What to do if you get a "You've got a virus!" pop-up
Seeing a strange and alarming pop-up when visiting a website?
You should immediately close your browser. Do not call the phone number provided. Do not click anything in the pop-up. You may need to force your browser to quit.
When you restart your browser, don't reopen your previous tabs! (Here's how to prevent previous tabs from opening in Microsoft Edge, which currently doesn't ask.) And don't click the link you visited immediately before you got that virus warning; otherwise, the whole thing will happen all over again.
If you're on a Windows computer, follow these instructions to remove any malware that may be causing the pop-up to appear.
If you're on a Mac, follow these instructions instead.
A little background
Free streaming websites are notorious for serving malware and opening pop-ups and "pop-unders" along with free TV and movie programming. These ads can be very difficult to block. In fact, in May 2017 Malwarebytes Labs announced it had found a form of malware that bypasses ad blockers altogether. Quoting from the blog post: "The bulk of the traffic for the RoughTed campaign comes from streaming video or file sharing sites closely intertwined with URL shorteners. These are areas where malicious actors love to lurk because of the sheer volume of traffic but also subpar standards for quality and safety of online advertising."
How to safely watch TV and movies on free streaming sites
Sometimes it helps to watch videos in a different browser. For instance, Chrome has some weaknesses that allow bad ads to get past ad blockers. Other browsers don't have the same weaknesses and can often block the ads better.
Why doesn't AdBlock block these?
AdBlock (like other ad blockers) is not an anti-malware program. It can block ads that try to install malware (with some exceptions; see above), but it can't prevent malware from being installed. We strongly recommend that you install a good free anti-malware and antivirus application. We like the free application Malwarebytes Anti-Malware for Windows or Mac. We are not affiliated with Malwarebytes in any way. We've simply found that their software tends to catch malware that others miss.
Couchtuner: A case history
When users first started reporting seeing pop-ups and virus warnings on a site called Couchtuner, we checked with the folks who maintain Malwaredomains, the authoritative list of websites that are known to host malware. Here's what they told us:
While the site itself [Couchtuner.la] does not seem to host malware, the ads it chooses to display and the video player it uses are. From what we're seeing, some of the ads are linking to scams or fake downloads and one of the video players is causing trouble as well.
We pulled this straight from the comments section of the site:
User post: "Anyone else having trouble with pop up pages warning that you have a virus in your computer to call a number? (I know its a scam) it just started. One time I had to unload Chrome and reload it to get rid of it. Now I just pay attention to what I click on to get rid of it. Sometimes my bitdefender stops it."
Couchtuner response: "Couchtuner is aware of the problem and looking for a way to solve it. Just avoid the Allmyv tab for now and use a different player."
Also, this is in the "How To Watch" tab: "If you keep on downloading players :
"You don’t have to download anything here. Just follow above on “How to Watch”"
So again, it seems that the site has some issues with popups and one of the video players it uses.
We asked Malwaredomains specifically about Couchtuner. If you're seeing these kinds of ads on similar sites, however, the same thing is happening there.
Bottom line: Caveat emptor
Their advice, and ours, is that it's best to stay away from sites like these. Just remember, anything that's free on the Internet that you would pay for anywhere else is likely to come with hidden costs such as malware. If you absolutely must use them, make sure you have a good antivirus and anti-malware program installed and working.
By the way, if you're curious about why these kinds of sites allow sketchy ads and malware, there's a nice explanation on Reddit.
Uh-oh. I clicked one of those ads by mistake!
If you clicked an ad in a pop-up on a free streaming site, a virus might have been downloaded to your computer. We have some suggestions.