Bad grammar – the laymans virus detection

grammarPeople frequently ask me whether behaviour they’ve seen on their PC or laptop is a virus, and as failure to recognise malware can cost you £1,000’s and lost data, it’s a pertinent question.  Today, I was reminded of a particularly effective way of spotting malware.

One of the Institute’s staff reported that they’d seen a suspicious message after visiting a supplier website.  It’s quite a common occurrence, and in this case the message was a fake anti-virus pop-up box which said:

“Caution!  Your computer contains a variety of suspicious programs.Your System requires immediate checking! The system will perform a fast and free check your PC for malicious programs.”

Note in particular;

  • The lack of space between ‘programs.’ and ‘Your’
  • The repeated capitals on ‘Your’ and ‘System’
  • The omission from ‘free check (of) your pc’.
  • The repeated exclamation marks

There’s a simple reason for this – the majority of malware comes from countries where English is not the first language.  Maybe the perpetrator is taking a ‘best guess’ at the correct spelling, punctuation and grammar, or maybe they’re using translation tools.  Whatever the cause of these grammatical gaffes, the ability to spot them is one of the more valuable tools in an average PC user’s arsenal against viruses.  It allows non-technical users of laptops and PC’s to detect a virus where otherwise they might have fallen prey to the various ‘social engineering‘ methods currently popular as a virus propagation tool.

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