A growing trend among scam artists and identity thieves is the use of fake virus warnings to install a virus on your computer. This form of malware can slow your computer's performance significantly, generate countless pop-up warnings, change your background image and/or browser homepage, and may even attempt to trick you in to buying software to remove the virus. Ironically, this scam preys on the fact that more people have become aware of viruses and spyware as they browse the Internet. Often the fake warnings mimic real antivirus and spyware products, and once you click the warning, your computer is infected.
You can protect yourself from fake antivirus scams primarily by being aware of that they exist and not clicking on pop-up windows that over-excitedly warn you that you have a virus. You should install and regularly update a legitimate antivirus product, keep your operating system, browsers, and browser plug-ins up to date, and avoid file sharing programs and downloading and installing software from suspicious web sites. Free/illegitimate software, movies, and music are often riddled with viruses and malware.
If your computer does become infected, use an anti-malware tool, such as Malwarebytes (a free version is available for personal use on download.com) to try and remove the virus. However, the only way to guarantee the virus has been removed is by reformatting the computer's hard drive. That entails erasing all of the information on the computer hard drive and reinstalling the operating system. The ITS Help Desk offers a free Software Repair and Troubleshooting Service to assist UI students, faculty, and staff with these tasks on their personal computer. If the problem is with your University owned/managed computer, contact your departmental IT support person.
More information about keeping your data and your identity safe from hackers and malicious software can be found on the ITS Security Support Center web site.