What is "Activation Warning Alert"?
"Activation Warning Alert" is a scam run by rogue web pages. It warns users of 'threats' present on their device, supposedly detected by Windows Security. Note that this scheme has no connection to Microsoft. The scam urges people to call a fake technical support number and share their Windows account and operating system details.
Most visitors to deceptive websites, which run "Activation Warning Alert" and similar scams, usually access them inadvertently - they are redirected by intrusive ads or Potentially Unwanted Applications (PUAs) already infiltrated into the device.
When a "Activation Warning Alert" scam web page is visited, users first see a pop-up window stating that the server is requesting their usernames and passwords. The pop-up claims that the server has found 'suspicious activity' originating from a harmful virus.
It alleges that a system file is missing and, due to this, system failure is imminent. Users are instructed to call a bogus Microsoft Helpline, which is "toll-free". The message further attempts to scare users that restarting/rebooting the computer will result in partial or full data loss and complete failure of the system.
Above the fields (where users must provide their account details), it is stated that their credentials are being sent using basic authentication on a connection that is not secure. Another pop-up on the right of the page informs users that "Windows Activation Error 0xC004FC03" has occurred.
This error is apparently preventing Windows activation, as the product key has been used for another device (it is implied that other parties are using a pirated version, or their activation key has been used for piracy purposes). The window states that if users believe this is not the case, they can enter their Windows activation key and retry activation.
The background page advises people not to ignore this critical alert and call the number provided. It attempts to prevent users from closing the deceptive site, by proclaiming that doing so will lead to access to the computer being disabled. The bogus threat behind this error is allegedly "pornographic Spyware and a virus".
To heighten users' alarm, the scam informs them that communication and social media account logins/passwords, financial account credentials and other important data has been stolen. This can be avoided if users call technical support, which will supposedly provide assistance with the threat removal.
Schemes such as "Activation Warning Alert" are designed solely to generate revenue for the cyber criminals responsible. This can accomplished in various ways. For example, the fraudulent 'tech support' number might have high fees, even if it is claimed otherwise. Additionally, users may be charged for fake services rendered.
They can also be encouraged into downloading/installing or purchasing untrusted or malicious content. Any websites that claim to detect threats/issues present on visitors' devices cannot be trusted, since no website can perform such detections.
If a scam web page cannot be exited by closing the browser tab/window, Task Manager should be used to terminate the browser process, however, when reopening the browser, do not restore the previous session. If restored, the deceptive site will be reopened (or the site that initially redirected to the scam).
As mentioned, deceptive/scam sites are typically accessed via redirects caused by PUAs. These apps often seem legitimate and entice users to install with them offers of "useful" and "beneficial" features/functions. The features rarely work as promised and, in most cases, are nonoperational.
Rather than working as advertised, unwanted applications generate redirects to untrusted and malicious pages, run intrusive advertisement campaigns, hijack browsers and track sensitive data. The latter capability is possessed by most PUAs, regardless of their other specifications.
These apps monitor users' browsing activity and gather their personal information (IP addresses, geolocations and other details). This private data is then shared with third parties (often, cyber criminals) intent on misusing it for financial gain.
To summarize, PUAs can lead to browser/system infiltration and infections, serious privacy issues, financial loss and even identity theft. To ensure device and user safety, remove all suspicious applications and browser extensions/plug-ins immediately.
|Name||possible malware infections|
|Threat Type||Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud.|
|Fake Claim||Scam claims visitors device is infected and Windows activation has failed.|
|Tech Support Scammer Phone Number||+61-1800-952-354 and 844-545-5419|
|Symptoms||Fake error messages, fake system warnings, pop-up errors, hoax computer scan.|
|Distribution methods||Compromised websites, rogue online pop-up ads, potentially unwanted applications.|
|Damage||Loss of sensitive private information, monetary loss, identity theft, possible malware infections.|
|Malware Removal (Windows)||
To eliminate possible malware infections, scan your computer with legitimate antivirus software. Our security researchers recommend using Combo Cleaner.
"Call Microsoft Helpline", "Microsoft Protected Your Computer", and "VIRAL ALARM OF MICROSOFT" are some examples of scams similar to "Activation Warning Alert". These schemes tend to use scare tactics and social engineering to encourage visitors into performing specific actions.
For example, scams can trick users into calling fraudulent technical support, paying for bogus services, downloading/installing and/or purchasing dubious software, etc. You are strongly advised against trusting the claims of these web pages. Ignore any statement and close them without delay.
How did potentially unwanted applications install on my computer?
PUAs proliferate through the download/install set-ups of other programs. This deceptive marketing method of pre-packing normal products with unwanted or malicious content is called "bundling". Rushing download/installation processes (e.g. skipping steps, using presets, etc.) increases the risk of potential system infiltration and infections.
Some unwanted apps also have "official" download pages. When clicked, intrusive advertisements can execute scripts to download/install PUAs without users' permission.
How to avoid installation of potentially unwanted applications
You are advised to research all content, before downloading/installing. Use only official and verified download sources. Peer-to-Peer sharing networks (BitTorrent, Gnutella, eMule, etc.), free file-hosting sites and other third party downloaders are untrusted and should not be used.
When downloading/installing, read the terms, explore all possible options, use the "Custom/Advanced" settings and opt-out of additional apps, tools, functions and so on. Intrusive ads usually seem legitimate and harmless, however, they can redirect to rogue websites (e.g. gambling, adult-dating, pornography, etc.).
