Announcement: the FTC goes after those behind "Winfixer" fraudware
The FTC has announced that it has filed a lawsuit targeting the miscreants behind the fraudware/scareware commonly known as "Winfixer".
The FTC are suing Innovative Marketing, Inc., also d/b/a Billingnow, BillPlanet PTE Ltd., Globedat, Innovative Marketing Ukraine, Revenue Response, Sunwell, Synergy Software BV, Winpayment Consultancy SPC, Winsecure Solutions, and Winsolutions FZ-LLC; ByteHosting Internet Services, LLC; James Reno, individually, d/b/a Setupahost.net, and as an officer of Bytehosting Internet Services, LLC; Sam Jain, individually, and as an officer of Innovative Marketing, Inc.; Daniel Sundin, individually, d/b/a Vantage Software and Winsoftware, Ltd., and as an officer of Innovative Marketing, Inc.; Marc D’Souza, individually, d/b/a Web Integrated Net Solutions, and as an officer of Innovative Marketing, Inc.; Kristy Ross, individually, and as an officer of Innovative Marketing, Inc., Defendants; and Maurice D’Souza, Relief Defendant in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland.
According to the FTC website, the defendants are "barred from falsely representing that they have run any type of computer analysis, or that they have detected security or privacy problems on a consumer’s computer. They also are barred from using domain names obtained with false or incomplete information, placing advertisements purportedly on behalf of a third party without that party’s consent, or otherwise attempting to conceal their own identities".
It is also important to note that the temporary restraining order "mandates that companies hosting the defendants’ Web sites and providing domain-registration services take the necessary steps to keep consumers from accessing these Web sites" and "Prevent the destruction or erasure of the webpages or websites operated, in whole or in part, by the Defendants, preserving such documents in the format in which they are currently maintained, and prevent the destruction or erasure of all records relating to the Defendants."
Cite: http://ftc.gov/opa/2008/12/winsoftware.shtm, FTC Caselist and Ex Parte Temporary Restraining Order and Order to Show Cause.
The temporary restraining order expires on 12 December 2008 at 6.15pm, and each individual, corporate and relief defendant must appear before the Court at 3.30pm on that same day in Courtroom 5D to show due cause why a Preliminary Injunction should not be entered.
You will see many names familiar to regular readers of this blog mentioned in the Complaint for Injunctive and Other Equitable Relief and Ex Parte Temporary Restraining Order and Order to Show Cause.
This is not the first time that those behind Winfixer have faced a lawsuit. Reno and Jain have already been sued by Symantec, and Joseph Bochner also sued, but he had to eventually drop the lawsuit. According to Joseph, Bytehosting, Reno and Symantec came to a "confidential settlement" in 2004 and Symantec got a $3.1m judgment against Sam Jain. The court also found Jain had committed trademark infringement, copyright infringement, false designation of origin, and unfair competition. The Court enjoined Jain and anyone acting in concert with him from "infringing Symantec's intellectual property rights again in any way or from further misleading consumers in the future by using representations or imitations of genuine Symantec trademarks, service marks or copyrighted materials". Jain and his cohorts used popups and false/misleading advertising to trick victims into purchasing their wares.
Symantec deposed Reno back in 2004 - there is a snippet from the deposition here.
Bearing in mind the fact that those behind Winfixer continued to use false and misleading advertising and misleading popups even after the Symantec and Bochner lawsuits, I do not feel confident that they will stop, and in any event those of us who watch the fraudware industry are aware that Innovative and the others named are certainly not the only players in the market.