A Free Educational Resource Created by Carnegie Mellon University to Empower You to Secure Your Part of Cyberspace

Fake Anti-spyware

Harmful programs disguised as anti-spyware

Fake anti-spyware is software falsely advertised as anti-spyware or software to limit the impact of spyware, but it is actually malware . These programs pretend to perform anti-spyware or other security-related activities, such as checking for viruses or protecting from spam. In reality, they install themselves in the victim’s computer to irritate or endanger to the user.

Typically, a user downloads fake anti-spyware software free from the Internet because he or she is fooled by advertising for the product while browsing. For example, a pop-up window may appear and tell the user that the computer has spyware and it's necessary to download the free program.

Fake anti-spyware software may perform the following activities:

  • Stop connections from the computer to the Internet
  • Falsely report that spyware is installed in the user’s machine, but to clean it up requires the user to buy the "extended" version of the software
  • Block some Internet sites of real spyware or security software
  • Install hidden components that make removal of the fake anti-spyware very difficult

Protective Measures


  • Never download unproven software. Never download or install applications that self-proclaim to "clean" or "help" your computer without having recommendations from a trusted source. These may be ploys to install malware or at least acquire your email address to send you spam. In general, refrain from downloading any unknown security software.
  • Consider changing browsers from Internet Explorer. Some of these programs are able to exploit vulnerabilities particular to the ActiveX used by Internet Explorer.
  • Take general precautions against malware. See the encyclopedia entry on malware .


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