #5: You see suspicious processes running in your Task Manager.
If you see one or more of those symptoms, then security experts recommend that you check your computer for viruses.
What Types of Unwanted Programs Are There?
According to most malware researchers and cyber-security experts, the threats that can currently affect your Mac can be the following types:
- Rogue Antivirus programs.
- Browser hijackers.
- Fake optimizers.
What to Do If I Have a "virus" like rogue antivirus programs?
With few simple actions. First and foremost, it is imperative that you follow these steps:
Step 1: Find a safe computer and connect it to another network, not the one that your Mac was infected in.
Step 2: Change all of your passwords, starting from your email passwords.
Step 3: Enable two-factor authentication for protection of your important accounts.
Step 4: Call your bank to change your credit card details (secret code, etc.) if you have saved your credit card for online shopping or have done online activities with your card.
Step 5: Make sure to call your ISP (Internet provider or carrier) and ask them to change your IP address.
Step 6: Change your Wi-Fi password.
Step 7: (Optional): Make sure to scan all of the devices connected to your network for viruses and repeat these steps for them if they are affected.
Step 8: Install anti-malware software with real-time protection on every device you have.
Step 9: Try not to download software from sites you know nothing about and stay away from low-reputation websites in general.
If you follow these recommendations, your network and all devices will become significantly more secure against any threats or information invasive software and be virus free and protected in the future too.
How Does rogue antivirus programs Work?
Once installed, rogue antivirus programs can collect data about your web browsing habits, such as the websites you visit and the search terms you use. This data is then used to target you with ads or to sell your information to third parties.
rogue antivirus programs can also download other malicious software onto your computer, such as viruses and spyware, which can be used to steal your personal information and show risky ads, that may redirect to virus sites or scams.
Is rogue antivirus programs Malware?
The truth is that PUPs (adware, browser hijackers) are not viruses, but may be just as dangerous since they may show you and redirect you to malware websites and scam pages.
Many security experts classify potentially unwanted programs as malware. This is because of the unwanted effects that PUPs can cause, such as displaying intrusive ads and collecting user data without the user’s knowledge or consent.
About the rogue antivirus programs Research
The content we publish on SensorsTechForum.com, this rogue antivirus programs how-to removal guide included, is the outcome of extensive research, hard work and our team’s devotion to help you remove the specific, adware-related problem, and restore your browser and computer system.
How did we conduct the research on rogue antivirus programs?
Please note that our research is based on independent investigation. We are in contact with independent security researchers, thanks to which we receive daily updates on the latest malware, adware, and browser hijacker definitions.
Furthermore, the research behind the rogue antivirus programs threat is backed with VirusTotal.
To better understand this online threat, please refer to the following articles which provide knowledgeable details.