If you encounter ads/redirects of this type, inspect the device and immediately remove all suspect applications and/or browser extensions/plug-ins. If your computer is already infected with PUAs, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate them.
Text presented in the "Activation Warning Alert" scam initial pop-up:
This server ***.***.**.** is asking for your username and password.
That server also reports: "Suspicious activity detected due to harmful virus installed in your computer. Call Microsoft Toll Free now @ +61-1800-952-354 for any assistance. Your data is at a serious risk. There is a system file missing due to a harmful virus error, causing system failure. Please contact technicians at Microsoft Toll Free Helpline at @ +61-1800-952-354. PLEASE DO NOT SHUT DOWN OR RESTART YOUR COMPUTER, DOING THAT MAY LEAD TO DATA LOSS AND FAILURE OF OPERATING SYSTEM, HENCE NON BOOTABLE SITUATION RESULTING IN COMPLETE DATA LOSS. CONTACT MICROSOFT TO RESOLVE THE ISSUE ON TOLL FREE NUMBER: +61-1800-952-354"
Warning: Your username and password will be sent using basic authentication on a connection that isn't secure.
Text presented in the other pop-up:
Activation Error 0xC004FC03
We Can't activate Windows on this device because the product key was already used on another device. if you think it wasn't used on another device . enter below your registration key for troubleshoot
Error code: 0xC004C020
This product is licensed under the Microsoft Software License Terms to:
Call Windows Support +61-1800-572-285
Text presented in the background page of the "Activation Warning Alert" scam:
** Activation Warning Alert **
Error # 0xC004FC03
Please call us immediately at: 844-545-5419
Do not ignore this critical alert.
If you close this page, your computer access will be disabled to prevent further damage to our network.
Your computer has alerted us that it has been infected with a Pornographic Spyware and virus. The following information is being stolen:
2.Credit Card Details
3.Email Account Logins
4.Photos and documents stored on this computer
You must contact us immediately so that our expert engineers can walk you through the removal process over the phone to protect your identity. Please call us within the next 5 minutes to prevent your computer from being disabled or from any information loss.
Call Microsoft Windows Support
+61-1800-572-285 (Toll FREE)
Instant automatic malware removal:
Manual threat removal might be a lengthy and complicated process that requires advanced computer skills. Combo Cleaner is a professional automatic malware removal tool that is recommended to get rid of malware. Download it by clicking the button below:
- What is "Activation Warning Alert"?
- STEP 1. Uninstall deceptive applications using Control Panel.
- STEP 2. Remove adware from Internet Explorer.
- STEP 3. Remove rogue extensions from Google Chrome.
- STEP 4. Remove potentially unwanted plug-ins from Mozilla Firefox.
- STEP 5. Remove rogue extensions from Safari.
- STEP 6. Remove rogue plug-ins from Microsoft Edge.
Removal of potentially unwanted applications:
Windows 11 users:
Right-click on the Start icon, select Apps and Features. In the opened window search for the application you want to uninstall, after locating it, click on the three vertical dots and select Uninstall.
Windows 10 users:
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.
Windows 7 users:
Click Start (Windows Logo at the bottom left corner of your desktop), choose Control Panel. Locate Programs and click Uninstall a program.
macOS (OSX) users:
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.
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 application, 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:
Remove malicious add-ons from Internet Explorer:
Click the "gear" 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".
If you continue to have problems with removal of the possible malware infections, 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.
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.
Windows 8 users: Open Internet Explorer and click the gear icon. Select Internet Options.
In the opened window, select the Advanced tab.
Click the Reset button.
Confirm that you wish to reset Internet Explorer settings to default by clicking the Reset button.
Remove malicious extensions from Google Chrome:
Click the 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.
If you continue to have problems with removal of the possible malware infections, reset your Google Chrome browser settings. Click the 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.
After scrolling to the bottom of the screen, click the Reset (Restore settings to their original defaults) button.
In the opened window, confirm that you wish to reset Google Chrome settings to default by clicking the Reset button.
Remove malicious plug-ins from Mozilla Firefox:
Click the Firefox menu (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.
Computer users who have problems with possible malware infections removal can reset their Mozilla Firefox settings.
Open Mozilla Firefox, at the top right corner of the main window, click the Firefox menu, in the opened menu, click Help.
Select Troubleshooting Information.
In the opened window, click the Refresh Firefox button.
In the opened window, confirm that you wish to reset Mozilla Firefox settings to default by clicking the Refresh Firefox button.
Remove malicious extensions from Safari:
Make sure your Safari browser is active, click Safari menu, and select Preferences....
In the opened window click Extensions, locate any recently installed suspicious extension, select it and click Uninstall.
Make sure your Safari browser is active and click on Safari menu. From the drop down menu select Clear History and Website Data...
In the opened window select all history and click the Clear History button.
Remove malicious extensions from Microsoft Edge:
Click the Edge 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.
If you continue to have problems with removal of the possible malware infections, reset your Microsoft Edge browser settings. Click the Edge menu icon (at the top right corner of Microsoft Edge) and select Settings.
In the opened settings menu select Reset settings.
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.
- If this did not help, follow these alternative instructions explaining how to reset the Microsoft Edge browser.
Commonly, 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.
Post a comment:
If you have additional information on possible malware infections or it's removal please share your knowledge in the comments section below.