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01 October 2008, 16:33

Washington and Microsoft sue fake anti-spyware vendors

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The US State of Washington and Microsoft have instituted a number of legal actions against vendors of 'Scareware' under the Computer Spyware Act. Alleged security programs are increasingly bombarding innocent PC users with fake messages detailing putative threats or infections.

The aim of companies selling scareware programs is to persuade computer users to buy the full version of anti-virus, anti-spyware or similar software. The reported threats are not genuine, and the programs on offer won't provide the promised protection.

Attorney general Rob McKenna and lawyers from Microsoft's Internet Safety Enforcement team are currently pursuing actions against Texan company Branch Software, which attempts to encourage sales of its "Registry Cleaner XP" software using targeted popups containing false information. "We won't tolerate the use of alarmist warnings or deceptive 'free scans' to trick consumers into buying software to fix a problem that doesn't even exist," McKenna said.

In tests with many different PCs, the attorney general's office found that Registry Cleaner XP always claimed to have found the same 43 alleged "critical" errors. People buying the software were always assured that their computers were free of errors. A similar process from 2006 ended in an out of court settlement with the accused software company Secure Computer agreeing to pay the sum of one million US dollars.

In a separate case, Microsoft has filed a suit against unknown parties behind alleged scareware products including "Antivirus 2009", "Malwarecore", "WinDefender", "WinSpywareProtect" and "XPDefender". Security company MessageLabs recently warned of the increasing threat posed by misleading software messages. Putative anti-virus application "'Antivirus XP 2008", for example, terrorises users with fake messages about infections.


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