McAfee is tracking an increase in the use of deceptive popups that mislead some users into taking action, while annoying many others. A significant portion is attributed to browser-based push notifications, and while there are a couple of simple steps users can take to prevent and remediate the situation, there is also some confusion about how these should be handled.
How does this happen?
In many cases scammers use deception to trick users into Allowing push notifications to be delivered to their system.
In other cases, there is no deception involved. Users willingly opt-in uncoerced.
What happens next?
After Allowing notifications, messages quickly start being received. Some sites send notifications as often as every minute.
Many messages are deceptive in nature. Consider this fake alert example. Clicking the message leads to an imposter Windows Defender alert website, complete with MP3 audio and a phone number to call.
In several other examples, social engineering is crafted around the McAfee name and logo. Clicking on the messages lead to various websites informing the user their subscription has expired, that McAfee has detected threats on their system, or providing direct links to purchase a McAfee subscription. Note that “Remove Ads” and similar notification buttons typically lead to the publishers chosen destination rather than anything that would help the user in disabling the popups. Also note that many of the destination sites themselves prompt the user to Allow more notifications. This can have a cascading effect where the user is soon flooded with many messages on a regular basis.
How can this be remediated?
First, it’s important to understand that the representative images provided here are not indications of a virus infection. It is not necessary to update or purchase software to resolve the matter. There is a simple fix:
1. Note the name of the site sending the notification in the popup itself. It’s located next to the browser name, for example:
Example popup with a link to a Popup remover
2. Go to your browser settings’ notification section
- For Chrome, go here: chrome://settings/content/notifications
- For Edge, go here: edge://settings/content/notifications
3. Search for the site name and click the 3 dotes next to the entry.
Chrome’s notification settings
4. Select Block
Great, but how can this be prevented in the future?
The simplest way is to carefully read such authorization prompts and only click Allow on sites that you trust. Alternatively, you can disable notification prompts altogether.
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
What other messages should I be on the lookout for?
While there are thousands of various messages and sites sending them, and messages evolve over time, these are the most common seen in April 2021:
- Activate Protection Now?|Update Available: Antivirus
- Activate your free security today – Download now|Turn On Windows Protection
- Activate your McAfee, now! |Click here to review your PC protection
- Activate your Mcafee, now! |Reminder From McAfee
- Activate your Norton, now! |Click here to review your PC protection
- Activate Your PC Security |Download your free Windows protection now.
- Antivirus Gratis Installieren|Bestes Antivirus–Kostenlos herunterladen
- Antivirus Protection|Download Now To Protect Your Computer From Viruses & Malware Attacks
- Best Antivirus 2020 – Download Free Now|Install Your Free Antivirus
- Check here with a Free Virus Scan|Is Windows slow due to virus?
- Click here to activate McAfee protection|McAfee Safety Alert
- Click here to activate McAfee protection|Turn on your antivirus
- Click Here To Activate McAfee Protection|Upgrade Your Antivirus
- Click here to activate Norton protection|Turn on your antivirus
- Click here to clean.|System is infected!
- Click here to fix the error|Protect your PC now !
- Click here to fix the error|System alert!
- Click here to protect your data.|Remove useless files advised
- Click Here To Renew Subscription|Viruses Found (3)
- Click here to review your PC protection| Your Mcafee has Expired
- Click here to Scan and Remove Virus|Potential Virus?
- Click To Renew Your Subscription|Viruses Found (3)
- Click to turn on your Norton protection|New (1) Security Notification
- Critical Virus Alert|Turn on virus protection
- Free Antivirus Update is|available.Download and protect system?
- Install Antivirus Now!|Norton – Protect Your PC!
- Install FREE Antivirus now|Is the system under threat?
- Install free antivirus|Protect your Windows PC!
- Jetzt KOSTENLOSES Antivirus installieren|Wird das System bedroht?
- McAfee Safety Alert|Turn on your antivirus now [Activate]
- McAfee Total Protection|Trusted Antivirus and Privacy Protection
- Norton Antivirus|Stay Protected. Activate Now!
- Norton Expired 3 Days Ago! |Renew now to stay protected for your PC!
- PC is under virus threat! |Renew Norton now to say protected
- Protect Your Computer From Viruses| Activate McAfee Antivirus
- Renew McAfee License Now!|Stay Protected. Renew Now!
- Renew McAfee License Now!|Your McAfee Has Expired Today
- Renew Norton License Now!|Your Norton Has Expired Today
- Renew Now For 2021|Your Norton has Expired Today?
- Renew now to stay protected!| Your Mcafee has Expired
- Scan Report Ready|Tap to reveal
- Turn on virus protection|Viruses found (3)
- Your Computer Might be At Risk | Renew Norton Antivirus!
General safety tips
- Scams can be quite convincing. It’s better to be quick to block something and slow to allow than the opposite.
- When in doubt, initiate the communication yourself.
- Manually enter in a web address rather than clicking a link sent to you.
- Confirm numbers and addresses before reaching out, such as phone and email.
- McAfee customers utilizing web protection (including McAfee Web Advisor and McAfee Web Control) are protected from known malicious sites.