A win for the good guys - the first successful prosecution under Washington's 2005 Computer Spyware Act
A name that may go down in history - Zhijian Chen of Portland Oregan is the first person to be successfully prosecuted, and fined, under Washington's 2005 Computer Spyware Act.
What Chen and his co-accused (Seth Traub, of Portsmouth, N.H.; and Manoj Kumar, of Maharashtra, India) did was use Messenger Service (net send) alerts to fool victims into believing that their computers may be infected with spyware or other nasties (by the way, the Messenger alerts being discussed here is not not the chat programme - rather, we are talking about the Messenger Service most often used by network admins to send pop-up messages to all users on a network - you can find more information about Net Send here) .
Victims would click on an embedded link in the Messenger Service alert, and ended up at a Web site promoting "Spyware Cleaner". A free online scan was offered, the victim was told they are infected with spyware (even if no spyware existed on the scanned system) and then stung for US$49.95 to "clean" their systems.
The company behind Spyware Cleaner was called "Secure Computer"... uh, yeah, right...
Chen has been ordered to pay US$16,000 in restitution to users who bought Spyware Cleaner (no, not US$16,000 per victim - US$16,000 in total), US$US24,000 in fines, and close to US$44,000 in attorney fees - all up, US$84,000.00.
Fake antispyware products are big business - check out spywarewarrior's ever growing rogue antispyware list:
For what its worth, a firewall will invariably stop external net send alerts, and the Messenger Service is disabled by default from XP SP2 onwards.
The name of this now infamous fake antispyware application brings to mind another Blog entry that I wrote back in February:
I see the same nonsensical advice still exists (despite MS being able to change the page enough to change the reference to "Microsoft Antispyware" to "Windows Defender".
So, let's say it once more.. legitimacy is not guaranteed just because a programme calls itself an antispyware product, or uses the words "spy," "spyware," or "antispyware" in its name or Add/Remove Programs entry. Its hard to believe such inane advice is being offered under the by-line "Security Essentials".