Symantec: 93% of Fake Antivirus Downloads Intentional

Dennis Faas's picture

Security firm Symantec estimates that 93% of computer users who wind up with 'scareware' on their machines have intentionally downloaded it. Symantec also believes some people distributing the scareware could be earning more than a million dollars each year.

Scareware involves giving Internet surfers bogus scans of their machines, often triggered by pop-up messages on Internet sites falsely claiming the user's PC is infected. The user is then encouraged to buy a fake antivirus / security program to remove it, though usually this program will be of little use.

Symantec says it has found more than 250 different bogus programs. That's because the real goal of the exercise is to get hold of the credit card details of the user when they buy the sham security software.

Resellers of Fake Antivirus Make Millions

Symantec's research revealed that most scareware is distributed by individuals working on a commission basis. They earn anything between a cent and 55 cents for every "customer" they persuade to buy the software. The rate varies depending on the nationality of the customer, with those from the United States valued most highly, apparently because they are most likely to have a high credit limit. (Source:

According to the research, some of the best-performing affiliates are making more than $100,000/month. One company which has since been shut down claimed that its top sellers made $332,000 a month, though that hasn't been confirmed. (Source:

43 Million Downloads Per Year, Estimated

It's not known how many people have fallen victim to such scams, though the researchers estimated there were 43 million attempts to download scareware in the space of a year. The research concludes that because the amounts involved in each case are comparatively small, usually less than $100, law authorities do not give the issue as much attention as it deserves.

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