Now that many of us can spot a phishing email, scammers are getting smarter. They are using our browsers to get our attention and it often works because it creates panic to make people take immediate action. The pop-up will come up and tell you there is an immediate security risk and then the fake virus alert will ask you to do one of the following things:
- Click here to fix the problem (which can take you to malware)
- Call this number to fix the problem (and we’ll charge you to fix the problem or ask for permission to be on your computer giving us more access to all your personal information)
- Give us this information to see if you’ve been affected (and we’ll take and use that personal information)
If you’ve seen these pop-ups, you might have gotten a sudden pang of fear because they look quite real and serious. This is how hundreds of thousands of people fall for these tricks. We want you to be smarter so we want to share some information on how to spot them, what to do when you see them, and how to protect yourself from them.
Types of pop-ups
The above is probably the most fear-inducing version of a pop-up. They use the scare of hackers stealing your information in order to do just that. There are many other types of pop-ups that can be dangerous to your computer or just annoying:
- Pop-ups that look like the website’s pop-up but when you click on it you are taken to another site entirely
- Adware mania: if you are getting pop-up ads all of the time, you could have adware on your browser or device
- Annoying ads: while these are not dangerous, they may be too big, blocking the content
Does a pop-up mean you’ve been hacked?
Not always. There are different types of pop-ups. If you are browsing the internet and go to a new site, you might get a pop-up. It could be the website has been hacked and not your device or computer. Below we’ll give you some information about finding out if your device or computer has been attacked, but for now, just know that getting a spam pop-up doesn’t mean you’ve been hacked.
What should you do if you see a possible spam pop-up?
- Shut down the window, or alternatively, you can go to another url if the window hasn’t locked up.
- Do not click it or give information and do not call a number on the screen. Microsoft, Apple, or any other tech company would call you or send you an email. They would never create a pop-up to tell you to call them. Never. The safest way to check if this is the right company is to go directly to their website through a trusted channel (the exact URL or a trusted browser search). From your account page, you would be able to see any messages the company has for you and take action from there. Do not click on the pop-up.
- Do not click on the same link. If you were trying to get to a valid website, see if the url is correct or you might even let that business know what is happening on their site.
How do you find out if you’ve been infected with a virus or malware?
There are symptoms to having a virus or malware. It usually looks like this (although doesn’t have to):
- Slow performance
- Your machine won’t shut down or start normally (slow or lagging)
- Missing files
- System crashes and/or error messages
- Unexpected pop-up windows
- New applications (toolbars, etc.) that appear without you downloading them
- Overworked hard drive (the fan makes sounds and seems to be whirring and working hard when you aren’t doing much)
- Emails are sent from your account that you did not send
- Browser lag or redirects
How to check for viruses or Malware:
For your Android: The easiest way is to run an antivirus scan with a mobile security app, such as from Kaspersky, Norton, or Lookout Mobile Security. Note that if this does not fix the problem, you may have to restore to a factory reset.
For your iPhone: The rate of iPhone viruses are less than 1%, however your phone can still be hacked – especially if you have a jailbroken phone (meaning you purposely brought down the safety to add apps Apple hadn’t intended), you have also opened your phone up to hackers. You can learn more about iPhones here. You can go back to factory settings by going to Settings > General > Reset
For your computer, you would simply run a security app. Contact us, we can find the right one for you.
How do I protect my computer or devices?
We highly recommend a quality anti-virus and anti-malware program that will do consistent scans of your entire computer in addition to catching them before they even become a problem. A good security like Norton will block you from going to sketchy sites and prevent most pop-ups from ever occurring. The price of protection is a small fraction of what you’ll save from one attack.
Learn more in these articles:
Computer Protection: Are Anti-virus and anti-malware the same thing?
Phone Protection: Secure your Phone
Have questions? Contact us! We can help you with all your technology security needs. We are local and ready to help you feel good about the technology you own.