Fake System Optimization Tools Use Fear to Scam Consumers

People surfing the webAfter a few years, any computer can feel a bit sluggish. So when a website claims it has found disk errors that are slowing your PC, it's no wonder many users will jump at the chance to try and speed up their machines with an optimization tool like SystemDefragmenter or DiskDoctor. According to web security firm CyberDefender, these tools, and many others like them, are nothing but fakes that try to scare users into paying for a full version from an unsecure website.Similar tools go by one of the following names, all of which are trying to get your money:

  • HDDDefragmenter
  • SmartDefragmenter
  • DiskDefrag
  • QuickDefragmenter
  • UltraDefragger
  • ScanDisk
  • CheckDisk
  • HDDControl
  • WinHDD
To get a pop up for one of these malicious system optimization programs you don't need to visit the rogue website. The groups behind these programs will often infect legitimate websites to lure unsuspecting visitors.

These rogue programs will try to trick users into installing them by pretending to scan the hard drive and find disk errors. CyberDefender warns WalletPop readers that after the program is run, you won't be able to use programs or shortcuts on the desktop. Eventually, the program will put the computer in a fake safe mode and another fake scan will prompt the user to buy the full version to "fix" the problem.

According to Achal Khetarpal, Director CyberDefender Research Labs, users who choose to pay will be directed to a fake payment page that pretends to be secure, but in reality you're handing over your information to cyber thieves.

Image of a fake PC optimization tool SystemDefragmenter

Khetarpal provides the following tips for keeping your computer safe from bogus system optimization tools.
  • Encrypted Search: Use Google's encrypted search to defeat rogue software. Go to https://www.google.com instead of http://www.google.com. This way, thieves don't know you're coming from Google so they serve you a "safe" site instead. The bad guys look at where you came from and if the referring website is Google they will offer up the malicious software. If the source isn't provided you'll often get a "clean" page. They do this to try and get around security company scanners that are always on the lookout for bad websites.
  • Download from Trusted Sources: Download utilities for system optimization from sources that test their downloads such as www.download.com and www.tucows.com.
  • Virus Protection: Always make sure to scan all downloaded files with a desktop anti-virus program or an online service such as www.VirusTotal.com.
  • Real Time Protection: Make sure to turn the real time protection for your desktop anti-virus program ON when browsing or searching Google.
As always, remember that if you are browsing the Web and a website, without prompting, tells you that there is something wrong with your computer, it's more than likely a phony that won't help you one bit.

To tell if a website or software tool is legit, you can look for the company in the BBB ratings and search for reviews of the tool on well known technology sites like Cnet or DownloadSquad.

WalletPop recommends checking the trusted sources mentioned by Khetarpal as well as tools like CyberDefender's Registry Cleaner and iolo's System Mechanic, which is a real system optimization tool that can fix many common computer errors and get tune your system up.
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