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Critical Error Scam

Also Known As: Critical Error virus
Type: Adware
Distribution: Low
Damage level: Medium

Critical Error removal instructions

What is Critical Error?

"Critical Error" is a fake pop-up error claiming that the system has been infected. This pop-up is displayed by a malicious website that is often visited by users inadvertently - they are redirected by potentially unwanted programs (PUPs). Research reveals that these apps infiltrate systems without consent (bundling method). As well as causing redirects, PUPs also gather data relating to Internet browsing activity and continually deliver intrusive online advertisements.

Critical Error adware

"Critical Error" states that a malicious activity has been detected and, therefore, the system has been blocked. It is also stated that personal information (passwords, banking details, etc.) have been stolen and, therefore, users must immediately remove the malware by contacting technical support via the telephone number ("1-866-314-4893") provided. Be aware, however, that "Critical Error" is a scam. This infection does not exist - the pop-up is merely an attempt to trick users into calling and paying for services that are not required. Therefore, never attempt to contact these people. The problem can be solved by closing the web browser. Note that web browsing activity is monitored, since PUPs gather various information (for example, IP addresses, geo-locations, mouse/keyboard activity, websites visited, queries entered into search engines, pages viewed, etc.) that might contain private details. This information is shared with third parties who misuse personal details to generate revenue. Thus, the presence of information-tracking apps on your system can lead to serious privacy issues or even identity theft. Another downside is display of intrusive online advertisements. PUPs continually deliver pop-up, coupon, banner, and other similar ads. To achieve this, developers employ a 'virtual layer' (a tool that enables placement of third party graphical content on any site). The displayed ads often conceal underlying content, thereby diminishing the Internet browsing experience. In addition, some redirect to malicious websites and even accidental clicks can result in high-risk adware or malware infections. For these reasons, potentially unwanted programs must be uninstalled immediately.

Threat Summary:
NameCritical Error virus
Threat TypeAdware, Unwanted ads, Pop-up Virus
SymptomsSeeing advertisements not originating from the sites you are browsing. Intrusive pop-up ads. Decreased Internet browsing speed.
Distribution methodsDeceptive pop-up ads, free software installers (bundling), fake flash player installers.
DamageDecreased computer performance, browser tracking - privacy issues, possible additional malware infections.
Malware Removal (Windows)

To eliminate possible malware infections, scan your computer with legitimate antivirus software. Our security researchers recommend using Malwarebytes.
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There are dozens of fake error messages similar to "Critical Error". A list of examples includes (but is not limited to) System Blocked For Security Reasons, Call Windows Help Desk Immediately, Microsoft Alert, and Your PC Ran Into A Problem. As with "Critical Error", other fake error messages also state that the system has been infected or damaged in similar ways, however, these errors are designed only to trick users into paying. The purpose of potentially unwanted programs is also identical. By offering various 'useful features', PUPs attempt to give the impression of legitimacy, however, since these applications are designed only to generate revenue for the developers, they provide no value for regular users. Potentially unwanted programs merely cause unwanted redirects, collect personal information, and deliver intrusive online advertisements.

How did adware install on my computer?

Cyber criminals proliferate PUPs by employing a deceptive marketing method called "bundling" - stealth installation of potentially unwanted programs with regular software. Bundled applications are hidden within the "Custom/Advanced" settings of the download or installation processes. Users often rush these procedures and skip steps, thereby exposing their systems to risk of various infections and compromising their privacy.

How to avoid installation of potentially unwanted applications?

As mentioned above, PUPs are distributed using the bundling method. Therefore, never rush the download or installation processes. Closely analyze each step using the "Custom" or "Advanced" settings. Furthermore, decline offers to download/install additional applications. The key to computer safety is caution.

