Kristy Ross, suspected ringleader of a "scareware" scam that tricked over a million consumers into buying software to remove malware detected by fake antivirus scans, has been ordered to pay more than $163 million in damages, the Federal Trade Commission announced. The court also permanently barred Ms. Ross from selling security software of any kind, as well as any software that might interfere with a consumer's computer use or engage in any from of deceptive marketing.
Fake AV software is a common form of malware that disguises itself as a legitimate security program. Whether your PC is clean or not, it will report infections and urge the user to shell out credit card info to unlock the program so it can remove the viruses that supposedly reside on the PC. Some of the nastier forms will even disable certain elements of Windows, like the Task Manager, registry access, and even your AV program, making it particularly hard to remove. This is something we see every year when we conduct our annual antivirus roundups .
"The FTC charged that the operation used elaborate and technologically sophisticated Internet advertisements placed with advertising networks and many popular commercial websites. These ads displayed to consumers a 'system scan' that invariably detected a host of malicious or otherwise dangerous files and programs on consumers’ computers. The bogus 'scans' would then urge consumers to buy the defendants’ software for $40 to $60 to clean off the malware," the FTC said .
In related news, the FTC has been cracking down on massive tech support scams, the government agency announced in a separate statement . In doing so, the FTC has been targeting telemarketers who masquerade as major computer companies, conning consumers into thinking their PCs are infected and then charging hundreds of dollars to remotely access and fix their systems.