Saturday, September 19, 2009

Personal Antivirus - Don't Be Intimidated by the Imitators

When I booted up my husband's computer, there was a pop up window that appeared to be running a scan and then super quickly (in fact, suspiciously quickly) it reported that we had more than 25 spyware, malware and Trojan viruses on the computer. Even to a seasoned veteran the alert was very convincing. The threat of a Trojan and is very scary and so was the list of XXX.exe viruses.

Then comes the clincher. All I have to do is complete a simple registration process and the Personal Antivirus program will remove all spyware and save the day. The sales pitch was a little too over the top.

This was actually a rogue software that disguised itself as a helpful security tool. The information about the 25 viruses was all a bogus scare tactic to get us to fill out the registration form in a panic and quickly hit send. I took a look at the registration page and learned that in addition to not clearing up any viruses, and in fact probably downloading some, we were even going to have to pay for this service too.

As much as I hated it, I woke my husband up in the wee hours of the morning to investigate this further and he explained, "I thought it came through with the Windows update and was just trying to make me purchase antivirus software so I ignored it." He got the last part right but this was not part of a Windows update.

Personal Antivirus can in fact "piggy back" in during a download creep in while you are visiting a website. The programming is very similar in look and structure a Windows XP security feature so it can be easy to get duped.

Here's How You Can Tell the Real Thing from the Scary Things

1. If you are currently running reputable software program to detect viruses you should not have another program telling you that you have X number of viruses on your computer. Yes, detection may vary from software to software and depend on your last update, but there should not be that many variations in the number of viruses, spyware or malware on your computer.

2. In most cases, if you have already installed an antivirus system on your computer another one cannot function or override the existing software. For example, if I am using Trend and try to install Norton, without uninstalling Trend I will receive error messages and the installation will not complete.

3. Most reputable antivirus programs will not download to your computer without your help, such as accessing the page and taking you through download steps, not even free program such as AVG can just magically appear and scan your computer.

Personal Antivirus uses fear and manipulation in order to run its "scam." If you believe this program to be true, you end up providing your name, address, credit card number, create a user name and password. Since many people use the same user name and password for multiple accounts you have now given away all the information anyone needs to commit credit card fraud, create a new identity and harm your credit in many other ways.

If left alone this software does the following:

- Changes your browser settings directing you to sites that continue to encourage you to purchase this so called security software

- Shows commercial advertisements

- Allows pop ups ads to sneak through your firewall

- Stays resident in the background, possibly recording keystrokes

This software needs to be removed immediately. Leaving it on your computer and ignoring it can still cause you frustration and damage to your systems. There are several sites offering information on how to remove Personal Antivirus from your computer, I recommend XP Spyware Removal and I found 2-Spyware very helpful.

These sites offer similar information but I chose the XP Vista site since it was an actual Windows XP site. Trying to remove manually takes quite a bit of computer knowledge, so you may want to find some help, from someone who knows about locating and removing files as well as creating restore points and uninstalling programs.

It took me a great deal of time and effort, almost 2 and a half hours worth, before I was able to go to bed knowing our computer was secure. This is just another example of how personal antivirus is just one line of defense and knowledge is yet another. If I hadn't been knowledgeable about my desktop computer, antivirus programs and malware scams, I may have ignored it, which can cause major problems or worse, been scared into purchasing this scary download.

Lisa Carey is a contributing author for Identity Theft Secrets - prevention and protection. You can get tips on Identity theft protection, software, and monitoring your credit as well as learn more about the secrets used by identity thieves at the Identity Theft Secrets blog.

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