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Rogue Security Software


A rogue security program is an illegal program that displays misleading warning messages or scan results about virus or spyware infections that do not exist. They are designed to defraud the computer user by using scare tactics to pursuade the user into purchasing the full version of the rogue program. So what at first appears to be a beneficial program from a security perspective turns out to be a scam to lure users into handing over their finanical details. According to a 2009 report by Panda Labs there were 35 million new rogueware infections per month worldwide, netting cyber-criminals more than $400 million per year. 

Legitimate Security Software 

Legitimate security software is any program designed to keep problem applications, like viruses, Trojans, adware, and other forms of malware off of your computer. While there are lots of dependable titles out there, most of them work the same way. Each time you access the program, it asks you if you want to update your definitions file. Essentially what that does is give your software solution the right overview of how to understand what the coding looks like on problem programs. From there, you can hit the scan button, and the software solution carefully looks through each file on your machine, distinguishing the codes into two categories - acceptable and unacceptable. Then it lets you know what it found in that unacceptable category, and you get to decide what to do with it. In most cases, you have the option of leaving it on your computer (because you know what the file is and what the existing problems are) or removing it completely. Some even give you the option of quarantining the file, or holding it in a safe place until you can learn more about it. That's a rough overview of how good security software works.

Rogue Security Software 

Rogue security software, sometimes called "Rogueware" or "Scareware" works in an entirely different manner. Often transmitted via a Trojan that you pick up in an email attachment or while you're online at one site or another, what's considered to be a trial version is installed on your machine. Often, it looks very beneficial to you. In fact, many of these applications look downright convincing. They have the ability to mimic Windows colours and themes to help you believe in their legitimacy, but the simple truth is that they are not programmed with the security functionality they need to be legitimate security applications. By using misleading pop up advertisements, security notifications, and even scanners that provide fake results, the goal is to get you to reveal your personal finanacial data through a download of the full program. Even the full program, however, cannot provide the security your system needs, and often this leaves you in a much worse position than you were, because it exposes you to further risk from malware, Trojans and other rogue programs.

There are essentially three different kinds of rogue software you should be concerned about. Rogue antispyware applications claim to be able to protect you from spyware applications. Rogue antivirus applications will often scare you with concerns that you have a virus on your computer, and rogue registry cleaners pretend to find problems with your Windows registry.  

Unfortunately, these rogue programs aren't always easy to spot. Here are a few example rogue programs that may not be as easy to spot as other simple deviations on the same theme:

  • Windows Registry Checker - This program pretends to be an authentic part of the Microsoft Windows operating system. The problem, however, is that it has nothing to do with Microsoft. It can remain in the background for some time and display pop up ads for registry cleaning services. What's more, though, is that it wants your personal credit card information to help rid your computer of the "threats" it's working so hard to convince you that you have. It is a Trojan, and removing it from your system immediately is a must.
  • Antipiracy Foundation Scanner/Copyright Violation Alert - Playing on people's fears that they've downloaded unlawful content, the goal here is to get money for files that you may or may not have downloaded. This pretends to be part of the ICPP Foundation, an organization that doesn't actually exist. The false warning message associated with the program says "Copyright Violation: Copyrighted Content Detected." 
  • Microsoft Windows Activation - Also seen a Microsoft Piracy Control, this is a Trojan pretending to be part of the system that helps to activate your current operating system. It will ask for your credit card details to verify that your system is accurate, and should you refuse, it can refuse access to the other applications on your machine.


Rogue security applications are plentiful online these days, and the chances are good that you'll encounter one sooner or later. If you have already fallen for their trap and handed over your money it's still possible to get your money back by requesting a "charge back" through your credit card provider. The best protection against any of the three main types is to install a reliable antispyware solution on your machine that is capable of removing these types of programs, update it regularly, and allow it to scan your computer on a daily or even weekly basis.

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