Unlike most pop-ups, this one might have looked a little different that your garden variety internet ad. Perhaps it looked official, like a notification from Microsoft or Google, or whatever website you happened to be on. It may have even prevented you from continuing any normal operations.
Confused? That’s because you encountered a browser locker. Though not dangerous if handled properly, browser lockers can pose a significant threat to the information security of people who do not understand what they are dealing with.
Don’t take the bait
In a recent blog post, Christopher Elisan, a Principal Malware Scientist at RSA, wrote that there is a new type of browser locker going around that has been designed to closely resemble a pop-up notification from Microsoft Official Support. The locker contains a message telling users that their computer has been “blocked,” and that the only way to unblock it would be to call a specific phone number. It is not possible to close out of the locker.
Of course, this pop-up is in no way associated with Microsoft. Rather, it was created by hackers to fool people into dialing the support number and potentially giving away sensitive personal information during the conversation.
The real solution to the problem, as Elisan points out, depends on your browser. If you are using Internet Explorer, you should open the Task Manager menu and terminate the process. Other popular browsers, such as Mozilla Firefox, even have features that will eliminate these pop-ups for you. However, the genius of this browser locker is that it isn’t aimed at tech-savvy individuals who understand those simple techniques. It is aimed at people who are already uncomfortable using a computer, and tend to rely on tech support for basic operations.
Keep an eye on your family members
You may consider yourself knowledgeable enough about technology to avoid falling for this trap. However, you may have family members who aren’t as tech savvy. Studies consistently show that both the young and the elderly are increasingly common targets of identity theft. The former tend not to pay attention to their credit history — and are less likely to spot problems — while the latter are more susceptible to being scammed over the phone.
Don’t let a simple pop-up ad fool you into giving your identity away. Hackers find more means of scamming people out of information and their identities every day. If you or someone you know have concerns about identity theft, be sure to invest in a credit monitoring service, which can notify you of certain activities on your credit files that may indicate fraud. This can give you much-needed peace of mind, allowing you to rest assured that you’re taking important measures to safeguard your identity.