Microsoft, Washington state to sue 'scareware' pushers

Microsoft and the Washington state attorney general plan to sue several makers of scareware programs this week.

Microsoft and Washington state are cracking down on scammers who bombard computer users with fake warning messages in hopes of selling them useless software.

On Monday the state's attorney general and lawyers from Microsoft's Internet Safety Enforcement team will announce several lawsuits against so-called "scareware" vendors, who are being charged under Washington state's Computer Spyware Act.

The vendors targeted by the lawsuits are not being named until Monday, but the Washington attorney general (AG) referred to them in a media alert sent out Friday as "aggressive marketers of scareware -- useless computer programs that bilk consumers by using pop-up ads to warn about nonexistent, yet urgent-sounding, computer flaws."

This is not the first time Microsoft and the Washington AG have teamed up to fight scareware. In 2005 they jointly sued Secure Computer, a security software company they accused of using fake error messages to scare users into buying its Spyware Cleaner software. Secure Computer eventually paid US$1 million to settle the charges.

The Washington AG has also brought lawsuits against companies such as Securelink Networks and High Falls Media, and the makers of a product called QuickShield, all of whom were accused of marketing their products using deceptive techniques such as fake alert messages.

Fake alert messages can be effective. Earlier this week, researchers at North Carolina State University reported that computer users are highly likely to click on fake Windows error messages. In their study, nearly two-thirds of respondents clicked "OK" when presented with a phony Windows pop-up message.

The use of these fake messages is a growing problem on the Internet, said Washington Assistant Attorney General Katherine Tassi in an interview earlier this week. Scammers are "getting more and more creative and putting more and more effort into making them look like security messages," she said.

The most prevalent scareware program in circulation today is software called Antivirus XP 2008, according to Alex Eckelberry, president of Sunbelt Software. Often installed on a PC without proper notification, the software bombards victims with fake security warnings, trying to convince them to buy worthless programs that sometimes even harm their PCs.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?