If you’ve ever been the victim of a scareware virus, then you know exactly how frustrating the problem can be. Scareware preys on user insecurities. It installs itself on your computer and poses as antivirus software, monitoring your activities before charging you $50 or more to fix the problem.
Scareware viruses go by many different names. Some might call themselves ‘Win B Security System’, for example, to try to trick users into thinking that the software is officially endorsed by Microsoft. Others might go by generic names like “Internet Security 2012.”
Today, in a victory for the entire PC security community, one scareware scammer was fined a massive $163 million by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC fined scareware ringleader Kristy Ross that amount in order to compensate for the damage caused to millions of users’ computers.
Ms. Ross’s software would infiltrate a user’s system and then deceive users into paying $40 to $60 to clean their PCs. The malicious software could not be removed, and in many cases, it prevented users from accessing the internet or performing any other commands. This made the problem extremely frustrating, and the only way to regain access to the computer was by paying the $40 to $60 ‘ransom’ fee.
The fake antivirus would also infect the deepest levels of the system, often remaining in the registry after it had been officially uninstalled by Windows. The only way to remove it was by installing top-quality antivirus software or malware removal kits like PC Cleaner Pro.
Along with the $163 million fine, Ms. Ross is also banned from selling any sort of PC security software for the rest of her life, and she cannot deceptively market anything online.
Despite the massive fine levied against Ms. Ross, the fake antivirus industry remains alive and well. The latest scam involves infecting users’ computers and then calling them directly over the home phone in order to remotely connect and fix their systems. This service costs hundreds of dollars. In any case, you should always be wary when buying antivirus software over your computer – especially if that antivirus software appears to have suddenly attacked your computer out of nowhere.
To read the full FTC statement about the incident and their opinions on fake antivirus software, read this press release.