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Information security warning: “Anti-virus” malware can infect your computer

Most of us know better than to open e-mail attachments from unknown sources or download software from untrustworthy sites. Likewise, we should already have an anti-virus program and other software on our computers to stop malware. Now a new trend—malvertisingtakes advantage of your security knowledge. Online advertisements pose as anti-virus software to make you believe your computer has been infected. For example, while you are browsing the Internet, a message or ad will display that reads, “Warning, your PC is infected,” and invite you to click on a link to “fix the problem.”

These advertisements often lead to harmful or deceptive content, infect a computer with programs that can damage or steal information, or even allow a remote attacker to fully control the computer.

“The fake [anti-virus] threat is rising in prevalence,” according to Google. Fake antivirus programs recently accounted for 15 percent of malicious software they found online. Malvertising even infects reputable sites. The New York Times, Fox News, and other leading websites have already fallen victim to malware ads. Not only do these fake anti-virus programs pose a security threat to your computer, but “many users … actually pay to register the fake [anti-virus],” Google said in a recent report. So users are providing their credit card information as well as other personal information to these Internet hucksters—a recipe for identity theft and fraud. To read the complete tip and see actual images of malicious ads, please click here.

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