What is Fake Antivirus? [Things You Should Know]

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Lina Vonsavičiūtė
Written by
Lina Vonsavičiūtė

Updated · Nov 17, 2023

Lina Vonsavičiūtė
Creative Copywriter | Joined August 2023 | LinkedIn
Lina Vonsavičiūtė

Lina V. is an exceptional storyteller, possessing a natural talent for crafting engaging narratives ... | See full bio

Girlie Defensor
Edited by
Girlie Defensor


Girlie Defensor
Joined June 2023
Girlie Defensor

Girlie is an accomplished writer with an interest in technology and literature. With years of experi... | See full bio

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Globally, almost 80% of computers use antivirus. These tools help in keeping devices safe against the dangers of malware and other malicious elements. 

However, not all antivirus apps that you see on the Internet protect you. 

Fake antivirus software exists. This software can extract your bank login details or spread malware on your device. It is a threat to all

This article covers what you should know about fake antivirus—what they are, how they work, and how to avoid them. Read on. 

Key Takeaways


Fake antivirus software pretends to be real but aims to exploit users for personal and financial gain.


Beware of fake antivirus via banners, social media, ads, emails, and search engines. Stick to official websites.


Signs of fake antivirus include unfamiliar software, unresponsive programs, frequent alerts, strange browser behavior, and suspicious payment requests.


To remove fake antivirus, install a reputable antivirus tool, back up data, reset the device, and seek professional help if needed


Stay safe by enabling the firewall, updating the OS, using trusted antivirus, being cautious with emails and pop-ups, and securing networks with strong passwords.

Fake Antivirus: What It Is and How It Works

Fake antivirus is malicious software that mimics legitimate antivirus tools, exploiting unaware users in the process. 

If users install such software, they may get various kinds of malware like Trojans, spyware, adware, and more.

The worst thing that these fake antivirus can do is lure users into buying additional security software to steal personal and financial information.

If you are wondering how people fall for fake antivirus software, continue reading to find out.

How Your Device Gets Infected With Fake Antivirus

Fake antivirus can hide in many places. It can access your device with a simple click on a banner, social media post, or ads. 

You should always be cautious when you find antivirus offers on:

  • Social media news feeds
  • Online banners
  • Emails
  • Search engines

Search engines

Photo from EnigmaSoft

It is true that modern browsers and email platforms have built-in protection features to weed out most possible scam offers. 

However, malicious attempts can still find ways to bypass that. 

Do not click on websites or advertisements you are not familiar with. Rather, always go to the official brand websites. 

Make sure the URL is correct to avoid homoglyph attacks

What is a homoglyph attack

Homoglyphs are characters that look identical. 

Cybercriminals use this to trick people into using different letters or symbols in the URL and direct them to a fake site.

These are cases when a famous website link contains the letter “i”. This could be replaced with “l” in the URL.

See this example: 

www.surfshark.com  vs.  www.surlshark.com

The first link is legitimate. However, the second one contains “l” instead of “f.” Both of which are visually similar. 

People with poor vision or low familiarity are the typical victims of this attack due to their vulnerability and unfamiliarity with cyber threats.

Make sure to scan the URL address carefully before inputting or clicking it on search engines. Double-check if it is not a copycat site bearing a homoglyph in its address.

AI language models can now help scammers to stay clear of grammatical mistakes. Your device can get infected in seconds if you click on the wrong link. 

Detecting Fake Antivirus 

To detect if you have a fake antivirus on your laptop or smartphone, monitor your device for these signs:



Unknown software 

If you do not remember installing an app, it could be a fake antivirus. Be sure not to run the unknown application. 

Inoperable program

Look for any suspicious applications that are working in the background. 

If an app keeps on opening despite multiple attempts to close it, it could be a fake antivirus. Get rid of it as soon as possible. 

Frequent antivirus alerts and pop-ups

Notifications are expected. However, if pop-ups become too frequent or random, it is possible that your system got a fake antivirus.

Weird browser behavior 

Be wary if your browser is automatically changing or if it suddenly has extensions that you do not remember adding yourself. 

