Microsoft purges phony security software from 1 million PCs

November's cleanup tool expunges worthless apps

Microsoft said that the anti-malware tool it pushes to Windows users as part of Patch Tuesday removed fake security software from nearly a million PCs during nine days this month.

In a post to the company's malware protection center blog on Wednesday, three of Microsoft's security researchers spelled out the impact this month's edition of the Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT) has had on phony security software. In the period from November 11 to November 19, said Scott Wu, Scott Molenkamp and Hamish O'Dea, MSRT purged more than 994,000 machines of what the tool recognizes as "W32/FakeSecSen," the malware label for a broad range of bogus security program with names such as "Advanced Antivirus," "Spyware Preventer," "Ultimate Antivirus 2008" and "XPert Antivirus."

Windows users have been plagued with a flood of worthless security software in recent months as criminals have discovered that they're money-makers. According to one researcher, cyber-crooks can pull in as much as US$5 million a year by installing the rogue programs on PCs, then dunning users with made-up claims that the machine is infected. Unless consumers fork over a payment -- usually $40 to $50 -- the constant stream of pop-up messages continue, making the machine hard to use.

Windows users may install the fake programs because they've been duped into thinking that they're real -- at times, bogus security software has been ranked high in Internet search results -- although the rogue applications are also often secretly installed by malware that's infected a system.

The clean-up job was one of Microsoft's biggest ever. In June 2008, MSRT sniffed out 1.2 million PCs infected with a family of password stealers, while in February, it scrubbed the Vundo Trojan from about a million machines. Over several months at the end of last year, the tool hit the then-notorious Storm Trojan hard, eventually eradicating it from a half-million PCs, something Microsoft bragged about later.

This time, Microsoft took the opportunity to pat itself on the back again. Although each FakeSecSen installation normally contains an .exe file, one or two .dat files, a control panel applet and other components, the MSRT found that only about 20 percent of the infected PCs it uncovered still harbored the .exe. (Other components remained, however, as evidence of the bogus program's installation.)

Microsoft speculated that the .exe files had been removed by other anti-malware software that had overlooked the other pieces. "Microsoft was able to thoroughly clean systems of FakeSecSen while other malware detection tools may not have caught and cleaned as many executables," said Bill Sisk, a Microsoft security spokesman, in an e-mail.

Windows users can download the MSRT manually from Microsoft's Web site, or via the Windows Update service.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags anti-malware

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

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

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?