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25 Jan 2006

New York firm sued for selling phoney anti-spyware software

Software always warned spyware was present, claims law suit

A New York company which claimed to help clean spyware off personal computers has been accused of spamming and using other nefarious and deceptive marketing practices to promote its software.

Washington's Attorney General Rob McKenna has filed a law suit against Secure Computer LLC of White Plains, New York, alleging that the company's anti-spyware software falsely claims that computers are infected in an attempt to encourage computer users to pay $49.95 for a fully-working version. According to the suit, the Spyware Cleaner does not remove spyware from the PC, but rather modifies settings on the computer.

The law suit claims that some of the emails sent pretended to come from MSN Member Services with the subject line "Special Security Alert for MSN Members", giving the false impression that the emails were being sent by Microsoft security personnel. Other warnings are alleged to have been sent to computers running Windows Messenger, to force a pop-up message to appear on recipients' machines, posing as a message from the Windows operating system.

The Spyware Cleaner website

The Spyware Cleaner website.

Named in the suit are Secure Computer President Paul Burke and Gary Preston, registered owner of websites used to promote Spyware Cleaner. Burke and Preston are said to have made more than $100,000 by selling the software through affiliates.

"Computer users fear spyware on their computers, so to receive a warning that malicious spyware has been identified might easily lead someone to purchasing cleaning software," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "For anyone to prey on those fears and resort to displaying bogus detection messages, or promoting their products through spam, is simply despicable."

Other defendants alleged to be affiliate advertisers of Spyware Cleaner, and said to have advertised the product through spam email, messages, and Google adverts, have been named as Manoj Kumar, Zhijian Chen, and Seth T Traub.

"This case reveals some of the underhand and criminal tactics which are being used to market goods to internet users," continued Cluley. "Everyone should exercise caution about whose software they run on their computer, and be careful not to believe every message or email their PC pops up in front of them. Just because a company or website has an impressive-sounding name doesn't mean they should be trusted."

Sophos recommends companies protect their email with a consolidated solution to thwart the virus and spam threats as well as secure their desktop and servers with automatically updated anti-virus protection.

About Sophos

More than 100 million users in 150 countries rely on Sophos as the best protection against complex threats and data loss. Sophos is committed to providing complete security solutions that are simple to deploy, manage, and use and that deliver the industry's lowest total cost of ownership. Sophos offers award-winning encryption, endpoint security, web, email, mobile and network security solutions backed by SophosLabs - a global network of threat intelligence centers.

Sophos is headquartered in Boston, US and Oxford, UK. More information is available at www.sophos.com.