MS Targets Scareware Peddlers with 5 New Lawsuits

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft is hoping to cleanse the Internet of malicious advertisements after filing a series of lawsuits against five companies accused of tricking innocent people into installing malware and spyware onto their computers.

Microsoft has targeted DirectAd Solutions, Soft Solutions,, and ITmeter, claiming that these companies have used their advertisements to "distribute malicious software that peddles 'scareware' to unsuspecting Internet users." (Source:

Scare Tactics Trick Users

In a nutshell, scareware ads are dubious messages that "scare" potential consumers into purchasing malicious software.

When a scareware advertisement appears, it usually takes on the form of a Windows tool running a security scan of the computer. A false message is then displayed, warning of a critical security problem. The scareware then directs the unfortunate soul to a web site where software can be purchased to "correct" the situation.

After payment, the victim receives either useless or even corrupt software that could compromise their entire computer. Worse yet, if a victim pays via credit card, they set themselves up for potential identity fraud.

Scareware Comes to Google

Malware peddlers have also set their sights on Google search results: keeping tabs on popular search hit words and using search optimization techniques so that their pages come up first in the results page. When a victim clicks onto the first result, they are directed to a website that triggers the scareware scan tool.

Among the recent known search terms users are being cautioned against are results including the hit words "Patrick Swayze," "U.S. Open Tennis Tournament," and, interestingly enough, "Joe Wilson" (South Carolina's Congressman). (Source:

This past weekend, even the New York Times was duped into running a scareware ad on their site. The advertisement claimed to be linked with Vonage, a legitimate telecommunications company, only to run scareware tactics when prompted.

With scareware being such a profitable venture for malware peddlers, look for this practice to continue wreaking havoc online for some time. Still, if Microsoft is successful in their future lawsuits, at least five more known scareware peddlers will be out of business.

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