Text presented within "Critical Error" pop-up:

Critical Error! Please Call 1-866-314-4893
Warning!
** YOUR COMPUTER HAS BEEN BLOCKED **
Your computer has alerted us that it has been infected with a virus and spyware. The following information is being stolen…
> Facebook login
> Credit Card Details
> Email Account Login
> Photos stored on this computer
You must contact us immediately so that our engineers can walk you through the removal process over the phone. Please call us with the next 5 minutes to prevent your computer from being disabled.
Toll Free: 1-866-314-4893

Another variant of "Critical Error" tech support scam:

Second variant of

Instant automatic malware removal: Manual threat removal might be a lengthy and complicated process that requires advanced computer skills. Malwarebytes is a professional automatic malware removal tool that is recommended to get rid of malware. Download it by clicking the button below:
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Quick menu:

Adware removal:

Windows 7 users:

Accessing Programs and Features (uninstall) in Windows 7

Click Start (Windows Logo at the bottom left corner of your desktop), choose Control Panel. Locate Programs and click Uninstall a program.

Windows XP users:

Accessing Add or Remove Programs in Windows XP

Click Start, choose Settings and click Control Panel. Locate and click Add or Remove Programs.

Windows 10 and Windows 8 users:

Accessing Programs and Features (uninstall) in Windows 8

Right-click in the lower left corner of the screen, in the Quick Access Menu select Control Panel. In the opened window choose Programs and Features.

Mac OSX users:

Uninstall app in OSX (Mac)

Click Finder, in the opened screen select Applications. Drag the app from the Applications folder to the Trash (located in your Dock), then right click the Trash icon and select Empty Trash.

Critical Error adware uninstall via Control Panel

In the uninstall programs window, look for any suspicious/recently-installed applications, select these entries and click "Uninstall" or "Remove".

After uninstalling the potentially unwanted program, scan your computer for any remaining unwanted components or possible malware infections. To scan your computer, use recommended malware removal software.

Remove adware from Internet browsers:

Video showing how to remove potentially unwanted browser add-ons:

Internet Explorer logoRemove malicious add-ons from Internet Explorer:

Removing Critical Error ads from Internet Explorer step 1

Click the "gear" icon Internet Explorer options icon (at the top right corner of Internet Explorer), select "Manage Add-ons". Look for any recently-installed suspicious browser extensions, select these entries and click "Remove".

Removing Critical Error ads from Internet Explorer step 2

Optional method:

If you continue to have problems with removal of the critical error virus, reset your Internet Explorer settings to default.

Windows XP users: Click Start, click Run, in the opened window type inetcpl.cpl In the opened window click the Advanced tab, then click Reset.

Resetting Internet Explorer settings to default on Windows XP

Windows Vista and Windows 7 users: Click the Windows logo, in the start search box type inetcpl.cpl and click enter. In the opened window click the Advanced tab, then click Reset.

Resetting Internet Explorer settings to default on Windows 7

Windows 8 users: Open Internet Explorer and click the gear icon. Select Internet Options.

Reseting Internet Explorer settings to default in Windows 8 - accessing

In the opened window, select the Advanced tab.

Resetting Internet Explorer settings to default on Windows 8 - Internet options advanced tab

Click the Reset button.

Resetting Internet Explorer settings to default on Windows 8 - click the Reset button in the Internet options advanced tab

Confirm that you wish to reset Internet Explorer settings to default by clicking the Reset button.

Resetting Internet Explorer settings to default on Windows 8 - confirm settings reset to default by clicking the reset button

Google Chrome logoRemove malicious extensions from Google Chrome:

Removing Critical Error  ads from Google Chrome step 1

Click the Chrome menu icon Google Chrome options icon (at the top right corner of Google Chrome), select "Tools" and click "Extensions". Locate all recently-installed suspicious browser add-ons, select these entries and click the trash can icon.

Removing Critical Error ads from Google Chrome step 2

Optional method:

If you continue to have problems with removal of the critical error virus, reset your Google Chrome browser settings. Click the Chrome menu icon Google Chrome menu icon (at the top right corner of Google Chrome) and select Settings. Scroll down to the bottom of the screen. Click the Advanced… link.

Google Chrome settings reset step 1

After scrolling to the bottom of the screen, click the Reset (Restore settings to their original defaults) button.

Google Chrome settings reset step 2

In the opened window, confirm that you wish to reset Google Chrome settings to default by clicking the Reset button.

