Dodgy program advertised on MSN Messenger

Banner advertisements for a security application said to report false or inflated threats appeared for a few days on Microsoft's instant messaging (IM) program.

Banner advertisements for a security application said to report false or inflated threats appeared for at least a few days on Microsoft's instant messaging (IM) program, prompting warnings from security analysts.

Microsoft appears to have removed the ads, which were displayed in the contacts panel for its IM program, Windows Live Messenger, said Sandi Hardmeier, a Microsoft Most Valued Professional, a designation the company gives to people who have expertise with its products.

The progam, known as Winfixer, falsely warns a computer has been infected with malicious software, according to Symantec. It asks users to buy a program to remove the unwanted software.

"Quite often, it reports files that are perfectly safe," Hardmeier said. "It uses a lot of false positives. Basically, it's a rip off."

Other security companies, such as Sophos and McAfee , classify Winfixer as a "potentially unwanted application."

Hardmeier, who notified Microsoft of the problem, said the ads that appeared on Windows Live Messenger tried two ways to get users to install Winfixer on their machine.

The first was via a pop-up window offering to scan the computer for problems, she wrote. Depending on the version of Internet Explorer used, Winfixer would try to download itself through an Active X control, she said.

The second way was through a banner advertisement that a user would have to click before being taken to a Web site offering Free PC-Secure, a program that is detected as Winfixer by most security software, she said. Winfixer goes by several different names, including ErrorSafe and DriveCleaner.

Microsoft had done well preventing spyware programs from being advertised in banner ads on Windows Live Messenger, formerly known as MSN Messenger, Hardmeier wrote on her blog on her blog, Spyware Sucks.

But Winfixer has proved a tricky foe. Advertising networks have had trouble with Winfixer ads suddenly being served up by their networks despite no affiliation with its creators, Hardmeier said.

The suspicion is that organizations have falsely registered with the networks and substituted Winfixer ads -- hosted on their own servers -- instead of the advertisements they agreed to supply, she said.

Microsoft officials contacted on Monday morning could not immediately comment.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?