Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
A sudden pop-up saying that your computer is infected feels like malware. To be safe, treat your machine as if it is already infected.
I have XP Professional with SP3. I'm certain you've answered this somewhere, but I don't know where. All of a sudden, a message appears on my screen from out of nowhere, telling me that my system is not clean and needs cleaning. If this were in an email, it'd be no problem to block or delete, but I'm absolutely puzzled by just how out of nowhere this message appears on my desktop. Of course, I can cancel it, but how does it get there? Is it related to Skype?
In this excerpt from Answercast #31, I look at a computer that suddenly has a pop-up which seems to be warning the user of an infection. This is a good time for some protection and a good cleaning.
I don't believe it's related to Skype.
There are two paths that I want to investigate here.
So, definitely pay attention to whether or not what you're seeing is in a web browser or if it is happening as the result of something you're doing in your web browser.
It's a very common technique. Some of the worst malware infections we've seen in recent times have in fact been because this software is so convincing. It looks so real.
The error message seems legitimate. What happens, though, is you end up downloading the recommended solution to this particular problem. My guess is what you're seeing says, "Click here to purchase this product," or "Download a product that will clear up this problem that we're telling you you have."
Chances are when you download that product and install it, that then will install – not necessarily a cleaning product – but a truckload of malware. It's some bad stuff that will probably infect your system even worse.
My recommendation in a situation like this is never, ever download what is recommended in an unexpected pop-up window. Never.
Instead, use your own tools.
Update your own malware tools, your own anti-spyware, and your anti-virus tools.
Run up-to-date scans immediately.
Consider running an up-to-date scan from the tool out at Malwarebytes.org. It's a free tool for individual use. Run that.
If you need to, run Windows Defender offline, which is a CD that you burn and boot from. It will run a Microsoft Security Essentials equivalent from the CD without Windows running.
Then consider running something, maybe, CCleaner, to further clean up your machine.
Ultimately, this message feels like malware to me and I believe it needs to
be treated as malware. That means treating your machine as if it's already
infected and taking the steps necessary to rid it of that malware.
Next from Answercast 31 – How do I stop this disgusting email from being sent to me?
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