Google Chrome settings reset step 3

Mozilla Firefox logoRemove malicious plug-ins from Mozilla Firefox:

Removing Critical Error ads from Mozilla Firefox step 1

Click the Firefox menu firefox menu icon (at the top right corner of the main window), select "Add-ons". Click "Extensions", in the opened window, remove all recently-installed suspicious browser plug-ins.

Removing Critical Error ads from Mozilla Firefox step 2

Optional method:

Computer users who have problems with critical error virus removal can reset their Mozilla Firefox settings.

Open Mozilla Firefox, at the top right corner of the main window, click the Firefox menu, firefox menu icon in the opened menu, click Help.

Accessing settings (Reset Firefox to default settings step 1)

Select Troubleshooting Information.

Accessing Troubleshooting Information (Reset Firefox to default settings step 2)

In the opened window, click the Refresh Firefox button.

Clicking on Refresh Firefox button (Reset Firefox to default settings step 3)

In the opened window, confirm that you wish to reset Mozilla Firefox settings to default by clicking the Refresh Firefox button.

Confirm your want to reset Firefox settings to default (Reset Firefox to default settings step 4)

safari browser logoRemove malicious extensions from Safari:

removing adware from safari step 1 - accessing preferences

Make sure your Safari browser is active, click Safari menu, and select Preferences....

removing adware from safari step 2 - removing extensions

In the opened window click Extensions, locate any recently installed suspicious extension, select it and click Uninstall.

Optional method:

Make sure your Safari browser is active and click on Safari menu. From the drop down menu select Clear History and Website Data...

resetting safari step 1

In the opened window select all history and click the Clear History button.

resetting safari step 2

Microsoft Edge (Chromium) logoRemove malicious extensions from Microsoft Edge:

Removing adware from Microsoft Edge step 1

Click the Edge menu icon Microsoft Edge (chromium) menu icon (at the upper-right corner of Microsoft Edge), select "Extensions". Locate all recently-installed suspicious browser add-ons and click "Remove" below their names.

Removing adware from Microsoft Edge step 2

Optional method:

If you continue to have problems with removal of the critical error virus, reset your Microsoft Edge browser settings. Click the Edge menu icon Microsoft Edge (chromium) menu icon (at the top right corner of Microsoft Edge) and select Settings.

Microsoft Edge (Chromium) reset step 1

In the opened settings menu select Reset settings.

Microsoft Edge (Chromium) reset step 2

Select Restore settings to their default values. In the opened window, confirm that you wish to reset Microsoft Edge settings to default by clicking the Reset button.

Microsoft Edge (Chromium) reset step 3

  • If this did not help, follow these alternative instructions explaining how to reset the Microsoft Edge browser.

Summary:

declining installation of adware while downloading free software sampleCommonly, adware or potentially unwanted applications infiltrate Internet browsers through free software downloads. Note that the safest source for downloading free software is via developers' websites only. To avoid installation of adware, be very attentive when downloading and installing free software. When installing previously-downloaded free programs, choose the custom or advanced installation options – this step will reveal any potentially unwanted applications listed for installation together with your chosen free program.

Removal assistance:
If you are experiencing problems while trying to remove critical error virus from your computer, please ask for assistance in our malware support forum.

Post a comment:
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About the author:

Tomas Meskauskas

Tomas Meskauskas - expert security researcher, professional malware analyst.

I am passionate about computer security and technology. I have an experience of over 10 years working in various companies related to computer technical issue solving and Internet security. I have been working as an author and editor for pcrisk.com since 2010. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay informed about the latest online security threats. Contact Tomas Meskauskas.

PCrisk security portal is brought by a company RCS LT. Joined forces of security researchers help educate computer users about the latest online security threats. More information about the company RCS LT.

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Removal Instructions in other languages
Software uninstall instructions
Malware activity

Global malware activity level today:

Medium threat activity

Increased attack rate of infections detected within the last 24 hours.

QR Code
Critical Error virus QR code
A QR code (Quick Response Code) is a machine-readable code which stores URLs and other information. This code can be read using a camera on a smartphone or a tablet. Scan this QR code to have an easy access removal guide of Critical Error virus on your mobile device.
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