Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

If you get a message, "Your computer is at risk," it's a scam. The solution is to follow computer safety (so you know you are not at risk) and then determine where the message comes from.

Why do I keep getting "your computer is at risk"? I keep getting this message and I know that there is free protection out there. Can you tell me a site for this? I have an Acer laptop.

In this excerpt from Answercast #95 I look at a computer that keeps getting a message saying, "Your computer is at risk."

Your computer is at risk

Well, unfortunately, I don't know specifically what it is you're talking about. "Your computer is at risk" can come from many, many different places that are all completely unrelated to each other and are all solved in different ways.

So I'm going to focus on two because they are very popular or prevalent right now.

Virus on your computer

I do not know if this is the issue you're seeing - but I know that it is a common issue for many people.

The most common one right now is malware that actually gets itself installed on your PC. That then pops up a dialog box that says "Hey, your computer is at risk. You need to run this software to fix it. Here's where you go to buy it."

Don't! Do not run out and buy that software. Do not pay anybody any money.

The fact is... there is already malware on your machine!

Phishing website

Or, perhaps, you've visited a website that is faking you out by popping up this window that kind of looks like a window that comes from your PC - but is actually a window from that website.

  1. Don't visit that website and;

  2. Run up-to-date scans.

Make sure you're running up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware scans, if they're two separate tools. Otherwise, make sure you're running an up-to-date scan with your overall security scanner.

Consider an up-to-date scan with the free tool from That does tend to catch a number of things that other tools don't catch.

So that's my very first recommendation. It's very possible that what you're seeing is something that is nothing more than malware trying to gain a bigger foothold on your machine or trying to scare you into paying money for something you don't need.

You don't need it! Run the tools that you already have - or go out and get good anti-malware software. I've got an article on that, "What security software do you recommend?" that lays out what I think you need to be running to keep your computer safe.

Skype phishing calls

Now, there's another one that I've not heard of quite as often.

I've not experienced it myself, but it is something that one of my assistants has described to me and I know does happen. This occurs if you happen to run Skype - and it's possible that this could work with other instant messaging programs too.

What happens is you get an incoming instant message that basically says, "Your computer could be at risk. Run this software to solve the problem."

That is the moral equivalent of spam.

Know your computer is safe

It is something that you can safely and completely ignore, especially if you are already running appropriate security software. Your computer is safe. You're doing the things that you need to do; you can ignore this random thing that's coming from your instant messaging client or from Skype.

You should be able to tell from the window around it where it's coming from. If it looks like an instant message from Skype, that's all it is. It's a bit of spam from an anonymous person elsewhere on the internet.

Now, you can stop these from coming in. You can configure most instant messaging clients to only accept incoming connections from people that are already in your address book and I strongly recommend you do exactly that. You configure the tool to only accept messages or incoming calls from people that you already know. That way, this kind of thing from random people that you don't know, that are doing nothing more than trying to scare you into buying software you don't need - will just stop.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

Next from Answercast 95- Why has the spam I'm seeing increased?

Article C6323 - February 23, 2013 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

February 23, 2013 11:51 AM

Leo, This "may" be an issue that seems to have recently shown up on XP machines running Microsoft Security Essentials.

Some folks can make it go away. Others, like my husband, are living with it as a false positive.

Without giving details, I've tested to my satisfaction, with a known utility that problems are being isolated by MSE.

February 26, 2013 12:55 PM

It's malwares BS, plain and fancy. Your anti-malware apps will let you know something is wrong but not like this. Mine has a definite, unmistakable mid-screen in your face pop-up that tells me what's up and who's trying to do whatever. You might be able to configure yours that-a-way. I like it.

February 26, 2013 1:24 PM

I get that message from one of my anti-virus apps when it gets out of date - since I don't use that system as often, it is always out of date when I turn it on. But think it says "Your system MAY be at risk". Not the exact same message - but close.

February 27, 2013 12:46 PM

You are correct. I had MSSE red shield appear on my taskbar this morning. The message when you hold the mouse over shield is ."PC status at risk" When clicked a larger pop up from MSSE explains that the service that starts MSSE is not enabled.
You can fix by typing msconfig into the run box and enable the check box in the start up and services tab. (somewhat tricky}
The easiest way for non techies is to reinstall MSSE .

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