Experts at SophosLabs™, Sophos's global
network of virus, spyware and spam analysis centers, have reminded
the public of the importance of defending their PCs following
accusations that a company bombarded innocent computer users with
pop-up adverts promoting pornography and Viagra, in a bid to sell
bogus security software.
According to media
reports, Ron Cooke, owner of Messenger Solutions, is accused of
violating Washington's Computer Spyware Act and Consumer Protection
Act when marketing his WinAntiVirus
Pro 2007, System
Doctor, Messenger Blocker and WinAntiSpyware products.
A lawsuit filed in Seattle's King County Superior Court alleges
that internet users were coerced into purchasing the software after
pop-up adverts were sent via the Windows Messenger Net Send system.
Consumers who downloaded the software are said to have unwittingly
bombarded other computer users with pop-up messages advertising
pornography and drugs to improve sexual performance every two
"Scammers have been known to bombard a PC with nuisance pop-up
adverts, and then follow them up with further messages that
resemble system alerts to try and fool the unwary into downloading
a 'solution' to fix the problem. You don't even have to be browsing
the web to have these nuisance messages appear - just being
connected to the net can be enough," said Graham Cluley, senior
technology consultant for Sophos. "Scam software like this gives
the real security industry a bad name. Home users and businesses
need to have a legitimate solution in place to prevent these kind
of underhand practises being used to sell software."
Ron Cooke is accused of sending nuisance pop-up
messages to promote products such as WinAntiVirusPro
"Our suit alleges that it wasn't enough for Ron Cooke to
manipulate consumers into buying his software," said Rob McKenna,
Washington's Attorney General. "His program maliciously turns
victims' computers into spamming machines."
Sophos experts note that this is not the first that time that
Windows Messenger, also known as Net Send, which is normally used
by a company's system administrator to send systems messages to
users inside the organization, has been used to send consumers'
anonymous messages that simulated security warnings. In October
last year, Washington's Consumer Protection High-Tech Unit successfully
sued HoanVinh V. Nguyenphuoc, owner of FixWinReg, for just
this. Nguyenphuoc was ordered to pay $25,000 in attorneys' costs
and fees, and will have to pay an additional $75,000 in civil
penalties if he sends Net Send messages again to promote products
"Several criminal gangs are in the business of persuading people
to download software by misrepresenting that it is necessary to
protect a computer's security or privacy," explained Cluley.
"Internet users need to take great care about which programs they
choose to run, and be aware that some 'solutions' may not truly
have the best interests of the PC owner in mind."
Sophos recommends companies protect themselves with a consolidated solution which can control network access
and defend against the threats of spam, hackers, spyware and