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?Scareware? spammers to be prosecuted


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Microsoft and State of Washington in hot pursuit

Sick of reading those pop-up messages that appear on your computer screen warning of imminent disaster if you don’t click on the screen right then? The State of Washington and Microsoft Corporation are fed up, too, and are going after those vendors who bombard computer users with phony warning messages that claim to be offer fixes by purchases of useless software. 

The State of Washington Attorney General’s office and lawyers from Microsoft’s Internet Safety Enforcement team will tag team these ‘scareware’ vendors by filing lawsuits and charging them with violations of Washington’s Computer Spyware Act.

In 2005, Microsoft and the Washington Attorney General jointly sued Secure Computer, a security software company they accused of using fake error messages to scare users into buying its Spyware Cleaner software.

The company eventually settled the complaint by paying $1 million to settle the charges. Also previously sued by the A.G.’s office are Securelink Networks and High Falls Media, in addition to QuickShield, on the grounds that their products were marketed with phony alert messages and deceptive advertising.

Recent studies conducted indicate that fake alert messages can be effective: at North Carolina State University researchers found that computer users were more likely to click on fake Windows error pop-up messages as they seemed more legitimate.

According to the President of Sunbelt Software, Alex Eckelberry, the best known scareware program in circulation today is software called Antivirus XP 2008. Once installed on a PC (normally illegally and without proper notification), the software bombards victims with fake security warnings, trying to get them to purchase worthless software programs that can also be harmful to their PCs.

Last modified on 30 September 2008
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