Be cautious of Web site ads that can spread computer viruses

Linda Benedict  |  12/15/2009 4:34:54 AM

News Release Distributed 12/14/09

The malicious people who spread viruses and malware to computers worldwide are getting evermore sneaky. One of the latest techniques is to infect your computer through advertisements on Web sites.

“Be particularly cautious with ads on Web sites,” said Davis Dautreuil, a technical support specialist with the LSU AgCenter. “Even ads on news and social networking sites can be a problem.”

Many computer viruses and malware infections find their way into your computer through Web site ads that warn of computer security problems. These ads frequently appear to be a reputable anti-virus or anti-spyware program installed on your computer.

In reality, however, the warnings are fake, and clicking on the ads can install the rogue security software onto your computer. Once installed, these viruses can take hours to remove, and sometimes the hard drive has to be completely formatted and everything reinstalled from scratch, Dautreuil said.

“The only way to know if the warning is real is to become familiar with the actual security software installed on your computer – before any warnings ever occur,” Dautreuil said.

If the title of the window that gives you the warning has a name other than your actual security software program, then you know the warning is fake. Also, if the warning is embedded within a Web page or only appears when visiting a Web site that is not part of your normal browsing routine, this is another give-away, Dautreuil said.

“These rogue security software applications will frequently prompt you to enter your credit card information in order to remove the detected threats,” Dautreuil said. “At no point should you do this. The rogue software is the threat.”

If you do visit a Web site and receive one of these fake warnings, use extreme caution when trying to exit the site. Once the fake warning comes up, no part of that particular warning box or Web page should be clicked on at all. The “Close” or “X” button could actually be an install button.

“It’s only natural to want to close the ad, but don’t click anywhere on it,” Dautreuil said.

Dautreuil said to exit the ad, use Windows Task Manager or “end task.” Or simply hold the power button down on the computer for about 10 seconds until it shuts off completely.

Upon rebooting, if these fake warning messages continue to be displayed, the rogue software is likely already installed, and the computer is infected. The program that is giving the warnings is actually the infection. At this point you should immediately disconnect or unplug your computer from the network and turn off your wireless transmitter, if applicable.

Dautreuil advises contacting a local PC service specialist as soon as possible.

Once installed, these rogues are frequently programmed to download and install more viruses and malware if an active Internet connection is available on the computer, making removal even more difficult.

Dautreuil said another way this malware is spread to your computer is with pop-up pornography ads.

“Anything unusual that pops up on your screen could be a problem,” Dautreuil said. “Don’t click on the site. Turn off your computer right away.”

Dautreuil said always keep the software on your computer up-to-date, including your anti-virus and anti-spyware software. This will help prevent problems.

For more information about protecting your PC from viruses and malware, Dautreuil recommends two Web sites – www.microsoft.com (go to Microsoft security) and wikipedia.org (go to rogue security software).

Linda Foster Benedict
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