How to Prevent Malware Pop Ups and Spam

How to Prevent Malware Pop Ups and Spam

How to Prevent Malware Pop Ups and Spam:

If you are a regular internet user, you must be familiar with pop-ups. These annoying ads come in various forms, but generally try to sell their product or make the user click on innocuously looking link. Harmless enough, right?  

Don’t be fooled. While many such pop-ups and emails from reputable companies are safe, the adware programs that generate illegitimate malware pop-ups and spam are capable of installing viruses, trojans etc. These malwares can hack your system, capture sensitive personal information, relay live videos / audio and much more.

Malwares Explained:
Malware is short form of malicious software. It is often software but can also appear in form of script or code. It is often used by malicious elements to in-filtrate, damage or disrupt computer operation, gather sensitive information or break into computer devices. 

Malware is a general term which refers to different forms of hostile, intrusive or annoying soft-wares. It includes trojan horses, spyware, adware, root-kits, viruses and other malicious programs. Most of the malwares disguise themselves as having some benign function, and may come from reputable sites/ mails. 

Some of them track your activities, show pop-ups, redirect sites etc. They can reinstall themselves after removal or hide themselves deep with the system to make them difficult to find and clean. 

How does Malware Infect Your Computer?
It’s easy to get enticed by the offer of pop-up ads. By the time you start seeing signs of a malware attack, your system shall probably get compromised beyond repair. Spam and pop-ups laden with malwares can arrive from different sources in a variety of forms, including:

  • Attachment sent through a spam email 
  • Embedded as a file meant to download and open
  • Pop-up ads that appear, unwanted on your screen 
  • Links within the body of a message

What are Fake Pop Ups:
You must have noticed a variety of pop-ups appearing on the computer screens. They are usually generated by websites to guide user, provide useful information, offer newsletters etc. In short, they are meant to be useful – to help in filling out forms, to apply for discount code etc. However, not all pop-ups are useful and benign. For example, a pop-up installed by malwares can entices the user to click on a button that redirects to a phishing page. 

Some of the pop-ups display false security warning as part of pop-up scam e.g., Ransom-ware pop-up. An example:
Error Code #13987t34F9 (Unauthorized access)
Region: Punjab, India 
Compromised Information: Debit card details, Email account details
Action: Do Not Shut Your Computer, Call Us for Expert Opinion 
Call Help Desk: (Toll Free) for Free Checkup.
You should not respond back to such illegitimate pop-ups. 

How do Pop-up Scams Work?
As shown above, fake pop-ups are generated by cyber criminals using malwares. The pop-ups flag fake security issue, virus attack, technical problem with the system or anything else which is alarming enough to make the user feel insecure and look for immediate solution. Generally, the scammer, instructs the victim to call a phone number shown in the pop-up, in order to demand payment for technical support to resolve the non-existent threat. 

Thus, cyber criminals use these pop-ups to extort money from concerned users who want to fix their problems and resolve threats that do not exist. 

How to Identify Fake Pop-ups:
Following is the procedure we suggest, to know the veracity of the pop-up in question:

  • Look for spelling mistakes and unprofessional images: Poor spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors, unprofessional looking symbols and images, fake logo etc. are sign of a illegitimate pop-up. A professional company would never commit such mistakes. 
  • Try to close your browser: Fake pop-ups may cause the browser to switch to full screen mode. So, if your browser is already at full screen mode, try to minimize or close it. If unable to do so, it’s a pop-up scam. 
  • Verify the phone number: Cross check the phone number listed in the pop-up with the official phone number of the security provider, the pop-up is claiming to be. A legitimate company phone number can be verified by a simple Google search. If the phone number search yields no result, it is most likely a scammer’s number.  

How to Remove Fake Pop-ups:
Step 1: Click on Ctrl+Alt+Del and select “Task Manager”. 
Step 2: Choose the browser in which pop-up was detected. 
Step 3: Click “’End Task” to close the selected browser.
Step 4: When you re-open the browser, ensure that you don’t restore the pages.

To remove the malware that led to illegitimate pop-up, follow these steps:

  • Download and install a credible Anti-Virus
  • Disconnect the internet to prevent further interaction with the pop-up 
  • Reboot the system into Safe Mode
  • Delete temporary files using “Disk Clean Up”
  • Run complete Anti-Virus scan 
  • If malware is reported, delete or quarantine the file
  • Reboot the system 
  • Update your soft-wares, browser, Operating System and anti-virus to their latest version available 

How to Protect Against Pop-up Scams:
If you spot a fake pop-up, do the following to avoid being scammed: 

  • Avoid any click on pop-ups, even closing them
  • Don’t call the number instructed by the pop-up
  • Don’t share any personal detail including payment details
  • Close the browser using “Task manager” as explained above 

How to Prevent Fake Pop-ups:
So, how can to prevent fake pop-ups from appearing at the first place?

  • Never “unsubscribe” from spam emails as the process just validates your email address 
  • Don’t click on unverified links in spam emails, messages or unfamiliar websites
  • Increase your browser security settings 
  • Avoid questionable websites
  • Use reliable anti-virus software
  • Keep your anti-virus, browser, soft-wares etc updated 
  • Don’t download apps outside Play Store 
  • Never open attachments in spam emails
  • If using public Wi-Fi, use a secure VPN connection. 
  • Do not insert unknown USB sticks or disks into your compute
  • Don’t open email or text messages from unknown senders 
  • Immediately delete the message you suspect are spam 
  • Avoid too good to be true messages