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!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
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

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?