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Do You Know How to Spot Fake Software and Updates? Learn the 7 Red Flags!


If you are connected to the internet, then you are a target for malware, viruses, and hackers. Every day, 350,000 new malware programs come to the surface. Your firewall and anti-virus protection can only provide so much security. That is why it is very important that you know how to spot fraudulent software and fake updates. Fortunately, there are several common red flags that you and your colleagues can learn to watch out for.


Red Flag #1: An Offer to Scan Your System Pops Up on Your Screen

Be very wary of software pop-up ads! If an ad (often disguised as an alert) pops up unexpectedly on your screen and offers to scan your computer for malware or viruses, do not click on it. There is an extremely high probability that the real malware or virus is the downloadable software itself. For example, many of these fake software pop-ups will install a keylogger that records your keystrokes, including logins and passwords – which compromise your system and any accounts that you access through the infected computer. Anti-virus and anti-malware software should only be purchased and installed from well-known, reputable sites.

Red Flag #2: You Receive an Alert That Your Device is Full of Viruses

If an ad is warning you that it has already discovered multiple viruses on your computer, this is another red flag that the software is fake. If you click on the ad, then it will offer to install software to clean up your computer — but the truth is, this program will infect your computer with viruses or malware. This is not how real antivirus software actually warns users.

Red Flag #3: Software Suddenly Demands Your Information

The sneakiest of software scams are often introduced to your computer through an infected email that provides a way for malware to be installed on your system. This malware will provide you with an alert that looks very much like a legitimate anti-virus software alert. If you click on the alert, it will eventually request your credit card information or your personal information. Real anti-virus software never does this.

Red Flag #4: You Receive an Email with an Update Link

If you receive an email with a link to update, beware. The vast majority of modern software and apps will alert you through the software itself or via the system tray when an update is imminent, not with an email. Chances are that the update link in that email will install malware or result in a drive-by download. Beware of emails like this. They should not be opened; much less should any links inside them be followed.

Red Flag #5: A Pop-up Appears That Informs You That You Need to Update A Plug-In

Many of us have problems browsing the web when a pop-up appears via our web browser and tells us that a particular plug-in, say Adobe Flash, needs to be updated or we cannot view the page. These pop-ups can be incredibly convincing, with authentic looking logos. But do not be deceived. This is malware. That is not how a reputable software company will let you know that an update is needed. Never update your software through a browser pop-up.

Red Flag #6: You Receive an Alert from Software You Don’t Own

This one might seem a bit obvious, but many people don’t keep track of what software is on their system, especially if it is a work computer. Because of that, it can be easy to fall for a serious looking alert and click on it before making sure that software in question is something that is actually installed on the system. This trap is more common in businesses than on personal computers, but equally dangerous for both.

Red Flag #7: You get a Pop-up Alert That Your Browser is Outdated

Once again, this is not how modern browsers let you know that you are running an outdated version. This particular scam started making the rounds in February of this year. It detects what type of browser you are using and tailors the pop-up to that browser, with pretty convincing graphics.

Being Smart

Make sure you know what software you actually have installed on your system, especially when it comes to anti-virus software. Be familiar with how that software alerts you that an update is needed, and whether or not it automatically updates. Do not trust updates by email, or any browser pop-ups that try to get you to install something. Be careful about letting a program have access to your computer, or update your browser. Legitimate companies do not use those methods!


A little awareness and common sense can go a long way in helping you and your colleagues to avoid falling for scams that can compromise cybersecurity. In an age of ever-evolving cyber threats, a healthy dose of suspicion can go a long way toward protecting your computer from malicious software and internet scams!

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