The computer slowing down tremendously, the risk of personal details being transmitted to hackers and fraudsters, zillions of unwanted ads popping up whenever one goes online, and the frustration that comes with it – well no one wants to get his computer infected with spyware. This makes anti-spyware software one of the most popular downloads on the net. But can you trust the anti-spyware tool you are downloading? Is it safe? Or, is it another kind of spyware itself?
Fake anti-spyware programs have flooded the internet. Banner ads falsely warn users that their computers are infected with spyware and direct them to websites where they are prompted to download software that does not really remove spyware, or worse, adds more spyware of its own.
Let’s take a look at the WinFixer – one of the prime examples of fake anti-spyware.
WinFixer 2005 is a useful utility to scan and fix any system, registry and hard drive errors. It ensures system stability and performance, frees wasted hard drive space and recovers damaged Word, Excel, music and video files.
Ah, tall claims, aren’t they? In fact, the WinFixer software does not perform any of the functions its “claims” to be good at, instead it simply is another form of spyware that will try to install itself on one’s computer.
WinFixer typically infects a computer through the use of fake pop-up ads that are aimed at scaring the user about spyware. A dialog box asking the user to download WinFixer in order to get rid of spyware will pop up when the user visits any of WinFixer’s distributing sites.
Your browser may not support display of this image.
If the user clicks “OK” or “Cancel” or the corner ‘X’, a pop-up window will open up and WinFixer will get downloaded and installed, whether the user wants it or not. As this is a dialog box related to Internet Explorer, it does not appear in the Windows Task Manager list. To avoid installing the program, the user needs to disconnect from the internet before trying to close the dialog box.
Sounds scary, right? You would be curious that if it this software is a spyware, why no legal action is taken against its developers. Well, the company that makes WinFixer, Winsoftware Ltd., claims to be based in Liverpool, England (Stanley Street Postcode: 13088). This address is proven to be false. The domain WINFIXER.COM on the whois database shows it is owned by a void company in Ukraine. So, we don’t have much of a chance to catch these culprits.
It’s not WinFixer alone that poses such a threat. There are hundreds of its clones on the internet, all waiting to be downloaded by the unwary user. So what do you do to keep your computer safe from such spyware? Never believe any pop-up ads that say that your computer is infected and you need to download particular software to mend it. If you do encounter such pop-up ads, disconnect from the internet before you close the dialog box. And yes, it’s always a good practice to scan your computer for spyware (using the software you installed from a trustworthy source) time to time.