How to tell if your antivirus is really malware

Viruses are scary. Unfortunately, a lot of malicious sites are designed to take advantage of this fear, by tricking unsuspecting people into thinking their computer has been hijacked in order extract money for “protection.” In the past, this type of attack has been limited to annoying pop up ads that blink and flash messages like “YOUR COMPUTER HAS BEEN INFECTED – Click here for a free scan.” Clicking would inevitably lead to a website which would pretend they were offering a solution – for a price.

A more sophisticated attack comes from installing malware on your computer, and then spoofing the warning messages that are built into Windows. Instead of pointing to a solution on a Microsoft site, however, you are “recommended” to buy security software.

This should throw up a red flag anytime you see it. Most viruses and malware can be corrected at no cost, especially now that Microsoft has released a suite of security software that is completely free. Additionally, there are a variety of open source free tools like ClamAV.

I recently had to help a relative who accidentally installed something called “Security Suite” on his computer. Instead of providing any real security, it hijacked Internet Explorer and kept imploring him to go to a site called “antivircat.” Doing a Google search didn’t provide any real solution to the problem, since most of the results that claimed to have removal instructions were actually scam sites that required buying something or installing some sort of software.

Actual instructions on how to remove Security Suite can be found on this Malware Removal blog and on Microsoft’s Malware Protection Center. Security Suite not only installs a malicious program, but makes changes to the registry as well, so correcting the problem requires some knowledge of registry editing or the use of a free program called HijackThis. It’s pretty easy to screw things up when it comes to making registry changes, so don’t attempt it if you’re not comfortable.

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