Today I was checking out some articles at FTC.gov, and I came across a good one called “Free Security Scan Could Cost Time and Money.”
The article dates back to December 2008, but it’s still relevant. It covers the same basic topic as my post “Fake Virus Scan Pop-Ups” from a couple weeks ago, with some additional information I thought it would be wise to share.
For example, this article also says that when a window pops up offering a “free security scan” or telling you that “malicious software” or (for maximum scare value) “illegal pornography” has been found on your computer, not to trust the “Cancel” or “No” buttons on that pop-up window, since it usually does the same thing as the “Scan” or “Yes” buttons. However, they also give you specific directions, which I did not do in the previous article:
If you use Windows, press Ctrl + Alt + Delete to open your Task Manager, and click “End Task.” If you use a Mac, press Command + Option + Q + Esc to “Force Quit.”
The article further warns you, “Make it a practice not to click on any links within pop-ups” (my emphasis), which I think is pretty good advice.
There is one paragraph I disagree with (or, more accurately, only-sort-of agree with) in the FTC article:
If you get an offer, check out the program by entering the name in a search engine. The results can help you determine if the program is on the up-and-up.
I only take issue with this advice because, in general, I feel that if you’re getting an offer at all, it’s probably not legitimate, so don’t bother wasting too much time on a search.
Norton, McAfee and Kaspersky are going to advertise on the Internet, obviously. However, they’re never going to do it by running one of these pop-up traps. If you’ve got a “free scan” or “clean your registry” window, you’re looking at a scam. I’d consider that a zero-tolerance policy if I were you.
If you truly feel like an offer might be legit, go ahead and do a quick search on it. However, my first reaction is to not trust any offers that I wasn’t looking for in the first place. If you were looking for security software to begin with, it’s a different story; obviously, Symantec’s website might have special offers on it from time to time, since they’re the actual company that produces the Norton line. It’s when you’re looking for the latest Hollywood scandal photos that you’re going to run into trouble.