Millions of consumers and businesses use antivirus software to protect their networks and devices from cyber threats. Although there are dozens of types of antivirus software, they are all designed to detect and remove — or quarantine when removal isn’t possible — viruses as well as other forms of malware. Unfortunately, though, hackers have capitalized on the increasingly fast adoption rate of antivirus software by using it to deploy malware.

What Is Fake Antivirus Software?

Also known as rogue security software, fake antivirus software is malware disguised as legitimate antivirus software. It leverages the properties of social engineering to trick victims into downloading it. The fake antivirus software doesn’t reveal its true self. Rather, it looks like legitimate antivirus software that’s able to protect your computer or network from cyber threats.

Fake antivirus software is used for monetary purposes by hackers. In other words, hackers deploy fake antivirus software on computers and networks to trick the victim into making a payment. Most types of fake antivirus software ask the victim to pay a fee to remove the identified threat or threats.

How Fake Antivirus Software Spreads

Hackers use a variety of tactics to deploy fake antivirus software, one of which is social media. If a hacker gains access to a user’s social media profile, he or she may message the victim’s friends or connections with links to download the fake antivirus software. Each friend who then clicks the link and proceeds to download the fake antivirus software will then be infected as well.

Email is another common vector used to deploy and spread fake antivirus software. Even if an email appears to be from someone you know, the “from” address may have been spoofed by a hacker. Hackers use email to deploy all types of malware, one of which is fake antivirus software.

Signs of Fake Antivirus Software

How do you know if your computer or network is suffering from fake antivirus software? The telltale symptom of a fake antivirus software infection is frequent pop-ups saying that your computer is infected with a virus. And when you attempt to remove the virus, it will ask you to purchase the full version of the software.

You may experience performance issues with the computer or devices infected with fake antivirus software. Like other software, fake antivirus software requires resources to run. As it consumes your computer’s or device’s resources, you’ll likely experience slower speeds.