What is scareware?

Supposed error messages in the system or web, warnings about non-existent threats, requests for payment due to alleged criminal offenses and more can be stored on the computer by so-called Scareware appear. The name of this malware is made up of "scare" and the term "software". There are overlaps with ransomware, which encrypts files on the hard drive (or even the entire memory) and extorts a ransom in order to get a decryption tool. Scareware usually does not do any damage as a first step, but first wants data or money - similar to phishing, it is automated social engineering.

Questionable notifications on Mac: How to Stop Scareware Pop-Ups on macOS!

What is scareware? How is the malware supposed to frighten you, what data does it want and how does it get onto the computer? Answers to these questions and examples of known scareware can be found here! scare ware
What is scareware? How is the malware supposed to frighten you, what data does it want and how does it get onto the computer? Answers to these questions and examples of known scareware can be found here!

What is scareware on PC, Mac, smartphone and co.?

Scareware can appear on a wide variety of systems, from Windows, macOS, and Linux to iOS, iPadOS, and Android. This type of malware, which pretends that there is an acute problem and offers a paid "fix" for it, aims to steal personal information and money. This can be done while surfing the web through pop-ups, redirects to deceptive sites, and other measures. Installed programs or apps can also cause error messages. Messages that imitate the warning dialogs of the operating system in terms of appearance and choice of words are particularly perfidious in order to appear serious. 

So scareware is a form of digital deception. The users who are confronted with this should become afraid of an acute threat and respond quickly to a proposed solution. Warning colors like red, hundreds of viruses found on the computer, threats of criminal prosecution and other means are intended to prevent users from unmasking the fraud and finding a real solution with enough time. Instead, they should fall for the help offered in the form of a download, the provision of data or the payment of a large sum of money.

Examples of scareware: MacKeeper, Phishing and more

A vivid example of scareware on the Apple Mac is the alleged antivirus app "MacKeeper". The software that has been available since 2009 has been perceived very differently over the years in its various versions - often very negatively. Many trade magazines complained that MacKeeper was very difficult to uninstall (in 2018 heise online published a Instructions). Also, MacKeeper showed in one Test from Apfelwerk in 2014 on a freshly installed Mac without further use directly 1.473 problems and classified the Mac as "critical". In 2019 MacKeeper was bought by Clario Tech from Great Britain, but I don't really want to test whether the problems mentioned still exist.

Other examples of scareware include digitized and automated versions of the social engineering that some may be familiar with from dubious phone calls. A recent example would be the alleged Europol calls to Jens. Just as personal data should be requested there, website ads, locked screens, Phishing e-mails or fake error messages, quick reactions in the form of data disclosure, payment information or payments to anonymous accounts can be achieved. In addition to imitating well-known systems or apps, threats that are presented in the media are also picked up on or messages from the bank are imitated. I got e.g. B. times Phishing mails with the Sparkasse's PushTan 2.0 procedure as a topic.

Another example: appleteams.live - Scam disguised as Apple Support

Summary: This is scareware!

  • It is malware that shows a threat that may be known but does not exist for the users
  • The corresponding messages usually also contain solutions (data entry, links, downloads, payment requests, etc.)
  • It can be web ads, supposed system error messages, messages from apps and emails
  • The aim of the scareware is to obtain personal data, payment information and/or money by fraud
  • There is an overlap with phishing (see above) and ransomware (What is ransomware?)

Are antivirus apps all scareware?

Here in the blog we like to take a critical look at the topic of antivirus software. Of course, certain reputable apps that contain various malware such as Trojans, worms, Adware and Co. can be useful in some cases. However, several of them are not reluctant to pretend a dangerous situation with their advertising and when they are carried out, which does not even exist to the extent shown. The sentence "The computer is now safe!" is misleading, since the computer itself would be safe without the antivir app - just not checked. What do you say to that? Feel free to leave a comment with your scareware experiences and your thoughts on antivir apps!

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