Another red flag to watch out for is if the browser constantly redirects you to some antivirus webpage. 

Suspicious inquiries about money

Beware of sites, forms, or emails that ask you to pay for something. 

Never forward any money or input your bank details without verifying the site’s validity.

Device slowing down or freezing

A little slowdown is normal. However, if your system is constantly lagging, fake antivirus may be feeding on your device. 

It can also be intentionally disturbing processes to convince you there are viruses on your device. 

If you have a fake antivirus, what can you do? Read on to find out the safest ways to remove it from your system.

Ways To Remove Fake Antivirus Software

After confirming if your device is infected with a fake antivirus, you need to know the right steps and tools to remove it right away. 

Here are the steps to remove fake antivirus software:

  1. Install a trusted and legitimate antivirus tool. 
  2. Reset your device. Make sure to back up your hard drive.
  3. Run the backed-up files through real antivirus software.
  4. In case of any alert, re-format your infected drive and finalize the operation. 

steps to remove fake antivirus software

It would be best to find cybersecurity personnel to perform step 2 manually. 

Without technical knowledge, anyone can accidentally remove important executive files from the device’s operating system. 

While it is vital to know how to remove fake antivirus from your system, it is still best to avoid falling for it in the first place. 

Keeping Devices Safe From Fake Antivirus 

Here are several tips to help you avoid the possibility of getting a fake antivirus:

  • Keep your firewall on and update it regularly. 

Most modern firewalls protect your devices—be it your laptop or mobile phone. Make sure to update them regularly. 

Also, avoid deactivating your firewall. Keep them on at all times to be safe from all threats.

  • Update your operating systems. 

You need an updated firewall that can function on an updated operating system. 

Developers and cybersecurity experts constantly improve their products to resist the latest threats.

  • Download and use antivirus software from widely recognized brands. 

Legitimate antivirus software will protect you from fake alerts. Antivirus tools offer a few more useful cybersecurity features in one package. 

McAfee and Surfshark are some of the best antivirus software that you can choose from. 

Fun fact: Do you know that installing two or more antivirus software causes more harm than good?

Antivirus software cancels each other. Running multiple antivirus tools can cause your computer to freeze or crash. 

Protecting your devices does not simply stop at updating firewalls and operating systems. You should also take precautionary measures when browsing the web. 

Some of the habits to practice to avoid fake antivirus whenever you surf are:

  • Do not open or click on emails from unknown or suspicious senders.


Photo from McAfee

Even if you got deals that seem too good to skip, check if it is real first. You can verify whether a deal is valid or not by going to the brand’s official website. 

Also, make sure that the website you’re opening is not fake. 

  • Never open random pop-ups online or on the web. 

Alt tag: Sample of pop-up used for scams and spreading malware

Avoid reacting to digital pop-ups telling you that there is a virus on your device or that you need extra protection software. 

Check if your device is infected to assess your cybersecurity needs.

  • Keep your network and hotspot secure. 

Wi-Fi password sharing via iPhone

If you share your home Wi-Fi or hotspot password with someone else, change it afterward. 

You never know how secure the other person’s device is and if they can ensure the password’s security.

Also, secure your mobile hotspot by using a complex password. Never share your hotspot without a password. 

You may have friends or neighbors whose devices could potentially be infected with malware. Their devices can infect yours once they connect to your unguarded hotspot.

Note: This article was co-authored by Surshark. For more tips on cybersecurity, subscribe to their bi-weekly newsletter!

Bottom Line

Antivirus software is crucial to protect every user’s security and privacy while browsing the web. 

However, the threat of fake antivirus software is real. It is best to know what they are and how to avoid them. 

Knowing and using legitimate antivirus software is crucial to establish a high level of protection for you and your devices.


What are some fake virus warnings?

These warnings are usually malicious pop-ups triggered by fake antivirus software. They come as notifications on your devices. These also appear more than legit antivirus tools. 

What happens when you download a fake antivirus?

If you download a fake antivirus, your device may get infected with malware. It will not break the device right away, but it harms your system and privacy in the long run. 


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