Malicious popups

You might have heard about it, you may have experienced it, but you definitely don’t want to fall foul of it.

More and more we hear stories of fake support or anti-virus popups, claiming to alert users to an urgent problem with their computer.  Such popups can cause anxiety to users, and at worst they can open up their whole computer to attackers. These malicious popups can look like a communication that is offering you some assistance via a phone number or download link. However, if you provide information, or click on links, you could be helping the wrong people gain remote access to your computer.

If someone with the wrong intentions gains access to your computer they could view all your information and take anything from there, be that personal information, such as banking details, or work-related information that may include other people’s data. If your computer contains any particularly sensitive information – you could have a data breach on your hands.

Member of the University of Oxford


‘I was recently prompted to call a number on a fake Microsoft pop-up and I was then asked to provide remote access to my computer. I realised at this point that the request was suspicious and luckily I got in contact with my local IT support team, who helped me to make sure everything was ok with my computer.’

The best way to prevent something similar happening to you is to pause, stop and think before taking any action in response to any unexpected popup. Don’t just follow directions, for example, by calling a "support number" or clicking on a download link. If you do think you’ve been compromised then do report the incident to the OxCERT team. And talk to your local IT support as they can help you with some practical checks and information on how to secure your device.


If anyone (other than a trusted University IT support service) askes for remote access to your computer, do not give it. Talk to your local IT support first.


It’s very easy to become a victim of these security breach attempts. When you’re stressed, distracted, or busy you may not take the time to think carefully before clicking or responding to a request, particularly if you feel you’re under pressure.

It really isn’t your fault if something like this happens, but you can seek the right support and stay up-to-date with your security awareness training and this should help you to limit your risk.

Cartoon drawing of person on laptop with Fraud Alert on the screen


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