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19 Apr 2006

Hefty fine for man who marketed bogus anti-spyware software

Zhijian Chen made thousands of dollars through scareware

Experts at SophosLabs™, Sophos's global network of virus and spam analysis centers, have welcomed the news that a man has been fined almost $84,000 for marketing a bogus anti-spyware program, but have warned web surfers that there are many other fake protection products being unethically promoted on the internet.

Zhijian Chen of Portland, Oregon, was found to have made thousands of dollars by sending spam messages that fooled people into believing that their computers were infected by spyware, and claiming that a product called "Spyware Cleaner" was the cure.

A law suit filed by Washington state's Attorney General revealed that "Spyware Cleaner" falsely claims that computers are infected in an attempt to encourage PC users to pay $49.95 for a fully-working version. According to court documents, Chen sent out emails and advertisments promoting the "Spyware Cleaner" software in exchange for a 75% commission on each $49.95 sale. A number of other people are also facing charges of spamming and using nefarious and deceptive marketing practices to promote the software.

The Spyware Cleaner website

The Spyware Cleaner website.

"Many computer users live in fear of spyware and viruses, and if they receive a legitimate-looking warning message they could easily follow the advice to purchase clean-up software," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "Displaying a bogus detection message on an innocent person's computer, with the intention of selling software, is simply despicable. Let this be a warning that the authorities are prepared to investigate and punish those who engage in this kind of criminal activity."

Sophos experts warn that "Spyware Cleaner" is not the only bogus anti-spyware application promoted on the internet.

"Several criminal gangs are in the business of persuading people to download software by misrepresenting that a program is necessary to protect a computer's security or privacy," continued Cluley. "Internet users need to take great care about which programs they choose to run, and be aware that some 'solutions' will actually claim that their PC has a problem when it has none."

Sophos recommends companies protect their email with a consolidated solution to thwart the virus, spyware 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.