Phony Web Pop-Ups

The next time your computer gives you an error message, take a second look.

Because it may be a phony web pop-up, trying to convince you that your computer has an error. These pop-ups look remarkably like regular system alerts, but they're really Web ads trying to get you to click and infect your computer. The notorious WinAntiVirus scam (aka Winifixer or the Smitfraud trojan) uses this ploy to convince you that your computer is at risk unless you install their purported product.

Other Web pop-ups may try to get you to click on seemingly legitimate ads or offers. It can be extremely difficult to tell the difference between a real ad and a fake one, or even between a real Web site and a malicious clone. You can test your Web savvy through the McAfee SiteAdvisor spam and spyware quizzes, which will show you just how deceptive these phony pop-ups can be. (I also recommend you install the SiteAdvisor plug-in for your browser.)

Worse, there's the practice of clickjacking, which allows a malicious program to force your browser to click any link. This means you could get infected without any interaction on your part.

How can you protect yourself? Be sure to run the latest version of your antivirus software (see the Windows Help and Mac Help sidebars for suggestions). Windows users, don't use Internet Explorer, try Mozilla Firefox instead. Using IE can increase your risk of infection. I also strongly recommend that you not click on web pop-ups, ever. Use Firefox's pop-up blocker or a similar tool to keep the pop-ups away, and ignore the ones that do slip through.

Next month we'll go over my Holiday Computer Gift Guide. If you have any computer questions, click Comments below this article, and be sure to sign up for the email version of Tech Tips for bonus tips and product reviews.

Posted byTriona Guidry at 4:48 PM  

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