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11 December 2008, 11:49

US court halts the sale of scareware

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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has obtained a temporary restraining order from a US District Court to prohibit two scareware manufacturers from selling their products. The makers of these programs try to alarm users when they visit web sites by falsely warning them that their PCs are infected, tricking them into buying dubious anti-spyware and anti-virus products. These programs, however, usually have no useful function, but after installation simply report a successful disinfection of the PC – regardless of whether it is actually infected.

In a news release, the FTC lists scareware products like WinFixer, WinAntivirus, DriveCleaner, ErrorSafe and XP Antivirus, but such products are usually advertised under more than one name. The court also froze the assets of the companies responsible, Innovative Marketing, Inc. and ByteHosting Internet Services, LLC. In September 2008 Microsoft had already complained about manufacturers of scareware.

The FTC chalked up a success recently in fighting commercial espionage software. A court ordered the Florida-based CyberSpy Software to cease selling its RemoteSpy program. RemoteSpy intercepts keyboard input and Instant Messages, makes regular screenshots, logs the web sites visited, and sends all the data it has collected to a server. Users of RemoteSpy could then log in to the server to download the information gathered about the victim.

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