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Malicious computer programs designed to trick a user into buying and downloading unnecessary and potentially dangerous software, such as fake antivirus protection.

Here is a scenario that is becoming more common:

You are browsing the internet and you click on a link to an interesting looking web page and all of the sudden a window pops up: “You have been infected! Please click below to run a scan.” You think “Oh, no, I have a virus!” and click the link. Guess what, you now are infected.

This type of scenario is a product of “scareware”. “Scareware” is a tactic that involves popups of web pages claiming that you are infected, have malware, spyware, or other issues with your computer that require immediate resolution. They typically offer a “free” service that claims to fix the issue, but in reality either infect your computer or in some cases lock it up so you can’t access anything. In some cases, it is a company using scare tactics to entice you to buy their service.

If you do become infected on a university-owned computer, contact your CTC or the Service Desk immediately. They will be able to tell you what you need to do and what needs to be done to fix your computer. WSU uses an enterprise managed solution. For information on WSU AntiVirus solution or other security-related topics, check out the Information Security Office web page at or contact the Service Desk.

Protect Yourself at Home

  • Make sure you are running an AntiVirus and AntiMalware application
  • Review carefully and remove unwanted bundled software from newly purchased PCs. Do not activate preinstalled programs that came bundled with a new computer.
  • Always keep your antivirus and anti-malware programs updated and run them frequently.
  • Occasionally (especially if strange things seem to be happening on your PC), go to the Control Panel in Windows and examine the installed programs. Inspect whatever you don’t recognize and remove them if necessary. It is always best to have a professional do this since you do not want to remove any programs your system requires to run.
  • NEVER let anyone you do not know, and have not investigated properly, remotely access your computer.
  • Do not download a program you from an unwanted application
  • Do not visit sites that are known to automatically download malware
  • Always make sure you have a backup (either data backup or better yet, an image-based backup) in case whatever is placed on your machine wipes out or encrypts your hard drive.


Scareware is a very effective method used by scammers to detach you from your cash. In fact, since 2015, studies suggest that worldwide, one million people fall victim every day to this type of scam. The best way to avoid getting scammed is to be alert and not fall for fake tricks.