Don’t be in a rush to dismiss popups – it could be dangerous!

September 25th, 2008

These statistics are scary:

Psychologists at North Carolina State University found that computer users have a hard time distinguishing between fake Windows warning messages and the real thing. In an experiment that tested the responses of 42 Web-browsing university students, they found that almost two-thirds of them -- 63% -- would click "OK" whenever they saw a popup warning, whether it was fake or not.

No wonder dodgy popups are so common? But what do you do about them? Well, in my mind North Carolina State Uni gets a fail for this advice:

The North Carolina State researchers said that their subjects chose the best course of action -- clicking the red X "close window" button at the top right corner to close their fake popups -- just under a third of the time.

EPIC FAIL. Why? Because you can't guarantee that the red X does what you think it does! Our friends at Sunbelt Software have better advice:

But Sunbelt's Howes said scammers are so clever these days that the "close window" buttons are often fake too. "You can get into this sort of 'Alice in Wonderland' desktop where nothing responds like you think it should," he said.

Users who are really concerned about a popup message should close the window from the Windows taskbar at the bottom of the screen.

Or some may feel compelled to take more drastic action. "Sometimes the safest thing to do is to kill the entire browser," Howes said. 

Original research here.

This entry was posted on Thursday, September 25th, 2008 at 16:25 and is filed under Stay Secure. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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