Windows Defender Security Center POP-UP Scam

Also Known As: "Windows Defender Security Center" virus
Distribution: Moderate
Damage level: Medium

Windows Defender Security Center removal instructions

What is Windows Defender Security Center?

"Windows Defender Security Center" is a fake error message displayed by various websites. Users visit often these sites inadvertently - they are redirected by potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) or intrusive advertisements delivered by other rogue sites. Research shows that many PUPs infiltrate systems without users’ permission. As well as causing redirects, they deliver intrusive advertisements, record user-system information, and run unwanted background processes.

Windows Defender Security Center scam

The "Windows Defender Security Center" error states that the system is infected with a number of viruses and encourages users to immediately remove them by downloading and installing fake anti-virus/system optimization tools (such as, for example, System Keeper). All claims regarding the infection are false. After running a full system scan with the downloaded tool, users are presented with many "infections". Since the free version of the tool is apparently unable to remove them, users are encouraged to purchase the 'full version'. In this way, cyber criminals generate revenue by scaring and tricking unsuspecting users into purchasing full versions that are not required. Your system is likely to be perfectly safe and optimized. The full version will simply clear the list and nothing more, delivering no real value. Therefore, ignore "Windows Defender Security Center" and never download promoted apps. Note, however, that fake error-displaying websites often employ scripts that prevent users from closing browsing tabs/windows. In these cases, terminate the browser via Task Manager or simply reboot the system. The next time you run the browser, do not restore the previous session, otherwise you will re-open the malicious sites.

Potentially unwanted programs are notorious for delivering intrusive advertisements (e.g., coupons, banners, pop-ups, etc.) To achieve this, developers employ tools that enable placement of third party graphical content on any site. Therefore, delivered ads often conceal underlying website content, thereby significantly diminishing the browsing experience. Furthermore, intrusive ads can lead to malicious websites and even execute scripts that stealthily download and install malware. Therefore, even accidental clicks might result in high-risk computer infections. Another important issue is data tracking. Most PUPs gather IP addresses, website URLs visited, pages viewed, search queries, keystrokes, and other similar data that typically includes personal details. Developers later share this data with third parties to generate revenue. These people (potentially, cyber criminals) generate revenue by misusing personal details. Therefore, the presence of data-tracking app(s) can lead to serious privacy issues or even identity theft. In addition, potentially unwanted programs mine cryptocurrencies or run other unwanted processes without users' consent. These programs essentially misuse system resources, thereby significantly reducing overall performance. For these reasons, you are advised to uninstall all potentially unwanted programs immediately.

Threat Summary:
Name "Windows Defender Security Center" virus
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Symptoms Unauthorized online purchases, changed online account passwords, identity theft, illegal access of one's computer.
Distribution methods Deceptive emails, rogue online pop-up ads, search engine poisoning techniques, misspelled domains.
Damage Loss of sensitive private information, monetary loss, identity theft.
Malware Removal (Windows)

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There are dozens of fake errors similar to "Windows Defender Security Center". The list of examples includes (but is not limited to) Your Windows 10 Is Infected With 3 Viruses, Windows Is Resetting Itself, Microsoft Edge Critical ERROR, and Comcast Cable Warning Alert. All claim that the system is damaged (e.g., infected, missing files, and so on), however, rather than promoting potentially unwanted programs, most fake errors attempt to trick users into contacting fake 'tech support' and paying for services that are unnecessary. Potentially unwanted programs also share many similarities. Most claim to provide "useful features", however, such claims are merely attempts to give the impression of legitimacy and trick users to install. In fact, rather than giving any real value for regular users, PUPs pose a direct threat to your privacy and Internet browsing safety.

How did potentially unwanted programs install on my computer?

Some PUPs have official download/promotion websites, however, due to the lack of knowledge and careless behavior of many users, PUPs often infiltrate systems without permission. Developers proliferate them using intrusive advertisements and "bundling" method (stealth installation of PUPs together with regular apps). Developers know that users often rush download/installation processes and skip steps. Therefore, they hide "bundled" apps within "Custom/Advanced" settings (or other sections) of the download/installation processes. Skipping download/installation steps and clicking advertisements often leads to inadvertent installation of PUPs.

How to avoid installation of potentially unwanted applications?

To prevent this situation, be very cautious when browsing the Internet, and downloading/installing software. Intrusive advertisements may seem legitimate, but can redirect to dubious websites (e.g., gambling, adult dating, pornography, etc.) If you experience these redirects, immediately remove all suspicious applications and browser plug-ins. Remember also to carefully analyze each step (especially "Custom/Advanced" settings) of the download/installation processes and opt-out of all additionally-included programs. You are advised to avoid using third party downloaders/installers, since criminals monetize them by promoting PUPs (the "bundling" method). Applications should be downloaded only from official/trusted sources and, preferably, using a direct download link. The key to computer safety is caution.

The appearance of "Windows Defender Security Center" pop-up (GIF):

Windows Defender Security Center scam gif

At the time of research, "Windows Defender Security Center" promoted the System Keeper PUP:

Windows Defender Security Center promoting System Keeper

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Quick menu:

Removal of potentially unwanted programs:

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.

Windows Defender Security Center 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 rogue extensions from Internet browsers:

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

Internet Explorer logoRemove malicious add-ons from Internet Explorer:

Removing rogue extensions 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 rogue extensions from Internet Explorer step 2

Optional method:

If you continue to have problems with removal of the "windows defender security center" 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 rogue extensions from Google Chrome step 1

Click the Chrome menu icon Google Chrome menu icon (at the top right corner of Google Chrome), select "More tools" and click "Extensions". Locate all recently-installed suspicious browser add-ons and remove them.

Removing rogue extensions from Google Chrome step 2

Optional method:

If you continue to have problems with removal of the "windows defender security center" 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 rogue extensions 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 on "Extensions", in the opened window, remove all recently-installed suspicious browser plug-ins.

Removing rogue extensions from Mozilla Firefox step 2

Optional method:

Computer users who have problems with "windows defender security center" 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 "windows defender security center" 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 "windows defender security center" 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
Malware activity

Global malware activity level today:

Medium threat activity

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

QR Code
Windows Defender Security Center 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 "Windows Defender Security Center" virus on your mobile device.
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