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Contracting Viruses From Websites: Are You at Risk?

Posted on May 10, 2011
Did you know that your computer can be exposed to viruses and malware just from browsing the web? You should make sure you have the right protective measures in place, starting with good security software.
 
Tags: virus, malware, internet security, malicious website, fake antivirus

Can you get a virus or malware on your computer just from visiting a website? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. The best defense against virus and malware attacks is knowing how to recognize when a malicious website is trying to make you its latest victim. It also greatly helps to have reliable security software like ZoneAlarm or BitDefender to help monitor your web and email use. A combination of good software and personal knowledge will help prevent you from becoming the next victim of online fraud.

The web is full of rogue software known as scareware, and they get to your computer via advertising feeds posted on the websites you visit. The most common scenario is that you are browsing some website when suddenly you get a pop-up window saying that your system is infected with a virus or spyware, and you need to click an OK button to get rid of the infection or run some kind of security scan. If you click that OK button or even if you try to close the window, what you’ll really be doing is installing a virus or malware on your computer, and these threats are very tough to remove. Many security software applications will instantly recognize that pop-up as a malware attack and block it—or at least warn you of its true intentions.

Once you’ve allowed malicious software to be installed, it takes over your computer. Some problems are nastier than others, but typical behavior involves bombarding you with alert messages, blocking websites, not letting you access the Task Manager or Registry Editor, and generally annoying you so much that you can’t use your computer. All the while, this scareware is telling you that you must buy the full version of a virus scanner in order to remove the dozen or more viruses it claims to have infected your system with. In truth, the only infection is the fake virus scanner that has taken over. If you buy that full version, you’re just giving your credit card number to con artists.

Defense against this type of online attack mainly depends on how you use the Internet. You need to avoid websites that allow these types of malicious software to be spread. You probably won’t get these type pop-ups on major news networks, but are more likely to get them on porn sites or illegal file sharing sites. Be especially careful when looking up any kind of nefarious content online, because the kind of people pushing that sort of content are not beyond trying to make a few bucks by infecting your system with a virus or malware.

In addition to the easy targets like porn and file sharing, there have been several scam type apps on Facebook, such as those which promise to show you who is looking at your profile. Be especially careful of any site offering something that seems too good to be true or requires that you download and install something before accessing premium content.

If you are browsing the web and get a pop-up that looks like a Windows system message but seems a little generic or unfamiliar, the best thing you can do is hit Control-Alt-Delete. Then go into the Task Manager and click End Task for every instance of your web browser. This will close the browser and the pop-up windows. Do not attempt to close anything or click anywhere on the pop-up window, because this could trigger an install process. Once your browser has closed, you should use security software like Malwarebytes Anti-Malware to do a full system scan to make sure your computer is clean.

The key to staying safe online is to be smart about where you go and to use reputable security software developed by a trusted name in the field. The Internet is full of many wonderful and interesting places to visit, but you shouldn't venture out unless you have the right security software in place for protection. Also, when in doubt, don’t click that link.


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