You probably search Google most commonly for websites that have information that you want or need. However, it has become more and more popular to search Google images as well (particularly if you are look for a picture of something). If you search in Google Images, you are fairly likely to come upon a malicious website or two.
What happens is you are happily searching along and clicking on some pictures to see them full size. From a scammer’s point of view, this is ideal – lots of people just clicking on all kinds of stuff, not even knowing what is behind that picture.
(In my opinion, this is where Google is dropping the ball. When you click to look at a picture, Google automatically loads the associated website behind the picture. Whether the website is good or bad, it’s going to load whether you like it or not. That’s a dangerous practice, and I think Google will have to change that at some point.)
At some point you click on a picture, and suddenly you start seeing reports on your screen that your computer is infected with viruses. There are all kinds of official-looking images and graphics that say your computer must be about ready to die with all those threats. Finally a window appears offering a “solution” to your computer’s problems. All you have to do is click to download this program and you’ll be fine.
As you already know, this is a complete scam. If you click on that download button, you will be anything but “fine”. The real solution is this: close that window. You can either close the tab, or you can click the X to close the whole window. Problem solved.
Here’s a real life example:
You can go to Google images (here) and do this search: ikea covers
When you see the array of images, look on the left side and click on Large. (This means the only images shown will be large ones.)
Scroll down a few rows and you will see this image:
When you click to view that image, you might wait a few seconds, then suddenly the warnings start to appear to get you to start panicking:
Who knows what garbage I would be putting on my computer if I clicked on “Erase infected”. Don’t be tempted to do that! Just close the tab or close the page and you will be fine.
There are a few more “advanced” pages that not only show you these warnings, they will also immediately reduce the size of your browser window down to about 1 inch square on your screen. Same strategy – if you see your window get small immediately, you know what is happening – just close it with the X.